The Simbiri project was initiated by Dr Keith Dick and his wife, Dee. Keith was a GP in Wallsend, Tyneside, UK for many years. When Keith semi-retired in 1989 he attended Northumbria Bible College, Berwick upon Tweed, with a view to working in a missionary capacity in Kenya. He also spent three months at Liverpool University to study for, and obtain, the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
The full name of the Simbiri Project is ‘The Simbiri Nan Bell Health Centre’. Nan Bell had been a missionary in Kenya for around 10 years with her mother in the 1950’s. When back in the UK, Nan Bell became a prayer partner of Dee. And so the idea and vision of a health project in Simbiri was born, developed, and came to fruition when Keith and Dee set off in 1991 for Kenya.
Keith was given a five year work permit ending in 1997. When they went to Simbiri in 1993 there was no road to the proposed health centre site as it was in such a rural setting. During the initial four years that Keith and Dee lived at Simbiri they were given land by some of the local people to build a health centre. They constructed a murum (volcanic ash) 2km road to the site from the local market village of Kosele, with a bridge over a seasonal river. They also dug a large 14 foot deep hole to catch rain water needed for the building work.
Money for the project and to support Keith and Dee was forthcoming from various individuals and trust funds. The K & D 61:1 Trust was formed to support the Simbiri Project and Keith & Dee in their ministry. This enabled money given to the Trust to be gift aided.
By the time Keith and Dee returned to the UK in July 1997 there had been constructed:
- The main health centre building built with local stone from nearby Lake Victoria. This consisted of:
- three wards accommmodating 15 people
- a room for emergency maternity
- a small laboratory (essential for accurate diagnosis of prevalent illnesses such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, Tb, etc)
- pharmacy store room
- two consulting rooms
- reception room
- administrators office
- patient and staff toilets and patient washrooms.
- A staff residence to house 12 staff
- A large storehouse
- One 77,000 litre stone built water tank (a second one built in 1998). The water tanks drain rain water off the large corrugated iron roofs of the Health Centre buildings.
Starting with a few staff in the initial stages, over the years the number of staff increased to its present level.
The work expands
Having lived in Simbiri for four years, Keith and Dee returned to the UK. However, until 2013 they visited Simbiri each year for several weeks at a time to drive forward the project. Also, they kept in regular contact with the staff. Their continued commitment to the project was instrumental in adding more facilities. In 2004 a mortuary was built (a much needed facility in such a hot country). In 2005 a 60kw generator was purchased (because there is no mains electricity, gas or running water in the area as yet). Also, modern refrigerated units were installed in the mortuary building which, at the time, accommodated 12 bodies. (This has since been increased to 30 bodies.)
One way towards the aim of the Health Centre being self reliant was to become registered with the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) of Kenya. After four frustrating years of trying for this to become a reality, the Health Centre became registered in June 2010. NHIF is a government insurance fund. Most employed people become registered on this scheme but it is also available to all Kenya citizens. People with an NHIF card can be treated at a health centre or hospital which is registered with NHIF. The health centre or hospital can then claim a fee back from the Kenyan government for the treatment. Since the Simbiri Health Centre became NHIF accredited, it has made a big difference to the income.
Although being registered with NHIF resulted in more income, it also generated more work! As a result the number of staff has increased to its present level. Also, an additional children’s ward was built in 2012 to bring the total number of in-patient beds to 32.
In 2013, Keith and Dee stood down as the main overseers of the Health Centre. This was passed on to Dr Tim Kenny who is also a trustee.