Question: What do you get when you mix 10 women of varying ages from 22-59 in a house with bunk beds squeezed into rooms smaller than the average Australian bedroom, minimal solar power, no refrigeration, no hot water and no fans/aircon in hot humid weather in a small village on a hill overlooking Kenya’s Lake Victoria?
Answer: the most amazing experience of your life with a fabulous bunch of people who all managed to get along despite the heat (which was really no different to a hot Brisbane day!). Hot water not needed for showers, we got used to room temperature drinks, always a cool breeze on the back patio and in the shade of the trees in the yard, torches and candles lit the way when the solar couldn’t cope and so long as we could charge the phones we were all happy!
So that was the living arrangements but what about the work that we went there to experience? This was so different and yet so familiar to what we had all experienced in our nursing careers in Australia and we all got something different out of it. We had vastly different backgrounds – Enrolled nurses and Registered nurses who had worked in emergency/general/theatre/diabetes education/rural/wound care and then throw in a couple of Nurses and Midwives Union Organisers for good measure.
Our placements varied at a wide range of local health centres and hospitals in community health doing antenatal and postnatal clinics, in the operating theatre, in the emergency department, in the pharmacy, doing malaria and HIV testing, medical camps in remote communities, school health clinics, presenting and receiving education with the local nursing and medical staff as well as at the high school, home visits, and helping out in the delivery rooms when there were women in labour (and giving birth 😊) while we were there. We also managed to coincide our trip with a nurses strike over unpaid allowances in some of the Government run hospitals, to give the Union Organisers a bit of extra interest!
And then there were the people… Those who cooked for us, did the laundry for some of us, taught us some of the language, came to visit just because they wanted to, the children who visited at the end of our day to play in the backyard with the soccer ball (special mention to Clyde) or to dance (little Kimmy) or just to talk and be with us. Not to mention the fabulous nurses and clinicians at Mama Ann’s Odede Community Health Centre and special mention to Ambrose and Fred who paved the way for us to work in the various hospitals and communities, and looked out for us in general.
I hope to go back again one day – it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and one I can highly recommend!