Graduate Learning Journey to Kenya
As a part of our Graduate Programme, the group of 2010 went on a Learning Journey to Kenya in order to meet people who are fighting diabetes in a challenging environment and get a better understanding of the health care system in a developing country such as Kenya. This was my first trip to Africa so I was really excited and not exactly sure what to expect. It turned out to be an absolutely amazing trip, full of new learning’s and new life perspectives that will stay with me personally forever.
The first thing I have to mention is the people of Kenya. Everywhere we went, everybody we met, we were always greeted with a smile, positivity and amazing energy. We met with Health Care Professionals, Doctors, Nurses, Diabetes Educators, Patients, our Novo Nordisk Colleagues in Kenya, professionals at the Health Care Ministry, and many many more and all of them had the same passion for life. It was unbelievable to see how much they can do with so little. We were blown away every single day and had a “wow, can this really be?” experience every single day!
In one short week we managed to see a lot and had many learning’s that had a huge impact on us. I would however like to share with you an experience that stands out for me and I believe I can speak for most if not all of the other graduates also. This is the story of Reuben Magoko.
Reuben is a 56 year old Kenyan. He was diagnosed a few years back with Type 2 Diabetes. His wife told us the story of when he got diagnosed. They had noticed that something was not quite as it should be and therefore went to the Hospital to have Reuben checked out. When the doctor came back with the results and informed them that he had Type 2 Diabetes, Reuben stood up and ran right out of the hospital and back home. He told his wife that this could not be, he did not have Diabetes.
Today he has come to terms with his situation and he told us that today they see his Diabetes as his blessing. I had a hard time seeing how an illness could be a blessing, but then he explained it to us, which shows once again the amazing spirit the people in Kenya have. Once he overcame his denial, he realized that he needed to understand what he was dealing with. He learned how to control his diabetes and eventually went on to become a certified Diabetes Educator. But he did not stop there, he then founded a Diabetes Support Group in his area. Then he went on and started Support Groups in 17 other regions, and he is not planning on stopping there. Today they have founded the Kenya Defeat Diabetes Association which works towards fighting diabetes and I am happy to say that they get great support from Novo Nordisk.
We met Reuben at the Mary Immaculate Hospital in Mweigai, Kenya, where he explained to us the function of the organization and what they are doing in order to assist people with diabetes. In Kenya the awareness on communicable diseases is quite high, but on non-communicable disease is quite low. People in Kenya are well educated on diseases such as AIDs and Tuberculosis, however Diabetes is a disease that people do not understand or even know about. Then there is also the issue, for those who do get diagnosed to access the drugs, not only due to the price but more importantly the availability of the drugs, as transportation to the closest hospital can be quite expensive. Reuben is working with Novo Nordisk on a project that is called: The Base of The Pyramid, which aims to make insulin affordable and accessible to patients.
Then in the afternoon Reuben and his wife invited us over to their house in the country side. We were greeted by the entire family, his son and his wife, their uncles, the neighbourhood priest, and many other members of their society. We started off by planting a tree in order to commemorate our visit to their house. Then we were introduced to everyone and we headed into their small but very charismatic house, surrounded by chickens and goats. We had a great night in great company, shared stories, said prayers, had some food and got to know each other. They shared with us many stories on how they deal with Diabetes in their community and we tried our best to understand what we could do in order to help them fight diabetes.
Reuben and his wife gave us a great insight into how it is to live with Diabetes in a difficult condition. The most important learning of all was that they are able to do so, by looking at the bright side, take every challenge with positivity, smiling and amazing energy.
I will finish this blog post with a quote from the Local Priest that we took as our Journey Motto:
“Coming together is our beginning
Working together is our progress
Staying together is our success”