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Mercy News Article

"An Educational Safari to Kenya"
Judith Mouch, RSM

June 2010

Judith Mouch, RSM

On May 15, I was sitting in Calihan Hall applauding our 2010 graduates. On May 18, I was flying to Nairobi, Kenya to begin my “safari” of the ministries of the Sisters of Mercy from Ireland, hoping to find suitable service and clinical sites for our faculty and students. My base was at The Villa, site of the administrative offices of the Sisters of Mercy in Westlands, a suburb of Nairobi. From there, I went out each day to visit and explore the many healthcare ministries which the Sisters sponsor.

My first stop was the Makadara Mercy Sisters Dispensary (clinic). The clinic staff, mostly nurses, see about 290 clients a day for diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic disease, and maternal and child health services. On the day I visited, the waiting area, which is located in an inside courtyard, was filled with infants, school-age children and elderly adults, all waiting to be seen and treated.

Stop number two was the Catherine McAuley School of Nursing and Midwifery and The Mater Hospital, which are on the same grounds. The School of Midwifery was started in 1972 and in 2004, the School of Nursing, a three-year diploma program, began. Clinical sites for the nursing students include The Mater and several large university hospitals in Nairobi. Their community health clinical takes place in the Mukuru slum, a large informal settlement, located near the hospital where students conduct follow up visits for clients seen at the hospital clinics and develop health promotion educational sessions. A lively exchange with Sister Maria Ngui, director of the School of Nursing, and her faculty resulted in a promise on both sides to continue to explore next steps for future collaboration.

Judith Mouch, RSMThe Mater Hospital is a 137-bed facility sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, which has many specialty units. The hospital is probably best known for its pediatric cardiac surgery — about 50 percent of children ages 4-8 who are seen in the cardiology clinics suffer from rheumatic heart disease. The Mater, through its Comprehensive Care Clinic, also provides outreach to persons with HIV/AIDS. This is made possible through collaboration with Catholic Relief Services. The highlight of my visit to The Mater was making home visits to several families with one of the nurses. It was a humbling experience to visit with families who literally live in one room with no running water and no electricity or means of cooking. But, one amazing fact was that every family we visited had their clinic appointment card up-to-date with immunizations, medications and return visits documented!

Stop three was five hours away (although only 125 miles) at the Mutomo District Hospital, a 124-bed hospital owned by the Catholic diocese of Kitui but administered by the Sisters of Mercy since 1964. Like The Mater Hospital in Nairobi, this hospital also has a large community outreach to persons with HIV/AIDS. The hospital was expecting to be hooked up to the new electrical grid for the area, but until then it runs on three generators, which requires careful scheduling of major and minor surgeries. After electricity was turned off at 10 p.m., there were only kerosene lamps to light the halls.

The last stop was the Mukuru Skills Promotion Centre, which is located very near to The Mater and is also sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. The Centre assists in running four primary schools with an enrollment of 4,500 students, a secondary school, a street boys' rehabilitation program, a health clinic, and a public health program, in which volunteer workers provide health care information within the slum. For those youth who do not have the opportunity for higher education, the vocational skills training programs assist them in becoming productive members of the community. Some of the vocational skills taught are food service preparation, catering and entrepreneurship; computer programming; hairdressing; tailoring and knitting; and jewelry-making,

As is always possible when on a safari, an unexpected “find” turned up. This was the Jesuit-sponsored St. Aloysius Gonzaga High School for teens who have had one or both parents die of AIDS. This was truly a find, as I saw not only the present school building, which has been in operation since 2003 right in the Kibera slum, but also the brand new building, which was to be opened in mid-June. And, at St. Aloysius, there is a school nurse!

My “educational safari” was truly an eye-opening adventure. I was delighted to find the Sisters and personnel at each of the stops open and eager to having our MSON and CHP faculty and students return in the future. The possibilities for collaboration around service and education are endless.

Judith Mouch, RSM