Before we arrived in Kijabe, I did not have a defined role for engaging in the work of the hospital. I hoped that my skills and experience would be put to some use but looking back, I worried nonetheless that I would be left climbing the walls while the kids were at school! For those of you who know me, I need to be engaged in work outside of the home to keep my sanity! The time spent worrying was perfectly wasted as I soon found out after arriving here last September.
Explaining my professional background in International Development can be challenging. I started out as a secondary / high school teacher of English and Geography. Shortly after graduating from teacher training, I found myself working in a rural school in Lesotho, Southern Africa, for two years. I fell in love with the continent of Africa – the myriad of cultures, languages, tribes, colors, and smells.
The two years spent living in this breathtakingly beautiful country were a time of immense learning and understanding. As an English Language and Literature teacher, my responsibility was to teach Basotho children the joys of Shakespeare and expose them to other great western writers from the British Cambridge curriculum! There was one major problem: the students could barely speak English, let alone Elizabethan English from the 16th century! The curriculum was highly inappropriate in its content and has remained focused on the acquisition of a western education, driven by western values.
I quickly became disillusioned about the contribution that I had hoped to make at this school. The student teacher ratio was approximately 60:1 and resources were extremely scarce. It was not unusual to see four or five students squeezed into a desk, sharing one textbook between them. The classrooms themselves were bare concrete constructions with no doors or windows. This was especially problematic during the cold winter months as the students would sit huddled together trying to keep warm. Many children walked from one to four hours to get to school. Their one meal of the day was provided at lunch-time by the school. It was difficult to watch parents struggling to pay school fees for their children – some would bring cash, but most would bring food items such as chickens, goats, flour or oil. And yet, the odds of these students actually passing the Cambridge exams were very slim. The educational curriculum of Lesotho, rather than developing the students’ capabilities, undermined the development of an empowered and skilled population able to contribute towards their own communities and the national economy as a whole.
My experience in Lesotho taught me a lot and I enjoyed my two years there immensely. I left motivated to acquire more understanding and knowledge about how education can inspire and empower people in a developing country. I went back to Ireland and began working on my Master’s degree in International Development Studies.
My next assignment overseas brought me to an Anglican Diocese in Musoma, Tanzania, where I was director of an adult leadership training program and which is where I met Mike!…and that’s a whole different story best saved for another time….
International development or global development is a concept that lacks a universally accepted definition, but it is most used in a holistic and multi-disciplinary context of human development — the development of greater quality of life for humans. It therefore encompasses foreign aid, governance, healthcare, education, poverty reduction, gender equality, disaster preparedness, infrastructure, economics, human rights, environment and issues associated with these. Development is distinct from aid in that it focuses on long-term, sustainable projects and solutions, while seeking to empower local communities and build their own capacity.
So, how am I applying my educational background and my experience to Kijabe Hospital?
I’ve been asked to help set up a Resource Mobilization Department at the hospital. In order to communicate the need for critical resources, the story first needs to be told of what the hospital does…
…through the coordination of media, video, a newly designed website, a classy new logo, stories, relationships, grant-writing, communication of equipment needs, personnel needs, infrastructure needs, and the list goes on…
What Kijabe Hospital has accomplished over the last 100 years is nothing short of miraculous. Some of its achievements include the following:
- Kijabe Hospital is renowned as one of the best training hospitals in East Africa.
- The main role of Kijabe’s medical consultants, half of whom are Kenyan and half expatriate, is to educate and train up the next generation of Christian leaders in the health care field in Africa.
- The hospital sees over 120,000 outpatients a year and has one of the busiest operating theatres in East Africa.
- Kijabe’s Registered Nurse Anesthesia Program is the first of its kind in the country and is currently impacting regions far beyond Kenya’s borders.
What a privilege to tell the story of what God is doing in this part of the world – about how Kijabe Hospital’s mission is to serve the most vulnerable who otherwise would not be able to afford basic healthcare. Despite its accomplishments, there is so much need that still exists. As the hospital strives to serve the most vulnerable, the demands on the hospital have grown exponentially. With a 280-bed capacity that is typically at 100% occupancy, the hospital urgently needs to expand its infrastructure in order to cope with the increasing numbers of patients as well as medical trainees coming to learn at Kijabe.
While all of the above communication efforts are currently in the process of being designed, approved and moved forward, take a look at this video that my good friend, Beth Fischer, made for the hospital. She has graciously given the last four months of her time and God-given skills to serve the hospital through the production of two compelling videos. Whilst these are not yet ready for public consumption, here is a taste of what is to come…