Sarah Park Brings Health Outreach to Kakamega
Sarah Park, an Industrial Labor Relations major at Cornell, felt her education had afforded her human perspective to the workforce—and that spurred her interest in development work.
Sarah found her match with Kakamega, Kenya to be a serendipitous one. “Kakamega is so beautiful and there are many opportunities to help the community. Whether in town or in a village, there are so many people actively trying to improve the conditions of others and they always need help.”
The flexibility inherent to success in development work showed itself even before Sarah’s departure. While she was initially scheduled to focus on women’s issues, the organization with which Sarah was paired saw a funding cut just prior to her arrival. She thus went to work at a longstanding partner organization, Emusanda Health Centre, where her participation was especially needed. In many ways, Sarah’s quick adaptation to new circumstances is emblematic of the perseverance FSD interns show on a nearly daily basis, and which is reflective of actual unforeseen changes in the field that development professionals navigate and surmount on a daily basis.
At Emusanda, she was involved in starting a high school public forum debate league designed to empower youth. “My supervisor had connections to schools,” Sarah says, “but beyond that, I was able to spur a lot of the creation of the project. In the context of the health center, I was involved a lot with the community health workers in visiting households during the nurse strike to check in on community members. “
Sarah is confident that the debate league will sustain for years to come. and her partner contact, Kelvin, is now equipped with all the tools to teach students and run tournaments by himself. Because he and other community health workers play an integral role in their community, this youth-oriented project will continue to benefit more and more people.
Her travel to Kenya proved to be a personally fulfilling one, too. Sarah says, “Life in Kenya is so simple, yet so fulfilling. The daily trials and tribulations that usually fill my time all just slipped away. My family was so kind and welcoming from day one, and I was surprised how close the entire extended family was. They were warm, welcoming, and everything I could have wished for. They spend all their time together and family is such a large part of daily life (in Kakamega).”
These cultural differences were offset by the attention given her by the FSD site team. “Priscilla (Ong’ayo, Program Director) and Susan (Mulyanga, Local Program Coordinator) gave me an incredible amount of support,” Sarah says. “They gave me so much individualized attention and were so willing to help with anything I needed.” This was especially critical when there was a nursing strike at Emusanda Health Centre and Sarah found herself with minimal support for her project. She continues, “It was mostly up to me as to what project I wanted to pursue and what I wanted to work on.”