Outreach to Pokot
I have to admit when Larry, our mission trip director, mentioned embarking on a overnight medical outreach trip to a remote village without health care, I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic. Fear was the first emotion that came up. “I wouldn’t be leading it right?” I asked. “No of course not, we have a nurse practitioner who is familiar with the region and illnesses there to work with you” he replied… relief. So we set the plan in motion for when we arrived to Kenya.
So even though I admittedly had apprehension, I felt that God was leading us into this remote area of Africa to spread healing, wellness and love.
However, when I learned that the key local practitioners were unable to come on the trip last minute, my anxiety began to rise. I suddenly became the lead doctor in an unknown area. I had to walk in faith.
We started the journey waking at 5am, to set on our 4 hour bumpy journey to a small village in dry, hot Pokot. We had spend the night before packing cases upon cases of medications, homeopathics, bandages, cleaning solutions, vitamins, and all of our camping gear. (Yes we were camping out there with no western amenities to speak of.)
However the trip there wasn’t without challenge. The driver was nearly 2 hours late on our pick up, and had car trouble on the way, so we had to find another second vehicle last minute to get us all there. We also had a run in with a motorbike (a common occurrence in Africa), which thankfully all was fine, but caused yet another delay. We then, finally arrived at our destination intact.
The site was not cleaned for us, as promised, but despite the dusty empty concrete shell of a building, we had shade and we quickly set to work on creating a functional clinic space. After all, the line of people was piling up. Our plan was a triage system, working through 1 to 2 translators from Pokot to Swahili to English or if we were lucky straight to English.
The plan started well, once some translators finally arrived (was near impossible without them), but the crowds were quickly overwhelming us. We maintained order the best we could, and the people were very patient and respectful, but soon we were seeing families of 5 and 6 at time. Talk about confusing.
Thank goodness I had the wonderful nurse Ashley from our team, and some of the clinic staff to make this process successful. The first room was equipped with Maureen, Jules and Pastor David who were information gathering with our set questions and nailed down the symptoms (trust me this is not easy with translators). If the complaints were more straight forward, they went to Nurse Ashley, if more complicated they came to see me. And finally they went to the medical room to receive their free medicine, via Evelyn from the clinic (thanks to all who donated to the cause to provide that medicine for them).
We were running at a smooth pace, but after 7 hours straight were starting to run ragged and our system was starting to break down. We were running out of medication, but we were saved by the daylight. Then sun was going down and with no artificial light to be had, we had to close the clinic. Which was a relief, were spent at that point. All said we saw somewhere between 200-250 patients in 7 hours between our team, with everything from headaches, arthritis, and parasites to wound care and malaria.
The villagers were very happy, some travelling over 20km to come to the clinic. We finished the night, with some food and campfire, followed by the most magnificent light show of stars I’ve seen in along time. We slept in tent with the covers off, and watched the huge moon cross the sky and listening to the sounds of nature. It was beautiful and a moment I will never forget.
We awoke to children lingering around watching what these foreigners were doing. And as we were out of medicine, we only saw a few more patients, mostly mama’s and babies or the elderly as they had come so far to see us. We then had some spare time, once again waiting for the rental “matatu’s” to pick us up. We played some music, and did some dancing, even got some kids in a conga line. We handed out watermelon to the children, necklaces from Canada for the mama’s, and laughed with the kids wearing wigs and blowing up balloons.
We also prayed over the men and women separately. Rejoicing in the value of each, as this is not a standard as in Western culture. Polygamy is a common practice amongst Pokot people and equates to higher status amongst their tribe. We had several young male translators, who we discussed this with, and they were seeing the advantage of one wife. “It’s cheaper” they would say, as the dowry can take men decades to pay off, however, they would have very low status if they did. Change can be slow in this part of the world, however, with more education, they are able to see a different perspective.
We left exhausted, dirty, sweaty, and stinky, but our hearts were full for these beautiful people. We had one more obstacle on departure, a flat tire, but that didn’t stop our joy, and we continued home with a much needed stop at a waterfall to refresh ourselves.
Little did the Pokot people know, that they blessed us just as much as we blessed them!
With Courage and Blessings,
Dr. Alana Berg