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Published on June 30, 2014

Local mission group helps with more than just medical care in Kenya

Members of Kansas to Kenya visit a women's conference in Kenya this month.

Members of Kansas to Kenya visit a women's conference in Kenya this month. Courtesy of Kansas to Kenya. Enlarge photo. 

By Giles Bruce, Lawrence Journal World reporter

June 30, 2014

Lawrence physician Stephen Segebrecht attends the dedication this month of a library in Kenya that the group he leads, Kansas to Kenya, helps build.

Courtesy of Kansas to Kenya

Lawrence physician Stephen Segebrecht attends the dedication this month of a library in Kenya that the group he leads, Kansas to Kenya, helps build.

Lawrence librarian Kathy Miller attends the dedication this month of a library in Kenya built by mission group Kansas to Kenya.

Courtesy of Kansas to Kenya

Lawrence librarian Kathy Miller attends the dedication this month of a library in Kenya built by mission group Kansas to Kenya.

When Lawrence physician Stephen Segebrechtdid a mission trip to Kenya in 2005, he helped provide medical care to residents of the impoverished African nation. Nine years later, he leads a group that, among other initiatives, lends money to small business owners, builds libraries and expands the use of immunizations.

Kansas to Kenya was founded in 2007 after the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas asked Segebrecht to start a group to address the United Nation's eight Millennium Development Goals to end poverty. The ecumenical team now has dozens on members working on issues like poverty and hunger, universal education and gender equality. The group returned from Kenya earlier this month after a few-week stay in the country's Nakuru region.

Bob Basow, an associate professor of journalism and mass communications at KU, went for the third straight year to work on a microfinance project alongside Brian Segebrecht, Stephen's son and a Lawrence business development specialist. Two years ago, they began to set up Kenyan entrepreneurs with the savings and loan program. When they visited this year, there were 20 groups of roughly 900 people who were running small businesses and saving money through the microfinance project.

"It was rewarding to watch this fundamental principle of community development work from the ground up," Basow said. "It was quite remarkable to see people, through savings, become self-reliant and self-sufficient."

Also on the recent trip, a group of Kansas pharmacists and pharmacy residents, including some from Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Kansas University, taught pharmacy professors at the University of Nairobi how to properly administer immunization injections so they could in turn teach their students to do so. While pharmacists are in the U.S. are traditionally taught how to give vaccinations, pharmacists in Nairobi are not.

"The concept is to leverage the professional pharmacy staff that right now is not vaccinating and allow them to improve the vaccination rates for regions of the country that are underserved," said Pat Parker, the team leader for Kansas to Kenya's pharmacy program and the pharmacy director at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. The pharmacists also worked with a member of the Kenyan parliament on how they might reduce the high rates of cervical cancer in certain areas of the country by spreading the use of the HPV vaccine.

Kansas to Kenya also dedicated its second library in Kenya. The library is stocked with about 100 e-readers that each contain more than 3,000 books, selected with the assistance of a Lawrence librarian. A sign on the wall of the new library quotes Nelson Mandela: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

Also this month, the group visited a safe house for victims of domestic and sexual violence it built last year. The shelter is the only one of its kind outside the capital of Nairobi. Segebrecht met with a 16-year-old girl who was pregnant as the result of a rape and a 52-year-old woman who was beaten by her husband so badly she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It's a very gratifying to be able to make a difference in people's lives in such a dramatic way," he said. "I'm amazed at all that has been accomplished through the generosity of people in Kansas and the involvement of the people who to go to Kenya to be a part of this.

"They witness the impact that all this has had on the people in Kenya, who are really touched that we've come from so far away to provide care and comfort and education without expecting anything in return. You can't help but come away from that changed."

Better Health

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