News and Stories
KENYA MISSION 2006
We’ve been home about a week now from Naivasha, Kenya. We were a team of 19, a medical team to work at the sub-district hospital and Upendo Village (a rescue community for women and children with HIV/AIDS). It was our second mission and what a difference that made. We were welcomed with warm hugs, a reuniting of friends, especially for the 6 team members who went on the first mission a year ago.
The preparations for the mission were different this time. We packed and shipped a large container months prior to our arrival. It was full of much needed supplies for the hospital and Upendo Village. The container was in Kenya but due to bureaucracy it had not arrived while we were there on mission. In addition to the container, we also each had our trademark Diocese of Joliet duffel bag assigned to us as personal baggage. Much time and effort went in to packing these duffels, full of medicines, dressings, equipment – all needed items to help care for our brothers and sisters in Naivasha.
We came prepared and began our work. Our days began at 6:00 am, gathering for breakfast at 7:00. We started each day with scripture reading and prayer, praying for loved ones at home, for those who we would meet and care for in our day’s work ahead, for our fellow missioners, and for guidance and the grace to do "small things with great love." How important, but sometimes difficult, to spend the day giving to others without thinking of what we ourselves want and need. It is this grace that we prayed for.
Our work was challenging but rewarding. The hospital is very poor – necessary supplies are inferior or absent, the staff is required to work hard in very difficult situations. By government policy, the degree of patient care is based on their ability to pay. Yet we were able to work together, friendships were made, knowledge was shared, accomplishments were achieved. A total of 69 surgeries were completed. We were told this was a nine month back log of needed surgeries. The medical team worked in the pediatric ward, recovery room (a new venture due to our arrival), operating rooms, physical therapy, wound care, the female and male wards, maternity, outpatient, lab, infection control, spiritual counseling – we were everywhere and always eagerly welcomed and accepted.
As I think back to my own hospital experiences, my thoughts go to two areas. One is the male ward where I met Samuel, a little 13 year old boy. He broke his femur; his family did not have the money for the needed surgery. So Samuel was in traction, bedridden for 6 weeks, hoping his leg would heal, be straight and functional.
And I also think of the women in the female ward. This ward is divided into 4 cubes, 8 women per cube unless the single beds are shared by two patients due to overcrowding. The last cube was known as the “contagious ward”, a ward full of women with TB and/or AIDS. It has a back door that opens closest to the morgue and it is usually where the women go to next. How delighted I was on my last day to say goodbye to Jessica as she walked out with her brother at her side. I visited with her daily and she always told me “I’m getting stronger,” but I feared it was only wishful thinking. What a gift it was to see her leave the ward on her own two feet through a different door!
Upendo Village, (“upendo” means love in Swahili), across the street from the hospital, was a primary focus of our mission work. It is a community, directed and run by the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi, to aid, support, and comfort women and children with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 200 people were seen at the clinic sessions on Mondays and Fridays, mostly by our hardworking internist and infectious disease physician. We worked in 2 tents, one to triage and treat the patients, the other to dispense medications. On Thursday, part of the medical team traveled to a distant site where time was spent in a support group with the clients of Upendo Village that lived in the area. A highly nutritious grain product was dispensed and a mobile clinic was set up to see more patients.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, different members of the mission team went on home visits. This is a very important part of our mission work. We need to not only see our patients in a clinic or hospital setting, but to see and know how they live, to visit them in their homes. On one of the home visits, I met Angeline and her family. She is married and a mother of two young girls. She is 8 months pregnant and sick with AIDS, skin lesions present on her body. Her husband is HIV negative. Angeline was a victim of a rape (her only sexual encounter outside of her marriage). She became pregnant and HIV positive as a result of this sexual assault. She lost that child in a fire a few years ago. They live in a dark, dirt floor shack. She’s a beautiful woman, greeting us with the brightest, warmest smile as she invited us in her home. She loves her family, worries her husband may leave her, is concerned about her health, but lives a life full of strength, hope and faith. This is due to what Upendo Village has given her.
You see, Upendo Village is not a hospice program where death is a final outcome. They provide hope, love, services, and resources so those they care for can be strengthened and plan for their futures. They are shown that God loves them, wants them to have faith and hope and to be strong. It is for these reasons that we travel across 8 time zones to partner and work with this wonderful “Village of Love.”
We are all home now, adjusting to jet lag, reconnecting with our day to day lives, but not disconnecting with the past two weeks of mission. Already we are entertaining thoughts of our return next year, thinking about the supplies we will need, the new goals to work toward, what field of expertise to bring… We know the path will be shown to us as we continue to keep our brothers and sisters of Naivasha in our thoughts and prayers.
Mary Jane (and Vic) Trinkus