Osteopathy in Kenya

sterling_emma_angels.jpg'I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not neglect it for I shall not pass this way again' (Stephen Grellet 1773-1855)

Just back from my third humanitarian trip to Kenya, I am now putting my thoughts and experiences into words!

This trip felt quite adventurous and experimental, with missions into unknown territories, extensive travel and unplanned accommodation! And not least, that I was taking my 12 year old son, George, with me for the first time! The youngest volunteer the charity has ever had!

It meant we had to bend and flex to changes and unforeseeable circumstances and to really embrace 'Africa Time'!

You can download the Divinity Foundation Sponsorship form, as well as read more about Emma's Angels Pledge to sponsor one of these girls using the links below.

Take a look at the photo gallery which gives you a bit more of an idea of what we were doing

Read more about our adventure...

Our expedition started by heading south to Makindu, where we set up our first medical camp in the Sikh hospital. I felt the energy and nerves mounting, and in particular George felt very unsure of his role in Pharmacy.

However, he was quick to learn what was needed, and I felt so proud as I watched him reading and making up prescriptions. He also spent time handing out donations and told me how happy he felt when giving the children new clothes and biscuits!

From Makindu, we headed further south to the Tanzanian border, where we spent 3 days working in the foothills of Kilimanjaro! We visited a small school, a local healthcare centre and the Divinity Foundation’s FGM Rescue Home. Stunning locations to work in, amongst open bush land, acacia trees and spotting Giraffe, Zebra and Antelopes along the way!

Osteopathy in KenyaGeorge made friends with many young Maasai men, all wanting to know what class he was in at school, how old he was and desperate to touch his skin and hair! He took it all in his stride and quickly got used to the attention. He showed one Maasai man his fire steel and soon drew a crowd! George seemed very at ease, chatty and relaxed, really open and friendly, and enjoying the company of his new friends!

We had a long and tough day of work at the Rescue Home, treating many local children and families. I treated women suffering abuse and rape, young girls with terrible pelvic problems after FGM, and one young girl who was brought to me unconscious having collapsed at the gate.

Once we finished working I went into the Rescue Centre to help unpack all the bags of donations I had brought out. The girls were thrilled and quite overwhelmed with their new sports kit, bags, laptops, sewing machine, stationary and toiletries! Patients, friends and family had been incredibly generous in their gifts. Chafyn Grove Mums had bought them book bags, which they plan to use as their Sunday school bags and Farleigh School donated an extraordinary amount of uniform. The girls had never looked so smart as they took to the volleyball pitch!

With the help of the sewing machine, fabrics and laptops the girls will learn vocational skills, which will enable them to earn money for themselves and develop their independence.

I met the girl that I am sponsoring with the Emma’s Angels Project and was so thrilled to hear her story of liberation. At 13 she left her family to escape FGM, and was quickly scooped up by the Rescue Centre. She is now top of her class, an intelligent, healthy young girl with a bright future ahead of her, unhindered by FGM, forced marriage and early motherhood.

Osteopathy in KenyaAnother young girl, aged just 11, was rescued from a forced marriage as a second wife with a 35 year old man. After being rushed to hospital, sick from harsh labour and mistreatment, the Rescue Centre was notified by a concerned neighbor and she was brought in. Aged 11 she had never been to school and was withdrawn, shy and frightened. Thanks to the Divinity Foundation, she, and the other rescued girls, are now gaining confidence, education, choice and independence.

Our following 2 days were spent enjoying some much needed rest. We visited a local Maasai village and experienced life as a Maasai. The men and women danced for us, the young warriors jumping high as they sang. Inside their small, dark, dung covered huts, open fires were lit for cooking, animal skins were stretched over wooden frames for sleeping, and dust and smoke swirled around in every corner.

The rains were coming and the winds picked up the dust and threw it at us! Stinging the skin and eyes, and reaching into every nook and cranny! We understood only too well why these families suffered so badly with their health.

We then spent a wonderful 24 hours on safari! Loving the open space, fresh air, sitting on top of a Landy and feeling the sun on our skin and wind in our hair. From our car top view we spotted rhino, lion, hippo, crocodile, gazelle, buffalo and beautiful birds. Breathe!

One night stop back in Nairobi, before heading West to Bomet and the Mau Forest. With mounting trepidation and nerves we set off on a 4 hour trip deep into the forest. One half of the team stayed behind to set up camp and the other half (just nine of us) made up the advanced party. The journey in was beyond all previous off-road experiences, and I’ve done a few! Our crazy driver took out chickens and cows, and we were airborne for most of the way! I have the bruises still to show! Deep ruts, roots, trees and water hindered our journey and we came to many sticky stops. One taking a whole hour to dig us out!

The forest was green, lush and cool. Filled with bird song, deep running rivers and fertile damp red soil. We even spotted huge elephant footprints and fresh dung!

As we came into the clearing for the camp, our driver hooted his horn and soon the families emerged. The elders coming first, with the children hanging back or hiding behind legs and skirts! It was unusual for this to be the order of our greetings, and we quickly became aware that we were quite a rare sight!

We then had to set up our camp and start work, mindful of being just half a team, we were all feeling quite daunted by the enormity of the task ahead. However we quickly established roles and became a very efficient team.

Osteopathy in KenyaOver our two days of work in the two IDP (internally displaced people) camps we came across some shocking cases of disease, malnutrition, neglect and abuse. One premature baby, just 2lbs, life in the balance, was immediately rushed to hospital with a skin infection so severe it covered most of its body. We saw children so malnourished, with stick like legs and bloated tummy’s full of worms, their diets consisting of little more than maize and milk. Women scarred from beatings, children coughing up blood with suspected TB, and severe fevers with Malaria. These were a forgotten people. The government having evicted them from the forest due to deforestation 7 years ago, had now conveniently swept them aside.

Later that afternoon, George managed to encourage out a few of the more healthier and confident children and he soon had them playing games of chase and tag! It was so lovely to see him playing so happily with other children without the worries of being in work mode.

On meeting with officials that night we felt that these people were an embarrassment to the local community, ignored and neglected. Being used like pawns in a political race to power. One local representative didn’t even know how long the camp had been there or timescales for aid. He shook our hands, mumbled something, ticked his box having seen us and went back to his paperwork.

We desperately hope that through all our endless meetings with officials we have generated awareness and some action will be taken. The Divinity Foundation is putting together a petition, and with 10,000 signatures, they will be granted a meeting with the president!

After we had left, the feedback from the families from the camps made us realise how cut off they really were. They had asked the local representative if we had painted our skin, and if we really were human!! They felt happy and encouraged by our visit and in particular talked about George, and the games the young white boy had played with their children!

After 2 nights of sleeping on treatment tables, no running water and basic food cooked on an open fire in the ‘kitchen’, we were looking forward to the comforts of the charity’s house in Nairobi!

We then spent two days taking an inventory of all the medication we had left, re-stocking, cleaning kit, analyzing patient data and packing. We had treated over a thousand patients and dewormed thousands of children!

During our farewell meeting we received certificates recognising our achievements and George was made the newest and youngest Ambassador of the charity! He was delighted, and in his gentle and modest way, went up to graciously accept his certificate.

Seeing George as a young humanitarian has filled me with pride! He has risen to every challenge, worked from five in the morning to midnight, coped with every new situation, from making up prescriptions to de-worming thousands of children, and whole heartedly embracing the Kenyan people.

Every evening, during our team meetings, he stood up and recounted his experiences. Giving mature and informative feedback on his work and the challenges he faced. His boundless energy has inspired and motivated others, and many of the team members commented on how uplifted they felt by his vitality and drive!

He can now speak basic Swahili, talk of Maasai men who call him their brother, recognize fungal and parasitic infections, identify a chest infection on auscultation, and relax in the company of 300 children all wanting to touch and stroke him!

His instinctive desire to help and heal made him a strong and highly valued member of the team, and his innate sensitivity and understanding of the needs of others will make him a great Ambassador indeed.

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