Welcome to post 33 of Strength & Conditioning for Therapists. I hope you’re having a good week and that you’re looking forward to a break soon over Christmas. This week I’ve devoted the blog to something a little different – obviously still S&C focussed – A Sponsored Place. You may have seen on social media that for each online Strength & Conditioning for Therapists course I run, I’m sponsoring a place – meaning that a therapist from a developing country or who is in financial hardship can apply do the course for free, as long as they too pay it forward.

I’ve been utterly humbled by the things I’ve heard from this year’s recipient: Otieno Martin Ong’wen, a physiotherapist from Kenya, I literally have no idea what it must feel like to be in his shoes. He’s an immensely driven physiotherapist who already performs a huge amount of outreach work in rural village – often at his own cost. Please take the time to read his very personal and inspiring story below.

Physiotherapy in Kenya

My name is Otieno Martin Ong’wen, I am a Physiotherapist by profession, I live and work in Nairobi, I am a clinician and an Educator, I treat patients, but I also teach at my local collage back home. I am the current elected Chairman of the association of Kenya Orthopedic Manual Therapists. I work for the Jackson’s Foundation whose main goal is to provide Physiotherapy Education to 3rd world countries and areas where there is need for Physiotherapy Education. I am currently the clinical Director of AfyAfrica Orthopedic services, a social business model that Okumu Shadrack Wabwire and I started a few years ago. I shall be talking about this as we move on. I am also a board member of Generation Hope (Kizazi Kipya) Foundation. 

I am a very proud recipient of the first scholarship award offered by Claire Minshull on the Strength & Conditioning For Therapists. 

Healthcare in Kenya: You are on your own

Healthcare in Kenya has a long way to go and with many gaps that need to be filled, I will focus mainly about Physiotherapy for this matter. I can however summarize the Healthcare system in Kenya as ‘’you are on your own’’. For the most part whenever you get an ailment in Kenya you are technically on your own, and especially if you do get the now rising Non-communicable and chronic diseases. Take Cancer for example, I lost a beloved auntie to cancer, due to numerous reasons, financial hardships is just but one of them. In summery she did die a very painful death on the way to hospital, her last words to me was ‘’Martin, take care of your cousins when I am not around’’. I know you will she said to me as I was visiting her at out home in Nairobi during her Chemotherapy sessions. What could I do? I for the most part felt like I did fail her, I was a health professional and I could not do anything at the time for that matter, I wished that I had the money needed to give her the best palliative care at the time. We did our best I want to assume. Only her can tell, rest well auntie. We miss you. 

This is a very personal story, which I rarely share. I can also narrate numerous stories of patients who had to sell their ancestral lands belongings and even lost loved ones, not because we do not care and have love for one another in Kenya, but because of the numerous circumstances that affect our whole entire Healthcare system. 

It is for the above reasons that I do most of the things I do as a Physiotherapist. I love my job, I don’t know what else I can do if I was not Physioing. On a typical day I would be in the rural areas of Kenya mentoring our students who have been through the Orthopedic Manual Therapy Training  program at Kenya Medical Training College or teaching Continuous Medical education, or conducting a medical Camp in the village to patients who can’t afford Healthcare, this can be in a rural dispensary clinic or level 4 hospital. Most of the time the people do not understand what Physiotherapy is all about, so community Education plays a very big role in our trips to the rural areas, we educate on what our role in Healthcare is and where we come in and what we do to patients. 

Good Health In Rural Kenya

We mostly address non-threatening Non-Musculoskeletal conditions, those we can treat we treat on the spot and provide lengthy educational programs on self-management. Prevention is our main go to, we do know very well from numerous research articles the benefits of exercise both for treatment management and prevention of diseases, so we try our level best to maximize on that. We would rather use resources on prevention since we know the cost of having a chronic condition in Kenya can be one of the most challenging things to go through. We conduct most medical camps on Saturdays and Sundays. This we call the ‘’Afya Bora Mashinani Initiative’’. Translated in English to mean good health in rural Kenya. This is the main reason as to why I decided to apply to join the Strength and Conditioning for Therapists Programme, to have the most out of educating and implementing lessons I have learnt form the training into the community set ups.

I also teach and train other Physiotherapists back home, I have recently had the privilege to travel out of Kenya and made connections with great educators from around the world, as well as through social media learnt a lot from some of the most wonderful and generous Physios across the globe. So, it is worthy and extremely necessary for me to teach and educate people back home on how to take care of others. And I want to thank Claire Minshull for accepting to have me as the first recipient for this award, I hope this paves the way for other therapists who are not in positions to afford quality education but are and have a big impact in their respective communities. 

When I am not doing Physiotherapy we work to raise funds to educate children who can’t for numerous reasons afford to go to school or are having trouble paying school fees, you can go ahead and have a look at the websites down below and if you have any questions feel free to reach out. 

I also take this opportunity to welcome you to my home country to visit, despite our numerous problems you will be treated with love respect and a warm welcome to smiles and good food.

Afyafrica

Generation Hope Kenya

Find out more about Online Strength & Conditioning for Therapists

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