Our Experience in Kenya: An extract from my diary

 

[G2:6541]It all started on the 13th of September of this year, another amazing journey to Africa.. another voluntary experience.. but this time with a difference.  Our trip took us to Nyabondo, a small village found one hour away from Kisumu, next to Lake Victora in Kenya.  We were situated in a rehabilitation and vocational training centre for the disabled, where they specialize in orthopaedics.  This centre also has a small hospital which incorporates an operating theatre where orthopaedic and plastic surgeons operate on about 400 children every year. 

I was not on my own doing this experience; I was accompanied by another two volunteers, Louise and Manuel.  We all had a common nursing background and our aim was to do nursing practices. So our target was to work in this hospital and if possible assisting during the operations. To our surprise when we reached Nyabondo and done our acquaintances we found out that this 'hospital' was not a common hospital. It only operates once a month, due to limited budget, one month doing orthopaedic surgeries and next doing constructive plastics. We were prepared to find post-ops of the orthopaedic surgeries, so we were prepared to care for children after the operations. Instead we found no patients at all.  In Kenya nursing care is totally different from what we are used to, children were sent home the day after surgeries were finished.  Consequently, we ended up with no nursing duties.  We felt a little bit helpless at the beginning but considering being in Africa; in a rehabilitation centre there are always things to do.[G2:6535 class=right]

Sr. Ludovena, the director of this centre helped us a lot; she introduced us to the disabled children and their carers, to the physiotherapists, to the vocational school where they teach young ladies sewing skills and to St. Martin's academic school for the disabled children. Sr. Ludovena also explained to us their routines, their everyday needs and what we can do during our five week stay. So on our very first day we started off immediately occupying children by singing and playing the best way we could and helping the carers feed the children.

Consequently, we made a plan for the coming 4 weeks as during the last week we knew we were going to be busy with the constructive surgeries. We decided to work separately so there will be someone giving a helping hand on every project mentioned above.

[G2:6543]I used to wake up every day at seven, go for prayers with the young ladies and then off to St. Martin's school which was situated thirty minutes away by walk from the centre. The first intention was to go and assist children in their learning needs and organising some recreational activities, but ended up in redecorating some walls of the school. So I used to spend most of the mornings there. Here I discovered that I have a new talent as I never knew that I could draw such pictures on walls, which the children were so fond of.  Obviously with the help of Louse, Manuel and God everything was possible in Kenya! Meanwhile, Louise used to stay with the little children helping them with their education needs, definitely she done a great job as the children's eyes used to glow when they see her.  On the other hand, Manuel used spend a lot of time with the boys, drawing and listening to music for hours as they really loved it.

In the afternoon I used to go back to the centre where the little children awaited us all three together to play, sing, feed and then prepare them for bed time.  The children always waited for that time to come and they used to be over enthusiastic when they see us, which obviously couldn't stop us from not going.  At around seven before the day was over I used to go back to the young ladies chat a little, say prayers again and then back home.

In preparation for the surgeries, once weekly we used to 'reach-out' in other villages and do like clinics where people attended and we (the three volunteers and the Nyabondo team) assessed their needs, like making referrals to the general hospitals, referrals for orthopaedic or constructive surgeries, providing necessary aids, wound management, giving pain or anti-inflammatory medications, etc..  Also in our free time we used to cut and fold gauze ready prepared for sterilizing, which we will be needing for the surgeries.

Being in Africa we couldn't limit ourselves from indulging into its beautiful culture and savannah. It was a must to visit parks like Masai Mara and Nakuru Park, where we admired the true beauty of nature. Watching animals from so close its like dreaming with eyes open and inevitably we couldn't miss a visit to the Masai tribes, where they treated us magnificently.  In other words we enjoyed every second of every trip. Besides, we also visited Mombasa and its beautiful beaches, Kericho, the Kit-Mikai stones, and other small villages like Sabbathia, Alour and Luwak.

 

Subsequently, last week approached very quickly and the AMREF (African Medical Research Foundation) team (i.e. the operating staff) came to Nyabondo to start with the pre-operative assessments.  We immediately started with the operations that same afternoon, and continued for the following 3 days. The surgeon was so nice to us that he allowed us to assist him during the operations, even though I never worked in a theatre. Definitely I will never forget such experience. My last few days I spent them taking care of the post-op children, by medicating and trying to cheer them up a little bit.

 

On our very last day we surprised the young ladies with an outing as some of them never had the opportunity to go out from their village, and one can imagine their expressions in the early morning, already lined up to go in their smart uniforms.  Singing out loud along the way, the bus took us to Kericho, where the tea industries are situated. We spent a beautiful time together, singing, relaxing, and playing and also enjoying the beautiful scenery of the vicinities. Going back home for us meant that our journey got to an end and as the proverb say every beginning has an end and this time it was time to go back to our real homes.

 

[G2:6537 class=right]Looking back tears fill up my eyes with joy and happiness, remembering of the beautiful moments we shared together, especially with the children.  When I close my eyes I can still feel as if I'm in Africa and obviously, I cannot finish these few lines without thanking Sr. Ludovena and her staff for the warm welcome and stay they gave us, and for making it such a memorable experience.  Great gratitude goes to SPYS (Salesian pastoral youth service) for making this opportunity reality, Fr. George Grima for suggesting this beautiful project, the MDH staff and colleagues for bearing our absence whilst supporting us with regarding leave, and last but not least, big thanks goes to our families and loved ones for their extreme support and love throughout the journey.

 

Written by Lorraine Micallef (Maltese Volunteer)