Kenyan connection

Soroptimist member Blanca Pena was recently featured in the Flamborough Review:

When Blanca Pena learned that a group of local nurses was going on a medical mission to Kenya this spring, she couldn’t wait to sign on as a volunteer.

“This is something I’ve been waiting for all my life,” said the owner of Blanca’s Aesthetics on Mill Street South. Although she isn’t a nurse, she has considerable experience in the medical field, having volunteered for five years on the surgical ward of a hospital in her native Colombia. Pena, who noted she has doctors in her family, said she once had aspirations to be a doctor but “never had a chance.” But her volunteer work included taking blood from patients and handing instruments to doctors during surgery.

“I’m not attracted to building schools; I wanted to do something in the medical field,” she said during a recent interview.

Registered Nurse Gail Wolters (left) and Blanca Pena show off the gift basket that donors to Nurses For Africa have a chance to win. Photo by Dianne Cornish, Review

Registered Nurse Gail Wolters (left) and Blanca Pena show off the gift basket that donors to Nurses For Africa have a chance to win. Photo by Dianne Cornish, Review

When she met longtime R.N. Gail Wolters of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington at a fundraiser last year, she was told about Nurses For Africa, a grassroots group of Canadian nurses partnering with nurses in Kenya in order to provide medical care to those in need. Wolters, who founded the organization about three years ago, said she and seven other nurses traveled to the Kakamega region in western Kenya last May to provide medical care to those living in extreme poverty.

“We saved lives, no question,” Wolters said of the trip during which clinics were set up in schools, churches and open fields. Kenyans in need of medical aid walked for many miles and stood in long lineups to see the nurses, who tended to a variety of ailments including malaria, upper respiratory illnesses, typhoid and parasitic diseases. Wolters estimated the team treated about 2,500 people during their seven-day visit.

About $12,000 was raised to purchase medical supplies and medications for the inaugural trip. Some of the donations were used to pay hospital fees for the critically ill who came to the field mission.

This year, members of the mission group want to raise about $20,000 to broaden the scope of their work. Besides purchasing medications, dressing supplies, stethoscopes and portable blood pressure cuffs, they want to provide sexual health education to help in the fight against HIV and they want to see and treat more people. “We hope to have more financial resources to treat people, especially the infants,” said Wolters.

A number of fundraisers, including a concert, dinner/ dance, silent auction and jewellery party, have already been held for the upcoming mission that will run from April 30 to May 12. But Pena, who will help out by registering patients, packaging medication and taking vital signs of those attending the clinic, has come up with another money-making venture.

With the help of Sandy Gray, co-owner of Weeks Home Hardware, Pena is offering a “Wine and Dine” gift basket valued at $200 to those who make a donation to Nurses For Africa. Everyone who makes a donation has a chance to win the basket, which contains four crystal wine glasses, a wine decanter, two bottles of fine wine, two chocolate bars, and gift certificates for The Keg, Royal Coachman and Turtle Jacks. The draw will be held Saturday, April 24.

Gray donated about 70 per cent of the basket’s contents, said Pena. She also donated a Kenyan flag to help with additional fundraising for the nurses’ group.

Donations can be dropped off at Pena’s aesthetics salon or Weeks Home Hardware on Hamilton Street North. For more information about the mission group, e-mail or call 905-335-2157.

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