SUMC Medical Camp: Promoting healthy lives in Mukuru Kwa Njenga
“We rise by lifting others. – Robert Ingerson
When the University Secretary division spent a few hours within the homes of a number of Mukuru Kwa Njenga residents, an informal settlement in Nairobi that is home to over 100,000 people, each person went home with a different perspective. The mothers in the group compared the children they had left at home with those before their eyes and empathised as they noticed how much the children in the settlement lacked even basics. In the same breath, the catering team perhaps wondered if the children had access to a balanced diet on a regular basis, while the accountants tried to mentally manoeuvre around the shoe-string budget that the families had to raise a child.
For Grace Kamengere, Director at the University Medical Centre, who has made service to society a pillar in her life, thoughts of the dire need of medical assistance for the families became entrenched in her mind. Dorothy, too, a nurse at SUMC, interpreted the visit through the same medical lens.
Their experience led to a team of 11 SUMC staff hosting a follow up activity, a medical camp that lived up to the University 2023 theme of the year, Sustainability: Caring for people and the planet. The team consisting of two nurses, a nutritionist, gynaecologist, pharmacist, lab technician, doctor, dentist, dental assistant, physiotherapist, psychologist and administrative staff spent one Saturday caring for female residents of Mukuru kwa Njenga.
On the morning of the medical camp, pregnant women, lactating mothers, children clinging on to their mothers, trickled into the Eastlands College of Technology with hope of getting treatment for their ailments. The Medical Team, present in their gear, swung into action ready to accomplish their first ever community service day: they offered free consultations, free medicines, nutritional assessment, psycho-social support, and dental check-ups. Within minutes, the waiting area was swamped, the air was filled with children playing, while the queue seemed to only grow longer. A curious man too, joined the queue and would not budge until he was attended to.
The first stop for the patients was the triage station. However, after a few of them asked for lunch, the sequence was changed and so they each received a pack of lunch before being attended to for some had not had a meal since the previous day.
The SUMC team had budgeted for a small number of people as they didn’t imagine it would go beyond 100 people but the crowd swelled. “We had to rush back to the University, get more packs of food, and extend our services to the evening, a few hours beyond when we had initially planned for,” recounted Grace.
The team ended up not having tea at what was scheduled as their break-time – for how do you eat when those you are serving are in more need of the food? Those among the SUMC team who had not been exposed to this kind of environment went home with a different outlook to life: be content with what you have, for it is possible to find happiness in your circumstances.
“It was evident that the majority of the women had not received consistent medical care; some children were malnourished, others anaemic. There was one lady who couldn’t remember when the toddler, strapped on her back was born,” Cecilia, SUMC nurse.
For Oscar Odhiambo, a psychologist, the problems fronted by the women seemed too much for the team to handle and solve in a day. “Grace showed me a different perspective: we may not be able to solve all their dilemmas, but we are here to do what we can to make their lives a bit easier.
He had a group session with them on diversifying skills and exploring other job opportunities such as housekeeping and tailoring. “When we asked them what sort of jobs they were looking for, most of them said that they would like to be hairdressers. We used the session to broaden their horizons and they left motivated to try out new things.”
With the goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting their well-being, over 200 women and children went home with satisfaction on their faces for having benefited from the one-day medical camp. The medical staff, on the other hand, left extremely honoured to have the opportunity to help those who often forego medical treatment as an unaffordable luxury.
This camp has fuelled the team’s desire to be of more service to the community and place SDG 3 – Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages, at the heart of University Medical Center business. They have adopted Mukuru and have plans to return to the area once every quarter. Additionally, they will also visit the Spinal Injury Hospital. Internally, the team holds counselling and psychology monthly sessions with beneficiaries of the Macheo Programme. They intend to further scale this and include sessions with children of housekeepers.
As transformative change agents, the onus is on us to care for people around us for a sustainable future. If you’d like to support their initiatives in cash, kind and by volunteering your time, kindly contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari and Jemmy Kamau.
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