Yesterday morning, we had to say goodbye to our dear friend Rory and send her towards the airport and her long journey home. After weeks of struggling with a stomach bug, Rory decided it would be best to return home early in order to fully recover. During her time at WOPLAH, Rory passionately formed friendships and touched many people with her creativity and drive for problem-solving.
At our weekly meeting with the Ambassadors of Hope on Monday, I watched as Rory said her final goodbyes and thank yous, and made promises to visit again. A knot formed in my stomach as I realized that in just a week, it would be me trying to gather all my thoughts and feelings into comprehensible sentences as I said goodbye to these special people. Seeing Rory go through this process illuminated for the rest of the GROW team the fact that this experience is soon going to come to an end for us as well. Before Rory's departure, we reflected on what we have learned during our time with WOPLAH, and what we will take back with us.
First, we spoke of some of the practical skills and knowledge that we’ve gained thus far. We all acknowledged that without this internship, we might not have been able to grasp the operation and structure of WOPLAH. Whereas before we might have described WOPLAH in vague terms, we now understand how the organization operates and why it chooses to initiate projects. We have learned how growing a personal garden increases one’s likelihood to adhere to his or her ARV drug course, and why a mother’s access to goats’ milk can play an important role in determining her child’s health. Now we can return to CC and while we are raising money for, say, the input of 500 seeds at two kitchen gardens, we can also explain what that means for the health of five families, 35 people.
During the reflection, we also spoke about more “big-picture” take-aways. We thought about the term “grassroots,” and the new meaning that the word has taken on. After time spent with the Ambassadors of Hope, we would now describe it as a movement from within a community, for the health of the community, by people invested in that improved health.
We spoke about the realization that during every interaction we have here, whether it be visiting a support group or dropping in at a local clinic, we are making promises of one sort or another. We realize that when we ask people how they would suggest improving a project, or what they need for their garden or goat initiative to flourish, we make a promise that we are going to work towards seeing that improvement come to fruition. And this is good, because we do want to help make these improvements. But it also raises the stakes—only by keeping these promises do we obtain the lasting trust of the beneficiaries and WOPLAH.
Finally, Molly pointed out that no matter how much we work to support WOPLAH during the internship, we are learning “one-hundred times more than WOPLAH has gained since our being here.” Now this is not a bad thing for either party, if anything it is an indication that WOPLAH is headed towards a state of sustainability—a point where partnership with GlobeMed (as much as we love it) will not be necessary.
Edwin Wetoyi and the Ambassadors of Hope have given us the unique opportunity to ask them a million questions, follow them into intimate interactions with beneficiaries, and join them in their homes to share meals and discussions about what has been accomplished thus far, and everything that still must be done.
Perhaps we had to see one of our GROW team members leave before we were able to grasp how meaningful the relationships are that we have formed. Finally, we can begin to understand how much the people who began this grassroots movement for health equity in this one community in Western Kenya have done.