FORKSVILLE - A personal medical crisis helped inspire Kenya native Phenny Magaan to start EM3 International to help solve the health care crisis in her home country.
The goal of EM3, which stands for Endless Mountains Medical Missions, is bring the quality medical care offered in the United States to people living in rural areas in Kenya, including members of Magaan's family.
Magaan, who now lives in Bradford County with her husband and two children, suffered a miscarriage in 2001 that threatened her life.
Kenya native Phenny Magaan, left, was inspired by a personal medical crisis to start Endless Mountains Medical Missions International to help solve the health care crisis in her home country.
She said she survived because she had access to quality health care in the U.S. Had she been in Kenya when she suffered the miscarriage, she likely would not have fared so well.
"If I had been in Kenya, I would have died," she said. "My people needed something like this."
After praying on the subject for eight years, Magaan, whose husband is a pastor at Living Hope Fellowship, two miles north of Forksville along Route 154, began meeting with a group of women from the church, and together they decided something needed to be done to change the situation.
Sandy McCarty, who now serves as the organization's vice president, was surprised to learn many people in Kenya do not have access to even basic medical supplies such as bandages or over-the-counter pain relievers.
"It's amazing what people take for granted," McCarty said, comparing the situation with her own recent hospital visit. "What sets this ministry apart is that it is a direct route to helping people. In some organizations, there are too many people in between you and those you want to help."
The group's initial idea was to collect medical supplies to send to Kenya. However, Magaan said simply collecting the supplies and sending them would not do enough to make an impact on the vast need for quality health care, particularly in the rural areas.
"Just sending the medicine isn't going to get it into the right hands," Magaan said, noting most clinics are severely understaffed. Some clinics, she said, do not even have a doctor on staff to diagnose patients.
In government-run clinics in particular, Magaan said they have virtually no equipment, no disposable needles, nothing for women's health and no hygiene products.
"Government clinics do not even have Tylenol," she said.
The women of EM3, therefore, came up with a new plan - bring trained medical professionals to Kenya to set up 12 clinics in rural areas outside of Narobi, the capital city.
In October, Magaan traveled to Kenya to lay the groundwork for the ministry's planned arrival in June, including getting clearances from the Kenyan government.
While visiting the country, she got a first-hand look at what many people, including her own father, deal with on a regular basis at government operated and private clinics.
She said half-full medicine cabinets contain a clinic's medical supplies for an entire year, and patients must wait for hours outside the clinics on wooden benches before receiving only limited treatment.
With the groundwork in place, the organization now is looking to recruit the medical staff to travel to Kenya in June for three weeks to set up the 12 clinics and bring medical supplies to those who need them.
Magaan said the medical professionals will have everything they need on the ground in Kenya, including supplies, medical assistants, translators and places to stay. All the professionals will need to do is volunteer their time to what she believes is a worthy cause.
In addition to setting up the clinics, the organization hopes to lay the groundwork to provide people with quality drinking water, which the women believe will play a crucial role in creating sustainable healthcare and communities in rural Kenya.
Kathy Funari, an EM3 volunteer, said medical staff have no running water to wash their hands or instruments. Instead they use water from the river, and who knows how many more germs they are picking up in the untreated water, she said.
"Some people have to walk for hours one way to get water and then come back," Funari said. "We want to meet the immediate needs first, but then we want to address how we can make these communities self-sustaining."
For Funari and McCarty, their relationship with Magaan has inspired them to whatever they can to help others thousands of miles away.
"We're blessed to have Phenny because she has the insider's eye," Funari said.
The ministry has become a passion for all three women, because they know that while Magaan is blessed to now live in the United States, she very easily could have been one of the many thousands of people in need.
"Our slogan is EM3 International, meeting real needs of real people," Magaan said.
For more information about the organization, visit the website www.em3international.org.