Heartland Woman Mobilizes Community, Builds Hospital in Kenya

By: Jacki Ochoa Email
By: Jacki Ochoa Email
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Visit the Naivasha Women's Health Care Centre Web site.

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A Heartland woman is dedicating her life to making sure other women have proper medical care. Her journey began about decade ago when she made a decision that would change her life and the lives of those living in an African town.

Naivasha, Kenya has become the rose capitol of the world. Women flock to the city for work, but the influx of women has had devastating impacts on the town's hospital.

"Bed capacity is 36," said a nurse at the Naivasha District Hospital. "But we find we hold even occasionally up to 70 patients."

Overcrowding has created appalling conditions inside the maternity ward. "Space heaters, we don't have incubators," a nurse said. "But what we are using, we are able to manage our babies. We are improvising."

A visit to Kenya with her husband in 2004 changed Cindy Berkland's life. She says most saw no solution to the poor hospital conditions, but she did.

"Most people thought I was a little nuts. 'You're gonna what? Build a hospital in Kenya?'" said Berkland.

It was her idea to build a new hospital and she wanted to do it with the Heartland's help.

"We ended up sending 14, 40-foot containers of medical equipment, which was enough to furnish the whole entire hospital," said Berkland.

The hospital equipment was donated by the Fremont Area Medical Center, Bryan LGH in Lincoln, and most of the hospitals in Omaha.

Berkland's organization, Friends of Naivasha, also raised about $1.2 million.

Even though more work and donations are needed, the Naivasha Women's Health Care Centre (NWHCC) opened at the end of June. The need was so great, they couldn't wait.

Mothers are thrilled. In the hospital's first month, there were 430 births and the staff achieved a 50% reduction in infant deaths.

"Of course in Kenya, they're asking me 'where are you going to build your next hospital?'" said Berkland. "And I'm like, I wanna sit back and enjoy this one."

And as she does, out on the back porch of her Waterloo home, Berkland knows she left the people of Naivasha empowered to care for each other.

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