Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Trenching and the First Outreach Clinic

Today, while of the Kenyan and Canadian scouts continued work at the construction site, Jenn, Andi and Ashley went on the first outreach “medical camp” (clinic) of our stay.  Set up in an unlit church in a rural area about 15 km from the resort, the clinic catered to at least 250 patients and was geared to common heath, prenatal care and child wellness.  It was a life-changing experience for each of them, as the experience was at the same time enlightening and overwhelming.  Ashley shares her experience working in the clinic today:
Today was the highlight of my trip so far. As a student interested in the medical field and Doctors Without Borders, an outreach clinic was something that I wanted to experience first-hand to determine if I want to pursue medicine as a career.  Thanks to Jenn and Andi, I had the opportunity to do so today.  The drive was over bumpy roads and after 20 minutes we arrived at the Salvation Army church, which was the site of the clinic today.  On arrival we were greeted by many of the locals and after an introduction we got straight to work.  My role at the outreach clinic was to organize the drugs, take photos of Jenn and Andi and perform a few miscellaneous jobs. At first I was uncomfortable taking photos of patients due to confidentiality issues; however, the patients were smiling and wanted their photos taken. My first job was to help weigh some babies. Unlike in Canada, they do not have electronic scales, but rather hanging scales much like those we would find in a grocery store to weigh fruits and vegetables.  A baby would be wrapped in cloth and then hung by the cloth on the scale.  It was an interesting improvisation.
The day started pretty slowly and everything was going pretty smoothly. I familiarized myself with the variety of drugs so that I would know which ones to hand to the doctor and nurse when they asked. I took a few photos of Jenn and Andi as they communicated with the patients and gave health advice. There were a variety of problems presented by the patients. Jenn and Andi saw patients with asthma, ulcers, ringworms, upper-respiratory problems, flu-like symptoms, malnutrition and much more. If a patient had an external wound that needed cleaning and dressing, he/she would be directed to me so that I could treat them. I had to clean and dress a few patients with infected wounds that were extremely dirty and filled with pus. I did my best to clean the wounds and applied antibacterial cream. I noticed that many Kenyan people do not understand how to treat wounds properly because they were not taught the importance of cleaning as a way of preventing infection. Despite this lack of knowledge, hygiene is slowly being introduced across the western province. This is being accomplished through community outreach groups accompanying the nurses and educating patients as they come through the clinics. In Kenya, infections seem to be a major problem, so a large number of antibiotics were prescribed to the patients today. Many of the other drugs, such as Tylenol and Advil were also being dispensed for chronic aches and pains.  Arthritis is extremely common problem in Kenya as people work very hard and travel great distances on foot. In Canada, these over-the-counter drugs can be easily bought, however here the locals cannot afford to buy the drugs or lack access to them.
As the day progressed, things got much busier as the number of people seeking aid increased.  Just before lunch it started to rain really hard.  We took a short lunch break where we ate a few biscuits and drank a bottle of Coke.  When we got back to work there was no electricity in the church due to the rain, which resulted in Jenn and Andi having examining patients using flashlights!  The crowd continued to grow, with more patients wanting to be seen.  Some would push and shove to cut into the queue, as the clinic hours were ending and we were running out of drugs. Unfortunately, not being seen today would mean travelling a long distance to receive health care or waiting until another clinic was run in their area. The Shiru health clinic makes out-trips to the Kaimosi rural areas once every month, but they are lucky if a doctor can be arranged to accompany the outreach staff.
The day was overwhelming and tiring, but I enjoyed every moment of it. I had the opportunity to see with my own eyes how the health care system in a lesser developed area of the world functions and it inspired me to work harder to experience this again. It was challenging in new ways and it was a different experience from that on the worksite.
Back at the worksite Mark was given the task of clearing brush from the area beside the clinic and was able to use a machete.  He liked the big blade and had fun slashing away.  While removing the brush he uncovered a tangled roll of barbed wire and he and Daniel proceeded to unravel it and then re-roll it in a more organized manner.  Daniel received some minor forearm scratches for his efforts, but the end result was some neatly rolled wire to be re-used.
The contractor was in the trenches using a long plastic hose as a water level.  Once a depth had been determined, the labourers removed the last small bit of earth.  At that time we began putting stones into the trench.  The stones were to provide a solid base for the foundation and would be covered by concrete.
To mix concrete, we had had cleared a large area of grass so they could replant it quickly after construction had finished.  The labourers spread a 15 wheelbarrow loads of sand on the bottom, covered with 15 loads of gravel, which in turn were covered by 8-10, fifty kilogram bags of cement.    At that time the mixing began.  Water was used from the local pump and mixing began.  Two people mixed and about three people loaded wheelbarrows.  The wheelbarrows were taken on a long path around the site to the northwest corner to begin dumping it in the trench.  After about an hour the west wall was completed.  At about that time it began to rain heavily, making those who forgot their rain jackets regret it.
We thought we were done when the concrete pile was empty, but the Kenyan labourers decided to mix another pile to finish the outside wall.  The rain, though, had made the site muddy and slippery, so we decided it was unsafe to continue work.
At Tindinyo Falls the power was out because of the rain, so we had a nice flashlight-lit dinner.  Apparently romance was in the air because Jamie received many wedding proposals from the Kenyans.  There was much discussion of how best to send goats to her father by way of payment.
Brandan has been uploading the blogs through his cell phone data plan, as conventional Internet is unavailable here.
There has been much discussion of the travel plan after we leave Shiru.  Masai Mara, Mombasa, a return to Nairobi and Tsavo have all been considered.  At present we plan to leave the local area next Friday or Saturday.  There has been some research done to shift our return flights from Nairobi to Mombasa to create an extra day of touring, but this may be unachievable due to our large group size.  The schedule continues to be a work in progress, but everyone is enjoying all the new experiences.

By Ashley and Mark


  1. Thanks to Brandan for sharing his data plan with those of following at home! I hope everyone is having a great time and hugs to Charlotte from Mom :)

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  3. Brandon, hope your data plan covers uploading in foreign countries. Thanks so much for keeping us up to date. It sounds like everyone is having fun. Hope you all are bringing back lots and lots of photos.