Humans of VMM

In this Newsletter, we will be introducing you to Nerea Monge. Nerea is a volunteer in St. Charles Lwanga Health Centre, Kenya. She’s a pharmacist from Spain based in Kenya for a year, supporting the health centre and training a fellow pharmacist.

I am going to be honest. I don’t want to have children, I never wanted to and I think I never will. That doesn’t make me less of a woman (although in Africa people think you are less of a woman if you are not a mother; and it is still a looong way untill this will change). Maternity should be an option, not an obligation.

Nevertheless, the children at ‘Madeleine Home School’ have changed my perception of children. Yes, I was often afraid of children. I have been working in rural places in Africa for more than 4 years and I met lovely children but also mean ones. I was a very sensitive kid, so I was often the target of the strong ones. So I developed a bit of a fear of children.

To work in a rural hospital here is not easy, especially when it comes to children. You often see severely malnourished children coming to the Health Centre and people expect a miracle to happen. When that kind of case arises, I just want to run away and never come back. But later I reflect and I always come back. This is what Africa has done to us. People full of contradictions with love and hate on the same coin. Yes, this article is maybe a bit tough, but I am just telling the truth. I am tired of ‘joy and meaningfulness’ articles about African volunteers that only stay less than a  month. So the truth, the hard moments we all go through, also need to be told.

The first day I crossed the pathway to meet children with special needs at ‘Madeleines Home’, I felt a bit scared. I was scared of not to being able to handle the situation well and not being able to reach out to those kids. Life here often surprises you in ways you cannot imagine, and this was one of this cases. All kids greeted me with a big smile and also hugged me very tight. I automatically felt safe with them. They never called me ‘muzungu’ (the Kenyan word for white person), they called me always by my name. I am Nerea, the girl, woman, who carries toys for them and has a strange colour. They even call me ‘mamma’ which really melts my heart.

Another thing that has stunned me is how happy they are. They are truly happy, I feel so small and weak in comparison to them as I wouldn’t be like that at all. They are giving me a constant lesson of maturity and happiness, and show me how to cope with what life can bring. If I have a rough day at the Health Centre, I just walk over there and they always welcome me with big hugs and smiles.

My work at the Health Centre is also very good as it is more focused on the mobile patients, so there is never too much workload or stress and there is a very good atmosphere. I have been here now for more than 8 months and what I like is that my colleagues accept me the way I am. Yes, I am not always an easy person. I have a temper at times, and after losing it I always regret it afterwards but it is my nature. None of them seems bothered, in fact, I think they like to see that I am a person like any other with my weaknesses. In my own country I don’t have this freedom. Some of us live here at the Health Cente; so we share our life challenges and we have become very close. I also have say that without their friendship I could not manage my life here that well. The people of this area are called the Luhya. A very quiet and understanding people. I just feel so comfortable with them, they are so very easy going and always greeting me like I am not a foreigner any more.

And finally, I cannot finish this article without mentioning our little farm here of which I am the food and health care provider! I am actually doing a veterinary nursing training online and trying to put some of the theories into practice. Farm animals are quite a lot of work, but they are truly grateful especially for an animal lover like me! We have 6 goats, 40 chickens with a lot of smalls chicks born each week, two parish dogs and a wild cat that sometimes comes for food. I truly enjoy the animal care, they don’t ask for anything, they are unjudgemental and very grateful.

Every day here is different and new. Come and see. There is such a mixture of tough things and beautiful things. It’s life like you’ve never seen it before. You will get addicted.

Nerea Monge



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