After a long flight, I am finally here in Nairobi, Kenya. The airport is humid, and air conditioning is more of a luxury here rather than an expected amenity. I am shocked to find out that everyone’s luggage made it to our destination. We quickly grab our bags and follow our guide who directs us to a large bus that is waiting to take us to our hotel. Our Kenyan drivers for the week load our heavy bags effortlessly onto the top of the bus like they weigh nothing. Our group is in awe of how easy they make this look even though the Kenyan men are half the size of our American male team members. Soon we are in the crowded bus traveling through the streets of Nairobi, car horns are a constant sound, and the smell of diesel fuel is a fragrance that I would become all too familiar with during my trip. It is dark, so it is difficult to see how unpleasant life is for the people of Kenya. Right now, Nairobi feels like any other big city in the US.
June 9th, 2012
Waking up in my bed at the Hotel Delta in downtown Nairobi, I am quickly reminded where I am. My mosquito net doesn’t let me forget my constant fear of getting malaria while I am here. I am anxious to start my journey so I am up early for breakfast. It is a combination of some thin sweet tortillas, hard boiled eggs, sausages, and dry toast. After breakfast in the hotel lobby, I overhear our team leaders talking with our Kenyan guide who has become very ill with typhoid and malaria over the last few months. He has not received medical care because of the costs and is in desperate need of treatment or he may die. He has lost a lot of weight and does not look like himself. He is sent to the hospital by our team. I am immediately humbled by the severity of the situation, healthcare is something that we take for granted. Sadly, I find out later after returning home that he passed away on June 20th, 2012 leaving behind his wife and child.
June 10th, 2012
I was not prepared for the village of Maai Mahiu. This was the place that Kansas2Kenya has been working for 7 years to bring much needed community development and medical care. The community team has just left and has provided the village with clean water. Much needed progress for this small community. Our bus turned down the pot hole covered road to the village, in the distance the beautiful rift valley is a stark contrast to the shanty houses that line the road. A single church is the focal point at the top of the hill. Children begin to come out of their tiny houses and run beside the bus, waving and cheering “Mzungu” which means white person in Swahili. I immediately have tears in my eyes. I did not expect this. These children in this community are so welcoming. This is the reason we are here. This is a moment I will never forget. We spend time in the village taking pictures of the children, holding them, and playing with them. One little girl asks us if we have medicine in the bus and she asks us why we are not staying to help. How do we explain to her that political corruption has forced us to go to another village, but that she is just as important? She is only about 10 years old, but already she knows how hard life can be.
Today is our day of worship. We have the opportunity to attend church in the small village of Nakuru at St. Christopher’s Anglican Church. The service is incredible. The choir sounds so amazing, their beautiful voices echo throughout the small building. This does not feel like a choir in the middle of Africa. I feel like I am in the presence of a professional show choir. We are welcomed by the congregation, and I again have to fight back tears. The whole church is filled will people clapping and greeting us. Despite the poverty, each woman is neatly dressed in clean, fancy dresses, the men in dress slacks. After the service, we watch the school children play soccer and tour a medical dormitory funded by the church. I am surprised at the faith of these people. It is clear to me after today that faith is the foundation in Kenyan life; it is a little bit of hope in a world so filled with despair.
Chaos is the best word that I can use to describe today. It is our first day of clinic in the tiny mountain village in the Mirangine district. It is an hour and a half journey up a bumpy mountain road. What remains of the concrete is cracking and crumbling. There are numerous holes that our bus driver tries to avoid by weaving all over the road.
People are already lined up waiting outside the concrete building we are calling our clinic. My room has four concrete walls, a table and chair, and hard metal exam table. It reminds me of a jail cell, but it will work. I am nervous about today and on top of it the bus forgot all my women’s health supplies. So now I am really working without any resources. I have no idea what to expect, but I will try to improvise and make it a successful day. Overall I just hope that I can make a difference and provide the care these people need.
I am able to borrow some supplies from the maternity clinic next door and patients begin to come in. I greet them with “Jambo” (hello) and “Karibu” (welcome) to help them feel more comfortable in such an unfamiliar setting with an unfamiliar person. Somehow this does not matter to them; they still put all their trust in me, hoping that I can cure them. I see mostly abdominal and back pain, pain that has been there for 10 years probably from years of hard manual labor, a type of labor that many Americans have probably never experienced. I see a woman with a breast mass that is most likely cancerous. She is hopeful and puts all her faith in me, a “mzungu” (white person). I tell her that there is nothing I can do, that she must go to the hospital to have a biopsy, but I know in my heart that this is not possible for her, and that she will probably die without ever receiving the medical care she needs. I make myself move on trying to focus on the problems I can fix, but it is difficult to think about those I can’t.