My Trip to Africa with Every Mother Counts

Part one: EMC’s Kristen Kirkland reflects on her trip to Tanzania to improve maternal health. 

Kristen Kirkland is Every Mother Counts’ Running Program Director and Human Resources Director.She and a group of 25 runners, including EMC staff, members of our board, and supporters traveled to Tanzania to participate in the Kilimanjaro Marathon. Their goals were to raise awareness and funds to support EMC’s portfolio of programs that link women to critical maternal healthcare and also to celebrate our fifth anniversary as an organization.

Part One

Pre-travel

I was out of my comfort zone way before we started our trip to Tanzania. This was my first trip to a developing country and even though I’ve watched our films and done my homework, I had no real basis for what it was going to be like. I like being prepared and knowing what to expect and I realized early on that just wasn’t going to happen with a trip of this magnitude. I worried about things like my travel shots giving me weird side effects and how uncomfortable it would be flying for such a long time. I worried about being overwhelmed, about being in too many situations with dire circumstances, on the verge of tears, feeling hopeless or sad. Frankly, I was a little scared approaching this trip and one of the biggest lessons I learned was that I really didn’t need to be. I’d been intimidated to do this type of travel because of my preconceived ideas and the reality was that all along the way, every one of my worries turned out just fine. This experience was mind-blowing — so much greater and better than I’d anticipated.

Arrival

When we arrived in Tanzania, it was already dark and very hot. We’d left New York in 20-degree weather and arrived in Tanzania in the 80’s. It was glorious. We gathered our group and gear, cleared customs and climbed into a caravan of cars to travel to the hotel complex where we spent our nights in Africa. After introductions and a glass of wine, we divided up into separate houses and shared rooms with hopes of a good night’s sleep to prepare for our first full day in Africa.

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We began the next day with an early morning run (accompanied by a guide who made sure we didn’t get lost) to jolt ourselves into the new time zone. Along the way, we passed farmers walking to work and greeted everyone with our friendliest, “Jambo.” I’m sure we looked crazy; this big group of people running along the red dirt road, but everyone was friendly. I felt like I was in running camp for all our excitement. After we logged five miles, we returned to our rooms for showers and breakfasts of eggs, oatmeal, French toast and mangos. Then, we piled back into our caravan and headed out to Oldonyosambu and the clinic where Janet spent her labor in our documentary, No Woman, No Cry.

Read Part Two of Kristen’s blog here.

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