On the first day of 9th grade, my first class was world history with Mr. Clarke, but everyone called him Q. He was notorious for not only being an amazing teacher that carries around a baseball bat during class, but also an extremely driven person. He coached cross country and basketball, ran a dormitory, and every year, organized trips to Kenya for students to gain perspective. Despite being assigned one of the best teachers in the history department, I knew from day one that science was my subject, and I would not let any other subject get in the way of that. As we can see, I was really open to the entire liberal education concept. It was like I was in a deep committed relationship with science, and I was a total jerk to every other subject. I was impatient, annoying, and really couldn’t care less. There were times where I was told that I should just leave the class now if I didn’t think I needed to be there. Q, if you are reading this, it was the midterm exam review class, and you shoved a plastic yellow bat in my face and told me to leave. Looking back, I should have loved Q’s class. To be honest, I wish I could retake it, but I am not willing to relive freshman year of high school.
Now, you are probably thinking, “why are you telling me all of this? This story was great and everything, but all it did was show me how closed minded you were.” Yes, high school Kate was extremely obnoxious (some of my friends say this probably hasn’t changed very much), but the story really begins when I was browsing Facebook this year, and saw that every current Blair student was sharing this video about Blair in Kenya (it is attached to the bottom of this post). The video illustrated the schools that were being built, and the organization that was created from these student trips. I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved. I wanted to be involved in a project with a teacher that told me to leave his class. I wanted to be involved in something where 6 years earlier I probably would have rather pulled my teeth out.
After a few emails, Q and I sat down to talk about the future of Blair in Kenya and where I could assist. One of the future plans is a community health clinic. However, there is a lot of base planning and data analysis that goes into it. There are no medical records for each student, some don’t even know their actual birthday. We don’t have a complete understanding of who needs help the most and to what extent. From general research and common knowledge, we know common diseases (AIDS, malaria, TB) and general problems (malnutrition, clean water access, medical care), but we don’t know the specifics. We don’t know exactly how many have been affected by malaria in the past 6 months or how they were treated.
When Q travels to Kenya this year, he is not only taking doctors and health professionals, but he is having multiple students and community members fill out health surveys. Of course the basic questions are answered like height and weight, but then when we start to address other issues such as water purification, birth control, and food preparation, we run into problems. When I think of clean water, the water is filtered through a well system, but for many of these children, water is from the local source and boiled for purification. So, I cannot ask on a survey if they have access to clean drinking water because my perception is extremely different, too subjective. Rather, I would need to ask where their water comes from, and then determine based on world health standards if it is remotely safe. We know that most of the community does not have access to clean drinking water, and that is the root of many problems. When Q returns from Kenya, I will sort through all of the data and compile it in order to draw conclusions. I have no idea what I will find, but this is only the start. With all of this data, we can see the overall needs of this small community, and ultimately make a difference.