Safari Doctors: No Saviour Mentality
Umra Omar is the founder of Safari Doctors, an organisation amplifying an innovative healthcare model in under-served and hard-to-reach rural communities in Lamu, Kenya.
Lamu is a remote rural in the eastern coast of Kenya. The archipelago landscapes of the area make accessibility an expensive venture. A boat trip from one end of Lamu to another cost as much as $300, making easy access to healthcare and other social amenities sometimes unrealistic.
Depending on the availability of volunteering specialists, Safari Doctors work in collaboration with the Kenya Ministry of Health and other health partners take bi-monthly medical trips by boat, road and air to remote rural communities in Kenya to provide much-needed health services like immunizations, maternal and reproductive healthcare, respiratory infections treatment and communicable diseases treatment to people living along the insecure region.
More than 1000 people are treated per year. Many of the people serviced are people whose community have been destroyed by the Al-Shabaab militant group, who have been reported to have close affiliations with ISIS.
One of the most remarkable moments for Umra as a Safari Doctor was on July 24, 2016 when Safari Doctor set up a clinic at Kiangwe village. “A young lady walked up to me with her bundle of Joy called Yusuf. After two miscarriages and some complications we were able to facilitate her checkups with her last pregnancy. Like an eternal hug from the universe, she delivered a healthy baby boy! She welcomed us to her house for some fresh honeycomb – sweetness and joy I will always remember,” Umra recalls. “The lesson that I took home is that a very small act of kindness can go way further than your wildest imagination,” she told Rural Reporters.
In 2016, Umra Omar was named CNN Hero. She was the only African on the list of 10 people chosen globally to have impacted the world.
What is the most critical lesson you have learnt in working in the development sector, especially in providing services to underserved rural communities?, Rural Reporters asked Umra. Here is her response:
“This is a very valuable question. There are two lessons that I have learnt from working in the development sector with underserved communities. Number one is that there can be no saviour mentality, the truth of development is that the projects coming in benefit just as much if not more than the communities that they seek to serve. The same applies to the viscous aid programs that many developing nations are servants to. The second lesson is trust and humility because were it not for these communities that welcome us to work with them, then development is but a concept.”