Before six students and two instructors from the Wallace State Community College Department of Nursing Education embark on a global health outreach project this week with Kenya Relief, their fellow students, faculty and staff showed their support with a special week of events.
The Kenya Kick-Off Week included presentation of research projects based on conditions the students will encounter, exhibits of African artifacts and the opportunity to write notes of encouragement and support to the students and faculty making the trip.
“This will be the Nursing department’s first venture with Kenya Relief, and we wanted to offer all of those going our support as they prepare for this life-altering event,” said Deborah “Pepper” Hoover, director of the Department of Nursing Education. Students created presentations about illnesses such as tuberculosis, brucellosis and typhoid, just some of the things the nursing students may witness for the first and possibly only time in their career. The presentations will be packed up and taken to Kenya to share with healthcare educators and their students.
Steve James, founder of Kenya Relief, said this will be the third group from Wallace State to travel to Kenya with his organization, but that their mission will be different than those who have gone in the past. Instead of staying mainly on the Kenya Relief compound where hundreds of patients line up for care, this group will spend at least one day in the countryside where access to medical care is scarce.
“Most of our teams are surgical, so we know when we go we’re taking off goiters,” James said. The most recent team performed 82 surgeries and saw 380 patients in the general medical clinic. The team prior to that saw 510 patients and did 80 surgeries.
In prior years, Wallace State has sent dental hygiene students on Kenya Relief’s first dental clinic that included hygiene. Last year, physical therapy assistant students participated in a PET cart distribution of hand cranked vehicles for people with disabilities.
“This group is going to do something we’ve needed to do for a long time,” James said. As the Kenya Relief Brase Clinic has grown in its services and popularity, less time has been spent doing mobile clinics. This team will work with an established ministry located at Lake Victoria. In terms of the number of patients they will see, “we really don’t know what to expect,” James said. “There may be 100 people who need some care, there may be 500.”
Then, for two days the team will work at the clinic at the Kenya Relief compound before visiting a nursing school in Migori. “You’ll have the opportunity to exchange ideas and we’ll send these fantastic posters to show how you guys learn,” James said. Before the team returns home, they will have a chance to experience a short safari. You can’t send groups all the way to Kenya without letting them see some of the wildlife for which the country is well known, James said. Safari parks are located all over Kenya, and the most famous one is located along the route from Migori to Nairobi.
Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Karolewics said the college committed to a partnership with Kenya Relief to provide learning experiences through global health outreach and to expand the scope of learning at the college.
“Because we can’t really understand importance of our work here without understanding the importance of it to all people,” Dr. Karolewics said. “The people who have gone have been changed; their lives have been changed forever and I think as practitioners they have been changed.”
The Wallace State Nursing team has been collecting donated supplies, such as wound dressing and children’s clothing, for the trip. UAB is among its supporters.
The Wallace State team will join a larger Kenya Relief team headed by and American doctor, who is a longtime group leader of Kenya Relief teams, and including several other health care professionals from the United States, for this trip. Kenya Relief staff on the ground will assist with the clinics.
Nursing instructor Bonnie Bibb is one of two faculty members making the trip to Kenya. She said she’s looking forward to seeing how the whole team will make a positive impact for those they will be serving. “I think it will a life-changing experience,” she said. “I think we’re going to see things we’ve never seen before, experience things we’ve never experienced before, and I think we all will just embrace that.”
Melinda Fulford of Eva is one of the six nursing students on the trip. She and the five others competed for the scholarships that allow them to make the trip. “I know it’s going to be a life-changing experience for me and I’m really excited about the opportunity. I am scared about leaving my family – I have a 9-year old son — but I know that God’s brought me this for, so….”
All will be journaling each day in writing and in pictures and videos. “What we hope to do is just make a chronicle of things that are happening as we prepare, as we board, our trip over, our trip there, our trip back, and share that with everyone here,” Bibb said.
Along with Bibb and Fulford, the team also includes Nursing instructor Kelly Walker and students Kierra Baswell, Ashley McClintock, Karly Payne, Holly Smith and Nichole Stoddard.
To complement such initiatives, Wallace State is now offering an associate degree with a concentration on Global Studies. For more information, visit www.wallacestate.edu/globalstudies.
For more information about Kenya Relief’s work in Kenya, visit www.kenyarelief.org.