Presidential scholar leads medical outreach team

A team of American and Rwandan pre-medical students studying in the United States are in Rwanda during Summer break to offer free medical services alongside their colleagues from the University of Rwanda.
Health4Rwanda students on medical mission. (Athan Tashobya)
Health4Rwanda students on medical mission. (Athan Tashobya)

A team of American and Rwandan pre-medical students studying in the United States are in Rwanda during Summer break to offer free medical services alongside their colleagues from the University of Rwanda.

The team, named Health4Rwanda, visited Shyara Health Centre in Bugesera District where they conducted workshops on good healthcare practices. They also donated free medical kits, wheelchairs, water cleaning solutions and detergents among others.

The team of volunteers serves alongside Rwandan health practitioners in health centers and hospitals to treat patients.

The short-term Medical Mission began in 2014 targeting health centers located in remote areas by conducting outreach trips to educate local citizens on personal and homestead hygiene and menstrual health etiquette for women and girls.

According to the Founder of Health4Rwanda; Grace Umutesi, her team’s future plan is to introduce voluntary clinics in the country and also bring a number of volunteering American medical practitioners in to offer free healthcare at health centers.

“We want to develop a spirit of service and outreach within medical students and medical practitioners which will contribute to eradicating the healthcare problem in remote areas and throughout the country. We want to be the feet that walk miles to extend the hand of free services, “she said

Umutesi is a graduate from Oklahoma Christian University as a Presidential Scholar with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Biology.

She won herself the presidential scholarship after emerging one of the best Science students in the national examination in 2010 from Gisenyi Science School.

Umutesi’s dream is to introduce free medical clinics in the country and she hopes to achieve this through donations from well-wishers.

“I used to volunteer in clinic at school (Oklahoma University) and I loved the idea of how all the people who worked there worked passionately for no pay. I thought that if I introduced the same idea to Rwanda it would have a bigger impact,” she said

The devoted medical volunteers have so far traversed all the health centers in Bugesera.

According to Umutesi, the team is organizing another mission trip tentatively slated for next summer holidays.

“We shall decide on another district or any other area that the Ministry of Health allocates us, because we work closely with the ministry,” she said

Specioza Habanimana, 43, a resident of Shyara Sector who was one of the trainees of the program told The New Times that the knowledge attained from the medical students would improve her health and that of her entire family.

“This training is going to help us prevent some unnecessary illnesses that originate from poor hygiene. This is a good indicator that our children do not simply go out in expensive schools to waste government money but instead they have been raised to have heart to serve their country. We thank the government for offering opportunities to our children to study in America and other developed countries, “said Habanimana, a mother of three.

Habanimana words of gratefulness were echoed by the Director of Nyarugenge health centre in Bugesera District; Philippine Kanyera Gakwaya.  

“This free basic healthcare knowledge shared and the attention given to local people helps to reduce a significant number of diseases hence reducing on the number patients we receive. We never get to reach out to such a huge number of citizens, this is special, and we believe people have benefited from the healthcare tips,” he said

Indeed a few other selfless scholars have come on board to serve.

American native Briana Leonard, a pre-physician assistant at Oklahoma Christian University said that there is a lot that is still needed in Rwanda’s health sector, but compassionate service and medical-mission trips can add an immense contribution.”

During medical mission trips, these scholars not only impact the local people's lives, but the team also gets exposed to the realities of medical fieldwork.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw