While in a Kenyan village, a stranger noticed the lump above little Gladys’ nose, and the unwanted attention it was causing her. Rejection and ridicule is something Gladys was unfortunately accustomed to. In her village she had earned the nickname “nyang’au,” meaning “an animal.” This stranger took Gladys’ photo and later connected her with BethanyKids, an organization that is committed to compassionate pediatric care for children throughout Africa.
BethanyKids Director of Kenya, David Ng’ang’a explains, “In most places in sub saharan Africa, if a child is born with a medical condition that needs surgery, it complicates their life and that of their families. Most families don’t know where to go for help; and if by chance they find somewhere to take the child, most can’t afford the cost of care. Finding a place like BethanyKids where they are welcomed with love and compassion gives them hope, and in many cases, gives them their lives back.”
Knowing that children all across Africa need surgeries just like the one Gladys required, a Canadian surgeon working with BethanyKids decided to create a surgeon training program. In 2007, BethanyKids became the first site in East Africa for training pediatric surgeons accredited by the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa (COSECSA). One of their current students, Dr. Bethleen Waisiko says, “I look forward to training and growing grounded in surgical knowledge and skills in a Christ-centred, compassion-driven approach. It is my desire that my life and work during my training and practice as a pediatric surgeon will bring glory to God and be a blessing to those that I serve.”
Surgeons from all over Africa come to Kenya to study through BethanyKids. Since they continue to support their trainees after they graduate, BethanyKids now serves in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia. Peter Lublink, Executive Director of BethanyKids, who is based out of Canada notes, “The beauty of BethanyKids’ approach is that it’s not about bricks and mortar, but it’s about investing in people. By training surgeons our capacity to help others is exponential.”
Training more pediatric surgeons means that more children like Gladys can continue to be healed. Gladys was diagnosed with encephalocele and received life-changing surgery. “I want to be a teacher so that I can tell people not to laugh at others,” Gladys confidently shares. Because of the work of BethanyKids, Gladys has the opportunity to continue her education without the ridicule of her classmates.