Sustainable Medical Volunteering ~ The Friendship Factor & Tips for Humanitarian Medicine Programs
“Wherever you turn, you can find someone who needs you. Even if it is a little thing, do something for which there is no pay but the privilege of doing it. Remember, you don’t live in the world all of your own” ~ Albert Schweitzer.
MedTreks Kenya is an international partnership with Village HopeCore & MedTreks International. It is a global health clinical education program that focuses on three core principles:
Why is cross-cultural global health collaboration important?
The World Health Organization reports that Sub-Saharan Africa has 24% of the world’s burden of disease and only 3% of the workforce to address it.
A crucial component for strengthening the global health workforce in places like Kenya, is by providing health education, collaborating with the local health professionals and seeking ways to empower the local communities. A few tips for those who are interested in pursing medical missions or healthcare experiences abroad:
- Know your strengths: find a location/program that will benefit from your skillset
- Spend time asking yourself “why”: what do I really want to do with my time? What is my passion?
- Research, Research, Research: learn as much as you can about potential volunteer opportunities
- Seek to enhance exhisting programs in the local communities: rather than reinventing the wheel
- Find ways to provide education and training for the local healthcare workers
MedTreks Kenya is designed to help build local healthcare capacity at HopeCore through hands-on clinical skills training and medical education. Below is a list of educational programs that MedTreks sponsors on a regular basis:
Telehealth Education & Consultation:
MedTreks recently funded and initiated a Telehealth program with HopeCore. Through VSEE Telehealth platform our faculty is now able to review cases with the HopeCore clinical teams on a weekly bases
Every year our MedTreks faculty continues to grow and share their individual knowledge and expertise. Topics include maternal/child health, family planning, nutrition, dermatology, ophthalmology, emergency medicine, orthopedics & infectious disease.
Working side-by-side, our teams facilitate continued learning through mentorship and consultation. Our MedTreks mentors provide physical exam techniques and help collaboration on health screening and treatment of various illnesses.
First Aid & CPR Refreshers:
Twice a year MedTreks provides refresher training in key life-saving health skills. MedTreks purchased training mannequins and First Aid kits for all the nurses working for HopeCore. We continue to use these materials every time our group returns.
Clinical Skills Training:
MedTreks faculty provide an ongoing procedure and skills training for the local staff including suturing, wound care & splinting. All supplies and course materials are sponsored by MedTreks.
How MedTreks Kenya began:
The MedTreks Kenya program was designed and implemented by a nurse practitioner from California, Ari Rasori-Allred. It was in the year 2006 when she visited Chogoria, Kenya for the second time and realized that a global health partnership could be created with MedTreks and Village HopeCore International. On a warm sunny day in July, 2006, Ari participated in a maternal child health clinic that HopeCore hosted for mothers and children in the community. Ari watched in awe as women filed into the dark, concrete room with children strapped in brightly colored cloth to their backs, patiently waiting for hours on simple wooden benches, just to have a health professional check out their child. With the closest hospital requiring fees for service, many of the villagers could not afford healthcare, so the mothers were grateful for this free health clinic opportunity.
Despite limited resources, scarce finances, and walking long miles on foot through the dark nights and hot days, these women were dedicated to providing the best care for their children that they could. HopeCore’s Health Program was working to reach community members through their mobile health services and Ari soon realized that their multifaceted public health program would be instrumental in improving the health of Kenya in the future.
Unlike many other medical missions that Ari had been a part of, she wanted to create something that would be sustainable and long-term. Realizing that the best way to to provide medical care in resource limited regions is by enhancing existing programs in the local communities, Ari designed a training program that would provide ongoing health education and skills training to the Kenyan health professionals at HopeCore.
The MedTreks Kenya program now operates through regular online trainings, quarterly educational newsletters and biannual hands-on travel medicine and global health seminars in Kenya.
The MedTreks Kenya trips not only provide the Kenyan health professionals with continuing education opportunities, the participants who travel to Kenya also receive training and education in Global Health, Travel & Humanitarian Medicine. This cross-cultural learning environment promotes collaboration and healthcare innovation. It is a chance for colleagues from different countries, to gather and share ideas & resources with a focus on preventative healthcare and strengthening the global health workforce.
All MedTreks Kenya courses are approved by the California Board of Nursing for 20 CEs. Provider # CEP 16597
The Friendship Factor:
On one of our most recent MedTreks Kenya trips, one of our participants said that they didn’t realize how much fun and laughter they would have during their time abroad. After working for several years in the humanitarian medicine field, we have learned that finding small ways to incorporate fun, laughter, games to build friendship and commradery, is paramont to a successful humanitarian program. The work that we do can be stressful, mentally and physically challenging. It is best for everyone, if there is a little time spent every day dedicated to strengthening what we call the “Friendship Factor”. Take time to walk and talk with the locals, learn their jokes, teach them a game. These experiences go so far for human connection and are crucial for preventing burnout.
Here is what some of our participants from the United States say about their experience:
Definitely the most valuable portion of this course is the human connection with the Hopecore staff. Getting to know them and catching their humor and being the recipient of a genuine Kenyan smile is literally reason enough to go!…You have to experience the magic of what HopeCore delivers to it’s community, health care, health education, and poverty eradication, a recipe for success. Kenyan run and sustainable, it is an inspiration to be amongst these people who care so very much about their community.
With genuine admiration-
L.S, Nurse Practitioner
This experience was incredibly eye-opening and heartwarming! The setting and accommodations in Chogoria were beautiful and the service was above and beyond. The cultural exchange amongst healthcare workers in the U.S. and healthcare workers in Kenya was exceptional and enlightening. The guidance and navigation through the villages made me feel safe and comfortable yet also provided a “hands off” approach to learning that allowed me to have an individual experience with the healthcare workers, students, and families. I also really enjoyed the community dinners, dancing, and soccer that encouraged mutual appreciation and teamwork. I signed up for this program thinking I was going to be volunteering my time, but instead I feel like I was given much more than I ever hoped to contribute. I came home feeling re-invigorated about medicine and inspired by the comprehensive approach that Hope Core and MedTreks provides to the community of Chogoria. I gained an indispensable education regarding humanity, communication, and global health.
Thank you Hope Core staff for imparting your knowledge and hospitality to the MedTreks team. I felt welcomed and gained a whole new perspective on community healthcare and outreach. The Hope Core model is a powerful example to others. The way you all advocate for your community and give so much of yourself is an inspiration. Your kindness and compassion have continued to keep me smiling here at home.
~ T.V, Registered Nurse
For me this was a life changing experience, from the way MedTreks organized our time, to getting to know the fabulous HopeCore staff…I feel grateful and am still basking in the glow of Kenya. It was an honor to work with the folks at Hopecore. They were welcoming and kind. I loved their sense of humor, and dedication to their patients. I could easily fill up a page with accolades. Asante Sana HopeCore!
~G.S, Registered Nurse
I was introduced to Hopecore through MedTreks in 2018. This was my second trip and I am amazed by how much hopecore has grown in a year. I enjoy learning from the hopecore nurses and also providing them with resources so they can improve their delivery of care. The week in Chogoria gives me a perspective that shifts the way I view my own work as a nurse. We as a MedTreks team come to teach but in the process, as my heart is moved, I am the student gaining both personal and professional growth.
I appreciate hopecore so much for allowing us to visit and participate again. It is an outstanding program and I am great full they open up their home to us. I enjoy the special care the team provides when we visit. Hopecore has really good drivers and I am so Thankful for them.
~J.W, RN, Oregon
Planning this trip to Kenya was filled with all sorts of emotions. Everything that I was expecting, exceeded my expectations and everything that I wasn’t expecting, happened. I felt so cared for and appreciated while in Kenya. Working with the HopeCore staff was such a unique and wonderful experience. There are no words to express everything I have gained from this trip as well as from all the staff I had the privilege of working with. I recommend MedTreks to any one who is looking for an opportunity to escape their everyday work life yet be able to gain back so much more than what they expect to share with the beautiful people of Kenya.
HopeCore, the work you all do everyday is absolutely inspiring. You all helped revitalize my passion for healthcare and for that I thank you. The work we do is not easy, but seeing your positive attitudes and friendly smiles everyday showed me that I too can come to work every day with that same positivity. Thank you staff of HopeCore for being the absolutely wonderful people that you all are! I cannot wait to work with you all again =)
~ B. A, RN, Nevada
Want to get involved?
Our program was founded on the train-the-trainer model to target the specific needs of the healthcare professionals in Kenya with Village HopeCore International.
The Medtreks Kenya model was built to provide ongoing education to the Kenyan healthcare professionals through biannual medical skills training trips, monthly online education, and weekly telehealth consultation.
We do offer internships and faculty scholarships. If you would like to support our program and offer your skills or medical expertise please email us: