GCU nursing college hosts Kenyan guests
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
Margaret Kigen bustles into Grand Canyon University’s Health and Wellness Center at exactly 7:30 a.m. and looks at her schedule. She has dreamed for years of being a nurse practitioner, and she considers her presence at the university God-given.
However, her job at the Center is only a portion of her vision. Kigen has spent four years establishing a relationship with government officials and educational institutions in Kenya focusing on ways to improve conditions and access to health care in her home county of Uasin Gishu — which is why Kigen walked with an optimistic smile Monday as she led a handful of Kenyan tourists through the University.
Kigen was 33 when she arrived at GCU from Kenya to pursue an education in nursing. Having studied at GCU and having earned her degree in 2010, Kigen said she saw what it meant to have and provide well-rounded care.
“When you look at the campus as a whole, there is intellect, there is physical demand, there is rigorous training and in between all of that, there is also room for spirituality,” Kigen said. “GCU has made me the caring and community-focused person that I am today with its mission of being global, diverse and giving.”
When Kigen left the city of Eldoret, the largest city in western Kenya, in the 1990s, AIDS-related illnesses had exploded in the community like a silent bomb. As in many developing countries, doctors were inaccessible and nurses were few. As a result, with many parents dying as a result and leaving children to become orphaned, Kigen decided to start a Christian home for the orphaned children.
“In my country, we believed AIDS was a type of witchcraft and not a true disease,” Kigen remembered. “People knew that I was a Christian, so one day I got home and I found that someone had left a child on my doorstep after the mother died from AIDS. It was then that I felt I had to do something for these children.”
The day she opened the doors to the Eldama Ravine Children’s Home, Kigen welcomed 24 children into a facility with five beds to spare. With an unanticipated number of little ones to care for, Kigen knew she had to do more to keep the home afloat.
While she was searching for greater opportunity at GCU, the experience opened the door to the rest of Kigen’s calling when she partnered with the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association, a local nonprofit that has a relationship with Uasin Gishu County. Through the nonprofit, Kigen connected with the government of Kenya, which pledged its support to build an infrastructure that includes a hospital, a university and community clinics.
“Of course we have to start from somewhere, so the goal for today is to understand the needs in Kenya and to see what can be done to improve conditions in Kenya by learning about what we have at GCU,” Kigen said. “We just want to translate what we have here into Kenya, and we are looking for open ways to see how GCU can be our backbone.”
Maria Quimba, assistant dean in GCU’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, led the Kenya group into discussions about the mission and vision in Kenya and explained GCU’s operations and services — including enrollment, tuition, advising and classroom curriculum and design.
“All of this starts with two unique components — the first is the student and second is the outcome of learning,” Quimba said. “At our college, the outcome of learning particularly is providing direct patient care. We are creating an opportunity for our students to learn as many skills as possible to go out into the workforce immediately.”
Quimba also answered questions about about social transitions and housing, building community relationships, developing activities throughout campus and online programs.
Following the presentation, guests toured the clinical skills labs and simulation rooms, where they learned about health assessments and exams and about the different types of available mannequins and equipment.
“We try to set it up each room like a small hospital unit so the students go through the motions of doing real nursing stuff,” nursing professor Crystal Bowman said. “My vision here is one day to act like a small nursing unit and do a multi-patient, interdisciplinary simulation where students have to take care of every patient in every bed. I like to tell my students that it’s the safest place to learn because even if they do something that would be unsafe, at the end of the day when they walk out of this setting, the mannequin is still alive.”
George Otwoma, a microbiologist from Kenya and a member of the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association, said he was amazed by the entire experience.
“There are so many ideas here that we can take back to Kenya,” he said. “I think we have realized that GCU has a number of things we could use to help our community.”
Quimba said she believes the project is the “start of something big.”
“Clear across the globe lives consist of trying to figure out where to work, how to feed the family and being able to stay alive, which is pretty basic for us here,” she said. “At GCU we talk a lot about the success of our students — their GPAs, their test scores, how we’re doing in the basketball games, but what strikes me is the character of our students. Everything [Kigen] does is so consistent with who she is and how she desires to be a servant in any capacity. It’s kind of funny because she’s very quiet, very unassuming, and yet she has all these great aspirations.”
Today, nearly 30 children live in Kigen’s orphanage, and she visits as often as she can while leading mission trips to Kenya.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected]