Student Reflections 2011


Student Reflections (2011)

Andrea Sheldon

Andrea SheldonI began this experience knowing that I was interested in the broad field of global health. I had no idea if I wanted to work in policy or direct care, medical or humanitarian; all I knew was that working towards universal healthcare was where I belonged. As one of the only non-nurses, I struggled within myself to define who I was as Anthropology and Global Studies major on a trip designed for those certain of their professional career in medicine. It was hard watching everyone in their clinical screenings taking care of the many communities we visited as I took more heights, weights and BMIs than any person should ever have to do. I wanted to be in the action. I've battled my whole life with myself over my uncertain future and career while medicine has always been my interest and passion. Sitting at dinner listening to my parents debrief about their days in the hospital made it even more difficult; I knew I could be great in healthcare but I was never confident enough in me to take the leap of faith, suck it up and do it.

After 2 weeks in Kenya surrounded by determined and successful Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Doctors and Nursing students, I realize how happy I was. I loved being immersed in the conversation, the patient consultations and the entire process of delivering healthcare to people in need. In small talk, I discussed my future academic plans with other members of the team, which could potentially be Nursing school or a Public Health degree. Each one of them told me this trip would point me towards Nursing. I would laugh and agree with each one, knowing I was happy and in my element, but I didn't seriously think about the idea of returning from this trip determined to change my career goals. I won't let my humble opinions of my capability can't hold me back from something that I know I can excel in. A vacation from my normal self and habits was exactly what I needed to more clearly understand who I am and ultimately where I belong in the professional world

Antony Muliro


Antony MuliroI have learned that there are nursing practitioners who are able to diagnose and treat patients; this has made me to like the career because since my childhood I was dreaming of becoming a medical doctor (who is able to treat patients).

From my interaction with students and lecturers from Boston (UMass) I have realized that initiative and sacrifice are required for the provision of medical health services because their students and lecturers sacrificed their time and resources to treat and screen different Kenyan communities and the UMass was able to come up with Afya Njema project which treats problems every year.

I also learned that USA health insurance system is able to pay for health costs of their poor citizens which have made their medical services to be accessible to many of their citizens. This really differs with the National Hospitals Insurance Fund in Kenya which only provides cover to people only working in the formal sector. Incentives are also provided in [the] USA for those who reduce the rick factors of suffering from a particular disease. E.g., those who do not smoke have incentives when paying their premium insurance costs.

Charity Mweru

Charity MweruI personally had a wonderful experience. During the exercise I learnt that many people are living below the poverty line hence they are not in position to seek health care due to constrains. Our assistance to the community members was appreciated and it would be of benefit to have more of this. Moreover health education is more vital to community members because of ignorance.

In addition, the U.S./Kenyan interaction was quite interesting because we got to exchange ideas as well as share our cultures as well as experiences in the medical field. It was also challenging because of lack of enough resources to cater for all the community health needs. So, there is need multi-sectoral mobilization so as to be in position to meet the health needs of the community.

Generally the whole practice was a successful and we urge for more of this and continuation of community enhancement. There should be [a] set program for the children’s forum for their screening as well. Thank you.

Jessica DeMita

It would be a lie to say that I did not arrive in Africa with preconceived notions and personal biases related to the culture and lifestyle of the Kenyan people. I imagined a world one-hundred and eight degree opposite of the U.S. and people whom I would not relate to or find common ground. But within the first few days of arriving in Kenya, I realized the peoples of our two worlds were not so foreign rather strangely similar. This is not to say that differences were not present but in the grand scheme of things I recognized humanity, community, love, and compassion as what bound us as the same. We all breathe, we all eat, we all love, we all feel sadness, we all become ill, we all question our own mortality, and we all are still learning about the world and the way things work. But in this there is a great difference, a great disparity that frustrates me and breaks my heart because, although we bleed the same, the amount and access to resources, including food, water, and basic medical care is a world of difference. This trip made me realize how lucky I am to have access to get my blood pressure read, to get basic labs drawn on my yearly doctor’s visit, and know when I am sick I will be able to receive and afford medication. But why should I be lucky?

This trip also helped me realize how many times I use the word “I.” It’s sad actually how many times I refer to myself when there are millions of people around the world who do not even have access to clean water. By shifting my mindset from “I” to “we,” change can begin to take place. More so, if everyone stopped thinking of “I” and thought on the larger scale of “we”, ideas could turn into plans and plans could turn into actions. We could change the lives of many, bring greater awareness to the disparities of resources, and begin to work to achieve adequate Global Healthcare.

Our trip to Kenya taught me so much and will continue to influence my everyday life in ways I have not yet even realized. I am so grateful to have been a part of this amazing experience and will continue to use what I have learned to bring attention to the inadequate Global Healthcare that exists and try to strive for change.

Rahab Maingi

It has been a great experience working with our partners. They arrived in Kijabe on the 16th of June and went around the hospital compound which was too great. On the 17th of June we conducted a screening at Lari Health Centre where we screened more than 130 people who had diabetes and hypertension and also at rick of having cardiovascular diseases. The clients were counseled on healthy living and those with diabetes and hypertension were encouraged to continue with their medication. Also a lot of patients had pain related to arthritis.

Evaluation: the positive aspect of the whole project was that we were able to screen a great number of people who took it positively. Also a large number of clients had no knowledge about the illness and they were glad that they knew their health. This was really encouraging due to the fact that large numbers showed up. It was also good that we were able to socialize amongst ourselves and know each others experience as they trained in their respective schools and places of work.

Conclusion: the experience has been a great help to me for I have learnt on the importance of living a healthy life know the sick factors associated with cardiovascular diseases; and also on ways to prevent ourselves on getting the cvd; have also learnt on importance of drugs compliance and also helping those living with diabetes and hypertension to live a healthy life without complications. During the project I was able to interact with various people who helped me learn a lot about the cardiovascular diseases and preventions.



Thanks a lot for the meeting with the Prime Minister, we really appreciate it.

Elizabeth Ngumo

It has been a great experience. Working with our partners has been another encouraging experience. Our partners arrived on 16th where we had a wonderful homing. On 17th, we had our screening that was being held at Lari Health Centre. We had approximately 130 pts that were seen on that day. Clients were counseled and health educated on cardiovascular diseases.

Evaluation: The whole process was an encouraging experience. Teaching people on cardiovascular diseases and how to prevent them was a great project to the community. We were later before we got started and this led to us working till late in the evening. Some of our clients were satisfied with the services while others were not since they had other concerns apart from cardiovascular diseases diabetes and hypertension. Vitamins were given to all clients as a motivation and also to boost their health system.

Conclusion: The whole process was encouraging, a good learning experience not forgetting the social interaction with our Boston partners. This is also a good step towards strengthening relationships between Kenya and [the] USA. It is also a challenge to me as a health worker to think broader on how to help my fellow Kenyans deal with cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and diabetes.


Gerald Kioy

No matter what, we made it. The roads and trips seemed endless but we finally got there. The roads were bumpy, the weather was bleak and chilly, but we had it; to be done.

The medical camps; people or the patients were waiting; eagerly and they were not disappointed. The screening was done, the health education given, the diagnosis done, finally the medication given.

It was not at all smooth. Language was a barrier, many were not good in English or Swahili and so translators had to be there. Some had so many complaints that it was really hard to know how/where to start. Some had complaints that we would not investigate on the ground then for example fractures or even some needed lab diagnosis.

This to me is a brilliant idea giving back to the community and solving the problems that many suffer silently. When the patient is attended to and had his problem met, its great joy to both the patient and us (health officer).

More need to be done on health education the preventive approach of it, earlier. Screening of the community would be of the greatest help.

On our side, time is limited and we must try to save on it. Proper time management would really improve on the number of people attended to. Starting the day earlier would really be smart and effective.

Finally, this is a great idea, but we can make it greater.


The activities carried out during the screening were of great help to the community. As student, we gained a lot of experience in dealing with cardiovascular diseases. The whole exercise made us able to identify the groups at risk for the cardiovascular diseases and help them to prevent the disease from occurring.

The medical camps; people or the patients were waiting; eagerly and they were not disappointed. The screening was done, the health education given, the diagnosis done, finally the medication given.

Health education also played a great part since most of the patients had no idea on the diseases. Some had a little knowledge but never adhered to the drug compliance. My personal perspective was greatly changed since the heart and sole project was started as our people lack a lot of knowledge on the diseases. Through the project we have been able to prevent diseases like cardiovascular accidents, heart disease. Most of the deaths due to cardiovascular diseases were greatly reduced in number.

Ivy Murigi

Having a chance to participate in some of the medical camps organized through the Afya Njema project. I have had a chance to see how desperate the need for medical services is, especially in the rural setting of Kenya.

During my training at the University of Nairobi, I have had a chance to give care at health centers located in the slum areas of Nairobi, but not in a wide setting like the rural areas. Through my participation I have had a chance to see just how desperate people are for medical services. So many people showed up with so many problems. Some could be offered assistance on the ground, while others were advised to seek further help at the hospitals.

My best experience was to see people walk away grateful and with smiles on their faces. I only wished many more of these camps could be organized.

As I realized, Kenyans appreciate medical services. They only miss a chance to seek help due to financial difficulties.

I have come to learn that it is very satisfying to serve people, even on voluntary basis. If I have a chance to do this again I will gladly do it. Though the work is overwhelming, it is a great learning opportunity and I am glad to have participated.

Jen Nugent

Jen NugentIt has taken a few weeks to be able to coalesce my thoughts about our wonderful trip to Kenya this June. It was a very intense and gratifying two weeks. There were so many interesting clinics, informative and enjoyable time with UMass Boston and Kenyan colleagues, and so many experiences travelling throughout the region.

It was a joy to meet our Kenyan colleagues and to see where they study and the hospitals that they train in. Seeing the various levels and access to healthcare was very enlightening and put much of our mission into context. I did notice that it seemed to be an exhausting day of clinic especially “in the back” when our colleagues were translating for us all day. I think that including our colleagues more fully in the examination of the patient was helpful and a better use of their faculty status, although it is difficult to see as many patients when there is a lot of exchange between colleagues over patient issues. This is a challenging point.

As a new graduate NP, I was very fortunate to integrate and solidify some of my knowledge in the clinical setting with more autonomy. I felt like it was my first NP job and with appropriate support when needed, I came to feel that my practice became more independent. Our meetings to debrief after the first and second clinics really helped to gain feedback from my UMass Boston colleagues and enriched my practice with each clinic. If I were to have done this trip prior to graduating, I think I would have been more anxious in this role at the outset of the trip, but believe it would have made me more confident in the clinical setting for the rest of my clinical placements.

I am grateful to have been included on this trip, and have been transformed by the experience. As an aside but additional benefit, I have found that it is a primary point of interesting conversation in my last few job interviews. I would definitely take the opportunity to have continued involvement in global health issues and hope to have another opportunity to travel again.

Lose Ndirangu

It felt great and humbled being part of the Kenya Heart and Sole; the Afya Njema project. Meeting the patients and education them on CVS and diabetes made us leave them better than we found them.

Personally I didn’t see any negative positives of the whole experience. Yes my personal perspective has changed, I am more experienced (learned) than I was before and also about the community within us than I knew before. Also I will educate my family and the community I came from because I have learned that it is the little things we do and assume that can affect our health negatively. Plus I would be happy if the community I come from also got a chance to benefit from your help, but you can get assured I will pass the health information message to them on your behalf (on CVS and diabetes).

The most profound learning/growth experience I encountered during the project is that unlike before when I thought that the community was aware of the do’s and don’ts on what to do to take care of their health they hardly do. So from now hence forth I will always educate patients more on CVS and diabetes because most diseases are preventable in the country if patients are educated more on them.

In summary I have had an experience in my nursing profession that I have never done since I started studying nursing for the last 4 years. God bless your people.

Katherine Wanjiku


Just as global warming has been an issue of concern for the whole world and the world at large has joined to fight global warming so is the issue on cardiovascular disease of importance to the whole world.

These projects have taken it into consideration by making it a global concern by practicing a policy that I would say “It all starts with us” “we have to make it better hero.” These has really helped me to the way I do my practices, it has made me to be more focused on the community, sharing the skills and knowledge I got to make a difference in the life of other people. These in general has been a changing moment and practices that is focused on benefitting many.

It all starts from where we are and then spreads out. My vision in my expectation is to see the project expand to larger community that we can be able to reach out to more people that is through more screening, campaigns, researches and making the services more available and affordable by the whole community. “it takes a whole village to raise a child.” It takes the project to prevent the spread of cardiovascular diseases.



MaryThe activities and exercise carried out during the screening of people on cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders was quite important and helped me in learning about those at risk of cardiovascular disease in the community at large. As a student nurse I learnt that I have to take an initiative of identifying those at risk and give health messages about prevention and treatment of those with the conditions.

During the screenings most of the people who turned up many were identified to be at risk and some actually had the disease and treatment was given. According to the history given by the clients, it was noticed that many individuals had problems in adherence to medication due to lack of finances to visit health centers’ and buy the medications.

My personal experience is that we should reinforce the need to teach community on how to prevent occurrences of cardiovascular disorders’ rather than the treatment itself. It was great working with students from US and got to see what happens there and how they work to prevent and treat the cardiovascular diseases. My own personal perspective has changed since the heart and role project was instituted and I have learnt that prevention is more important than actually the treatment.

Megan Suyematsu


Megan Suyematsu Having the opportunity to return with the Kenya Heart and Sole group was an incredible experience. I wondered if my second trip to Kenya would be different, if at all, from the first. I wondered if the overwhelming emotions I experienced during my first trip would occur the second time around. I had already experienced Kenyan culture; I saw the good and the bad; contributed and learned; I grew as a person. In what way would it be different this time? I was surprised; I had the same overwhelming emotions, yet this time I felt more empowered. I was motivated and better able to focus my energy during our journey. During the trip I heard over and over again from our Kenyan friends, “welcome home”, and deeply rooted in me that’s exactly what I felt. I experienced familiar places, familiar faces, and the overwhelming love and faith in a community that inspired me; a community that I missed so much, and wanted to come back to. This year, I had prior knowledge, more confidence, and a sense of familiarity helping me to contribute in a meaningful and lasting way.

I learned that although our time spent in Kenya may be limited, it is more influential than many of us ever thought. Kenya Heart and Sole project is a true testament of the saying, “education is power”. It was such a proud moment to return to the villages and schools we have worked with in the past, and to see that over the past year we were gone, they were diligently continuing efforts to reduce cardiovascular disease and diabetes in their communities. We truly laid a foundation that continues to be built, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Mercy Kaguamba


Mercy Kaguamba The experience has greatly built my knowledge on cardiovascular risk factors and the prevalence of this disease among the community members; I have been able to socialize and to appreciate my community better.

The experience has given me the strength to be a leader in prevention, treatment and promotion of cardiovascular diseases in my community. The exercise has also provided an opportunity for me to interact with colleagues from nursing schools in my country as well as the American students and it has been very motivating. It has been a learning experience sharing with people in the faculty a people with a lot of knowledge, role models and very inspirational.

Through this exercise I learnt that in my community people have yet still not embraced the need for personal responsibility in their own health and have not yet appreciated the need for continuous medical check ups and follow ups as a person initiative, this is from the last years screening where by people who were screened had not returned to the clinics there after.

My feelings have changed through this experience such that I have been able to view health in a wider perspective. I have learnt ways of mobilizing the community, how to interact with nurses in the field and ways of promotion cardiovascular health.

Monica A Crowley


Monica  A Crowley This was my second trip to Africa on what has come to be termed a medical mission. This group, like many, is composed of volunteers who share a goal and purpose which evolve from a humanitarian foundation. Both students and instructors experienced the challenges and joys of the experience. What seemed particularly impressive about this group was the involvement of the Kenyan students and instructors throughout the entire endeavor. I continued to be surprised at the degree of commitment to the process, and the amount of energy members from two very different cultures were earnestly investing to make this work. Breaking through the communication barriers, and differences in experiences as healthcare workers, we tried our best, with what we had, to do some good. I felt we were successful.

Commenting on the work that we actually did, I do have some concerns with the overall well being of, especially some of the old timers being treated for elevated blood pressures, for what appeared to be the first time ever. I learned that they could follow up in the clinics after we were gone. This eased some of my fears. I only hope that they will. I think if the link between the nursing schools that has been made, continues to develop, than these people will be less likely to fall through the cracks. We were able to see hospitals as they really were on our trip through Kenya, and heard firsthand accounts from Kenyan nurses, doctors and students. It was eye opening in many ways. It was nice to experience the strong presence of nursing at its best. I can only hope that the work continues to strengthen the bond between nurses from Kenya and the States.

And finally, yes there were some technical difficulties along the way, but nothing could dampen the spirits of this group, and yes, there is always another year to make more improvements in this work in progress.

Monicah Kamau


Monicah Kamau 1) The positives are:

a) The experience was really educative for me as I interacted with members in the community especially when they were being reviewed by the doctors since I would understand more about the conditions they were suffering and I gained more knowledge on how to help them.

b) I liked the way we interacted with the students from Boston and the way we worked together as a team.

c) The whole experience has enabled me to interact with students from other colleges, thus enabling us to share our ideas and coming up with plans on how to help the society.


d) I liked the way the members in the community were provided with drugs at no cost, since some people cannot afford due to financial problems


2) Not so positive:

a) I feel like this kind of screening should probably be held more than once a year.

b) I feel like Kenyan students should also be given the opportunity to visit Boston so that we can also have an experience, and be able to compare with what we encounter in our country.

c) The interaction between the students from the US and Kenya is too short. Therefore if possible their time when they visit Kenya can be prolonged.

My personal perspective has changed, as I thought members from the community were just reluctant to seek medical attention, but I came to realize that most of them are just ignorant i.e. are not aware of cardiovascular diseases and others lack money to seek medical attention.

My most profound learning experience is that I’m now able to teach the community about preventive measures, control measures and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Also being able to exercise the knowledge I have as a nursing student.

Last but not the least, Afya Njema project we are going far. Lets not sit back and wait, we do what we can while we can, bearing in mind that greater things are ahead. Together we can be able to fight and overcome silent killers.

Moses Mwaura


It was a great experience having had a joint partnership with people from UMass Boston working together with them on cardiovascular conditions to include; hypertension and diabetes. We had a community screening at Lari health centre in Kijabe area and in that screening I was able to meet with people suffering from different cardiovascular diseases; who at times; some did not know about their health conditions while others knew about their health conditions more on medications; but some were not taking their medications because of lack of funds to buy them or lack of knowledge on the consistency of drugs.

On the positive effect of the experience I was able to meet people; who are health care providers share with them their knowledge and their practices was also able to meet people from the community who were suffering from hypertension and diabetes. This opened up my eyes; to learn that the community around us has the problem of cardiovascular conditions; but no one is there to create awareness to the community.

The experience has made me to learn that; cardiovascular conditions are not only in Kenya but are present abroad; this has made me to endorse the fact that I must sensitize the community around me about their conditions. All that I may want is to have during our next programs; is that we should have ample time in the community; creating awareness and educating them about the condition which will be accompanied by putting up posters and to aid in sensitizing the community.

Nickolas Mwangi

The Afya Njema Heart and Sole group has been carrying out screenings [on] hypertension and diabetes in the local communities. I got to know what the group is about when I joined their activities. We carried out screenings in the Lari Health Centre along the Kijabe area. Mostly the group reaches out [about] DM and HtN but we got out to reach out [about] other diseases, e.g., arthritis, which turned out to reach a great number of people suffering from [those diseases]. The group basically is doing a lot but more than the community can expect.

Positive: The group is doing well for the community around the places of reach. The medications given [appear] to be really helping them out, especially painkillers since mostly prevent with pain.

Comment: I think the Boston group should mobilize on the Kenyan people to ensure continuity of work. A verse from the Bible says blessed is the hand that giveth than the one that receiveth. It goes hand in hand to [the] Afya project or to what they are doing to the community ground. Thanks in advance.