Monday, August 10, 2009


Yes, uniforms. They're important symbols of community belonging and pride. They're undoubtedly a vestige of colonial order, as well. School children of all ages are required to wear uniforms, making Kenya's "free" public schools even more expensive. (It's not just the desk fee, the blackboard fee, and the hockey stick fee...) Years ago, at the inception of the Mothers' Union Orphan Program, one of Nan's earliest orders of business was prioritizing children's needs. "Uniforms" ranked right up there with food and potable water, according to the local church women. Thanks to California and Wisconsin donors, sewing machines were purchased, and volunteer "mamas" went to work making hundreds of uniforms so kids could go to school.

Uniforms became a hot topic at the hospital last month,when two staff nurses asked me, "Could you help us, Sister, with our leadership project?" As an outgrowth of their continuing education course, Salunia and Dinah had already carefully created, laminated and posted "mission" and "vision" statements on each ward. Now they needed to implement a project "to improve the standards of the hospital." The concept of uniforms as a project initially mystified me, since our nurses already wear uniforms. But they laughed and explained they meant "patient uniforms" -- a/k/a hospital johnnies.

Salunia and Dinah had done their homework and knew how much fabric would be required for 90 wraparound gowns, 30 per adult ward. They produced completed samples and then asked for "sponsorship," since the shamba they had planted on the hospital grounds, in the hope of selling sukuma wiki/greens to help purchase the material, was not yet ready for harvest. Dr. Hardison, grateful for an opportunity to more efficiently examine patients on daily rounds, generously donated 46,500 shillings (about $6.50/gown) for the project. Patients routinely wear several layers of their own clothing to bed at Maseno Hospital, creating unnecessary delays in administering care. The clothes might otherwise be stolen, however, if left at home.

Within a remarkably short time (TIA, remember), the ladies of our HIV/AIDS support group had sewn the gowns and earned a few shillings in the process.The seamstresses were pleased. Our nurses were pleased. Dr. Hardison was pleased. Now we just need to coax our patients into being pleased. The current promotion for compliance is, "Everyone at Aga Khan -- a private, exclusive hospital in Kisumu and Nairobi -- wears them." It remains to be seen how effective our "patient education" efforts will be. Meanwhile, though, the project earned Salunia and Dinah kudos in their leadership class. As Nan would say, "You go, Girls!"

1 comment:

Nancy Rowe said...

YOU GO GIRLS!!! That is correct. Wow, I am impressed. Will look forward to seeing those gowns in person in Oct. God bless you all with many smiles, and much encouragement today. YOU GO GIRLS!!!
from your friends in WI!