Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kenyan returns home to help a village hospital

A Kenyan nurse who came to the United States to get an education is planning on returning to her homeland. Debra Akello is planning a medical mission along with 10 coworkers from a Southern California hospital. They plan on bringing equipment and knowledge to a village hospital.

The Los Angeles Daily News introduces us to Akello, and tells us about the inspiration for her mission.

Akello, 34, left Kenya in 1996 to get her nursing degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, and graduated four years later. One of her brothers lived in Southern California, so she stayed and brought her daughter from Kenya.

She began looking for a way to help her native land four years ago when her youngest sister died in Kenya of a cerebral aneurysm, a weak spot on a blood vessel that balloons out and fills with blood. Her sister suffered from massive headaches, Akello said, but each time she consulted doctors, they sent her home with over-the-counter headache medicine.

If a local hospital had been equipped to perform a brain scan, the problem might have been detected before the aneurysm burst and killed her sister, Akello said.

Last December, when Akello saw CNN video of Kenyans fighting and killing each other after the disputed general election, she knew she had to act.

The wounded couldn't get medical attention because hospitals were overloaded and lacked necessary equipment to deal with all the trauma cases, she said.

"It was so overwhelming. I was sad. Out of the sadness I had, I felt a need to do something about it," she said.

She called her friend Joy Burton, and they decided to create a nonprofit organization to fight poverty worldwide. They called it the Helping Hands International Foundation. The first destination: Africa.

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