The Mathare Valley is an area of about 3 square miles in Nairobi, Kenya that is home to nearly 1 million people.
Most people live in tiny corrugated tin shanties crammed side by side. Raw sewage flows down each street and path in open ditches. The average income is just a few dollars a day for each adult.
Life in the Mathare Valley is characterized by extreme poverty, poor healthcare, hunger and despair.
While it may seem like more than any one could ever impact, our 10-person team of volunteers have continued to do our best to improve the livelihoods of Mathare Valley’s residents.
For 12 days, our team from West Side Christian Church in Springfield, Illinois delivered dental care, hoping to brighten the smiles in this community.
Most of the team had served in this area on previous mission trips and have established relationships with residents there. In many ways, it felt like a homecoming for most of us.
Heading to the Mathare Valley, our goal was to serve all 14,000 students in the schools operated by Missions of Hope International. But within the eight days of work, we also included teachers, administrators, and school workers, bringing our total served to 14,105 residents.
Everyone at the school was eager to participate in the program, and thanked us with a very loud “YOU ARE THE BEST! WOW!” before we left each classroom.
As you can imagine, we were both joy-filled and humbled by their gratitude and love.
Meeting the children and school workers, we saw many people with missing teeth, occasionally extracted by a dentist. Many patients had broken teeth, or tooth decay.
To combat the overarching oral health issues, we gave all participants a fluoride varnish treatment, a toothbrush, and oral hygiene instruction. We gave out additional supplies of toothbrushes, dental floss and toothpaste that were generously donated by the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.
During one day of the trip, four members of the team branched off to serve in different locations. Two of our team flew with the clinic dentist to Lodwar, in Turkana County to deliver flouride varnish and HSCF supplies.
Our dental hygienist and ultrasonographer remained at the Pangani Center Clinic in the Valley. The hygienist applied sealants until a power outage caused a change of plans.
The ultrasonographer was able to provide five mothers with much-needed sonograms in their 3rd trimester with electricity from an alternate source.
As with every mission trip, flexibility is the key.
Every trip to the Mathare Valley impacts everyone involved.
Despite having traveled and served in Mathare Valley before, it is always an experience that stays with you.
Of course, with over one million people living there, our 12 days barely made a dent in the need. But in spite of the extremes in poverty, health care and nutrition, there is a ray of hope.
It is found in the work of Missions of Hope International, in partnership with Christian Missionary Fellowship, and all of the people who join with us to bring a smile to the faces of people in the Mathare Valley.