Written by Hannah Bain. Contributions by Jared Wilson.
When Jared Wilson had finished standard eight (grade eight) in 2006, he lost his father. He passed away at home, without a nurse or doctor attending to him and without visiting a hospital for care. That was the moment Jared realized the need for localized healthcare and greater health education in his community.
After losing his father, Jared moved to Kibera to stay with his older brother. Soon after, his brother lost his job and left the community. Jared then decided to bring his younger brother from their home up-country to stay with him in Kibera. At the time, his brother was in class seven (grade seven). Jared finished high school in Kibera while his brother attended Olympic Primary School in the community.
For a few years, Jared worked in construction, doing tiling, before finding a path into medicine like he had always dreamed of. His brother also continued with his education and is now practicing law.
“I lost my father due to lack of care, which made me want to study in the medical field,” Jared said. “Because I was on my own, I struggled to pay my school fees throughout high school and did not score as well as I would have liked on my final exams. Though I did not qualify for some programs, I persisted and was able to find a path to study clinical medicine in college, fulfilling my dream of becoming a medical professional.”
A Commitment to Communities
Inspired by Jared’s tenacity and intelligence, Africa Kids in Need (AKIN) collected donations to cover the cost of his college tuition, giving him the freedom to explore volunteer and internship opportunities while completing his degree.
“During my years studying clinical medicine, I realized that many organizations were offering services but not actually meeting the needs of the people,” Jared said. “Many people cannot afford healthcare, and some cannot even afford to travel to hospitals for care.”
Equipped with technical knowledge and a commitment to providing high-quality, affordable healthcare, Jared searched for opportunities to apply his skills and perspective with a like-minded organization. While in school, his younger brother had gotten involved in CFK’s education and livelihoods programming, and Jared reached out to learn more about opportunities available at the organization.
“I ended up working with CFK for about four years, supporting the operations of different education and livelihoods projects,” Jared said. “I also volunteered as a Clinical Officer at Tabitha Medical Clinic for a few months while I was completing my degree.”
Jared’s experience with CFK reinforced his dedication to providing accessible healthcare in high-poverty areas. It also taught him that education – especially for youth – plays an essential role in promoting positive health outcomes. After graduating from college, Jared returned to CFK to provide young people with career advice and help them plan for life after high school.
From Student to Social Entrepreneur
In early 2021, Jared and his cousin opened their first clinic in Dandora, thanks to a loan from AKIN. Located in the eastern part of Nairobi, Dandora is an informal settlement and the site of one of Africa’s largest landfills. Many Dandora residents make a meager living by sorting through trash and finding items to resell. Nearly all of them are regularly exposed to toxic smoke from burning trash, leading to high rates of respiratory illnesses in the community.
“My cousin and I chose to open the first clinic in Dandora last year because movement was restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jared explained. “We thought that if we could provide 24/7 healthcare services locally, we could really help. We were filling a gap, as a lot of people got sick at night and there was nothing they could do. They could not afford transportation, so we decided to meet them where they were.”
When COVID-19 forced countries worldwide to shut down in March 2020, Kenya imposed a strict curfew, limiting movement from 7 PM to 5 AM every day. While emergencies didn’t stop for the curfew, many were afraid to violate the restriction due to reports of police brutality throughout the country. Women who went into labor from dusk to dawn often gave birth at home, and many others in need of critical care were forced to postpone trips to the hospital due to financial constraints and sparse transportation options.
During this time, Jared remembered a patient – a young boy – arriving at his clinic with a bladder blockage. He had delayed seeking care until the pain was unbearable, as it was during curfew and he had no money to pay for the services. Without a second thought, Jared and his team quickly relieved the boy’s pain and discharged him without requesting payment. Days later, the boy returned, paid for the services, and began working at the clinic. He now refers many young people for services at the facility.
A Look Inside the Clinics
In addition to offering healthcare services in Dandora, Jared and his team lead health education with patients because “prevention is better than a cure.” Currently, the clinic offers services ranging from counseling, family planning, and baseline tests for HIV, malaria, and TB to minor surgeries, wound care, and circumcision. The most common ailments Jared sees on a day-to-day basis are upper respiratory infections, STIs, and urinary tract infections.
“We do the consultation for free and then advise patients on their ailments and a plan for their care,” Jared said. “Sometimes, we are forced to lower the price of drugs to meet the needs of the people. That can be difficult on us financially, but we want to make sure that we are providing accessible care and meeting people’s needs.”
After witnessing the level of demand for services at the clinic in Dandora, Jared decided to open a second location. Between the two clinics, Jared and his team of four serve around 300 patients per month.
While the team is small and works long hours to ensure continuity of care, they find purpose in their work every day.
“The ability to be there for a patient is what keeps me going,” Jared said. “We are motivated to work and are willing to work tirelessly, without complaining, to make sure each and every patient is attended to. Many times, patients will come back and thank us after we have provided them with services, and that is very special to me; this gives meaning to life, especially when patients walk out of the facility smiling”.
Though Jared has already opened two clinics in one year, he has no intention of slowing down.
“I have a very broad future plan to ensure these clinics are running well, and I plan to open clinics in other locations, especially in the community I come from up-country and in Kibera,” Jared said. “Those areas molded me, and I feel a responsibility to give back and improve lives for others living there. I am also looking forward to having a well-equipped laboratory for testing samples from our patients.”
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