James Madison University

Kenya Trip Provides Cultural Awareness

By: Brett Seekford
Posted: December 5, 2014

Professor Kathy Floyd, an instructor in the Department of Nursing, coordinated a trip to Kenya last summer for a group of undergraduate nursing students. Spending time in Kenya gave students a unique educational opportunity to participate in clinics and gain hands on medical practice in a culture different than their own.

“Our mission was one of immersing the students in the cultural experience and giving them an understanding of what health care is like in Kenya,” Floyd explained.

PHOTO:JMU Students in Kenya

Floyd discussed the goals she had for her students prior to their trip abroad. “For me, the experience is all about relationship building and understanding the people and the total picture, not just health care,” she stated.

Having traveled to Kenya before with her church, Floyd already had a great appreciation for the Kenyan people and their customs. “When I started these trips, I thought, ‘If even one student develops a love for Kenya and an understanding for the country and a desire to go back, or develops a passion for the country, my goal has been achieved,’” she said.

Trip participants were carefully selected. Floyd said, “We asked [the students] what they could offer to the trip because we wanted it to be a two-way street. It’s not only that I wanted to offer something to the students; I wanted them to give back to the people of Kenya.”

The trip was designed to provide the students with a myriad of experiences to enhance learning while providing community service to the areas visited. These experiences included providing health screenings and dispensing medications to over 200 children. A free clinic was held in Nyeri where the students worked in collaboration with the clinic staff to provide healthcare to about 75 people in one day. Nursing faculty from Kenyatta University in Nairobi lectured the students on varying topics relevant to healthcare and the health care system in Kenya. JMU students were given the opportunity to discuss differences in nursing education in Kenya and United States with nursing students from Kenyatta University which led to a renewed appreciation for the opportunities provided at JMU.

Students worked alongside faculty throughout their trip. Rashidah Burns, a senior nursing student, explained her time in Kenya: “I would say we [faculty and students] worked very well together.” She went on to add, “We did health assessments in the schools, and it was mostly the students doing [the assessments] while Professor Floyd and others were alongside, helping us.” Students also experienced the type of connection that Floyd longed for them to establish. Kendall Barger, a senior on the trip, said, “The Kenyan people are incredibly welcoming and incredibly hospitable. . . . It was very easy to form relationships with them because they wanted to form relationships with us.” She stated, “It definitely made the world a little bit smaller.”

Barger found the trip to be reaffirming. She described the nursing major as an emotional rollercoaster where students often question if they are pursuing the career that is best for them. “This trip changed the way I do nursing. Now it’s about learning to take care of people; not learning to pass,” she explained.

Both students plan on working as nurses abroad and the trip solidified their intended career trajectories. “I’ve always wanted to travel with nursing, whether it’s inside or outside the country. It’s always been my goal and it’s still my goal,” Burns said. “I hope it works out.” Barger wants to one day work in a third-world country. “Until then, I’d like to work in an ICU in a hospital and get experience and knowledge,” she said.

While a future trip to Kenya for students is not currently being planned, students like Barger and Burns will not be able to forget their experiences in Africa. Professor Floyd’s passion and love of Kenya was clearly passed on to her students.