Humanitarian trip inspires youth

In an unlit church in a rural area in Shiru, Kenya, is a small medical outreach clinic where Richmonds Ashley Wong spent half of her summer.

As a student interested in the medical field and Doctors Without Borders, an outreach clinic was something that I wanted to experience first-hand to determine if I want to pursue medicine as a career, said the 17-year-old McMath graduate. On arrival, we were greeted by many of the locals and after an introduction we got straight to work. My role was to organize the drugs and perform a few miscellaneous jobs.

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Ashley was one of only two from Richmond taking part in an International Development Project with Scouts Canada. The focus of the project was to refurbish and expand a small medical centre that serviced a community of 17,000 people in a rural Kenyan village. Presently, the clinic struggles to meet the demands of the community and required help to upgrade and expand.

We were 23 all together and the others were from Ontario, said Ashley, who has been part of Scouts Canada for six years now.

When Ashley was asked to document the clinic work by taking photos of the patients, she admitted feeling uncomfortable. But she soon discovered the patients were more than happy to have their photo taken.

After that, my first job was to help weigh some babies, said Ashley. Unlike in Canada, they do not have electronic scales, but rather hanging scales much like those we would find in a grocery store to weigh fruits and vegetables.

A baby would be wrapped in cloth and then hung by the cloth on the scale. It was an interesting improvisation.

For a young woman who wants to study medicine, the humanitarian trip was a wonderful learning curve.

I had the opportunity to see with my own eyes how the health care system in a less developed area of the world functions, and it inspired me to work harder to experience this again, she added. It was challenging in new ways and it was a different experience from that on the worksite.

The most challenging, or heart wrenching part of the trip was seeing the slums.

It was sad, it was scary and yet interesting, said Ashley. It was also inspiring to see that despite their poverty and having no access to technology, they appeared happy and smiling.

When she wasnt working with patients in the clinic, she helped lay the foundation for the new maternity ward.

With the new maternity ward and a bigger clinic, the village hopes to attract a doctor, said Ashley. Right now there is only a nurse to deliver the babies.

After laying bricks or working in the clinic, Ashley had fun playing with the young Kenyan children.

We taught them some dance moves and a few songs, she said.

The scouting contingency also raised donations of $15,000 in cash to help pay for the renovated clinic.

We also donated more than 1,100 pounds of medicine, she said.

At night, Ashley bonded with both the Kenyan and her colleagues. After the construction work was done, we all ate dinner together and played soccer, she added.

The majority of Kenyans spoke English.

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