Africa. Not a place I'd have imagined I'd be visiting if you'd have asked me six months ago. But after finally convincing my parents that this was an experience of a lifetime, I found myself on a plane to Nairobi just ten short days after purchasing my ticket.
The flight there was a nightmare, beginning with a bomb threat made by the guy sitting next to me. But, only a mere ten hours later than expected, I arrived safe and sound in Kenya and met up with the rest of the group.
The group included Milton Ochieng', his sister Florence, a few members of the Lwala Community Alliance board, the film crew (Barry and Iain) of the documentary Sons of Lwala (see www.sonsoflwala.com or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZNuwk4QjR8 for the trailer), and a few friends. The purpose of the visit was to finally show the villagers the final result of the filming they had been a part of for two years, and shoot their reactions for an updated version of the documentary.
Being neither a film student nor a medical student, I was worried that I wouldn't be of much help during my short time there. But I managed to be useful in the pharmacy, helping to sort pills and fill prescriptions. During the calmer hours, I tried with a decent amount of success to learn some Dholuo, the tribal language spoken in Lwala.
On the night of the premier, after an interesting attempt at making microwave popcorn over an open fire, I settled down with the villagers to watch the documentary, which was projected onto the wall of one of the buildings near the clinic. Milton's niece fell asleep in my lap as soon as the DVD began to play, and didn't move the rest of the evening. As I sat in the shadow of the clinic, watching the villagers watch themselves on screen, I knew I was seeing firsthand what an impact the arrival of basic health care has made on the people of Lwala. Of the hundreds of people sitting around me, how many were sitting there because they had had access to medical treatment since the opening of the clinic? How many wouldn't have been there without it?
Powerful doesn't even begin to describe it.