Friday, June 29, 2012

This week has been very different than our first two weeks. Not only have we had some more power outages and the internet going in and out, we also haven’t had water since Monday afternoon. Lucky for me, this time I wasn’t in the shower! It may seem bad, but I’m happy to say that we’ve all just accepted it and gone on about our days.

We finished what we had to do in the clinic last Friday, so we’ve spent this week visiting different organizations that Partners for Care supports.

First, we visited Tree House. This is a small orphanage with about 35 kids, including Stephen. The children welcomed us with a few songs that just melted my heart. We were then able to dance and play with the children. Andrew, one of the volunteers, took us on a tour of the facilities and we ended up playing a little soccer out back before we said our goodbyes. By the time we left, my heart had been changed by the sheer joy and laughter on the kids’ faces.

Next, we visited Mathare Slum to visit the Community Transformers. Mathare slum is the 2nd largest slum in Kenya and is heavily affected with HIV/AIDs. One of the main missions of the Community Transformers (CT) is to provide support for those who have been infected with HIV/AIDs and/or have family members that are affected. We were able to visit two of their clients who shared their stories. One lady had to close down her business and now has no money. The man that we visited went through a lot of trials when he found out his status, especially with his family. Listening to these stories and how they either learned of Christ or have always relied on their Faith really brought joy to my heart. It was amazing to see how little they may have, how sick they are, and how much they have had to endure, but in the end they rely on God every single day with an unending faith. Sandy sees it as them furthering the Kingdom of God more efficiently than she does because their stories and testimonies are so empowering. I completely agree with her!

Today we were able to go back to Kathi’s house and give them some of the soccer balls, cleats, and jerseys that were donated to PFC. They were so excited to see the new equipment, especially since they have been playing in normal shoes. They said we were just in time to equip them for a tournament they are in tomorrow.

As I prepare to leave on Sunday, I think back to my experience for the last 3 weeks. I don’t even know where to start, because I have learned so much about God, others, and myself. God has taught me so many lessons along the way. He has used people to touch my heart and show me what Faith really is and what it means to further the Kingdom of God. I’ve learned that even though there may be language barriers and cultural differences, sometimes a simple smile can just break through all of it. I’ve learned some Swahili, I know that I never want to drive in Kenya, I know that not having a real shower for 5 days really is okay and that baby wipes and rain water can be used instead. I’ve learned all of that and so much more!

Please continue to pray for us as we finish our weekend here with PFC. I will be heading home Sunday night, but the others will be staying an extra week in Kenya, so be sure to keep checking on their updates.

I also ask that you please continue to pray for Stephen. We admitted him to the hospital on Wednesday and he still isn’t doing very well. He is one very sick little boy and could use many prayers of healing!


P.S. If you want to know a little more about Community Transformers, please visit

Monday, June 25, 2012

I finally arrived in Kenya to join the girls last week. I’ve been so excited to catch up on everything … and there was a lot! Oh and by the way… I realized it’s winter here haha! I started journaling to make sure I didn’t miss anything on this journey; then I realized my whole LIFE is a journey and adventure… God is always working not just in Kenya; there is always something to be documented, always something worth remembering and meditating on!

On my first day, I shadowed Charles in the slums. The poverty struck me, but I also noticed the remarkable architecture and intricate design… every little piece fit perfectly, an image of everything held together in the palm of God’s hands. I was awed by the beauty… the people’s faces and clothes were beautiful. Did they see it, I wonder? Did they see what the father saw when He looked at them, or do they feel shame, worthlessness, poverty, and disgust? I wanted to tell each person how beautiful and valuable they are!

We spent the remainder of the week working in the clinic. We asked a lot of questions and tried to learn how to best implement Sana. After observing and hearing what the doctor and staff recommended, we tried to address problems that arose and to work through potential obstacles in order to optimize care to the people of Marurui. We designed several new mHealth modules that we are hoping will greatly facilitate using the technology and healthcare delivery. We also tried to address the pharmacy inventory, a filing system, patient records, and other logistics that would make the clinic run more smoothly.
Things have been challenging but good… it’s also been funny to see God’s sense of humor. The past few days we’ve had some surprises… poor Sam got punked the most. She was in the shower one night and the water completely cut off; although frazzled by the unexpected circumstances, she was a trooper and shrugged it off till the next day’s shower. Half way through the next shower, however, the community lights went out. It was the type of darkness that didn’t allow you to see your hand in front of you. Hahaha! At least the water stayed on we joked! God’s been making us malleable, teaching us a lot, and humbling us to do his work. He’s also highlighted several of the blessings we take for granted on a daily basis.

We’ve had some adventures in the city of Nairobi too. We went shopping and came so close to watching Olympic Trials! The Kenyans chose their Olympic Champions Saturday… including David R., the world record holder in the 800m. As a runner myself, I went nuts at the idea of having the chance to watch this race. It would’ve been quite an experience, but it’s still a blessing to know we were only a few kilometers away when it was happening.

Sunday we went to Africa Transformation Missions (ATM) church and worshiped the Lord on a top floor in a building in Nairobi. It felt like we were in the heavens as the birds flew past the windows and the sunshine exploded through the room. Beautiful voices in multiple languages rang out! After church we went to meet with Pastor John. Along the ride to rift valley, we saw monkeys and a variety of animals, sink holes that had been created since March, and beautiful valleys and mountains. We got to hear the story about Kathy’s house and how it rescues vulnerable populations such as orphans and widows, especially those affected by HIV/AIDS. Kathy’s house also trains young boys in soccer, and from what we hear, their team has been having a winning streak and is one of the best. The project also has cows and a farm that will hopefully allow this project to be self-sustained. During our visit, we actually got to enjoy some fresh milk with our coffee from one of the cows. Quite delicious! (Like the fresh eggs from the chickens at the PFC house that we enjoyed this morning)!

Today we went to Tree House, an orphanage that cares for 34 children. When we arrived, the children sang us a song and afterwards we all danced and played together.  Outside, we saw the sack garden with kale, a nutritious and fast growing plant that satisfies the children’s diet and taste. We also played soccer with the children and the staff. After speaking with the staff, we are hoping to collaborate and finalize a food security plan for the children.

God will continue to do great things this week and your prayers are greatly needed and appreciated. Thank you for your continued support! Mungu akubariki (God bless you)!!!
Sandy :)

Monday, June 18, 2012


Thankfully to God, I awakened this morning. Although my spirit was eager to return to my work at the PFC center, my body felt otherwise.  After successfully battling jet lag, a sudden cold that accompanied me during my journey across the Atlantic Ocean, and insect bites from unknown flying creatures, I woke up with muscle pain. Determined not to slow down the clinic’s work for today, I quickly raided my suitcase for my beloved package: a first aid kit stuffed with medicines from my local US drug store. After gleefully swallowing some ibuprofen with a sip of prime Kenyan tea, I left with Samantha and Mfon to the clinic.

Upon our arrival, we continued in our supportive efforts to the PFC team. Yet, this time the three of us stayed on-site at the clinic in order to meet up with Dr. Vincent and discuss in detail possible modifications to the Sana program. I’m hopeful that our revisions in areas such as tracking patient follow-up and patient assessment modules will help improve the care of Marurui residents by streamlining and quickening Dr. Vincent’s response to patients.  In between our discussion, we observed him doing what he does best—treating and counseling patients. After examining a 10 month old suffering from a respiratory infection, he asked his nurse, Mary, to fill a liquid prescription for the child. The nurse returned with an ibuprofen bottle. Confused by the presence of this drug, I (in classical medical student fashion) inquired, “Why is this medicine being given?” Dr. Vincent, with a Sana phone in one hand and a prescription pad in the other, informed me, “Oh, this is not buprofen (the clinic’s nickname for ibuprofen). We don’t have enough plastic syrup bottles to give out to everyone. So we often must use old buprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen bottles for the pouring and distribution of our stock liquid medicines.”

One half of me marveled at the resourcefulness and improvisation of the clinic; the other part of me was appalled by the fact that this clinic, which is working to use advanced mHealth and EMR technology in order  to improve patient care, has to deal with inconsistent access to basic medical supplies such as plastic syrup bottles. The rising cost of drugs is often the culpable factor in drug availability; a factor that especially affects medical facilities like the PFC clinic, which is committed to providing low cost and free medicines to the people that they serve. It was at that moment that feelings of guilt began to pierce my conscience. As I watched the child exit the clinic for the light rain and gray clouds that blocked the normally sunny Kenya sky, I thought of my kit packed with a plethora of cough syrup bottles  that featured medicines of my choice, including my beloved ibuprofen. Such disparities in care should not exist.  My teammates and I look forward to working with the PFC clinic to support their pharmacy efforts by obtaining lower cost supplies and establishing a consistent relationship with suppliers, in particularly pharmaceutical companies in Kenya. 

After returning home from the clinic in the late afternoon, I sailed up the stairs, desiring to take another buprofen in order to relieve the symptoms of pain I had successfully averted this morning. As I sat and stared at the muddy-brown, M & M sized pill that was resting comfortably in the palm of my hand I thought, “What if this medicine was not available to me?”

Want to learn more about medical supply donations? Check out one of our mHealth supporters!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Open doors

When you open a door, how do you keep it open? That was the focus of today's message at Africa Transformation Mission church. If you open a door it is your responsibility to keep it open, but if God opens a door, it is His responsibility to keep it open. As long as He's is holding that door open He can bless you fully with whatever miracle is on the other side. The point being, don't try to help God with His miracles, just wait for Him to open the door so that you don't have to worry about keeping the door open while the miracle passes you by.

This message really made me think about our trip here to Kenya. Last fall we all started to pray for an opportunity to serve God's people this summer with the few medical skills we have learned in the past year. When this opportunity presented itself we weren't sure it was going to work. Along the way our plans for the trip have changed, but God has continued to provide. God has really opened this door and many others along the way so that we may serve our family here in Kenya. Worshiping with the Africa Transformation Mission church this morning was another door that just gave us a brief glimpse of how much love these people have for Christ. The service was long, lasting about 3.5 hours and with a lot of music. Never before have I danced in a conga line during a church service, nor have I ever been in a group of people that are so passionate about worshiping God. Some music was English, some Swahili and some Nigerian, but everyone was worshiping the same God that blesses us all. It was so amazing to be able to share in that time with many of our new friends.

Today was a great day to get refocused on why we are here and what God wants us to do. I feel as though we are ready to move on with the week ahead and run through any doors that God opens for us with smiles on our faces, hearts ready to love, and hands & feet ready to serve.


P.S. if you want to know more about the church we visited go to:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Little pieces of Joy!

Today was such a blessing that I don’t even know where to begin!! First of all, I can’t even believe it has already been our first week in Kenya! Whew…it’s gone by so fast, and it’s one of the sweet moments in life where you wish everything would slow down so you could just soak it all up. Today was no different, I felt like today was filled with so many little pieces of joy!

This morning, we didn’t have any activities, so we had the choice of sleeping in! After staying up later than I probably should have, that sounded like such a great idea. But after about a few hours, my body just couldn’t sleep anymore; that was fine as I was eager to start the day. One of the things I was really looking forward to was checking in on Stephen!  Stephen is one of the cutest boys, you’ll ever meet; although he doesn’t smile often, when he does smile, it’s radiant enough to melt even the hardest heart! So I was really hoping to see more of his lovely smile this morning.  Before I saw him, I heard Stephen battled bouts of vomiting and diarrhea throughout the night due to his medication. My heart sank at the news, but as I turned into the living room, I saw that wonderful smile of his, greeting me and I felt like the world was somehow a better place.  That sounds really cheesy but that moment totally made my day; no matter what happened later, it would still be a great day in my mind!

The rest of the day continued to be a blessing!  There were too many, but I’ll share some of today’s moments of joy with you! By lunchtime, the house was filled with the smell of great food, sounds of laughter and music (of course what is a Kenyan house without music?)  Initially, we (or, maybe it was just me) thought we were listening to a CD play, but we eventually discovered that the church choir from the church we are visiting tomorrow was practicing in the garage!  Like little children scared of interrupting, we watched from the glass window on the door, but the music drew us inside, where we listened to the band practice. It was so much fun to just listen to their amazing voices, and watch the joy on their faces as they were worshipping! We couldn’t help but join and start dancing! African dancing, what could be better right?  Eventually, I noticed that we started to drift into familiar beats, and I realized they were singing Nigerian songs! I can’t even believe I am saying this, but this was a rare moment were I wished I could speak Yoruba or Igbo so that I could understand the words they were singing.  But at some point, the language barrier dissolved and I found myself singing along to the Yoruba music and dancing.

I was kind of sad when Sammy walked in and said we had to go, but the pieces of joy continued throughout the rest of the day!  Today we got to see the sports ministry! In Kenya, everyone loves sports, so whenever there is a game, the entire community comes to watch and support the team. With such large crowds at sporting events, PFC staff normally use this opportunity to minister to the community! So I was really excited to go watch the teams practice. As we walked to the fields, we passed a herd of cows, which was yet another little joy! However, it was a sad moment when we passed the former soccer field, which now looked like a swamp. During the rainy season, the soccer field flooded; since then, PFC has been unable to find a permanent soccer field. Prayerfully, God will bless the team with a field that’s even better than their original! Eventually we made our way to the temporary soccer field and watched the boys’ soccer team practice! As embarrassing as this is for an African, I have to say, I’m the only person in my family who doesn’t play soccer so I was excited to watch in hopes of learning some soccer before I leave Kenya! Of course it was such a joy to watch the boys play! They are amazing players, and even their youngest player (who is 10!) could play better than I could ever learn to play. They were so nice and gracious to us and even invited us to come practice with them. So who knows, maybe I’ll be able to play soccer by the time I make it back to the US. They also invited us to their game tomorrow.  They previously played the team and won (yay!); however the team wanted a re-match, which I am sure they will win!

I’m so excited for tomorrow because I know it will be another great day filled with joy and fellowship!

We’ll let you know how it goes!

~ Mfon

The boys' soccer team and the beautiful view!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cooking up Success

Two cups of white flour + 1/2 teaspoon salt + a little oil + a frying pan = a recipe for chapitas. Chapitas are one of the many delicious Kenyan dishes I have had the opportunity to enjoy during my time with the PFC team. As Moses talked to me about the different ingredients that come together to make this food a success to my stomach, it made me think more about today’s activities with the team.

Today Samantha, Mfon, and I, continued to do a variety of activities related to the clinic’s operations. Like a mother and father determined to get treatment for their sick child, Mfon and Dr. Vincent traveled to a district hospital far away in order to take Stephen to meet with a pediatric specialist. Yet, even after navigating the many twists and turns of trying to get care in a fragmented healthcare system, Stephen would have to come back next Friday to be seen by the physician. In the meantime, he was sent home with medications designed to begin to address some of the medical signs and symptoms that he has (although his underlying diagnosis is still unknown); his weak system did not well tolerate this treatment regimen. At the sight of his distress, my heart was as shattered as the pieces of vomit he spewed across the floor, containing the very medicines that were supposed to help him feel better.

Samantha and I remained at the clinic with Charles and Peter where we both had a chance to see the extent of their selfless community health outreach to the Marurui slum. Using Vanna White from Wheel of Fortune gestures, we assisted them both as they used a visual teaching cube to educate the residents present, who were all mothers and wives with various levels of literacy, about HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention. They also talked to the women about how to use plastic bottles and UV rays from the sun in order to kill the many microbes present in the water supply that commonly make their families and themselves sick with illnesses (e.g. typhoid fever). After the training, Samantha stayed with Charles in the clinic, and I accompanied Peter to the slum to assess patients.

Amidst a backdrop of a bright Kenyan sky, I examined a few patients who lived in homes as small as my former college dorm room with no electricity, running water, or an adequate sewage system (unless you count the brown-green puddles that little children used as a playtime outlet). Many of the patients were infants, who were most likely suffering from the same gastrointestinal diseases about which Charles and Peter had used the morning time to educate residents in prevention efforts. Although I was able to transmit my patient encounters back to Dr. Vincent in real-time, the lack of a consistent wi-fi connection delayed his receipt of this information. I couldn’t figure out if my heavy heart resulted from this delay that affected patient care or my realization of what a normal day is like in Marurui for its mothers, fathers, and children.

Upon returning to the clinic, my ears were met by the sounds of ferocious typing. Both Samantha and Charles were working to reenter the hundreds of medical records of non-Sana patients that were lost due to a computer virus. My heart sank upon hearing this statement. If only these patients, like the patients whose care had been initiated using Sana, had electronic medical records on an open source system, this loss of critical medical information necessary to manage patients effectively and accurately would have been avoided. The dependency of the clinic’s use of paper and pencil would also be minimized.

Brokenness + Heaviness + Despair = a recipe for the feelings of my heart for today. Yet, I realize that by combining the electronic medical records and Sana technology with the committed spirits of PFC members like Charles and Peter, my feelings can be sprinkled upon this situation. Such feelings will help reinforce my determination to support the PFC center. Now, that sounds like a recipe for success.


Want to learn more about Sana? Click HERE

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Always Smile

Today was our second day in the field, and it was scheduled to be similar to yesterday with each of us following a different PFC staff member. Petrina shadowed Charles and helped him with patients in the clinic while Mfon went out in the field with Peter to use the Sana technology and assess members of the community. Today, I was supposed to shadow Dr. Vincent and see what he did on a regular everyday basis. However, God threw a little kink in the day and completely changed what Dr. Vincent's plan for the day was. There's a 6 year old little orphan boy, Stephen, whom the PFC staff have taken under their wing since meeting him on the streets a while back. He lives in the orphanage, but when he started to get sick they brought him to the PFC house to get checked out by Dr. Vincent and hopefully to be cured. Dr. Vincent isn't able to make a diagnosis without running some tests, which aren't available in his clinic. So today we took Stephen to the hospital to get an ultrasound and some blood work done.

Although my heart ached to see Stephen not feeling well, I was a little excited to see the hospital and how different it was compared to those in the states. As we got in the car Dr. Vincent told me that for today I was to be Stephen's mother and so when he cried I was to rock him and so on. For those of you that know me, you know how easy it was for me to step into that role. We got to the hospital and the looks of it were pretty much what I expected. We did a lot of sitting and waiting to be called back for the tests, much like what we experience in the states. However, I was surprised that even though we were just walk-ins we were able to obtain the results rather quickly. Within an hour of each test we received the results for Dr. Vincent to analyze before Stephen's appointment with the pediatric specialist tomorrow. So even though we got results relatively quickly, we still did a lot of waiting. This meant entertaining a little boy, neither one of us knowing the same language. I decided to try some hand clapping games, drawing pictures and communicating with gestures. This seemed to work well as it would get him to concentrate on things other then not feeling well. There were times he would look at me and give me the biggest grin that just warmed my heart.

It wasn't really until I came here to Kenya that I realized that no matter what language you may speak, a smile is a kind gesture that can speak volumes. No matter where you go in the world if you see someone smiling it's a sign of welcome, peace, and kindness. I think it's one of the ways that God links us all together. It's a way for us to convey a message of love and Christ to each and every person that we meet. I think I've always been a person who smiles at people when talking or even in passing, but it really wasn't until recently how much just that one small gesture can mean so much, especially when there are obstacles preventing other ways of communication.

So, with that said What if? you smiled more?