Volunteers

Judith December 2018

Experience report:  December 1th 2018 - February 28th 2019

I still remember how I had been desperately searching for a good project to work for some months as a nurse in Africa, which has been my long-desired dream. There are numerous offers and temptations on the Internet that require an infinite amount of money for "accommodation, support and organization on site". Or (as in my case), where it was simply due to the requirements such as "fluent English" or, best of all, an anesthesia and / or intensive care unit training with leadership skills that I failed to have.

I was very lucky and very grateful that by chance I discovered the experience report from another volunteer on Facebook and thereby finally found Maria and her NGO.

 

With mixed feelings I got on the plane to Mombasa on December 1st, 2018. On the one hand there was the pain of saying goodbye at the airport and the excitement to plunge into a new, unknown adventure, but above all there was the anticipation for the upcoming three-month period in a foreign country with a different exciting culture.

A positive feeling of having found just the right thing was immediately confirmed when MamaRita and the Doc welcomed me at 5:30h in the morning at Kingston Hospital with their warm and friendly manner. The two of them support you every minute so that you feel comfortable and at home as a volunteer. They do everything to make you feel good. During the three months I have never been homesick for a second because you feel like a family member. Doc and MamaRita were there for me at any time of the day or night - if I had worries or any "German problems". We also had a lot of fun together. Everyone, including the children, is incredibly humorous and funny. From Doc I could learn things for life while watching movies and documentaries with him on the beach in the evening.

During the first week I was overwhelmed by the friendly, happy, and open culture of the Kenyans. It was loud and busy on the streets; you could hear PikiPiki's driving, good mood music, chatting people or shouting "Mzungu" everywhere. The day in Kenya seemed to be endless in a positive way. Within the first week I noticed the African times, which seem to be different from ours and of course it took time getting used to.

Especially while working as a nurse in Germany, you are used to do things "Haraka Haraka" (Kiswahili for "fast fast"). That is why it was blessing for me to get to know the African “pole pole” (slowly slowly). I particularly enjoyed working in the hospital with MamaRita, as she and Doc have an infinitely good heart. I was very impressed by the positive, understanding and often funny way in which they deal with their patients. At Kingston you listen to the patient and take your time. Doc has an incredibly large repertoire of knowledge and experience. That is why Kingston hospital has a very good reputation. Many patients come at night to be treated by the doctor himself as he usually works during the night shift. I was able to attend some interesting cases, such as a septic wound on a knee, which I could provide with German dressing material. I also accompanied a small 9-month-old baby who was malnourished and had severe diarrhea. Using special baby milk that I donated (since the parents didn't have enough money for it), we were able to improve the baby's health and weight very quickly. Once, there even was a little boy who had an epileptic seizure (or who was in epilepticus status).

What was also particularly great: We visited a patient called Limo after his long-awaited, necessary knee surgery in Kijabe Hospital (near Nairobi). There we got our own picture of the recently operated wound and convinced ourselves directly about Limo's well-being. The operation had already been paid by “Likoni-Healthcare for all” earlier. Limo was of course overjoyed and infinitely grateful for the help from Germany. Thus, he can soon go back to work and improve his life.

Patient population at Kingston ranges from young to old. During my stay, I saw many interesting diseases such as Malaria, Dengue fever, patients with worms or e.g. with an aggressive form of dermatitis and Doc taught a lot of interesting things about tropical medicine.

Many visits to the poor village of Timbwani left a lasting impression on me. Here you can experience firsthand how many people in Africa are doing. People sometimes live in confined spaces and do not even have mattresses to sleep on, let alone access to drinking water. The houses consist of simple sand-stone buildings and corrugated iron roofs, some of which are leaky when it rains. Despite the poor conditions, everyone in Timbwani is incredibly warm-hearted. They immediately give you a very warm and friendly welcome and show you their houses and how they live. Or they give you a chapati or indeed a living chicken as a sign of gratitude for the help from Germany (which was later prepared in a very tasty way for me by MamaRita). This life-affirming way of dealing with Kenyans -with their sometimes very sad, tragic, and frightening situations impressed me very much.

My personal highlight was to be allowed to build a new house together with MamaRita and some volunteers from Timbwani for an elderly and very weakened man named Abdallah. His previous “place to stay” (you could no longer call it a house) was in danger of collapsing and no longer offered protection from the rain. It was an incredibly great experience for me:

To contribute and see how within 2 days a completely new little house can only be created from a wooden frame, stones, and a sand-water mixture.

Not to forget the breathtaking trips with Lea and Carla (the other two volunteers) such as the Tsavo East and West Safari, a visit to Diani Beach, a trip to Shimba Hills and a boat trip where you could go for snorkeling to see dolphins . We also had a lot of fun visiting the befriended orphanage “Little Angels”.

All in all, I can only finally say: "Africa changes you".

You start to see many things with different eyes, and it makes you realize how well we are at home in Germany and how much you can appreciate it. It opens the foresight and stimulates thinking / rethinking. I miss Kingston and Africa very much and am looking forward to another visit.

by Judith Brumm