It’s not often that one gets to witness firsthand lives being changed for the better, but I was able to do just that when I visited CURE International in Kenya this past December. It was a humbling and inspiring experience that reminded me that changes often start with the “Power of One”—one person with a truly bold idea that can change the world.
The history of CURE
CURE International is a Christian nonprofit organization established in 1996 by Dr. C. Scott Harrison and his wife, Sally. A career orthopedic surgeon who had done work in Malawi, Dr. Harrison and his wife conceived of an organization that would bring life-changing orthopedic surgery to children living in underserved areas. Their charter included educating and training in-country physicians to improve the medical infrastructure in locations around the globe.
Here’s an excerpt from CURE’s mission statement:
CURE serves children who, because of their disabilities, are often the very last: The last to be included. The last to be protected from abuse. The last to be afforded dignity. And, sometimes, even the last to be given food in their own homes.
We say healing changes everything not only because it brings an end to physical pain but because it means restoration of dignity, protection from abuse, and inclusion in family, school, and culture.
CURE opened its first hospital in Kenya 1998, and now provides medical services in 29 countries, having performed more than 226,000 life-changing surgeries, and more than 3.1 million patient visits. The organization has trained more than 8,100 medical professionals (a key part of its goals). In addition to hospitals, CURE also has mobile units in many countries making it possible to visit and treat patients in remote locations.
New Relic and CURE
Several years ago, CURE CTO Joel Worrall gave an inspiring talk at New Relic’s FutureStack conference about his organization and its work to transform children’s lives throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. CURE began using New Relic in early 2013, starting with New Relic APM, and from the beginning it found New Relic essential in developing, supporting, and running all of the CURE sites and global IT operations. Today CURE uses all of New Relic’s offerings across our Digital Intelligence Platform, including New Relic Infrastructure.
My visit to CURE
This past December I traveled to Africa, and while there I was able to fulfill a long-time personal goal—to visit and learn about CURE Kenya. The experience was even more educational, inspiring, and motivational than I expected.
Africa is undergoing significant, rapid changes that often find tribal customs and old traditions running headlong into the 21st century digital world. So even in a place where everyone seems to own a smartphone, old beliefs run deep and many people continue to view birth defects as a “curse.” A large challenge for the CURE team is getting the patient’s family, friends, and neighbors to fully embrace the child post surgery—to view him or her as a valid member of the community. To achieve this outcome, the team must go beyond the patient’s physical recovery and also consider their emotional and spiritual recovery. Every person on the CURE staff, whether permanent or on a temporary mission, is deeply committed to the physical, emotional, and spiritual journey of each child in their care.
Abed Milelu, executive director of CURE Kenya, drove me from Nairobi to the hospital, which overlooks the stunningly beautiful Rift Valley in Kijabe. Abed took me on a tour of the CURE Kenya hospital, a compound with multiple buildings that house labs, surgery, laundry, orthopedic “manufacturing,” a teaching center, and more. Additionally, there are a limited number of residences on the property to house key medical and operations staff. I spent the night in the guest house, normally a home for visiting surgeons and medical staff.
Visiting the orthopedic lab and watching the staff build and fit prostheses, special shoes, or other orthopedic devices for patients was awe inspiring. Without the advanced manufacturing technology found in wealthier countries, the work this lab does is so impressive, truly changing one life at a time.
In some instances, providing a wheelchair to a patient provides the mobility to change their life—that is, if the patient can learn to navigate Kenya’s less-than-friendly infrastructure with its dirt and rock roads, few ramps, and numerous physical obstacles. To ensure each patient achieves maximum mobility, the staff has built an outdoor obstacle course where patients practice before leaving the hospital.
After completing the tour and visiting the patient wards and playroom, I was allowed to observe several surgeries. The logistics were straightforward: change into sterilized shoes and put on scrubs, a face mask, and a surgical cap. I was then able to enter the OR to watch the surgical team transform a child’s future. CURE Kenya is now the leading orthopedic surgery center in the country. The hospital has a solid track record, and lower infection rates than many U.S. hospitals that have the advantage of industrialized sterilization procedures.
The impact that CURE Kenya has had on the region is astounding. Orthopedic surgery has long been taken for granted in the United States, with knee- and hip-replacement surgeries among the most frequent. And yet, less than two decades ago, access to any orthopedic surgery in Kenya was limited and virtually non-existent in all but the most metropolitan areas. Today, CURE Kenya is recognized as one of the leading orthopedic surgical training programs in East Africa. In fact, Kenyan professional athletes often journey to CURE Kenya for orthopedic surgery when needed.
At the close of day, I spoke with Anchoress Christine Kithome and Spiritual Director Earnest Kioko about the challenges the organization faces. Our discussion helped me understand just how critical the emotional and spiritual aspect of patient care is to achieve the best outcome for each child. Christine has been with CURE Kenya from its beginning; she has grown with the organization and today is responsible for the spiritual ministry of CURE patients across all of Africa.
My day ended with an engaging dinner at the home of Dr. Francis Mbugua and his wife, Dr. Evelyn Wanjiru, along with their two delightful young children. Naphtali Foster, CUREkids Coordinator for Kenya, also joined us. Naphtali, who was my escort for much of the day, hails from Idaho and loves her work in Kenya photographing and writing about the patients. This was an especially joyous evening with lots of discussion about the changes going on in Kenya and across Africa, the growth of sports medicine in Kenya (a very new discipline), raising children, tribal culture and influences, CURE growth, spirituality, and more.
Now in 29 countries around the globe, CURE’s growth and impact in Africa, Asia, and Latin America offers an inspiring example of how a single idea—accompanied by commitment and passion—can grow, expand, and change lives, careers, and cultures. I was thankful for the visit and the chance to learn and understand the challenges facing others in the world.
Be sure to also read CURE International: Where Software Success Means More Kids Are Healed