As Dr. Susan Fletcher and her team of nursing students walked
deeper into the Korogocho section of Nairobi, the surroundings
became more impoverished and more distressed.
People were living in shacks built of mud and pieces of wood or
sticks, under corrugated sheeting, and under tarps, all piled on top
of each other. The students saw families living without running
water, and with access to only a communal latrine that served a two-
They saw lots of big bellies children with malnutrition, who ate
dried mud pies to fill their stomachs. They saw orphans whose
parents had died of AIDS.
In that sea of misery the visitors reached their destination: a
"Once we started talking to the women, they started smiling,"
said Fletcher, director of international studies for Chamberlain
College of Nursing. The nursing students, from the college's St.
Louis campus and two others, were in Kenya's capital for two weeks
this fall as part of Fletcher's community health program.
Fletcher said she and her team met some of the kindest, most
grateful people they'd ever met at the leper colony. Among them was
a group of five women who had no hands and others who had lost all
their fingers or toes. Some had major facial disfigurements and open
sores all over their bodies.
"I talked to one woman, and I asked, 'How do you get dressed? How
do you get your shoes on?'" Fletcher said. "She looked at me and
showed me and she was smiling at me the whole time. I started
crying. Another woman washed dishes. She didn't have any fingers.
She was using her little hand without fingers and scrubbing dishes."
The student nurses, working with medical students, treated about
2,300 patients in Kenya with leprosy, malaria, tuberculosis,
typhoid, AIDS and parasitic infections. Ringworm, scabies,
dehydration and hypertension were common.
The group included about 40 people, 23 of them were student and
graduate nurses from Chamberlain campuses. Chamberlain is owned by
DeVry Inc. which bought the Deaconess College of Nursing in St.
Louis in 2005. The nursing school is now in Maryland Heights.
Fletcher holds a doctorate in education and master's degree in
nursing. She has been a professor for the St. Louis campus and at
The medical students on the trip came from Ross University School
of Medicine in the West Indies. They were working with the nonprofit
Chicago-based Family Hope Charity, which treats the poorest of the
poor in Nairobi.
Tom O'Hern, director of that organization, said "thanks to our
partners (about) 3,000 poor Kenyans will receive basic medical care,
reading glasses, free HIV testing, rape and sex abuse counseling,
cervical cancer screening, dental care and drug and alcohol