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Anbesan Hoole

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Anbu's trip to Kenya

Anbu volunteered on our medical programme at a number of clinics, before spearheading a survey into the clinical needs of the IDP refugee camp that paved the way for new development.

Six weeks in Kenya with Agape Volunteers was a great experience. I worked in two clinics in the slum of Kawangware, Nairobi, and later did some research into the need and feasibility of building a clinic at an Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camp in the Great Rift Valley. During my stay in Kenya, I was based with a local family living in the outskirts of Nairobi. As a first year medical student, I went into the clinics with few clinical skills, prepared to learn and do my best, always putting the patient first. I certainly learnt a lot, experienced taxing situations, and I believe, played a part in bringing change, little though it may have been. I worked at two clinics: Fremo Medical Centre and then Wema Nursing Home. The former was smaller and on the outskirts of Kawangware; the latter was slightly larger and in the heart of the slum. At each clinic I first learned clinical skills and then performed them under supervision.

Fremo
During my first two and a half weeks I was at Fremo. Initially I was in the laboratory, doing diagnostic tests under the lab technician Nixon’s supervision. It was heart wrenching each time someone tested positive for HIV/AIDS. The prevalence of AIDS in Kenya is about 7% according to official statistics, and though low for Sub-Saharan Africa, this still imposes a huge disease burden on society. I had a few opportunities to sit in during patient consultations with Dr Fred, a great teacher. In my second week I met Vicki, an enthusiastic and inspirational Australian mid-wife, who raised money and changed the face of Fremo by providing simple but essential sanitation and care. Soon I had assisted with my first birth, was cleaning bloodstained bed linen by hand and was conducting post-natal checkups. (The latter was initiated by Vicki after a mother brought in a sick baby too late: a preventable death.) It was a great privilege to be part of an important event in a person’s life and I almost cried when a mother whom I was visiting named her son Samuel after me!

Wema
More volunteers arrived in Fremo, and I was moved to Wema: a clinic with in-patient facilities but shabbier and with no running water. My attention here was divided between the consultation room and the wards. In the former, I took basic observations, dressed wounds, prepared and gave injections, as well as sorting out and arranging drugs as they arrived. In the latter, I monitored vital signs and assisted women in labour. During my time at Wema, Agape Volunteers conducted a free one day medical clinic at the IDP camp in the Rift Valley. Though organizing the big make-shift clinic at the local school was a bit chaotic, it was a great day and I was able to use my newly acquired skill of giving injections. Two weeks at Wema largely concluded my experience in clinical medicine. During my last one and a half weeks, I went to the IDP camp to do some research.

Kenya has provided me motivation to do my best in my future studies and become the best doctor that I can.

The IDP camp
The IDP camp is Agape’s main project in Kenya. The camp houses people made homeless by the post election violence of 2007. Agape have built and run a primary school at the camp, as well as occasionally providing food and health care for people in the camp. There had been plans to build a permanent clinic here but these had fallen through, hampered by a lack of solid data on the needs and feasibility of the project. Myself and another medic went to the camp to gather information, staying at a school in the neighbouring town of Maai Mahiu and conducting a survey among the camp's inhabitants. We also spoke to nearby healthcare providers and government health officials. We concluded that a clinic was needed and that two options existed: either build a private clinic on Agape-owned land in the camp or try to acquire government support for a new clinic in Maai Mahiu, across the road. My time spent at IDP provided many insights into the Kenyan healthcare system. On a different note, it was a sad thing to witness tensions within the camps and with the local villages hindering development.

Conclusion
It was wonderful to be able to help in a meaningful way. Through this Kenya has provided me motivation to do my best in my future studies and become the best doctor that I can. In addition, time in Kenya was an eye-opener to third world health conditions (e.g.:- mothers giving birth in tents in the IDP camp, women in the city walking to the clinic while in labour and delivering in the dust, and patients being held hostage in hospital for failing to pay the bills), which made me appreciate the NHS all the more. So, I have gained much from Kenya, and hopefully have been able to give back something meaningful in return.

UPDATE
Since Anbu returned to the UK Agape and our partners in Kenya have been working hard to produce a step by step plan for funding and sustained development of a new clinic at IDP. Work has already begun and the foundations are looking good!


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