Friday, June 5, 2009

Putting Things in Kenyan Perspective

I would like to begin by thanking the Harding Township Board of Education for allowing me to go to Kenya. It was a difficult trip, in many regards. My heart was not prepared for the sights that the team encountered. We are extremely fortunate to have such a successful educational system in Harding. The trip was an extremely humbling experience for me. I served alongside of a group of doctors from Team Healthcare, traveling to remote regions of Kenya. Many children were suffering from polio, malaria and hygiene-related illnesses.

Each day, hundreds of people would line up in the courtyard waiting to see a medical doctor, optometrist or dentist. It was my responsibility to triage patients and hand out numbered cards for a semblance of order. At the end of the day, with a translator, I would inform the people that we could not see everyone and needed to close down the clinic, sometimes turning away hundreds. I got to see the water situation firsthand during my visitation. Some women travel several kilometers hoisting containers on their back to reach a water source, which is sometimes a dirty pond. There is an enormous lack of clean water. Many places try to collect rain water which ultimately becomes breeding grounds for mosquitoes and malaria. I noticed a correlation between a tribal greeting and the spread of ringworm. In Bissil, the adults would place their hands on the heads of the children, as they bowed out of respect for their elders. Our medical doctor, Dr. Chris Sedlacek noticed that there was an abundance of ringworm on the head of the tribal children. With no water to wash their hands after using the restroom, the ringworm can easily be spread from one child to another through the greeting.
Alongside of Team Healthcare’s founder, Sangyol Kim, I explained the transmission to the adult leaders and principal of the school.

I had the opportunity to visit three schools during his time in Kenya. One classroom contained 115 students and one teacher. They have an appreciation for learning, even with a lack of materials. During the last day in Kajiado, I spoke to an entire high school about the importance of staying in school, working hard and keeping faith. Success is difficult to equate for these students. Ruth McDowell has agreed to develop a pen-pal relationship with the Kenyan school. I will be speaking to her students about my experiences this week. I think that American schools generally fail to provide a global perspective to education. The Kenyans seemed to know so much about America and other countries; my hope is that we can cultivate the same level of interest in our students.

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