When entering Lwala for the second time in my life, it almost felt as though I was visiting family. I was so happy to see the facilities I had toured the last time we visited Lwala Community Alliance and even more excited to see how much they are still growing. The Hospital was familiar and welcoming, and the new Youth Friendly Services building was another indicator of the incredible and innovate work that is being done in this community.
During this second visit to Lwala, I had the incredible opportunity to provide a short demonstration of a Virtual Reality (VR) system that was provided by our partner, Sharecare. This VR application gives users the ability to have an immersive experience and understand how the most important structures of the human body operate.
This was unique in that the board of the Lwala Community Alliance, some of the most important individuals who are responsible for the building of the Lwala Community, were some of the first I was able to show the Sharecare VR system to. As this was their first time with such an advanced technology it took some time for them to get over the initial feeling of being overwhelmed. A few of them stood still, not wanting to move very much because they were so immersed in the image and sounds they were experiencing. Although they were not very expressive with their facial expressions, and I couldn’t understand their speaking in Swahili, I started seeing small smiles from underneath the VR goggles.
In addition to these community members, clinicians from the Lwala Community Hospital were also able to experience the VR system for themselves. We were able to show the effects of COPD on the lungs and the changing of a heart experiencing hypertension. They were excited for the possibilities of using this new technology in continuing their medical education and understanding some of the most common conditions they are treating day to day.
Seeing some of these individuals interact with a technology that they had never been exposed to before made this such a rewarding experience for me. Lwala has time and again proven their versatility and ability to take technology (like our tablets) and adapt it to fill the needs of their community. With more opportunities to familiarize themselves with the VR system, who knows what the possibilities could be for it’s use and impact on this small village?