Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya with the organization ER Abroad. When the plane landed in Nairobi, a wave of gratitude washed over me.
This would be the fourth time I had traveled to Africa on medical and humanitarian mission work. Africa is what my heart and soul cries out for. The desperate, the underprivileged people of Africa who are far too often overlooked are at the center of why I chose to go into nursing.
It is truly difficult to put into perspective how Africa has taken my heart captive. The warm smiles, the hospitality of the people and the unique cultures forever are sketched into my memory. However, the images of starving and orphaned children, the smell of sewage running through dirt-laden streets and the millions of people without clean water, food and basic healthcare also are tattoed on my mind and heart.
Surrounded by beauty
The team I was with had the opportunity to work within the city of Nakuru, approximately 3 hours northwest of Kenya’s capitol, Nairobi. The country of Kenya is beautiful. On the drive from Nairobi to Nakuru, we passed the Great Rift Valley, encountered Zebra crossings and took in the green countryside.
The people of Kenya are equally beautiful, if not more so than the scenery. I often am overwhelmed by their kindness and hospitality. Their tightly woven communities are incomparable to the individualistic society I have grown accustomed to.
Nakuru has a population of roughly 300,000 people, making it the fourth largest urban center in Kenya. In developing countries such as Kenya, urban populations are growing quickly and giving rise to what is commonly known as slum dwellings, which often lack sanitation, access to clean water, basic healthcare and other necessities.
Basic treatments work wonders
The Kaptembwa slum of Nakuru is home to approximately 140,000 inhabitants. In just one day, our group of two physicians and five nurses was able to join three Kenyan physicians and two Kenyan nurses to treat and see more than 400 patients.
From basic treatments such as antibiotics for infected wounds to diagnosing a rare skin disorder, we were able to provide medical care for people who would otherwise have no access to it. People waited in line for hours without complaint to see a nurse and physician. Every patient we saw greeted us with a smile and sincerely thanked us as they were sent away with sometimes even the most basic medical care.
One particular case that stands out in my mind was a 6-month-old girl with a fever of 104 degrees who appeared listless and had been suffering symptoms of malaria for several days. We were able to administer Tylenol immediately to reduce her fever and provide medications to treat the malaria. We kept her at our medical camp for the majority of the morning to assure that her fever began to decrease and she was able to tolerate fluids.
I wonder now about this little girl and others we saw during the day. Would they have found medical treatment elsewhere if we had not been there? Or would their conditions have worsened due to lack of access to something as simple as Tylenol for a fever?
Touching orphans lives
Although it is unfortunate the city did not allow us more days for medical camps, the rest of our time was well spent tending to other needs of equal importance. We had the opportunity to visit children in several orphanages in Nakuru to bring food, supplies and love to the parentless.
UNICEF estimates there are approximately 132 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa. We were able to touch the lives of several of them. They absolutely lighted up when we entered a room; it was easy to see that having visitors is something they hardly take for granted. To be able to hug these children and bring smiles to their faces was worth more than rubies.
None of them looked sad. Instead I saw a room full of radiant, hopeful faces of the next generation who will hopefully rise up to make a difference in their country one day.
The needs of this world are great, and it is time for all of us to rise up and meet them. If everyone would reach out a helping hand to another, we would all be better for it. It is time we all open our eyes to a world in need. It is time for us to stop talking about what needs to be done and get up to do it.
I feel so blessed that I have had multiple opportunities to serve in Africa in the area of humanitarian nursing. I would never have had the opportunity to do so though if it was not for supporters such as One Nurse at a Time, which made my journey possible.
I have big dreams for my future in nursing. Eventually I want to take my nursing career to Africa full time as a humanitarian nurse and human rights activist. Until that day, Ill continue to work hard, continue my education and take every opportunity to serve the underserved.