UW Health Sports Medicine 

Ammerman in Africa: Final Update

Tasha and I with Dorcas, one of the grandmothers from our homestay

What a week!

We finished teaching the health promoter women, and one Maasai man, on Wednesday. They were so inspiring to teach and to watch learn!

Isack, the Maasai man, really fascinated me because Maasai is his first language, Swahili his second, and English his third. While we would teach in English, one of the women of the Nikumbuke Project would translate what was said to Swahili, but it was never translated to Maasai. Then, Isack would answer questions or make a statement and he would say it in English! How impressive. I could not believe it, especially that what he was talking about was consistently a rather complicated health topic and he was able to understand and carry a conversation about it!

One of the women making Chapati for dinner, which is a a thick flour tortilla

On Thursday, we gave the health promoters their final exam, which they needed to pass in order to become official health promoters for their villages. Each health promoter passed and even a few received a perfect score! It really reiterated to us as a group that what we were doing was truly making a difference and that our teaching had gone extremely well.

Friday was our last official day working with the health promoters. We designated Friday to a Domestic Violence Workshop and shared knowledge about domestic violence in relation to physical health and mental health. Although we were nervous at first to discuss such a taboo topic in Kenya, we were relieved when the women began to open up about their experiences and even Isack was interested in learning ways to begin to put an end to domestic violence in their villages.

It was an emotional day but also an extremely rewarding day. Because the women were able to tell us their personal experiences regarding such a triggering topic, we were able to feel how deeply we have connected with them over the past couple of weeks and the lifelong relationship that has been created.

Our last full day in the Lunga Lunga village was on Saturday. There was a huge celebration for Health by Motorbike and the Nikumbuke Project, with our group as the guests of honor. Women of Lunga Lunga were up all night preparing food for the celebration. The entire night was spent laughing -- for hours straight -- with no care in the world!

The morning of the celebration the Maasai arrived on a red pickup truck, standing in the bed packed up like little sardines, with the radio blasting as they danced the entire way! Over 300 women attended, with seven villages present and two Maasai tribes. Personally, I think the women of these villages should have been the guests of honor due to their aura, eagerness to learn, continual happiness each day and for what they have taught us.

The celebration lasted five hours, four of which consisted of nonstop dancing and singing, no exaggeration!

Each village performed their own song and dance for us as a welcome and performed another to present us with gifts. For these villages to all present us with gifts was truly heartwarming. Each of these villages in Eastern Kenya suffer from extreme poverty, barely earning enough money to feed their families, and here they were smiling, dancing, yelling and giving us gifts to say thank you. It truly represented how big their hearts were and how thankful they were to have us as guests in their homes over the past two weeks.

The Maasai driving into Lunga Lunga for our celebration day on Saturday

Not only did each village perform, but we performed as a group for them! Although our voices were not as beautiful as theirs, probably more tone deaf than anything, they loved our performance. We did our own dance and song to Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus. (Maybe I will post the video later, but I will give fair warning, you may want to mute the volume to save your ears from our highly untalented voices).

At the end of the celebration, we presented each health promoter with an official UW-Madison diploma to signify their graduation as a health promoter. Needless to say, there were many tears and gratifying feelings. It was such a powerful day, if only I could have captured the happiness, feeling of community and thankfulness to keep it in a jar forever.

We began our long trek back to Nairobi at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning. The bus ride back took nearly 12 hours. We saw a HUGE giraffe in its natural habitat on the side of the road!

A few of the women huddled up during their review for the final exam, playing Jeopardy

For the next couple of days we will be staying at KICOSHEP again. On Monday we will be going to a baby elephant sanctuary, a giraffe sanctuary and then to a women's group in Nairobi that does beading to make jewelry.

Although this journey is coming to an end, what I have learned from the people of Kenya, especially the women I have had the opportunity to work with, will last forever. I can truly say that I have felt so at peace, in my element and so happy during this entire journey.

The only other time I have truly felt this way is while being on the ice and playing the sport I love. To have found something else to bring that kind of passion to has been life-altering and exciting. My sport has allowed me to feel this passion and this journey has allowed me to learn how to put forth that passion to help others and be the change that I wish to see in the world.

This trip has also taught the effect a single smile can have on a person and their heart. Although we did not speak Swahili very well, we were able to learn how much a smile, the simple touch of a loving hand, or the sound of laughter can impact, not only the people of Kenya, but also ourselves.

A view from Wasini Island last weekend

I am forever changed from this journey and only wish that more people get the opportunity to experience what I have. In order to see change, we must do much more than believe; we must put forth our faith, passion and knowledge to make the world a better place for all.

Thank you so much for following me during this journey! I hope I was able to share with you what I have experienced and have inspired you to find your passion and change the world through your passion!

Asante sana and hakuna matata rafikis!