This week, meet Shirleen, an outreach coordinator in our East Africa region.
Shirleen Mugo was born in a small town called Meru in Kenya, where she spent her childhood and most of her student life. After completing her secondary studies at St Mary’s Girls High School, Shirleen left her village for the capital, and successfully graduated from the gender and development programme at the University of Nairobi.
While studying, Shirleen volunteered at several non-profit organisations. “My heart really goes out to the discriminated and I love to help out where I can,” says Shirleen.
Throughout those humanitarian experiences, Shirleen heard about North Star’s work with mobile populations and applied for an outreach coordinator position. Being a great candidate for the job, she was hired on the spot and is now working at our Jomvu Blue Box clinic, near the coastal town of Mombasa on the east coast of Kenya.
A typical day for Shirleen starts with checking her e-mails to see if any urgent issues require her attention, then she follows up on clients that are scheduled to visit the clinic and goes on with some tedious but necessary data entry and paperwork. From there, Shirleen steps out of the clinic and goes into the field to do some real outreach work.
During her daily sessions, she is reaching out to mobile workers about HIV/AIDS, STI risk reduction, and providing educational materials and condoms along the way. She also runs one-on-one health sensitisation sessions, both inside and outside of the clinic, to strengthen and optimise her outreach efforts.
Shirleen shared that some of the clients who visited the Jomvu Blue Box clinic had visited other health facilities before, but always came back to the Jomvu because of both the gratuity of the services and the high-level of care delivered.
As a side project, Shirleen is currently starting a ‘Single Mom Club’ to help female community members fight against unemployment by making an income from craftsmanship. She is planning to teach women how to do basketry and weave mats, as well as how to make jewellery, homemade soaps, detergents and candles. Described by friends as a friendly, honest and trustworthy person, Shirleen is a natural-born facilitator, leveraging her boundless creativity to adapt to any situation.
Oftentimes, Shirleen has encountered strong resistance to the use of condoms and other safe sex practices due to the the strong traditional and religious background of some her clients. This is when her capacity to be flexible with people kicks in and enables her to create a space for constructive conversations by listening closely to everyone’s opinion and adapting her speech about health for different settings.
“I believe in respecting other people’s opinions, as long as at the end of the day, your health comes first.” shares Shirleen.
Passionate and highly committed to her work, what Shirleen values above all in her work are her teammates.
“The staff at Jomvu are like my brothers. I’m the only female and also the youngest, so I feel a bit special being in their midst. We have each other’s back and are very supportive of each other. We work hard together and have fun times together. We are like a well-oiled engine.” explains Shirleen. Jomvu’s outreach coordinator will advise anyone thinking about joining North Star to “do it from the heart”, being the only way to both enjoy and succeed in the work we do.
With outreach being the key to better healthcare along Africa’s main corridors for Shirleen, she wishes that more mobile workers know that we, as North Star, are here for them.
Which of North Star’s DNA values (People, Integrity, Quality, Entrepreneurial Spirit) do you most identify with, and why?
“People Matter. Once you have people as your priority, that creates a domino effect onto the other three values. When a person matters to you, you will want to treat them with INTEGRITY, give them QUALITY services and have an ENTREPRENEURIAL mindset on how you can better serve them.”