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Kenya Day 3- Princess Crowns, Pictures and Preventative Care

June 22, 2012

Sticking to a schedule is  a challenging thing to do here in Kenya.  Plans are made and plans are broken just as the sun rises and sets.  Today however is a different story because today everything fell into place as planned.  The morning began with an 8:00 a.m. morning devotionals at Kithoka Elementary School where all 400 plus students line themselves up outside and sing songs before beginning daily class.  Adorable!  We then split up into groups and spent time with the kindergartners, first and second graders for some arts-and-crafts activities.   This translated to LOTS of colored pencils and paper, stickers, markers, and sparkly pipe cleaners turned into flowers, bracelets and princess crowns.  Which poses the question, how can you go possibly wrong when you start your day making princess crowns?  Exactly.  It’s impossible.

Stepping away from drawings of elephants, lions, and butterflies we then turned to the computers that UMSOD donated last year to the school.  These computers are highly valued educational resources, and Alexandra P. and Jonathan D. spent some time educating some teachers how to use PowerPoint and ways that the program could be used in the classroom.  Outside of the computer room, you could hear children shouting “picture, picture!” as they swarmed around anyone spotted with a camera.  To simply say that these kids love pictures would be an understatement.  Photographs of themselves is a rare treat for them.   If your dream in life is to be child’s hero, then take a picture and give it to them.  They will love you forever.  If you are short of a camera, your second best option is to kick a soccer ball around with them.

You may be thinking by this point, that we came to Kenya to do nothing but play.  Not true.  The second half of the day was devoted to community survey research.  There are two main surveys to be completed here.  One of course for oral health.  The second based on pain and trauma.  Our survey groups consisted of a dental student, a medical student and a community leader who would help translate, enhance participation, and foster trust with the local community.  After the survey interview, I asked one of the respondents about their thoughts about the delivery of dental care, and if they could change one thing what it would be.  And the winner was?  Cost of care.  Dental care here in Meru is far too expensive for the majority of people to see a dentist on a routine basis.  Extreme pain too high to be ignored seems to be the main reason for a dental visit 9 out of 10 times at least.  The respondent then asked me what I was going to do with all this information?  I wish I could have told him that by next year’s time that we would effectively lower the cost of care making it affordable to everyone and all his dental needs cared for.  The response I gave was not was he was hoping for, but seemed satisfactory enough:  It is the hope that through collaboration and sharing this information with local community dentists will help improve access to care and reduce the burden of dental decay through prevention measures.

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