Greetings from Kajiado!

Catherine1 Posted by Catherine McKnight on Thu, 24 Feb 2011 | 4 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

Greetings from Kajiado! Things here are continuing to go well. In some ways it feels like I’ve been here for a long time – I’m part of the community, people recognise and greet me around town, and I’ve got my daily routine that I’m settled into. In other ways I feel like I haven’t been here very long at all – I still take time to work out social etiquette, strange tropical illnesses elude me and I still have far to go in learning the language. However, I can also see the steps I’ve made forward, for example, seeing patients on my own – using my Kiswahili and their English, is no longer a daunting experience.

With regard to work in the clinic, I am enjoying working here. The number of patients each day varies, some days we’re busy and other days less so. However, numbers seem to be increasing now that people are realising I’m in town. I have also met with the district medical officer, the doctor who is in charge of all the health facilities and care-giving organisations, and it appears that I’m the only paediatrician in Kajiado district – an area of about 8 000 km2, with a population of approximately 168 000. This provides a great opportunity for me and for the clinic and we hope to promote this to attract more patients. The clinic is self-funding and the more patients the better for us. We also have a monthly mobile clinic that travels to a remote area called Emukutan, (more about this later). The mobile clinic offers health care provision with antenatal care, childhood immunisations and out-patient consultations. It is subsidised by the Kajiado clinic and so greater profits here could improve the mobile provision.

Ronnie Briggs was over recently and this was a timely visit for me. It was great to see him here and receive on the job orientation! He was kind enough to take time to introduce me to a number of people who will be useful contacts for me. We spent a weekend in the very peripheries of the Kajiado diocese, in Oltiasika. Where there is a Maasai rural training centre, MRTC, with a vocational college – you can study stonemasonry, carpentry, farming or tailoring (for the girls), a primary school, guest house and church. There is also a clinic on-site that was started by MRTC but is now run by the government, it is good to see that it is expanding and they are building a maternity ward.

On Sunday, we went to the church that serves the local Maasai community. It is very traditional where the men sit on one side of the church and the ladies on the other, and girls all wear skirts. As the morning service started, the heavens opened and there was a huge downpour of rain. With the rain falling on the corrugated iron roof, any hope of hearing the minister was lost. So we sang Maasai hymns – which were led by a drum, similar to the Irish borhán and without any music, although everyone seemed to know the tune. It was refreshing to have a break away from Kajiado and to see a bit of the countryside.

We were also lucky enough to meet up with Philip, Ronnie’s son, while in Oltiasika. He is working with a lion conservation project and we went out tracking lions with him. We saw three lions really close up, much to our excitement and Philip’s enthusiasm. On our way home we drove through Amboseli game park and saw a variety of animals. Going on safari was fun, but I was remembering that safari in Kiswahili translates as ‘journey’ and it truly is quite a journey I’m on. In the game park you meet up with holiday makers and I wondered what their perception of Kenya will be, in comparison to the Kenya that I’m growing to know and love!

I’d also like to leave you with the following thoughts. Recently I’ve been really encouraged by Philippians chapter 4. I’ve previously always found solace in verse 13 that says ‘I can do all things through Him who gives me strength’, but I have The Message / Remix translation here in Kenya with me, and it seems even more appropriate to both my own circumstances and to the people here.

Philippians 4 v 12-14,
‘I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.’

Over the past few weeks I have travelled outside of Kajiado, visiting Oltiasika and Emukutan. When visiting these rural communities (which are so far off the beaten track I often wondered how the drivers knew where the track actually was to follow!), it is hard not to compare their standard of living to our own. There is no running water – rain is collected or you can have a day’s walk to fill up your water container. There is no mains electricity – Oltiasika has solar batteries that charge by day and power lights by night. Food is cooked over a wood or charcoal fire. Health care facilities are basic and the nearest hospital is a few hours’ drive away (and that’s if there’s a vehicle).

In Emukutan, some of the children are running around barely dressed, or wearing ragged, dusty clothes. In a material sense, they have only the very basics needed for existence. And yet they too are children of God, children of a God who provides and cares for us. It is a very humbling experience to be welcomed into these communities and to realise that they are the ones who have true good fortune with a wealth of generosity and a rich faith in God . I am therefore understanding more about wealth in a sense of faith and a relationship with God, rather than to judge wealth in regard to material possessions.


Caroline Mansley said Fri, 25 Feb 2011 11:20AM
Hi Catherine. Your comments brought back good memories of Kajiado and Oltia Sika, having probably been the one of the last visitors the Briggs had before returning to NI. I'm a theological student with the C of I and spent 3 weeks in Kajiado on placement in April/May of last year. Please greet the Bishop for me and on behalf of my husband Nigel if you see him, also Canon Johnson Mwangi who i was placed with, i also had time with Ref Naftaly in Oltia Sika where we visited mothers with newborn babies. Blessings to you and your work, it is so good to see the Clinic being used again. Caroline Mansley, Ballyholme Parish
Hannah Chisholm said Fri, 25 Feb 2011 01:13PM
Hi Catherine, it has been lovely following your progress overseas and reading all your amazing and exciting news! What you're doing over there is great! Just wanted to let you know we haven't forgotten you in Ely and you're very much in our thoughts and prayers! Hope you are doing ok and adjusting to a very different culture and lifestyle. Looking forward to reading your next blog :) Lots of love Hannah, James, Sophie and Bump xxxx
Frank Dobbs said Sat, 12 Mar 2011 01:14PM
Hi Catherine, Good to hear about your experiences. I am a GP in Portstewart and was on a STEP for three weeks last March in South Sudan, and had a fourth year medical student attachment in Tumu-Tumu (near Nyeri, Kenya) in 1978. I am interested in helping develop continuing medical education for clinical officers/nurses/midwives/laboratory assistants using a small group approach. What continuing medical education is available with you in Kajiado? Best Wishes Frank
Jill Maxwell said Thu, 17 Mar 2011 11:25AM
Hi Catherine, I have eventually got caught up with your blog. You are really doing some amazing work out there, and by the sounds of things as well as you having a big impact on the people, they are also having a big impact on you. You will continue to be in our prayers. Jill

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