Lilly sends employees to Kenya through Connecting Hearts Abroad trip

Connecting Hearts Abroad is a program that was established by Eli Lilly and Company in 2011 that sends their employees to underserved communities to provide direct assistance by teaching, enhancing healthcare, and aiding in community development. Recently, twelve members embarked on a journey to Eldoret for two weeks to work with AMPATH’s Oncology program with the intent of enhancing the quality of cancer care for patients. The experiences of one of the members, Cheryl Davis, are shared below.

Davis advocates for individuals inflicted with cancer in countries that typically have more resources by listening to patients’ stories and addressing their concerns however she finds possible. While she greatly enjoyed various aspects of her journey in Eldoret that revealed the culture of the area, ranging from baking bread with staff, attending a banking meeting with the Group Integrated Savings for Health Empowerment (GISHE) program, and holding individuals’ hands in patient hospice, one of her most memorable moments was talking with a 19 year old boy diagnosed with lymphoma. The young man is currently a finance and economics student in college and loves playing badminton and modeling when he is feeling well. He was told to travel to AMPATH, six hours away from his home, when he was first diagnosed and stayed in the crowded hospital for seven months, receiving chemotherapy.

Although the young man is grateful that AMPATH has provided him with treatment, he and his clinical officer discussed the fact that the costs of treatment are still high, even with insurance, and that there isn’t access to bone marrow transplants in Kenya. When hearing this, Davis stated, “I can’t help but feel the injustice knowing that the majority of patients can be cured with this same diagnosis in more developed countries. Lives should not be determined by geography or by resources.” She believes it is important to realize this heartbreaking reality and to try to do as much as one can about it, such as through donations and advocacy.

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