26 August 2013
Today was the first day and the first training visit to Caroline for Kibera, located in one of the world’s largest slums. Just saying “world’s largest slum”, gives little justification and a very poor description to the sobering and solemn walk we took today to reach the clinic located deep within the heart of Kibera.
As our group of ten cautiously made our way through the dirt allies and flowing waste rivers that winded around and through rusted shack dwellings, I looked around at the faces staring back at us.
Some were children’s faces, smiling brightly, waving, and happily singing in an innocent chorus “How are you? How are you? ” The children bounced and played over small mounds of waste in flipflops and shorts as we waved back and made our way past them in long pants and covered shoes.
Other faces watched us without expression, craning their heads around others to see the intruders walking through their community. I would smile and try to look friendly, hoping my expression carried compassion and kindness and that my heart did not betray the sadness and numbness I was feeling.
That’s when the thought, There But For The Grace Of God I Go, came to the forefront of my mind. Regardless if I believe in a higher power or not, what makes me so blessed or lucky that I am not sitting on a broken wooden stool watching my child play on the ledge of a human toilet as strangers pass by?
The emotions were as overwhelming as the stench in the air.
Once we made it to the clinic and up three flights of stairs I looked out the window onto the vast dwelling; a sea of shacks packed tightly together, and my heart sank. It would take an army and a lot of money to make a difference here.
Turning around, I began to notice the men and women in white coats, filling in the classroom with eager expressions and my hope rose.
Adah Molle Alati, an extraordinary nurse helped coordinate the trainees, the patients, as well as answer questions and organize our day. Immediately we were put to work and started taking patients medical histories, examining women for cervical cancer, and treating those women who had the precancerous cells.
Three young ladies, one a social worker and the others community health educators, helped translate and answered patients questions as they waited for their exams. I was very impressed with how these young ladies stepped up and were eager to help other women in their community.
I have worked for PINCC for two and a half years, and before I came to Kenya, I understood the needlessness of women dying from cervical cancer and all the statistics behind it, but today I learned so much more.
It is a simple realization that no one man, woman, or child is greater than another. Those of us that are fortunate can find our humanity in giving back to those of us that are not. In this, we will heal.
“The only real nation is humanity” –Paul Farmer, Mountains Beyond Mountains