It is time for me to step out of the ice rink and gym for the next month and take a break from the student-athlete life. On Monday, May 20th, I am traveling to Kenya with a group called Health by Motorbike. Being an aspiring surgeon, and pursuing a double major in biology and women's studies and a minor in global health, I have always had dreams of helping people in developing nations and seeing the world. But I never thought I would have the opportunity to take part in something like this month-long journey I am about to embark on!
Health by Motorbike is an organization created by professor Araceli Alonso, a registered nurse and professor of women's studies at Wisconsin. A few years ago, Araceli and her daughter traveled to Kenya to meet a couple of women who they were exchanging letters with via a pen pal program. While in rural Kenya, women of the communities Araceli was visiting expressed their interest and need to learn more about maternal health, childbirth and women's health in general - While there were women in the communities who had delivered babies for years, they still did not know when to cut the umbilical cord!
It was evident that health services and education were out of reach to the women and girls of rural Kenya. With very few health clinics, a lack of health information and limited access to transportation, many preventable diseases were creating enormous health burdens in these communities. Araceli decided to take the initiative to change this. Being that the nearest health clinic to many of these communities was too far away, Araceli created a permanent health post in the Lunga Lunga community, along with a mobile clinic that delivers supplies and medical services via motorbikes. After her first trip to Kenya, Araceli wanted to bring college students to Kenya to train local village health workers and create a sustainable health project in Health by Motorbike.
On May 20th, 12 of us, all students at UW who had to apply for a very competitive position as a Health by Motorbike volunteer, will fly to Kenya. For the first four days we will work in the slums of Kibera and learn. We will then take a long train ride to the Lunga Lunga community and begin to work with the women. The women we will be working with are "health promoters" from many different communities. We will share knowledge with them about anatomy, reproduction, maternal health, nutrition, communicable and non-communicable diseases and much more. At the end of our trip, the women will "graduate" and receive a diploma from UW-Madison that officially deems them a "health promoter." They will then go back to their respective communities and teach the women there.
What is so great about Health by Motorbike is that we are not simply going to Kenya to "fix" anything and put a Band-Aid on the flaws in the health care, or lack thereof, received there. Instead, we simply teach a few women, who can then teach more women, and eventually we will have touched and educated thousands of women!
While in Kenya, I will be blogging about my experiences with Health by Motorbike. I cannot wait to share this life-changing journey with you, while also making more people aware of the change and help that is needed in Kenya.