Guest Blog: Week one in Kenya by Morgan Bulloch

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Image shows Kenyan woman standing in front of a chalk board with large pieces of paper with writing taped on it.

Over the next few weeks, our guest bloggers – students in our Bachelor of Science Nursing program – will be posting from Kenya where they are working with our MAISHA project partners. This is the first blog post by Morgan Bulloch.

Today marks the end of week one in Kenya. The first week was a whirlwind, consisting of interesting experiences, foreign culture, crazy jet lag, and new faces.

We started off our first day in Kenya in Nairobi city, in a hotel that was nicer than most of our homes. We had hot water, fluffy pillows, consistent electricity, and a delicious free continental breakfast. Winnie, the MAISHA project coordinator, told us to “eat up” as this would be the nicest food we would be getting until we flew home through Paris. We laughed and ate lots, but didn’t realize how right she was. We bought data for our cellphones (dirt cheap) and did a couple other errands before hitting the road in our van – our second home for the next week – three hours behind schedule, which we would soon learn is pretty normal for “Kenyan time”. We arrived at our hotel in Migori County very late at night, got our rooms organized, and hit the hay. The next day we had a bit of a “down day,” to get ourselves organized and oriented to the new area.

The first day in Migori, some of us went to the market to check it out. It was much more overwhelming than we had anticipated. It was loud, busy, and fast-paced. We attracted a lot of attention, receiving shouts of “Mzungu,” (white person) and other calls, some friendly and some less so. I can’t speak for the other girls, but I found myself a bit overwhelmed, and was thankful to be back at the hotel that evening.

The next day, we began our international participating with the MAISHA team. Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week consisted of teaching sessions about nutrition, maternal/pediatric health, and other such topics. The audience for these teaching sessions included us students, our instructors, seven Kenyan nursing students, and quite a few Community Health Volunteers. The lessons were done in a mix of Swahili and Luo, with a couple English words thrown in here and there. By the end of these two days, I found myself exhausted after struggling to draw meaning from the occasional English word and hand gestures. Despite our general lack of understanding, the Community Health Volunteers seemed to be engaged and enjoying the presentations.

The next two days were filled with community health home visits. Each Canadian nursing student was paired with one Kenyan nursing student and one Community Health Volunteer (CHV). Each team of three was assigned a specific area, and had the goal of visiting ten homes. In each home, the objectives were to measure children, assess the resources of each family, and provide some basic nutritional training. This was a challenge for us Canadian students, as we do not speak the local language of Luo. Anything we had to say had to be translated, and I’m sure much of it was lost in translation. Luckily, the CHVs and Kenyan nursing students were thorough and competent, and filled in for us where we couldn’t operate. I can’t speak for the other girls, but I personally was pretty drained after this first week of the nursing field school. Between the hard work, long hours, and beating sun, I was ready for a bit of a break. Thankfully, this was next up on our schedule.

Saturday morning we got to sleep in a bit, and then headed out for a day off on Rusinga Island! This consisted of a delicious lunch (some much needed hummus and carrots for myself), a swim in Lake Victoria for some of the girls, and a relaxing drive home. The following day was spent entering data from the week’s visits, and planning out some upcoming presentations for the upcoming days. These much needed “down days” hopefully prepared us for the week ahead.

I am looking forward to the next few weeks of adventures, and my fingers are crossed that all goes as planned!

Morgan is a nursing student attending College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, BC, and this is her first trip to Africa. She is excited about the opportunity to experience Kenya within a healthcare setting.

The Maternal Access and Infant Survival for Health Advancement (MAISHA) partnership serves to improve maternal, newborn, and child health services at the community level by strengthening community health units and rural health facilities in Kenya. Project partners include College of the Rockies, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, and Kenya’s Ministry of Health, with funding provided by the Government of Canada and with input and support from local and international organizations.