Surgicorps Kenya 2019 – My Journey to Hekima Place by Melinda Handler

An hour’s drive, just West from the flurry of urban Nairobi, exists a tranquil, lush, ten-acre safe haven for orphaned, vulnerable African girls called Hekima Place. Undeniably it is built upon a foundation shaped by love. One must experience it personally to understand how exceptionally special it is.

I was one of seven volunteers from Pittsburgh who recently had the good fortune of visiting such a remarkable destination. We seven traveled to Kenya as representatives of Surgicorps International, a non profit organization that performs free surgeries, at local hospitals, to the poor in developing countries. Our purpose was to explore a hospital near Nairobi for a potential future mission. Kate Fletcher, the founder of Hekima Place, served as a gracious host during our 5-day stay in Africa.  We met many dedicated team members responsible for sustaining this well-organized refuge-evidence that it takes a village.

A small number of women stood out to me.  Affectionally called “House Mums,” these ladies committed their time solely to the youngsters, caring for them as if they were their own. By instilling trust, respect and unconditional love, they transformed houses into homes and established family-like bonds for otherwise girls with difficult lives.

As volunteers, we interacted daily with the children whose average age ranged between 8 months old and 14 years . Our group helped with school work and joined in play. We listened to one read with enthusiasm, as another multiplied with great certainty.  Jumping rope while giggling out-loud was a juggling act, at which I struggled. To the girls, it was effortless. During meal time, as we dined on the land’s local harvest, we learned of hopes and dreams, long term goals these small individuals had set for themselves. Further education was a common theme. One clutched her tiny braid between her fingers and spoke about becoming a doctor, while another , “I’ll be a counselor who helps kids one day,” after she gathered the empty bowls from the others around her. 

By connecting in these ways, we witnessed perseverance, self confidence and self love, in its highest form. These young ladies, who were once against the odds, granted us the opportunity to feel their present day joy and see firsthand how, with the power of loyalty, patience and unwavering commitment from another, one can flourish, regardless of past circumstances.

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