Reflection on my work in Kenya
As I face my last week here in Kenya, I am dreading going home and facing the ultimate question: "How was Africa?" I dread this question because where can I begin? Should I talk about how each and every day, I was mind-blown by the passion, drive, innovation, and collaboration that makes up AMPATH as a whole? Should I talk about all of the medicine I have learned through my time on the various wards of Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital? Should I talk about the amazing people, Westerners and Kenyans alike, that I've had the honor to rub shoulders with? I think that the only way to truly comprehend 'how Africa was' is to live it. So I want to bring a piece of it to you! Here's a chance to meet the amazing humans I've gotten to know here. I have taken the liberty to speak from their shoes, but I will do my best to stay true to the core of our conversations. Through my next few blog posts, I hope you can start to understand how my summer really was from the very people who have shaped it.
#1: Edward (Dream destination: Jerusalem, with his daughters, to see the life of Jesus)
Background: The one number I have on speed-dial here is to Taxi-Max (sounds like a plan!), the taxi company that allows everyone at IU House to function and travel places. Such places can vary from going to the hostels every night, to going to Maasai Mara for a weekend safari. Edward is a driver for Taxi-Max, and today while my team was travelling to Iten for our trauma research project, I asked if I could interview him for the blog. He had looked a bit taken aback, but was quick with an "it's OK", the typical affirmative Kenyan response.
"I started driving for Max one year and a half ago, but I have been driving since 2008. I started right out of high school, and now, I am a professional on Hell's Gate Ntl. Park, Lake Nakuru, and Mt. Elgon/Kenya. I haven't had the chance to own my own car yet since they can be something like 1.2 million Kenyan shillings, but I think I would like a Toyota Fielder…silver. I think I will continue to drive in Eldoret for a while. In fact, I actually was born and raised in Eldoret, so I love it here. I once lived in Nairobi for work, but I came back since life in Nairobi was expensive and fast-paced. I like Eldoret better since I can save up money here, and I can be close to my parents. I have two daughters who live 6 hours away from Eldoret, one is 7 and the other is 4. They call my daddy, and it is very nice. I hope that one of them will become a doctor, because that is what I wanted to be.
Yes, I've always wanted to be a doctor, but I was the only child out of 6 children to not go to college actually. When I was in high school, my father retired and would often have me work on the family farm. Because my youngest brother was in school at the time, I would skip my own classes to finish all the chores around the farm. My mother was angry that I was skipping school, so she took me away and tried to pay for my schooling herself, but eventually, she couldn't support me anymore. When we came back to my father, it was too late and he refused to pay my tuition, so after high school, I went straight to work.
I think that education is one of the biggest problems with Kenya. Many students are very bright, especially in the rural areas, but because their family can't afford to pay for secondary school (can be 50-60,000 shillings a semester), they can't get a good education. Like my story; I wanted to be a doctor but did I get the chance? If I am from a rural area, I must work very hard to pass and get good grades because it is my only opportunity. But, if I need to study and work, I can get confused, and then I could fail. Girls get pregnant early and boys become thugs, but it's not what's wrong with them, it's what's going on around them.
I think the government should help all kids get a good education and go to college, and make sure that government primary schools don't have over 50 students for every one teacher. Both the candidates running for president now are promising to make secondary school free. Some people think they will not, but I think they will.
I think that Kenya needs someone very new as our leader. Someone who is not in government now so they are not poisoned by it. Also someone who will fight tribalism, because that is destroying Kenya. You know, when people vote now, they do not vote for a good leader, they vote for their own tribe, and many people are illiterate so they don't know any better. I don't know if the tribalism problem will change in my lifetime though…maybe, though the chances are very low. I think the solution to this will have to be God. We have to pray for change."