Donated Supplies Help Deliver Care in East Africa

Last summer, Phoebe Wright completed her third volunteer mission to the Elimlim Community Health Center in Kitale, Kenya. It was the second year the University of Washington biology major took medical supplies donated by Virginia Mason; basic items to support health services for some of the poorest people in the region, including many young children.

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Left to right: Phoebe Wright; Evelyn, clinic nurse; Samantha, ICU nurse volunteer. 

Phoebe, who plans to attend medical school, describes the extraordinary education of assisting in a clinic where easily preventable conditions are a constant risk to life. Simple things like sanitary linens, packaged gauze and aspirin create treatment options and help promote healing. Sharing knowledge and techniques – Phoebe remembers a health worker intrigued to learn that silicon bandages could reduce burn scars – is another form of exchange desperately needed in remote areas.

“I now have a genuine compassion for the people part of medicine,” writes Phoebe about her months spent at Elimlim, which offers everything from wound care, family planning and eye glasses to treatment for HIV. “I’ve seen first-hand how completely preventable diseases and conditions affect mothers, children and people living on the streets. Improving basic education of medicine and the human body would prevent many deaths and needless suffering.”

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Multipurpose patient room with donated bed linens.

Kenya’s patchwork health care system stems in part from the lack of a long-term commitment by the government. State-run clinics, even when accessible, often fail to provide the consistent, reliable care needed to prevent or treat chronic illness. Access to free, donor-funded clinics like Elimlim is critical, says Phoebe, to fill gaps in care and for treating the whole patient.

Elimlim currently employs a Kenyan medical staff of four, with rotating volunteer physicians, nurses and clinicians, serving more than 350 patients per month. A mobile clinic brings health care to remote villages as resources will allow, a schedule the clinic hopes to increase.

In her post-trip letter to Virginia Mason, Phoebe wrote: “I am very thankful for the opportunity to partner with Elimlim as well as Virginia Mason to serve the people of Kitale, Kenya. I was able to spend quality time building relationships with the staff, following up with returning patients, learning about tropical medicine and not being afraid to say yes to unique learning opportunities. I cannot emphasize enough my gratefulness for the support and generosity of the team at Virginia Mason.”

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New supplies for Elimlim’s pharmacy. 

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