World Youth International ABN: 52 060 813 541
Postal Address: PO Box 25 Hindmarsh South Australia 5007
Physical Address: 28 Darley Road, Paradise, South Australia 5075
+61 8 8340 1266 +61 8 8312 3128 email@example.com www.worldyouth.org.au
I reached a point in my nursing career where I felt I could give something back to people less fortunate than most Australians. Nursing has given me so much and I wanted to give something back. World Youth International (WYI) is a Non-Government Organisation based in Adelaide that has programs in Kenya, Nepal and Peru. I was impressed by its ethos of sustainability and of ‘giving a hand up not a hand out’.
WYI Nurses in Action Program operates in a small remote Kenyan village called Odede near Lake Victoria. WYI opened the hospital in March 2013 as part of the 15 year plan to establish and develop a sustainable accredited hospital. Currently Odede hospital is staffed by local Kenyan trained nurses and working towards engaging a doctor and purchasing an ambulance. WYI is facilitating the community to set up a microfinance program that is sustainable, cost effective and will save many lives.
The 11 volunteer nurses came from a wide age group of 20’s to 60+ and from a diverse range of the nursing spectrum across Australia. Our roll was to educate and support their programs. We worked with medical staff – not in place of them.
Accommodation was in two concrete block houses without running water, fly screens or glass in the windows and minimal solar battery power. The ablution block had squat toilets and cold water bucket washes.
The Hospital is very basic. Malaria, HIV & AIDS, pneumonia, burns, trauma, wounds, TB are common medical conditions treated at the hospital. Obstetric deliveries are increasing as the community learns the benefits of hospital deliveries instead of the traditional home deliveries.
It was delightful to see the excitement of 96 kindy kids as they played with the balloons and bubbles we provided. These vulnerable children are given health checks, two meals a day, hygiene, education and socialisation. Land has been donated to grow and sell crops to help fund the kindy and buy fabric to make school uniforms to sell so it is sustainable.
We worked at a medical camp which was an hour drive away and set up in a dirty disused fisheries building beside the idyllic shores of Lake Victoria. Each of the 500 patients was seen by a health professional – mostly nurse practitioners who ordered further investigations e.g. on the spot malaria and HIV testing, and prescribed treatment or medication. Wounds, scalp ring worm, URTI, UTI, seeds in an ear were also treated. We rotated through the various stations which included registration, observations, consultations, laboratory testing, pharmacy and dressings. It was a long day!
Community Health visits involved getting a pikipiki motorbike ride to the area then accompanied by a community health worker walking mud house to mud house to see the sick people. Complaints varied between pyrexia, ring worm, malaria, HIV, cancer, burns dressing, chest infections, arthritis, alcoholism and epilepsy. Though very poor, the Kenyans have pride and a feeling of self-worth. They are motivated to work and improve their standard of living and are happy and friendly people. Sex education to 1000 male high school students was daunting. We had prior misgivings about delivering sex education to the boys but our group of nurses made it interactive, fun and informative. The students were interested and responsive asking intelligent, challenging questions and they certainly weren’t embarrassed!
I was part of the Pad project to implement a sustainable program to provide washable, reusable cloth sanitary towels to young girls so they are able to attend school and continue their education uninterrupted by their periods.
Almost all of the Kenyan women wear hair extensions as their own hair grows in tight fuzzy balls. Even very young girls have extensions decorated with beads while the fashion conscious make bolder statements with coloured extensions. Although my hair is short, I was treated to some burgundy extensions that didn’t look the best in my thin, fine blond hair but caused lots of hilarity.
What an incredible experience the Nurses in Action program in Kenya has been. I’ve shared the knowledge and skills acquired throughout my nursing career. The people I've had the pleasure to meet and the things I've learnt have been amazing. Solar power, drop toilets, cold bucket showers, no refrigeration, mosquito nets on beds, very plain vegetarian diet, no internet, walking to and from work every day past primitive farms and houses, being surrounded by chickens, goats, turkeys, donkeys, cows, dogs and cats. Working and facilitating training programs in HIV, men’s and women’s health, maternity, home care and outreach programs as well as working in a very basic hospital treating predominantly malaria and HIV or visiting local homes for treatments has been one of the most rewarding and eye opening things I've ever done. I loved every minute! In fact I enjoyed it so much I am joining a similar program in Nepal this year.
By Gay Verhoogt
The mamma of one baby I will never forget walked multiple kilometers, through a subtropical storm, at night, so as to birth her girl into the helping hands of a trained care worker. As it happened, this turned out to be my hands. Glory to God she chose to seek help, as this bub needed help of her own. My first active resuscitation! No doctors, no emergency buzzer...just ity bity lungs that needed oxygen. Baby girl had the courage to wave at me. I have heard she is continuing to do very well.
Amosi, my name is Jane and I had the exceptional privilege of volunteering in Kenya with WYI. This opportunity came at a time when I had only just completed my Masters of Midwifery (a mere 2 weeks prior) and was full to brimming over with enthusiasm for my craft! I left Australia, boarding that first QANTAS flight with a looming 37+ hours of travel time ahead of me, knowing that the following month would open my eyes and heart to another world of health care. Little did I realise that all of my senses would be saturated with such culture and community, as Odede gave more to me than I could ever give to them.
Being one of only four trained Midwives on the team, it became apparent that we would most certainly be able to take part in a birth...and I was not disappointed! By the end of the month, the Odede Community Health Centre had a record number of births (more than 20!) and I was honoured to be involved with five of them. Each one was precious and incredible in its own right and the story above is only a snapshot of the emotions and learning I experienced. I was never alone in my interest, and by the end our entire team was eager to witness the miracle of childbirth.
The local staff could not have been more supportive. Welcoming us, they showed us the facilities and talked us through the process for each expectant mother once she arrived at the Health Centre in labour. The photo of Veronica and I below, depicts a simple setting, but cannot portray the skill and ability of those who worked within them. The Health Centre nursing staff were open and responsive, teaching us their routines, and allowing us to have input into their practices. A few afternoons of education sessions proved highly interesting and interactive! Above and beyond these experiences, their humility was evident as they performed duties far beyond a standard 8 hour work day. They would also keep us up to date with women’s progress should we not be able to stay at the hospital for the entirety of the labour.
On quieter days, I was intrigued to learn about the HIV screening, counselling process and also the tests available within the pathology lab. In contrast, Tuesdays always proved to be a buzz within the maternal and child health clinic, allowing us to conduct post-natal follow-ups with the mothers and their new babies. Weights and immunisations were carried out alongside plenty of cuddles!
It is most rewarding to see Mothers return to the Health Centre and we find out the progress of their little one.
Within this warm and nurturing environment, I saw firsthand how each individual functioned and respected another’s value and role within the Health Centre. Whether admin, accounts, pharmacy, medical, clinic or inpatient, pathology, kitchen and cleaning, nursing or midwifery, all were friendly and engaging in their own way. This has all been achieved in only a year since opening and I can only pray that their capacity to aid the local community and surrounds increases as they offer quality health care with the support of WYI, and people like you and I.
To return one day is a must. I shall believe it until it happens.
by Kristy Bennets
Ever since I started nursing I’ve wanted to volunteer in Africa, but I was always hesitant about it. If you’ve never volunteered, it can be really hard to know what to expect and, not to mention, it can be daunting to do it in a completely different country. I’d previously volunteered in teaching new arrival refugee children, but never before had I done something like this. Before participating in the Nurses In Action program (NIA), I did my research and found rave reviews about the experiences of past volunteers.
It was in that moment I felt it was time to find out for myself, first hand, and finally bite the bullet.
My goal was to learn about the healthcare issues and practices in this completely different country and, hopefully, be able to lend a hand. In the hope of narrowing down my experience, I will talk about two aspects of the journey that left a mark on me upon my return. They were the lifestyle in Odede and the Kenyan people themselves. When we arrived in Odede, we were greeted by the community village women in a wonderful welcoming ceremony, consisting of traditional song and dance and lots of hugs. Any doubts I previously had about feeling unwelcome were instantly cleared by their genuine happiness at our arrival. This marked the beginning of what would be a very touching experience for me.
There were thirteen of us, and we were living between two houses especially set up for volunteers. The houses had the bare essentials; beds, mosquito nets and drop toilets out the back. Living so closely with the other volunteers was not without its challenges, however, the experience also had its perks. Living in close quarters with fellow volunteers was comforting, as we could share our thoughts and ideas on our new experiences together. We were living in the middle of this rural village, with goats on the loose, chickens running around, and where it was not uncommon to be in the midst of a stamped of cows en route to the village Health Centre.
The lifestyle certainly was something different to what I was used to. After our nursing placements we were just busy living – doing hand washing, telling stories, planning education sessions and having bucket showers. I didn’t realise at the time though, that I would miss this simple life when I returned back home.
The best part about my time by far, was in the Odede village, where I reached my goal of finding out about the healthcare situation in Odede. Something I never really expected to feel was how moved I would be by the various Kenyan people, who really took the time to share their stories with me. Not only did I learn a lot about various illnesses, I also learnt about barriers to diagnosis and treatment. This was due to a lack of technology and money, which painted the general picture of the healthcare situation. These people had to deal with a tough reality that meant their families, and the patients they treated, may not be able to receive the care they needed. Despite this tragedy, their spirits still remained high.
The Odede Health Centre is steadily progressing with the help of volunteers from the NIA program, and the Health Centre seems to be a vital part of the Odede community’s livelihood. Having the opportunity to be a part of its development has been nothing short of wonderful. One of the current projects some of my teammates were working on was getting the Odede Health Centre an ambulance of its very own. As far as I know, they are still trying to raise the funds to make this a reality.
During my time in Kenya, I have come to appreciate what a deserving community Odede is. I only needed to walk outside my house to be greeted with a wave and a smile or walk down to the Health Centre to meet the friendly staff who let us be a part of many births (after we were given the consent from the mother, of course).
As for my goal, I’ve learnt a lot about the healthcare in Kenya, and I’ve also learnt a lot of other things too. I’ve learnt to always smile when greeting people. I’ve learnt to appreciate good stories. I’ve learnt that perhaps we don’t need all the necessities we seem to accumulate.
And finally, I've learnt that it is the people you meet along the way that make your volunteering experience so rewarding.