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Sunday
Oct072012

Traveling to Kenya

In August of 2012, Andrea Radford of Durham NC, traveled to Kenya as part of a medical mission to the Elray Woerman clinic in Karero and the Oloile Secondary School in Kimana.

On her return Andrea shared her stories and photos of the trip and what she saw and took away from the experience.

Andrea and local Massai in the van

Q: What led you to take a trip like this to Kenya?

A: This was actually my second trip to Kenya. I went with a group from 2 churches from Raleigh and Durham NC last summer in 2011. It was an eye opening experience and has led me to volunteer for Staff of Hope and look for an opportunity to return. I didn’t expect it to be this soon.

Q: How did this trip come about?

A: Through a mutual friend, I connected with Dr. Otis Washington, a periodontist who practices in Raleigh and learned that he was exploring ways to volunteer or “give back”.  I told him about my experience with Staff of Hope and the needs we had seen at the clinic and then connected him with Staff of Hope President, Jeff Spainhour. Before I knew it Otis linked us up with Barb Milne, a retired dental hygienist from Wisconsin, and a plan for a one week dental mission in Kenya came together. It all happened very quickly and my opportunity for another trip was there. I was thrilled.

 


Barb Milne and Dr. Otis Washington at Oloile

Q: Were there any special preparations or considerations needed for your trip?

A: Once you’re outside Nairobi, access to supplies is limited.  We visited two of Staff of Hope's missions in Kenya, the Elray Woerman Clinic and the Oloile School. Both are located in very rural areas. The clinic does not have electricity or water, and Oloile only recently got access to both electricity from the local grid and running water from a fresh water well.  While we had planned for environments like this and brought as much as we could in our luggage we still had to do some shopping in Nairobi for our “big” items.  These included plastic bowls to use in sterilizing instruments, a sharps disposal container, and a folding beach chair to serve as our dental chair. In general, if we didn’t bring it with us it wouldn’t be available. This requires quite a bit of planning ahead of time and a good bit of creativity in maximizing all available resources once you’re setting up and treating patients.

Treating patients at the Elray Woerman Clinic

Q: What was the team able to do in such a short time on the ground?

A: I was really pleased with how much was able to be done during such a quick trip.  We had 3 clinic days at the clinic in Karero and 1 day at the school in Kimana.  Otis and Barb screened over 100 patients and were able to treat at least 40.  Since this was our first dental mission, we brought minimal equipment so the majority of the work performed was extractions.  It was impressive what Dr. Washington was able to do with the supplies we did have – he even successfully removed an impacted wisdom tooth! For both these communities, dental care is generally unavailable.  There were many more people who showed up for care than we were able to treat. While it’s hard when you see the size of the unmet needs, it was still so rewarding to be able to help those we could and to know that Otis and Barb’s work made a real difference in the lives of the people they treated.  It was also exciting for both those of us coming from the states and the staff at the clinic and Oloile to work together and to have a starting point to build on with future medical and dental missions.

Clinic staff Faith and Joyce

Q: Considering you’re a veteran of two trips now to Kenya, would you recommend a trip like this to others, and if so what advice would you offer?

A: Absolutely, I want to go back every chance I can! Even though I consider myself more a “work behind the scenes” person, I’ve been so moved by my experiences with Staff of Hope and my two trips with them that I’ve made it a priority to talk to groups large and small to encourage folks to come and see the amazing work that’s being done in Kenya. This year it was so encouraging and wonderful to see all the progress that had been made, especially at Oloile, since my first visit in 2011. Seeing the fininshed girls' dormitory was awesome. After working on a fence last year to give Oloile a space to grow their own food I was incredibly moved to now see Oloile's shamba (farm) producing food for the school. Having seen firsthand the challenging environment, the progress that was made over the last year is that much more amazing. My advice for those who might be thinking about joining Staff of Hope on a trip to Kenya, “pray about it and go for it!”. You will be well taken care of, you will meet wonderful folks in Kenya. If you let yourself, you will be stretched and challenged in ways that you never imagined, and you will make a difference. I cannot say enough about how impressed I am by Staff of Hope and the work they do.

If you're interested in volunteering for a trip like this drop us a line on our contact page.

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