You are here

Student Voices from Kenya

Angela Wang

My name is Angela and I am a senior biology major at Cornell. My concentration is Human Nutrition, and I am preparing to study medicine. I hope one day to work for a program such as Doctors Without Borders and do more with medicine than just practice in my own clinic or in a hospital. I love languages—I can speak three and am learning two others—and had a lot of fun learning some Swahili while I was in Kenya. My interest in Kenya began when I began living with a Kenyan, Gloria Kurere, a year and a half ago. I talk to her often about her family, what her life was like there, and what her hometown, Mogotio is like. Gloria has worked on various projects around her home, such as on a water-borehole drilling project for her grandmother’s village and a re-education program for schooldropouts in Mogotio, and I have been helping her with these projects and in applications for grants for them.

My Experience 

While I was in Kenya, I shadowed for one week at a small hospital in a small town called Mogotio. Mogotio is about 3-4 hours away from Nairobi, and it is where Gloria’s mother lives. The hospital has one doctor who visits when she is able, and five clinical officers (C.O.’s) who take on the role of doctor around the hospital. The hospital has one ward for mostly expectant mothers injured children. Most of the children in the ward were burn victims, and patients come in with illnesses such as malaria and HIV. At the hospital, I had the chance to see a live birth, and there was one patient who came in with a severe case of cholera, extremely dehydrated and delirious as a result. I had the chance to go on two outreach trips, where medical staff from Mogotio Hospital and other nearby health centers brought medical services to areas without them. These areas were sisal plantations, where many young families lived on work contracts, growing sisal, a plant used for making rope. On the first trip, we went to a small dispensary in the sisal estate—a dispensary that usually only has one nurse—and on the second trip, we brought a mobile clinic to the estate. While I was on the outreach program, I learned about how they monitor for HIV, how they screened for cancer and administered contraceptives. I also helped distribute de-worming drugs to the school children there. While I was there, I was also involved in a project with my roommate, Gloria, to drill a water borehole in her grandmother’s village, Chemoinoi, because they do not have a reliable, accessible source of water. We met with the chief of the village and worked together on getting funding to continue the project. I had the chance to visit Chemoinoi and got to see how they lived in the village, in simple thatched roof and mud houses, and saw how much work they had to put in into getting water from a source very far away.

Reflections

During this trip, I realized I became much more sensitive to how I view other people and relating to people as human beings, no matter where they are from or what kind of background that they have. When I talked to some of the hospital staff, I realized how different it was living in Mogotio rather than living in United States. The people that were working essentially as doctors still had extremely simple lives in comparison to what a doctor’s lifestyle would be in America. Some even kept their own livestock and no one has luxuries like indoor plumbing that we have here. I was so aware that the worlds that we came from were so different, yet I still saw them as just the same as me. Of course, they were extremely welcoming to me, but I was honestly surprised at how well I got along with them. All in all, going to Kenya was an amazing experience. It was amazing experiencing a whole different kind of life, and I really learned a lot about being empathetic and seeing people from all parts of the world as equals. I hope I can return there one day, and I also hope I can learn from their hospitality, to help even outsiders feel welcome.