I am sad to say that we are entering our last week here in Kiirua. It has been an exciting 12 weeks in Kenya; we have learned so much about ourselves through our work in the hospital and in the communities.
We have met so many amazing and inspirational people here in Kenya. A few weeks back, we were invited to sit in on an HIV support group, held by staff at the hospital once per month. This was a positive and emotional experience for me as I witnessed so much strength and courage during that meeting. Members were so supportive of one another and their happiness and determination was noteworthy. During the meeting, individuals asked questions ranging from diabetes management to making healthy lifestyle choices. They were very grateful of our presence and asked us many questions. We have had limited exposure to HIV/AIDS in Canada so we told them that we wanted to learn from them. This was one of many experiences that has opened my eyes to how truly privileged I am to live in Canada and to have my health.
My time in Kenya has given me newfound respect for individuals that live in substandard conditions. The people of Kenya have a contagious spirit that makes you look at life in a whole new light. Kenyans are hard working and innovative-they make the most of what they have. I have witnessed numerous occasions in the hospital where staff members have had to use alternative methods because they have limited resources. I have seen surgeons use bladder catheters as surgical drains because drains are limited and reserved for emergencies. Although they don’t have the resources that we have in Canada, the things they do and the choices they make are safe and logical. They take things to a new level, something that Canadian healthcare professionals never have the need to do. They are creative and they are successful.
Although I have had limited opportunity to work within the rural Kenyan communities, I have witnessed the incredible strength and willpower of the Kenyan women. These women are unlike any I have ever encountered. They work long days; managing their farms, collecting firewood, and feeding and dressing their families while maintaining an air of grace and pride. The women will go to bed hungry if it means that their children have had sufficient food during the day. The women were very grateful of our presence and welcomed us into their homes (Karibu). The work of Farmers Helping Farmers and the support of CIDA have improved many of these women’s lives drastically. Many have screenhouses for their crops to grow, water tanks for clean drinking water and kitchen gardens, where they can grow green vegetables and vitamin A rich vegetables for their families. By making these changes in the community, these organizations have started a health promotion initiative that will hopefully minimize hospital visits for these families and improve their overall health.
I leave Kenya feeling grateful that I have been given this opportunity. It has helped me grow as an individual, made me excited about my career, kindled a love for travel, and compelled me to do further trips that work towards making communities sustainable. I hope to be able to share my experiences with others so that they feel compelled to witness what I am witnessing. As well, I hope to inspire others to become involved with Farmers Helping Farmers or other organizations, to do their part in helping underdeveloped communities grow stronger.
-Danielle Perry; Nursing Intern