04 February 2011

Kenya: Gone on Safari

Work's finished and it's time for safari!  Please take in the last official post of our trip.

The last few days were spent finishing up at the hospital and the clinic in the village.  Rounds, treating malaria in the clinic, and watching the clinic's new reception being built were the main events of note.  We even had dinner last night at Brenda's, prepared by her two sisters and mother - boy was it amazing.  Daniela, Brenda's 2 year-old daughter, even has her English up to speed.  We'd ask her "How are you?"  She responds, "I'm fine."  (Those are the most commonly known phrases by the kids here.)  We've definitely explored Kenyan and Indian food to the fullest, and I actually look forward to some Indian food when I return home.  Never thought I'd say that.

It is difficult to capture all the appreciation we have for your support and prayers throughout this trip.  Through your donations we purchased and gave out all our children's multivitamins, handed out toothpaste and toothbrushes to those who needed them, re-stocked about 18 different medications (antibiotics, phenergan suspension for nausea/vomiting, children's tylenol, etc.), handed out glasses and gave reading glasses to the Tenwek hospital crew, left a number of medications from home for emergency use only, gave coloring books, crayons, workbooks, pens and lollipops to roughly 150 kids, and even purchased cooking supplies for one of Brendas' mothers.  Their smiles showed their appreciation, but from us we say "thank you" for your open hearts.  We truly cannot thank you enough - what an honor and a blessing.

This has been an invaluable learning opportunity for me, as a repeat trip to a developing country, challenging my patience and shaping my attitudes.  There are so many projects here, intended to serve the population in poverty, where the ball is actually being dropped:  there is still a huge need for reliable transportation (well-maintained vehicles and smooth roads), the effective distribution of bed nets to those who truly need them, closer access to clean drinking water, and an increased emphasis on the prevention of the spread of HIV.  For the failures, there are plenty of successes as well:  motorbikes now fill the roads getting citizens to and from their destinations quicker, internet access has exploded keeping people better informed on current events and public health measures, anti-retroviral medications are available to those mothers who deliver in the hospital to try to prevent vertical transmission of HIV, and more community health workers are devoting their work-week to improving the health of Kenyans.  There are plenty to build on.  One of the most valuable lessons revolves around respecting what you don't know.  We don't know everything.  Especially when we don't live in the community we're serving.  And a clear and open mind with respect to this can bring one closer to success.

There is a plethora of projects going on here, and the main need for improvement is in the coordination between them.  Filling in the small holes.  Connecting the dots.  Adding the last few small pieces to the puzzle.  And I hope to help with that. 


The true soldiers and "saints," really, in all this, are Josh, Brenda, and Aduda.  Josh, the Bonyo's Kenya Mission #1 here in Kisumu, who ensures the clinic operates smoothly for those in and around Masara.  Brenda, the social / community health worker who gives her time to educating pregnant mothers and young schoolgirls on STI's among other public health measures.  (And let's not forget her father, "Papa Joshua," the clinical officer who offers his experience and charisma to her endeavors.)  Aduda, the former salesman, who believes so strongly in preventing HIV spread and educating those living with TB and AIDS, that he travels by public transport to the villages for surprise home visits to ensure compliance.  I have learned from their actions, and can only hope to support their work further in the future.

In the end, I've learned that the health of all peoples boils down to education.  If you don't understand that germs are on your hands, even if they don't look soiled, you will not prevent the spread of many diseases, especially diarrheal illness.  If you don't understand proper baby-feeding techniques, then you'll continue to feed fresh cow's milk directly to your newborn which can be harsh on their young gut (yes, this happens).  If you don't understand that forcing baby teeth to fall out with nails (yes, as in "hammer-and-nails" - this happens too), then infections will continue to hurt young children.  Expanding the public health educational efforts, and simply expanding the number of children able to complete secondary school, will drastically improve health in this area. 

Finally, what I take from this particular trip is the desire to use all the many little luxuries I've been blessed with, that built the foundation of my knowledge, to strive with extra effort to reach my full potential.  Most children here can't even focus enough in school due only to hunger.  How can I not take advantage of all I have, to do my absolute best?!  It would be a disgrace. 

In the end, my buddy Dan, the manager of the Milimani Resort Hotel, our home for the last three weeks who says, "We live like lions."  They wander throughout the day, with no intentional direction.  But, when an antelope comes along, they eat.

There is no need for plans.  When the antelope comes, you'll be there.

The finale from Mom:

Hi all!  This will probably be our last post as we leave for the Masai Mara and safari early in the morning.  We said goodbye to all our friends at the clinic after seeing several more patients (all with malaria).  I presented our blessed shell to the social worker, Brenda, and we both got a little teary.  She has been such a wonder for this village bringing lots of programs which I think will have a great impact.  It has been a profound and moving experience to be here and I'm sure this will be with me the rest of my life.  There is such great need here (in my eyes) and I hope to be sharing some of our ideas for continued support of this village.  Each day in the village for most people is about surviving and basic needs.  We've been so warmly welcomed and Josh, our host, has taken good care of us.  I feel blessed to have made this journey and especially to have this bonding time with Travis.  He's a very good traveling partner as you won't be surprised to hear.  He's good at keeping his cool when I'm losing mine and getting frustrated.

Last night we had the honor having dinner with Brenda and her family which included her mom, dad, 2 sisters and 2 yr old daughter.  We had such wonderful Kenya dishes such as beef stew with rice, kale and spinach, roasted potatoes, tomato/red onion/cabbage salad, fried chicken abd chipati bread.  Quite fabulous!  And as if this wasn't enough, Brenda's mom presented me with some gorgeous Aftican fabric of yellow and purple.  I'd worn my new African-made dress with zebras which Brenda had helped me have made so her mom knew how much I love the fabrics here. That was an incredibly generous gift and I was quite moved.

Today, we've been taking care of last minute business and we took Josh to lunch.  He's been such a great resource this whole trip.  Tonight, we're having dinner at Dan (hotel onsite manager) and Stella's and we're very excited about that.  Got lots of packing to do and decisions about what I'll leave behind since I need lots of room for gifts, etc.  Ha! I'm thrilled about the safari and can't wait to see all the many animals there.  I miss you all so much and look forward to seeing you soon. Many thanks again for all of your love and support!

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Asante sana for all  your prayers and support.  We can't wait to share in person when we return.

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