Medical mission provides care for Kenyan children
Bob Elser, a physician and a member of the Rotary Club of York-East, Pennsylvania, USA, spends time with children during a medical mission in Nairobi, Kenya, in September. Photo courtesy of Connie Spark.
D uring a massive Rotary club-sponsored medical mission in September, a team of 70 volunteers from 11 countries provided preventive health care to more than 10,000 children in the poorest communities of Nairobi, Kenya.
The medical team, including health care professionals and nonmedical volunteers, screened patients to determine their most urgent needs before sending them to specialty stations set up to provide dental care, eye care, nutrition counseling, and treatment of infections.
"I'm blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of this mission and share my skills and knowledge in a way that may improve the lives of the children," says Joseph Rebman, an optometrist from the Rotary Club of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, USA. "In the midst of such astonishing poverty, the children were generous in their smiles and waves."
The medical mission, the 10th of its kind and the first in Kenya, focused on the health needs of children living in the slums of Mukuru, Mathare, and Korogocho outside Nairobi, where the poverty rate is high and preventive medical care is lacking.
The international team was hosted by the Rotary Club of Nairobi North, many of them members of Rotarians for Fighting AIDS, a Rotarian Action Group. The RFFA was one of several mobilizing partners, along with Hope Worldwide, AmericaShare (the charitable arm of Micato Safaris), and the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation.
In cooperation with RFFA, Hope Worldwide offered HIV testing and counseling during the mission.
The medical team treated as many as 3,000 children a day. Co-team leader Connie Spark, governor-elect of District 7390 (Pennsylvania), said the communities benefit from better hygiene, disease prevention, and education.
"Hundreds of happy-faced children lined the path, waving and chanting happy goodbyes as we left the Mukuru camp on the last day," says Spark. "That was quite a difference from the stares and solemn faces we passed on the first day. This international team changed many lives with their medical assistance."
The team had to turn away hundreds of people, mostly adults, says Patricia Santos, a nurse and a member of the Rotary Club of Americana-Carioba, São Paulo, Brazil.
"It was difficult to only focus on children with so many adults needing care as well," says Santos. "But what we did accomplish will go a long way. Providing health education will produce long-term benefits."
Santos said this was her fourth medical mission with Rotary. Her father, Waldir, a Rotarian and past district governor, joined her in Nairobi.
"After these medical missions, I become a better and stronger Rotarian," says Santos. "I understand more about what Rotary is all about. Anyone who goes through something like this will have a clearer vision of why they are Rotarians."
Local physicians and other Kenyan health care professionals took part to ensure that patients would continue to receive care after the mission concluded.
The mission was supported by contributions totaling US$38,000, including a $16,000 Matching Grant from The Rotary Foundation. Clubs in Pennsylvania and Georgia, USA, and Kenya also contributed funds.