Eye Care Kenya
Testimonials from Past Team Members
Carla Mulneaux, R.D.A.E.F. – When our office
(Dental Associates of Cedar Rapids) was asked by
Dr. Fitzgerald if anyone would be interested in going to Kenya to help set up the dental area of the clinic, I had no idea how accepting this challenge would change my life.
I have been a dental assistant for 28 years and thought—I can do this…… Well, the dental area was close to nonexistent; and, it was obvious that it was much needed. It was decided I would clean the orphans teeth while on this trip and get a starter list together of what was needed to get the dental clinic up and running. So, we set up a make shift dental clinic at the orphanage and I cleaned 112 children’s teeth in 3 days. Those children stole my heart and I will never forget them.
I remember one of the ELI (Empowering Lives International) village leaders coming down to bring us sterilizer for the instruments and he was overwhelmed. He told me later that evening how it brought tears to his eyes to see what we were doing, because no one had ever done this for his village and he himself had never had his teeth cleaned.
The staff members of ELI and the children at Kipkaren were so thankful. But, I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity and the experience of helping others, and continuing this so they can sustain it themselves.
Randy & Carol Luth –“Maji ni uhai~Water is Life”
Randy and I were pleased to be a part of the 2009 team. Our goal was to test existing water supplies and train some of the local villagers on the use of water chlorinators.
Talk about stepping out of our comfort and knowledge zones! We knew next to nothing about water chlorination, but over a period of three months and many testing expeditions of the Cedar River, we grew more confident in our skills. Plus, we were provided with education and support from Mr. John Hays, of Washington, Iowa, who started the “Pure Water for All Foundation”, dedicated to providing clean drinking water throughout the world. Mr. Hays has fashioned a hand-held water chlorination unit to produce enough drinkable water for 5000 people daily! By converting salt water into chlorine, the bacteria in the local water supply can be treated making the water safe for human consumption.
Randy was able to train Betty, a local Kipkaren villager, in the use of the chlorination system. Betty is an AIDS patient and has started her own HIV/AIDS support group. She is currently using the chlorinator to provide chlorine for her support group participants and her neighbors.
One image that will remain with Randy and I, is the daily picture we witnessed over and over. It was the picture of survival and one that is repeated daily because of the lack of clean water. Each day we would witness villagers carrying water buckets on their heads and bundled tree limbs on their bikes (if they had one) so they could boil their daily drinking water they had retrieved from a ditch or the river---all in an effort just to survive. Amazingly, they did so with smiles on their faces and praises of thanksgiving for the gift of another day. Talk about humbling. The need for clean water is a basic human right and one we can achieve!
Michele Burnes, P.A. — I had the great pleasure and honor this year (2007) of teaming up with Dr. Fitzgerald for medical/eye care mission to Kipkaren, Kenya in Africa.
My background is in family medicine. I am a physician assistant and currently practice in a small family medicine clinic in Urbana, Iowa. I also do emergency medicine. For many years my experiences in medicine have been filled with diseases, diagnosis and treatment. I have been very fortune to love what I do.
When Dr. Fitzgerald approached me about taking a team to Africa I of course said absolutely. Like most people I did my research, is it safe? What will I do? What will they need? I really thought I had prepared myself, both physically (vaccines, etc) and emotionally.
Well…Surprise!!! In my 20 years of health care– I had many wide eye opening experiences.
The poverty, disease and lack of resources were unimaginable. The first experience for me was when we landed in Nairobi, Kenya. We were greeted by ELI staff at the airport –we loaded up the supplies in the van taxis and took off to spend the night in the missionary home. On our way the traffic was slow—no rules, no lights, no street signs. We unfortunately came upon an accident scene with multiple trauma victims.
A taxi van ran into a large construction vehicle parked with no lights or no hazard lights(NO RULES IN KENYA FOR TRAFFIC SAFETY) .I quickly did what I am trained to do-- I looked out the window and started to triage the patients. I counted 5 victims: 2 fatalities, 1 critically wounded and 2 severely wounded.
I instructed the ELI staff to pull over so we could assist these people who had multiple injuries from trauma. Of course working in emergency medicine and caring for trauma victims I felt confident we could assist these patients. The taxi staff and ELI staff paused--- they all look to Adele who was our lead missionary. There was this moment of awkward silence. Michele –we can not stop. WHAT??? I could not believe what I was hearing. The staff informed me of all the reasons why we could not assist on scene to these victims-reasons that never crossed my mine. In the US it would be unethical not to stop. No – what we call Good Samaritan laws, no equipment, no gloves (41% people HIV positive)-no police protection. I paused to process in my mind what they were saying…They were right of course.
As we drove away---I realized how out of control and out of my comfort zone I really was. WELCOME TO KENYA!!!
After that experience I was really unsure of what would happen next. We arrived at the mission house and were greeted by all the staff and missionary groups who were there on different missions. It was a relaxing, motivating night to hear all the work the missionaries were doing to help the people of Kenya. The next day we took off in flight to the village. Our greeting from the children and staff at Kipkaren was nothing like I had ever experienced. The joy and appreciation that we were there to help them was contagious.
The illness, diseases and poverty I saw over the next few days was overwhelming. To try to tell the many sorry stories is emotionally too much. Trust me –its life changing!!! I was able to do some home visits in the village .I met a family of six -- single mother (Lillian) with 5 children (new 6 week old twins) all starving.
Lillian had no resources, the father had left some time previous. No cow, no crops, no clean water–nothing but a mud hut and a pregnant dog.
The pain and sadness in her eyes was heart breaking. Did you know if you are a mother and you have no food to eat you won’t produce breast milk? IMAGINE –how you would feel. Yes--- she has severe post partum depression. When I left Lillian’s home- I knew that I could not help everyone in Africa, but I could help Lillian’s family.
I can not express enough the kindness and faith of the Kenya people and ELI staff. They are doing amazing things to better the life for the Kenyans.
Upon return home to the many blessings I have –I scheduled my next return to the village. So many things we can do to help them get clean water, medical care and supplies.
I will never stop supporting the local charities for my neighbors, friends and family. We in the United States do amazing things for each other/charities etc. But I have more neighbors now, more friends and more family. To anyone who wants to help by giving of their time, money or prayers it will be so greatly appreciated. Sincerely Awakened!
Roy Brandt – You want to know why I find it fulfilling and worth while to go to Kenya and fit eye glasses? There was one older lady who we saw for an exam…she had dense cataracts, and not being surgeons we were unable to remove them for her. As a result her distance vision was not going to be good no matter what. However, we were able to fit her with a pair of reading glasses. These helped her to see the smaller print.
Instead of being upset she wouldn't be able to see things far away she said to me "Oh good, now I can read my Bible. I've had to bother people to read it to me, now I won't have to do that, I can read it myself." She was so grateful to be able to see to read, she didn't complain even once about us not being able to help her to see far away.
That is the general feeling we got most of the time we were in Kipkaren, people were glad we were there to help as we could, and to at least give them answers if we could not help them. Being able to help train the native staff was incredible, these people have such a heart for the others in their community that they just couldn't learn fast enough to be able to help others. And this is what its really about, being able to help them, to the point where they can continue to serve their community, even though we aren't there...
Lori Beaurivage – One of the very small memories I have that keeps coming back to me is: there was a man that had been dispensed glasses that was very excited to see through them. He had said, "It looks like a window that has been opened!" He was outside the clinic later, and I noticed he wasn't wearing his new glasses, so I asked him why. He patted his shirt pocket and said he had them safe, right here. They were precious, he was saving them for when he really needed to see. Little encounters like that one stay with me.