Beyond Those Thousand Miles to Kenya

Pacita Abarquez is a Colleague with Tivity Health who has helped to organize an internal fundraiser for the Lwala Community Alliance in honor of the International Day of the Girl. As such, we invited her to participate on our recent travel to Kenya so that she might have the opportunity to meet some of the community she was volunteering to help. Please read her wonderful guest blog about her experience below.

There were eight (8) of us coming from different parts of the country –  from Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon, Boston, New Jersey, Virginia, Arizona and Nashville.  Each one of us had several layovers or connecting flights to take.  This led for some to stop briefly in some countries like London, Amsterdam, Ethiopia, Qatar, and Dubai.  Most of us finally got to Nairobi late Sunday night while a few got in the following Monday morning.

Our schedule was packed, and we had to strictly adhere to it.

The following morning, we were headed back to the airport to catch an afternoon local flight to Kisumu.  The ride to the airport was quite interesting.  The weather was hot and humid.  The roads were built with several humps in some parts of the city, so you can imagine how bumpy it was as we made our way to the airport.  Along the way, images of their quality and way of life unfolds before your eyes.  As you move away from the city, a familiar scene is repeated from one town to another – street vendors flocking every space available where they can sell their merchandise.  Some have crudely built stands made of sticks and branches, others just have a sheet of tarp or plastic spread over any space available.  They lined up the street sidewalks with products like sweets, biscuits, cigarettes, bottles of water, fruits, vegetables, live stocks, pieces of furniture, second-hand clothes like jackets, shirts and trousers.  Tons and tons of shoes covered the stretch of the road.  Every space was filled with something to sell.

Amidst the beautiful verdant scenery of the farms along the way, the road trip to Lwala was pretty much the same with street vendors tending to their wares, school children walking to schools.  There were cows, sheep, donkeys and goats roaming leisurely along some grassy areas, the matatus (minivans) and scooters with their passengers on board and of course, people just walking the stretch of the road.

Halfway to the Lwala Community Health Center, the ride was extremely rugged, and the clay covered roads had huge humps and the terrain was uneven.  Imagine riding a roller coaster in slow motion – you got to hang on tight to something to avoid falling off your seat.  A few more twists and turns, we finally arrived at the site.

As we got out from our vans, we saw a group of men and women gathered at the gate singing, with both hands held up high, waving and their bodies moving to the rhythm of their song.   It was a fantastically jubilant welcome song with a single refrain.  It sounded like this – “Welcome, welcome, to Lwala Village, Welcome.”  In the background the shrill vocalization of a woman can be distinctly heard.  This high-pitched tongue trill known as ululation. Everyone in the crowd showed genuine joy and enthusiasm as we shake their hands, exchanged high fives, as well as sharing hugs and embraces.  What an awesome welcome.  We all felt like celebrities.

Next, we were divided into three (3) groups and I chose to go with the Community House visit with the Community Health Workers.  The first house we visited was a young pregnant mother who is about to give birth sometime in November. John, our guide and supervisor of a group of Community Health Workers, explained to us their roles and work in this community.  We observed that the pregnant mother had a booklet that she had to read, fill out and present to the Community Health Workers during each visit.  In the meantime, the Community Health Workers had with them an electronic device, a tablet, or what they fondly called their Ipads, to record current condition of the mother and soon-to-be born child.  These real-time information/data are received at the health center for further analysis, health statistics and recordkeeping.  The prevention of the transmission and spread of the HIV virus to the unborn is also one of the main concerns that is closely monitored during these visits.

At the next house, the visit involved a follow up on both mother and the child that was about 2 or 3 years old.  This is a program that the Lwala Community Hospital spearheaded known as Thrive Thru 5.  A program that extends clinical services and community outreach efforts to children from conception up to age 5 and to reduce mortality of children under age 5.

Our visit at Lwala was rewarding and simply overwhelming.  As we headed back to the airport to take us back to Nairobi, we felt we needed to do more to help this community. After that brief flight back to Nairobi, we were on our way to Kijabe Hospital.

History described it as a faith-based run hospital established in 1915 run by missionaries.  It is as to this date branded as Health Care to God’s glory There were lots of winding roads to travel before you finally get to the hospital.  There were people everywhere both outside and inside the hospital grounds.  As we made our way through the hospital, we were welcomed by Mary, a nurse anesthesiologist and hospital staff, and Dr. Barnette, a surgeon, to tour the hospital.  We donned on our hospital gowns, complete with face mask, hairpiece and shoe covers.  Off we went to witness the tail end of a surgical procedure on a baby girl whose face was reconstructed.  The surgeon took out his cellphone and showed us the picture of the deformed and severely disfigured face of the young baby girl.  It was quite a disturbing sight.  He further explained the complexity of the surgical procedure and the extreme reconstruction involved.  As the nurses were finishing up, we noticed the face of the young baby girl completely transformed into a normal and more polished appearance.  If there was any indication of the operation, it will just be a minor scar.  What an amazing gift for this baby girl to grow up without having to experience the stigma or shame her disfigured face would have brought her.

Here is what inspired me Beyond Those Thousand Miles to Kenya

Beyond those thousand miles are

  • the doctors, nurses and clinicians of Lwala Community Health helping their community to obtain the necessary treatment and health care

Beyond those thousand miles are

  • the Community Health Workers who tirelessly visit and educate pregnant mothers, constantly monitoring their babies and saving their young babies lives to live beyond age 5.

Beyond those thousand miles are

  • the resource staff who creates meaningful programs, seeks appropriate resolutions and other resources to unceasingly improve and maintain the services they offer for the community.

Beyond those thousand miles are

  • the skillful surgeons and compassionate nurses at the Kijabe hospital who treat and heal the endless number of indigent patients who seek out the finest cure for their illness or ailments.

Beyond those thousand miles are

  • mothers, like Beatriz, whose desires are for their children to get a better education and be able to earn a living and give back by serving their community

Beyond those thousand miles are

  • the young adolescent girls who wants to go back to school, be empowered and not be forced into experiencing the effects of teen pregnancy

Beyond those thousand miles are

  • the anguished population of communities imploring for compassion and love

 Those thousand miles are not beyond reach when we start caring and serving for those less fortunate than us in our own special way.







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