Guest Blog: Week Three in Kenya by Lisa Petrie

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Image shows a group of seven young women in Paris.

After an incredible and tumultuous journey, our final few days in Kenya have arrived.  Earlier in the week we arrived in the town of Nyeri, Central Kenya.  Nyeri differed significantly from Migori with its lush greenery and cooler climate.  I have to admit that as much as Migori was fantastic, it was a relief not to have to succumb to obsessive compulsive feet cleaning five times a day from the mass amounts of rust coloured dust present at all times.

We settled into our divided up villa homesteads after hitting the bustling streets of the Nyeri market.  The sprawling and spacious wooden villas came complete with massive backyards for activities and a lovely cleaning lady named Mary.

The next few days were a whirlwind of hospital visits, DeKUT University tours, and the MAISHA seminar.  The hospitals were surprising to those of us used to Western sanitation standards, and I’m not sure I will be able to shake entirely the memory of using the toilet in the labour and maternity ward anytime soon.  However, the staff was beyond knowledgeable, and the effects of the MAISHA project were visible in every room.

At the Kamathi University of Technology, we were warmly welcomed and toured around the grounds by an administration representative.  We also observed state-of-the-art equipment, which was half impressive and half confusing for those of us not technologically inclined.  We concluded our day at the coffee plantation, where we learned the how coffee is made and sampled several decadent cups.

To wrap up our week, we attended and actively participated in the MAISHA seminar.  The purpose of this seminar was to congregate leaders from the communities of Migori and Nyeri and discuss the results of our field work related to malnutrition in children under the age of five.  All seven of us stood in front of the auditorium and presented our data results from each community.  Several of us overcame our fear of public speaking and were able to share our hard work successfully (perhaps with a few sweaty palms and trembling voices). 

At the end of the week, I asked the group one by one for their most monumental moments and how they felt this experience might contribute to personal growth.  The answers were varied and unique, which I believe speaks volumes towards how the MAISHA project can influence multitudes of different personalities.  Being surrounded by literally hundreds of school-aged children reaching out their tiny hands and staring with their soulful brown eyes is one of the many moments that will not be forgotten.  Forming relationships with the community health volunteers and students and managing to find common ground despite living worlds apart demonstrates how kindness and generosity can be found even in the most unlikely of places.

Participating in the MAISHA project by collecting from the field, compiling research, and presenting our results at the seminar was a rewarding finish for all of our hard work.  Witnessing the birth of a beautiful little girl at the local hospital on our last day was one of the most meaningful highlights of the trip for several members.  And finally, a general appreciation for the lives and people we are all so fortunate to be able to return home to was unanimous throughout the group.

Overall, the seven of us have been so incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity for an international experience and been able to broaden our perspective of healthcare developing country.  I think the most important piece to take away is that we are all leaving Kenya a little more worldly, a bit more educated, and perhaps slightly more wise.

Photo: The nursing students in Paris, on their way back to Canada.