From the moment I entered the dusty, red, rural town of Ndhiwa, the word ‘Mzungu’ has been my personal cheer-leading chant. Roughly translating to ‘Western person’, this word has followed the team and I everywhere we go for the past two weeks. The in-country staff joked pre-arrival that our ability to ignore these inquisitive calls would be their ruler for our patience levels. Apparently, my level is satisfactory.
So begins my 3 months in the role of ‘First Aid trainer’ in rural Kenya. We are situated in the rural town of Ndhiwa, located in Nyanza province in the west of the country. Nyanza is the poorest province in Kenya and boasts the highest HIV/AIDS rate in tandem. This, amongst other medical challenges, explains the daily presence of MSF at the local hospital, which happens to be situated directly across the road from our homestead.
Our team are engaged in a First Aid training exercise with First Aid Africa, a relatively new NGO with training programmes in Tanzania, Malawi and Uganda in addition to Kenya. Our classes reach an average of 300 children in years 4 to 8 per week, in schools ranging from US-sponsored, multi-storey buildings to outside classes as the mud-hut classrooms are not structurally sound enough for us to enter. Having currently covered ‘Unconscious Casualty’, bleeding, hypovolemic shock and snake burns with all classes, we now have fractures and burns left prior to assessment. Should the students pass the assessment, they will be awarded a ‘First Aid Aware’ certificate.
First Aid Africa is a well respected organisation in this region, indeed across Kenya. Their training is certified by the Ministry of Health in Kenya, a wonderful backing for this life-saving work.
Personally, I am finding life in Kenya very rewarding. 2 weeks into my three month stint in East Africa and I have yet to sucome to illness and have the amazing Kenyan views to take in during my brief moments of down time. Being in the role of First Aid trainer in this rural community, in my opinion, fits in the gap between ‘NGO worker’ and ‘Humanitarian worker’ – a gap which is yet to be defined.
There is one moment that I think can define my time in Kenya thus far. It was the end of our teaching day on a Wednesday and we were leaving a rural school after a challenging lesson (primarily due to language barriers). Aboard my motorbike (or PikiPiki in Kiswahili), helmet adorned and clinging to Joseph (my assigned ‘Piki’ driver), we passed a group of school children wearing a familiar uniform from another school in the region. Cries of ‘Liiiiidia’ trailed behind me as the PikiPiki drove down the dusty, red track and my heart was happy – these days I’m less a Mzungu and more of a short-term local!