So tonight I hit my first road block. I knew it would come at some point, and to be honest, I'm surprised I managed to avoid it thus far. I'll preface this post by saying that things in Kenya continue to go well. We are all safe and in good hands, so rest assured.
Here at the IU house, we have a series of lectures called "fireside chats". Once or twice a week, approximately 20-30 of us gather on the couches and floor space in the living area of one of the houses to discuss various issues. Some of the issues are controversial, some are historical, and some are informational. The 'chats' happen right after dinner and have a comfortable feel to them, as we are all cozied up next to the fireplace in a relatively small space. Tonight's chat featured Joe Mamlin, the founder of the IU-Kenya Partnership. I was really interested to hear his story and find out how he built this program. However, I had no idea how powerful his words would be or how intensely he would touch my heart with what he had to share.
Dr. Mamlin founded the IU-Kenya Partnership back in 1988. He built it from the ground up, with his main mission being to foster medical education in Kenya. His program started with one person and one vision. The first year of the program, he had 8 visitors that came through the IU house to participate in his mission. To give you an idea of how far he has come, we had 68 people at the IU house last week. This program is now a well-oiled machine that has accomplished so much. In essence, it helped create the Moi University Medical School here in Eldoret and has helped expand their teaching hospital to reach heights that no one ever envisioned. It no longer involves only IU, but has teamed up with groups from Duke, Portland, Brown, and the University of Toronto. And it just keeps growing and growing and growing.
In conjunction with the IU-Kenya Partnership, Dr. Mamlin started a program called AMPATH. Initially created to address the need for prevention and treatment of HIV in western Kenya, the program has shifted its mission and now stands for the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare. Just to give you some brief history, AMPATH began around the year 2000 as a group that treated 70 Kenyan patients for HIV free of cost. Currently, it provides HIV medication for 86,000 patients, all still free of cost. Because the program has grown at such a fast rate, Dr. Mamlin has changed his focus from HIV patients to all Kenyan people. AMPATH now has a component that feeds 30,000 starving Kenyans. He is adding new developments every day, including teams to foster mother-baby health care, tend to orphans and vulnerable children, and initiate income security programs by providing skills training to the Kenyan people. What Dr. Mamlin has done is truly amazing, and I can't even begin to tell you how lucky I feel to be a part of something this big.
So you all may be wondering what exactly is the road block I was referring to. Well, tonight was a huge emotional road block. For those of you who have spent extended periods of time abroad, you would probably agree that your time spent away from home is filled with a lot of emotional ups and downs. You have a lot of time to reflect upon your life and find out who you truly are. There has been a lot building up inside of me this week, and tonight was just the culmination of something that I knew was bound to happen.
Working at the hospital this week has been much tougher than the last. During my first week, I didn't really know my patients well, so I was more apt to turn my head the other way and let the little things slide. But the more you get to know your patients, the more you invest in them, and the harder it gets to let things go. It's been really tough trying to find ways to get things done at our hospital. Their system here is so broken. It takes so much effort to get even the smallest of tasks completed. At the end of the day, it really wears on you. You expend all your energy, but feel like you've accomplished nothing. To give you a little background, the ward I am working on at Moi Hospital has over a 20% mortality rate. Theoretically, that means that 1 in 5 patients that I see will end up dying. Though none of our patients have died yet, we have had several near deaths, and I know it is just a matter of time.
Though the hospital can be disheartening at times, Dr. Mamlin has reminded me why all of us are here at the IU house. The reason is simple: We care. I didn't come to Kenya with the thought that I would change the world in two months. But I did come to Kenya with hopes to gain ideas of how I can change the world sometime during my lifetime. There are so many people in this world that I want to help, both within the United States and globally. I'm just not sure how to go about doing it. Sometimes I think I dream too big. Other times I think I don't have what it takes to make things happen. So here I stand, in front of this road block. I keep telling myself to follow my heart, but it wants to go in so many different directions. Do I want to be a part of a lot of little things or just one huge thing, as Dr. Mamlin is? I don't have all the answers yet, but as long as this burning desire remains within me, I'll keep looking.
As most of you know, I come from a very religious family, and their influence has played a huge part in shaping who I am today. My Aunt Puppy has said to me repeatedly in life, "Go with God." In fact, before I left for Kenya, I got a voicemail message from her saying this exact phrase. I remember getting similar messages before leaving for Argentina and Honduras years ago. Though her words often escape me in life's daily routine, I find that I think about them constantly when I spend time abroad. They help keep me grounded and guide me in my travels. So as I lay here thinking, I will leave you with these last thoughts before I head off to bed: I may hit several road blocks along the way, but God is with me, and we are going together. Goodnight and God bless.