SHE-CAN Scholar reflects on "life-changing" internship with the Matibabu Foundation - by Jocelyn Mizero
At the end of June 2017, an amazing couple offered to send me to Kenya for my dream internship. After giving it a few seconds thought, I quit my Emergency Medical Training course and two campus jobs for what I defined in all my resignation letters as a potentially “life-changing experience." Deep inside I was scared I was making a rush decision. Nonetheless, two days after resigning, my bags were packed for Kenya.
It all started with a phone call from my best friend and fellow SHE-CAN scholar, Chartine, who was at a SHE-CAN dinner party in San Francisco. “How do you feel about going to Kenya for an internship at the end of the week?” she inquired. “Barb will call you later, and she will explain everything.” At the mention of Barbara, SHE-CAN’s Founder, I sat up straight but Chartine had already hung up to go back to her social event.
The next day, Barb connected me with Bill Plautz, Board Member of Tiba also known as Matibabu Foundation in Kenya. He and his wife Kathleen Welsh, MD were encouraging me to leave my EMT training and pursue my dreams of being in the medical field by working in the Matibabu hospital. In Swahili, “Matibabu” means “treatment” and that’s exactly what this grassroots organization is doing in Ukwala in Siaya County Kenya. I was fortunate enough to be an intern and experience for myself what Matibabu represents to the local community.
Before departing for Kenya I spent time on the phone with Barb and my mentors trying to work out the details. I felt incredibly supported and finally realized that I wasn’t on my own to make my dream come true. I remember Barb telling me, “This is how change happens Jocelyn. The world rises up!”
On slow afternoons I observed women in labor and sometimes offered to walk them around the circular hospital. Later I would put on the lab coat, that made me look like a butcher, and gloves to help the nurses with the deliveries. My first experience involved twins, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was overcome with excitement, fear, stress and curiosity during the whole process. I stood next to the nurse as he explained the delivery processes and what he was doing. The baby’s head started descending and that’s when the nurses started shouting instructions at me in both Swahili and English. “Go get the warmer!” Nurse Bildad shouted. After the second baby arrived 45 minutes later, the whole process began again and I was ready. “Get oxytocin!” Fred shouted as I was already out of the door running to the pharmacy in my blood stained lab coat and sticky shoes. I got comfortable during this process, and I remembered to tell Nurse Bildad that we needed to take a selfie after! In the delivery room, casual conversations were made and it started becoming easy not to focus on the blood and the pain. This was the most beautiful and empowering moment of my time at Matibabu.
I remember having a very animated conversation with the two nurses about the past three hours and what they meant for my career path moving forward. They were amazed by my persistence and the fact that I didn’t leave the room as I had done in my first week at the sight of a maggot-infected wound. They insisted that I was brave to stay put for such a long time during the delivery and noticed how I didn’t crack when everyone was yelling at me to hand them this and that in a language I barely understood. They shared their first delivery experiences and iterated that my enthusiasm and passion were evident throughout the whole process.
They advised me to carry on with my plan to go to medical school and that my alternate plan, going into public health, wasn’t going to make me as excited and happy as I was a few minutes ago. I listened to them carefully, and this was just the first day of their mentoring because in the days that followed I was working closely with them and it was arranged for me to shadow other nurses and clinical officers on interesting cases. The hours spent taking care of the patients were rewarding but what I valued even more was the trust, encouragement and responsibilities bestowed on me by the hospital staff. Their support inspired and reassured me that the ward was where I truly belonged.
My internship ended abruptly. I had to leave a week early because of rising tensions due to the August 8 elections. After Daniel Ogola and my supervisor Judith Sang helped me catch a bus to Kigali, my heart was filled with immense gratitude and joy for this unique opportunity. Furthermore, my passion for the medical field was crystal clear.
While leaving early was a disappointment, I was happy to spend a week and a half with my family in Rwanda before returning to Lafayette to start my senior year. Now, I’m excited for the challenging journey ahead as I start looking into medical schools while being fully aware that it will not be easy. But in my heart I know I’ll have the support of my mentors, my family and amazing SHE-CAN supporters like Bill and Kathleen who can make miracles happen!
Read stories written by our talented scholars and multiple voices across the SHE-CAN network