Medical Volunteer Trips in Kenya ~ Why our MedTreks Program is Different
The Quality of your life will be determined by the quality of your contribution”
~ Kurek Ashley
Our MedTreks trips run twice a year now, collaborating and partnering with Village HopeCore International, poverty eradication and public health program that now offers services to over 500 villagers. Our mission is to strengthen the global health workforce through education, collaboration, innovation, and empowerment. Our MedTreks teams work with Village HopeCore in Kenya to provide ongoing clinical skills training and health education to local Kenyan health professionals.
How OUR program is different from other medical missions:
The purpose of our MedTreks Kenya Trips are Two-Fold:
- Help build local capacity in Kenya through health education and skills training to HopeCore’s clinical team
- Strengthen the international & global health workforce through responsible and sustainable short-term medical volunteer opportunities that focus on learning service and collaboration.It is a learning environment, a knowledge exchange, where everyone feels involved and engaged. Our global health courses are specifically designed for health professionals who are interested in global health & international medicine. Our courses were designed by faculty who have taught travel medicine and global health for over 20 years.
We want to share the vision of HopeCore and the success of this program with YOU:
Let’s face it, taking groups of health professionals to Kenya is not necessarily an easy task and it also involves time, money and commitment from the health professionals who choose to leave their work and home life, to travel to Kenya and work abroad. Being part of the HopeCore program in Kenya has fortunately made this decision easy…the work that they are doing in their community is something that we feel people in more developed or “resource-rich” countries need to experience..it is engaging, inspiring and motivating! We are so proud to be able to provide a program that shares HopeCore’s model of poverty eradication and health promotion.
To Learn more about HopeCore, read HERE.
We have heard it dozens of times: you have to experience it to really understand it. So many of our MedTreks participants share this with us after their time in Kenya working with HopeCore. Even though the numbers are definitely impressive:
- 45,000 students now have clean drinking water
- 23,500 mosquito nets have been distributed
- 24,000 mothers have received health education
- 37,500 school students receive free clinical services
- 228 schools have HopeCore’ clinics & Teacher health champions
HopeCore’s program also operates on another level in terms of hope, inspiration, and motivation. And yes it is true, you have to be there to experience it. The comradery among the staff, the strong leadership within the teams, the joyful friendship in the office, the dedication of the staff out in the field…it is so much more than just a medical trip. Most of our MedTreks participants leave their time in Kenya feeling renewed and recharged…and it is not just because they had the opportunity to give back…they embraced the opportunity to learn and grow. It is a beautiful two-way exchange.
We took our time building this program:
Our MedTreks program took almost 10 years of careful evaluation and planning before we executed our first trip to Kenya. We had been closely working with HopeCore in Kenya, learning about the needs of the community and the local staff. We created a program that would help share all the amazing work that HopeCore is doing for their community to the visitors and also provide HopeCore with an opportunity to receive outside support and training. In Kenya, it is often difficult to obtain continuing education opportunities. In the United States, continuing education is a mandatory requirement for most health professionals. Regardless of what part of the healthcare field one works in, it is always nice to have “refresher training” on topics that you don’t see on a day to day basis but might encounter at some point in the future. The World Health Organization reports that Africa has 24% of the world’s burden of disease but only 3% of the workforce to address it. MedTreks is designed to help support and strengthen the workforce in Kenya.
We started our program in Kenya with this first concept: provide free refresher training to the local staff at HopeCore. Topics included CPR, First Aid, Suturing, Splinting and Patient Assessment. As our teams continue to expand, we invite professionals with specific expertise to share their knowledge with our teams in Kenya, topics have included: Maternal Health, Child Health, Ophthalmology, Telehealth, and Disaster Response.
Discovering ways to avoid just a quick “bandaid” solution:
As we have mentioned before, MedTreks is strongly dedicated to continuing to provide these cross-cultural experiences for health professionals because we can see how impactful they can be, for both the host country and the volunteers!
That said, we recognize that there are several harmful programs out there that promote an enticing “quick fix” that is often only a short term solution or also known as a “bandaid” solution. These types of programs can often cause more harm than good to the local communities that they seek to serve.
So here is how we strive to make it a sustainable solution and work to avoid just the “Band-Aid” approach (but we recognize it is a learning process and we continue to strive to improve our strategy every time we return to Kenya).
1. We focus on building local capacity: every time we arrive in Kenya, we always do some type of training. MedTreks teams work on this curriculum months ahead of time. Topics in the past have included: CPR, First Aid, Suturing, Splinting, Patient Assessment, Disaster Response, Maternal Health, Pediatrics, Infectious Disease, Leadership & Management.
2. We seek ways to provide ongoing education: even though we are not physically on the ground, we try to engage in ways to help provide education and support from afar. MedTreks faculty work regularly and closely with the HopeCore staff. Ari Rasori-Allred, MedTreks director has been working closely with the nursing team to identify what is most helpful and needed from the staff. We have initiated a monthly newsletter that includes various topics in public health, community health and rural medicine. If you would like to receive these emails please EMAIL US HERE
3. Our program is designed to build off previous trips: we constantly seek ways to provide a long-term ongoing commitment to HopeCore’s work in providing health to their communities. Every trip is different based on the expertise of the team members and also what HopeCore clinical team is requesting to learn during that time.
4. We are committed to not just providing medical education support: Besides for our trips twice a year, our telehealth consultation services, online education newsletter..we also do an annual fundraiser that provides 100% of the proceeds to the clinical program in Kenya. Our previous MedTreks participants have been instrumental in helping us spread the word about HopeCore’s incredible program. We strongly believe that if you choose to support and partner with a program, then you have to be willing to help them out in all aspects of their work and part of that is sharing their mission and helping to raise financial support.
4. We strive to help our own MedTreks volunteers feel prepared, engaged and inspired: A huge chunk of our program is providing volunteers with a background understanding in cross-cultural medicine and Global Health. This process starts a few months before the assigned dates of our trip: participants receive a MedTreks Pre-Travel Checklist that extensively discusses the travel advice, immunizations requirements for Kenya with an extensive packing list and suggested first aid kit. Part of the preparation is sending helpful resources such as books, movies, and blogs to our participants so they can start learning about Kenya and doing Humanitarian work abroad. We value our MedTreks team members and want them to feel appreciated and prepared for their time abroad.
5. Setting the Stage for What We do and Why we do it: We start every trip with a full day Global Health Seminar on the ground in Kenya, before the week of activities begins. During this orientation we give a background on the project of Village HopeCore, we discuss key concepts in Global Health in general and how it pertains to the work we are doing abroad, we provide strategies to stay healthy while working abroad such as food, water, and mosquito-borne illness precautions, we talk about improvised medicine in rural settings, we review first aid kits, we evaluate culturally competent care, educate on common diseases in Kenya and address the controversies of effective vs ineffective humanitarian aid.
We find that this time is incredibly valuable for our MedTreks participants as it helps to provide a background and also encourage them to feel more empowered and motivated as to why they are in Kenya working with such a progressive organization like Village HopeCore.
As we mentioned above, our model is two-fold, designed to benefit both volunteers and our host program, Village HopeCore.
To see a list of our classes given while in Kenya, click HERE
In addition to Global Health education, participants are able to:
- Work in mobile public health clinics
- Witness efficient healthcare delivery in Kenya
- Learn about community health in Africa
- Experience Village Life in Kenya
- Engage in global health discussions
- Network with other health professionals
- Work side by side the local Kenyan staff
We also invite faculty to share their expertise while in Kenya, topics in the past have included:
- Maternal Health
- Primary Care
- Infectious Disease
We love our work. We love our teams. If you are considering working abroad…do it! But definitely take your time to do the research ahead of time to make sure that the experience is a good fit for you.
Have any questions or want to explore working with us? Send us an email!
“The heart of a volunteer is never measured in size, but by the depth of the commitment to make a difference in the lives of others” ~ DeAnn Hollis