Officially Employed – June 16, 2012

7 07 2012

By: Sarah Wang

When our translator brought me over to Kunya Dispensary on my first day there, she joked to me that I was now “officially employed” by the dispensary. I laughed at her statement because I thought that there was no way I would be able to fulfill the duties of a staff at the dispensary. However, as the weeks go by, and as I spend more time in the dispensary, I am feeling like one of the staff members. Of course, I have no official medical training and have not carried out any medical procedures. However, I interact with the patients at intake and also help with errands at the HIV wing, which makes me feel involved and useful.

One of my favorite aspects of working at the dispensary is that I get to know the villagers better. A lot of young mothers come with their babies for checkups and vaccinations. An assortment of older adults comes to seek treatment for various ailments. Many secondary school students also come to the clinic, along with younger children and Mama na Dada kids. Their spoken English ability varies a lot, but I can always count on having a few fluent English speakers to converse with while I am at the dispensary. I really enjoy chatting with them about their lives, and I answer their questions about my life in America. With the patients who do not speak very much English, I can still communicate with them through my rough Luo and gestures. They are more than willing to teach me Luo phrases, and it seems like they find it really entertaining when I speak Luo. For example, I counted from one to ten for the entire waiting room one morning, and they all laughed and commended me for my effort. I really enjoy building camaraderie with the villagers, and their friendliness makes me fall in love with this place even more.

On Wednesday morning, I attended the PMCT meeting at the HIV wing, which was a session led by one of the health workers to teach mothers with HIV how to care and breastfeed their babies. Even though I did not understand most of what the health worker was saying, I had a translator who helped me to get the gist of the meeting. They taught the mothers the importance to take the newborns to the dispensary for regular checkups and immunizations. They stressed that the mothers should breastfeed exclusively for six months. It struck me that most of the mothers at the meeting were about my age, and I was touched by the earnest expressions on their faces as they listened to the health worker. They were not afraid to raise questions, and it soon turned into a lively discussion. Even though I do not know what it feels like to have a child and be HIV positive, I do know what it is like to try my absolute best to keep my loved ones healthy. I really admire the health workers who run these education programs, because in the case of HIV, knowledge really does save lives.

In addition to spending time in the dispensary, we also hosted a health worker focus group last Friday afternoon. It consisted of six community health workers that had been trained to make home visits to do health education and a bit of medicine distribution. It did not start as smoothly as we had hoped because four of the community health workers were an hour late due to a funeral in the village. We had thought that they would not be able to make it at all, so Kelly, Saira, and I invited the two health workers who were there on time to eat and drink as much as they could. We had prepared chai and biscuits enough for 10 people, so we all drank several cups of chai along with many packets of biscuits because we did not want them to go to waste. Just as we were ready to clean up and send the two health workers off after interviewing them individually, the four remaining health workers showed up. Luckily, we still had enough chai and biscuits (albeit not as many as previously planned, oops!) Over chai and biscuits, the nine of us discussed everything from health issues facing Kunya to their vision for the future of Kunya. Even though their English levels varied, they talked freely and did not hesitate to revert to Luo to better express their opinions. They provided us with insightful answers along with bits of history of Kunya.

Overall, I am really enjoying my time in Kenya. As I have previously said, the people are warm and friendly, the weather and scenery are great, and the food is tasty. Thank you for reading my post, and see you next time!

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