Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Photo Highlights of Africa

Monday, May 10, 2010

Giraffe Fight!!

As we were returning from our game drive the second night of our safari, we came upon one of the most awesome sights: a giraffe fight! You see this kind of thing on the discovery channel or in National Geographic, but this was real life!!
I only caught a bit of it on film, but it gives you a little taste of what beautiful animals these giraffes are...even when they're fighting!

Coming Home: last letter home from Kenya

Hi everyone,
...I'm back in Nairobi safely after a great, adventure filled trip last week to Uganda, Rwanda, and the DRC (Congo). Africa is such an amazingly beautiful place!! I wish I could bring you all here to show you the breathtaking places I've been and introduce you to the wonderful people I've met! I was able to go bungy jumping over the Nile, and 4-wheeling through some of the jungle villages in Uganda. We visited the sobering genocide memorial sites in Rwanda, and a couple of us walked over to DRCongo for a few hours and bought french pastries and strawberry soda. I'll share the details of these places when I have more time.
I've been trying to tie up loose ends here before I come home. I was able to purchase tiles for the delivery room at the clinic, and they were all put in place Monday evening! Just in time for the government inspection this Thursday.

Since the free medical camp, the business of the clinic has nearly tripled! I even brought one of my mzungu(white) friends in today to be tested for malaria, typhoid, and amoebas...turns out she has mild malaria, but she's going to be just fine.
My experiences here have been unforgettable, and I thank all of you for supporting me in getting here!
It really is funny how a person can visit so many wonderfully unique beautiful, peaceful, exciting places in the world, yet at each one can say, "I think this is one of the most amazing places I've ever been!" I've felt that several times since being here in Africa. I was thinking the other day about how people often say to me, "you've traveled a lot, so where's you're favorite place in the world?" I have a long list, each place making it on the list for its own reason--sometimes not even because of the place itself, but usually because of the experiences I've had the relationships I've built there. I think however, that perhaps my favorite place in the world is home--wherever home may be. As much as I love seeing and experiencing the world, I love the comfort, stability, love, and peace of having a place you can always go back to; a place where you are loved, accepted, given responsibility, where you can relax, where people know you, care about you, where you're heart just seems to fit. I think perhaps home is really more of a feeling than a place.
Even though I'll miss this place, I look forward to coming home and I pray that my flight plans won't be interrupted by the volcano in Iceland! If all goes smoothly, I should be getting on a plane here in Nairobi at 10:30pm Friday April 23, switching planes in Amsterdam at about 7:30 am, Saturday April 24, and arriving back in Salt Lake at 2:30pm Saturday April 24.
I'll let you know if I hear anything from KLM or Delta.

HIV, CT, and Goats: Fifth letter home from Kenya

Hi Everyone!
This one's going to be quick (I know you're sighing with relief after the last super long email i sent).
The free medical camp we organized this weekend was a great success! We saw over 300 people and did TB, HIV, Blood sugar, and blood pressure testing, as well as blood grouping (testing to see their blood type). I learned so much and met so many great people! I spent most of my time doing HIV testing. People here really have so many misconceptions about hIV and how it is spread. They are so afraid to be tested because they they basically view a positive test result as a death sentence, both physically and socially. My heart dropped into my stomach the first time I tested someone positive. I knew that he would have to go home and tell his wife and family, and that his friends and neigbors would probably start to shun him. The next morning his wife came in to be tested as well. She turned out positive too. I just hope they are willing to seek help and not give up hope!
I was also able to take the sister of the woman i live with to get a CT scan to try and figure out what has been giving her constant headaches for over two months. It only cost $70 USD, but for this woman, that was almost two months pay. I was able to cover it for her and gratefully the scan showed nothing abnormal. We tested her at the clinic the next day for typhoid and it looks like that's her problem. Thankfully the treatment for that is a little bit less costly.
This morning, I witnessed another birth...but not a human this time :) Our goat had a baby! Wow! the poor thing sounded like it was in so much pain, and she was pushing to get the baby out for over 30 minutes! Yet again, I am amazed by the miracle of life!
I'm heading off to Uganda and Rwanda for a few days with some friends, so I'll write again when I get back. I hope you all have a great week!

Fremo Medical Clinic, IDP medical camp, and Church: third letter from Kenya

Hi everyone!
It's been another great week in Kenya! This past weekend I had some interesting experiences that made me especially grateful for the gospel, my standards, my health, my education, and all of my blessings.
Things have been going well at the Fremo medical clinic. The staff there is so wonderful and so gracious about having us there. They have so little to work with, but care so much about the community. They realize that most of the people in the area we serve cannot afford to pay for services, yet they never refuse to help anyone who comes in. They simply let the patients know that they can pay a little at a time when they are able. I sat down with them and really talked to them about what equipment and supplies they really need that they're lacking in the clinic. We also got an estimate to see how much it would cost to put a proper tile floor in their small delivery room--right now they have a clay floor that cracks when it gets wet and that absorbs the smells of water and blood. We also got an estimate for a proper walkway to replace the bumpy dirt alleyway that connects the four rooms of the clinic and outdoor toilets. We have a long way to go, but we're helping them set some good goals. We'll be distributing flyers about the free medical camp we're doing next weekend--free TB, HIV, blood sugar testing, and blood pressure and children's checkups--I'm looking forward to it!
Saturday we went back to the IDP camp to help with a free medical camp there. We held it at the little school where we built chalkboards and dug trenches last weekend. It was a truly humbling experience. We arrived late because of transportation issues on the way, but as soon as we got set up, the lines started to form! I was in charge of getting people registered and taking blood pressure, others mixed, packaged and distributed medication, a couple of our medically certified volunteers did injections and vaccinations. We did rapid HIV testing, pregnancy testing, and urin testing. From about 12-4pm we saw 190 people. Many of them walked several km to reach us, some with great difficulty walking with leg braces and walking sticks. 12 year old children were coming on their own, bringing their younger siblings to be checked because their parents couldn't be there. Again, I felt so grateful for the blessing of health and access to quality care so close to home!

I was grateful to get to church on Sunday--it was refreshing! The members are so lovely and so welcoming and kind. The topic of sacrament meeting was the atonement, and it was humbling to hear their perspective on what the atonement does for them. One sister missionary from Zimbabwe spoke and talked about how the atonement equalizes us all, it unifies us, and removes race, tribe, ecomomic status... another speaker talked about how the atonement will make fair all that is now unjust in life...(just like what you mentioned in your email, Kent!). These people are so humble and understand the atonement in ways that most of us will never experience.
My days are so full and I feel exhausted when i lie down at night...I sorta feel like a missionary again :) Every night the rain pours so hard, and everything is made of tin, so it sounds like a herd of antalope on the makes for a messy walk down the dirt road every morning, but it's wonderful!!
I'll be heading out on safari this weekend and I'm excited about seeing the big 5 and visiting a Maasai village. I'm thinking about going to Zanzibar, and I'm trying to figure out how to get over to Mt. much to do, so little time!

Getting Humbled in Kenya: second letter home

Hi everyone!
So many amazing things have happened over the past week! I hardly know
where to begin!
Last week I think I told you that I was able to spend some time at the
orphanage/school that the pastors I live with run. The children are
beautiful and happy and the teachers try so hard despite their lack of
resources. I'm working on an art project with a couple of classes
there--another volunteer and I are taking photos of the kids, printing
them for them, then making paper photo frames that they can decorate
and take home. Most people I meet in developing countries have never
had a printed photograph of themselves, so I think this will be a real
treat for them.
Last week I was also able to go out with another volunteer and a
couple of local village women to visit some HIV patients in their
homes. The first woman we visited, Judi, was taking her antiretroviral
drugs (ARVs), but was pretty weak and unable to work. She didn't have
any money, and really couldn't afford food, so we went down the street
to buy a bit of maize flour, rice, cooking fat, and some spinach for
her, then took it back to her home and cooked lunch for her and ate
together. The food most everyone eats here is called ugali, which is
basically maize flour and water mixed together until it thickens--it's
decent, and everyone here likes it, I think probably because it can be
so filling if you're hungry...which most people are.
The next woman we went to visit was Mary. She was actually not being
treated for HIV, but showed me that she was being treated for TB. I
noticed that she was quite a bit thinner that a photo she had from
about a year earlier and asked if she had ever been tested for HIV,
and she said that she hadn't. TB and HIV kinda go hand in hand in a
setting like this, and so I suggested to her that at her doctor visit
the next day she be tested for HIV. We found out the next day that
she was HIV+.
The next day we went to visit another HIV patient, but when we arrived
at her home, found out that she had passed away a couple of weeks
earlier. Everyone seemed so casual about the fact that she had died--I
think that it's because everyone here sees sickness and death here a
lot more frequently than we usually do.
We were able to visit with a wonderfully positive group of HIV
infected women who get together ever day to make beads and jewelry as
a way to try and make a living. These woman are so strong. They're
living with a disease that they know will never be cured, but are
taking their ARVs and trying to support one another and push forward
with their lives.

There is such a stigma here against HIV. People are so ashamed of it.
People are afraid even to be tested for HIV for fear of what their
neighbors will think of them. So many of the HIV infected people we
meet get no support from their families or communities, when the
reality is that many of the people who shun them probably have HIV
themselves, but are just to afraid to be tested. So many people have
major misunderstanding about HIV, and how it's spread!
This weekend we went to a place called Hell's Gate National Park. It
was amazing!! We biked about 14km up a dirt road through wilderness,
passing zebras, warthogs, gazelles, baboons, and a few people even saw
a giraffe. It was amazing! Then we hiked through Hells Gate gorge
which is a lot like the narrows, only greener and with little
waterfalls and hotsprings.

We were also able to go to three IDP camps (Internally displaced
people). These are camps where groups of Kenyans were displaced to
after the 2007 election and civil conflicts in Kenya. Over 300,000
Kenyan families were driven from their homes because of civil conflict
and violence. We visited an area that had about 600 of those families.
A very basic school had just been built near one of the camps, so we
went to build and paint chalkboards for them and dig trenches around
the buildings so they would not be flooded during the rainy season.
It was hard but rewarding work. We also spent the night packaging bags
of flour, rice, and cooking fat and took it to the camps to give to
the families. It was such a humbling experience to hand a mother a
small bag of flour, a bag of rice, and about a cup of cooking fat,
knowing that that would be all the food she would have to feed her
family for the next two weeks. We were able to go inside the homes of
a couple of the families. Their homes are patched together with
sticks, peices of plastic and bits of old tarps. It's windy and cold,
they have no light other than a tiny little bottle full of oil with a
wick that burns out in the wind. one of the women we went to visit was
pregnant with her 9th child.

Yesterday we went to visit 4 different medical clinics, just to see
where we could be of the most help. I was blown away by how primitive
some of these places really are! We stood in one room that served as
the doctors consultation room, operating room, pharmacy, and records
room--he had a patient behind a curtain and was removing an absess
from under the man's arm--he didn't use any kind of numbing agent or
give him any pain killer. He just cleaned it, then started cutting.
The man sounded like he was in so much pain! As we were walking
through the slums on our way to the next clinic, I had to hold back
the tears as I thought about how difficult it must be for so many of
the people here to get the medical help they really need, and how
blessed I am to have a world class hospital so close to home.
The clinic that I decided I'm going to be working with is a new clinic
that just opened about 3 months ago. They have so little, but I see so
much potential to really help things get going there! They have a
really primitive maternity ward (one small room with a delivery table
and a bed--no monitors or electronic equipment) and are working to
open up two more rooms for treating other patients. They have a small
lab with a sink, a mini fridge, and a microscope--no centrifuge
machine or anything you would find in a lab at home. They are so
positive and so excited about having help.

The emotions I've felt over this past week have been indescribable. I
felt a bit overwhelmed yesterday! EVERYWHERE I go here, someone needs
help. Whether it's medical, emotional, educational, financial...there
is so much to do, and I have to remind myself that I can't help
everyone, but who do you CHOOSE to help?! I'm really excited about
working with this new medical clinic, doing the photo project at the
school, and I'll also be helping with a new mushroom growing project
that some of the HIV infected women in the area are undertaking in
order to make a living.
There is so much more I could write, and I'll have to send photos of
some of the places I've been and people I've met so you can get a
better idea of what it's really like here.
It's challenging, and overwhelming, but also a blessing to be
surrounded by opportunities to serve! We are soooooo blessed! Never
forget that!

First quick note from Kenya

...I just wanted to let you know that I'm in Kenya and things are going well.
I arrived and was picked up at the airport without any problems Sunday night. Yesterday we met up with a bunch of volunteers, had orientation, found out where our project locations will be, and talked about some different options of other fun things we can do while we're here in Kenya. I live with a couple of other volunteers at the home of a man and woman who are pastors at a local church. They are wonderful! They run a little school and orphanage in addition to their church duties. I don't start my project in HIV work until tomorrow, so I went to the school today and helped one of the teachers with her class. I think I'll go back there pretty often to help with little projects...they have so little, and can use whatever help they can get.
I'll be going to work at a camp for internally displaced people this weekend and will be doing a safari in two weeks.
The people here are so great! Oh, and I was at a little shopping center yesterday and ran into two senior couples and a bishop of one of the wards here--that was a nice little tender mercy from the Lord! When I make contact with the church, my mind is put so much more at ease and I feel just a little bit more at home!

Letters from Africa

I didn't do a very good job of keeping my blog up to date while I was in Africa. So, now that I'm back in the USA, I'm summarizing my experience by posting bits of the letters I wrote home to my family...and I'm adding a few more photos and video as well. Enjoy!