Cindi Chen completes field work in Kenya with Programs Abroad



Cindi Chen, a recent UCSD Graduate (’14) ,Physiology & Neuroscience and Global Health Minor, completed her Field Work Experience through Programs Abroad at St. Anthony’s Health Centre in Kenya. Projects Abroad helps place volunteers in a variety of projects in developing countries. Some projects include care, teaching, medical and conservation.

Cindi is a San Franciscan Native and has a passion for good food, traveling and social justice.

We asked Cindi about her experience in Kenya and here is what she said to say:

I was a medical volunteer and was placed in St. Anthony’s Health Centre, a small private hospital that is located in the outskirts of Nakuru, Kenya. I rotated between the different departments and usually shadowed/aided the nurses. I helped the nurse in the infant room, where vaccinations and the weight and height of the baby were determined. I also helped in the treatment room, where the nurses treated patients for everything from burns and cuts to injections and checkup on mothers who are pregnant. The nurses would explain what they were doing and how the treatments worked for diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and typhoid fever. For observing the mother and fetus, the nurses would show us the technique for estimating the growth and development of the fetus and its health (since ultrasounds are expensive). During night shifts, there would be one nurse on duty and we would help her when she delivers babies and any patients who come at night. On certain days, the medical volunteer coordinator would bring the volunteers (who are also medical volunteers but in different placements) to help in free clinics in the slums of Nakuru or to volunteer with the Red Cross in the larger public hospital, where people are able to get treatment for free. 

What were some challenges that you faced:

Some challenges that I faced were very much due to cultural differences. Most of the host families are relatively well off and hire cheap live-in help (they are paid approximately 100 KSh/ 1 USD a day with free room and board), which I was not used to, especially because she was the same age as me! There were also certain views that I did not agree on, but was stumped on how to tell them that I did not agree with it, such as on homosexuality (acts of homosexuality are illegal in Kenya and can lead to imprisonment if discovered and many Kenyans are strongly against it) and sometimes the treatment of the live-in help. I would talk to the volunteers I was living with and the program coordinators about situations which I was not completely comfortable about.

What did you do during your free time?

I had free time on the weekends, when I would travel to different parts of Kenya with volunteers who were staying with the same host family. We went to Mombasa, Masai Mara (safari), and other parks.

Valuable Lessons from Field Experience:

The field experience was an eye-opening experience, one that allowed me to bring back valuable lessons, memories and friendships. It tested my abilities to adapt to a different culture and emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind. I was also able to make friends with other volunteers from all over the world and with local Kenyans who I know would welcome me back whenever I decide to visit again.


How has your field experience been relevant at UCSD?I will be a Master’s student in Fall 2014 and will be applying for medical school in 2015. The field experience has given me a chance to observe how medicine is practiced in a developing country and how limitedresources often limit the ability for healthcare professionals to give treatment and for patients to seek treatment. It has confirmed to me that my career goals would be to work with underserved populations

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