Helping hand for Kenyan flood victims
Three weeks of battling mosquitoes and floodwaters in an impoverished part of Kenya is not everyone's idea of a good way to spend their annual leave, but when the chance came up, nurse Carman Kwok Yuk-lai jumped at it.
'I immediately thought of lending my help when a Red Cross staff member told me about sending people to Kenya,' said Ms Kwok, who returned last month from a stint providing medical care as well as health and hygiene education in the flood-ravaged Bura region.
'The desire to help people is in my blood. Joining an emergency relief trip is a way to show my care.'
After getting her hospital's approval, Ms Kwok, who is in her 30s, quickly packed her bags.
Along with her clothes, she packed mosquito repellents in spray, liquid, incense and roll-on form. Her elaborate preparation was to avoid catching mosquito-borne rift valley fever. An outbreak in recent weeks killed at least 140 people in Kenya. Ms Kwok - who also travelled to post-tsunami Aceh in 2005 to promote health education - was the only Hong Kong volunteer sent to Bura, where more than 200,000 people had been displaced by the flooded Tana River.
The team lived in a concrete house in which water and electricity supplies were often interrupted.
'There were always a hundred bugs flying around you or climbing on your hair,' she said.
'It was so hot at night that I couldn't fall asleep for the entire first week.'
Working from 7am to 9pm and travelling by four-wheel drive along the rugged trails were no easy task either.
She said she often felt very tired after many hours of travelling and treating patients.
But Ms Kwok said it was worth all the hard work when she could see people's lives being saved - or at least, their illnesses tended to. 'The roads connecting the villages to the main cities were blocked by the flood. It often took the villagers at least several hours to get to the hospital.
'But I will always remember the joy when we revisited a village and saw less people were sick after they had been given the appropriate medicine.
'What kind of happiness can be compared to this?'