Brenda Ratemo

Fellowship Experience

It has been a great privilege to be a Brueggeman Fellow. I have developed lifelong relationships and my thought processes challenged and enriched. My project was to compare structures of different healthcare systems and apply what I learned to evaluate the healthcare system in Kenya. Right from the beginning, I explored different writings as I searched for one that would complement my project best. I never quite found that one right book, but along the way, came to learn so many other things that I was completely unaware of. We held regular table discussions. I really came to enjoy and look forward to our table discussions on different books selected by the fellows, an aspect that I miss very much. We had the benefit of diversity of interest and experience such that there was never a dull moment.  I must say one of the things that I took with me was the need to not only know what is happening around you but the history behind it and how it speaks to its future. My project carried on in Kenya and involved a good amount of field work and travelling around different parts of the country. Even though I grew up in Kenya, I felt that I had been given new eyes during this period. We have a very resource poor and budget tight healthcare system, like most of the countries around the world. However, community members are taking initiative in their own health, by establishing group finance schemes (with their meager earnings) to fund the local health facilities. Community organization is indeed a very powerful tool in addressing some of our biggest problems, one that is often overlooked, but needs to be emphasized.

I was visiting one of the district hospitals, it was around 7.30am that morning. I had come to interview a doctor who worked in the pediatrics section.  There was a long line of about fifty mothers waiting to see the doctor, others had been there as early as cockcrow 4am and others who had not received help the previous day had returned as well. The only doctor in that entire ward took a couple of minutes to talk to me in the midst of all the demand for her.  I asked her  if she feels overworked and she simply responded “If I do not do it, who will?”

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