My Return to Kenya

 

A note from FIGS founder Heather Hasson

A few weeks ago, Trina and I traveled with Project C.U.R.E. to St. Freda’s Hospital in Kitale, Kenya.  Kenya holds a special place in my heart as this is where many principles central to FIGS got their start.

The first time I went to Kenya was 2008. That trip was the most eye-opening, inspiring and rewarding experience of my life. I was working with doctors and nurses in small medical clinics and huts in the city of Kibera.  These medical professionals were clearly passionate about helping their patients, many of them walking over two miles every day to their clinics.  Unfortunately they lacked many resources and had to operate in dirty jeans and t-shirts, washing their clothes in nearby rivers.  Despite their best efforts, bacteria spread from their clothing to their patient and back.  I thought there had to be a way to help these people and recognized how much they needed uniforms to perform their jobs safely.  If I could outfit them in clean uniforms, I could reduce the spreading of disease and infection.  It was at that moment the idea that later became Threads for Threads was born. Since that first trip, for every set of scrubs FIGS sold, we sent a set of scrubs to the clinics in Kibera as well as to other countries around the world.

During this recent trip, it really hit me how far FIGS has come since my first trip.  Project C.U.R.E. had shipped a 40 foot container with medical supplies and equipment (including our scrubs) to Kitale in advance of our trip. At St. Freda's Hospital in Kitale, we met Caroline, one of the nurses had grown up in the area. Caroline makes a couple thousand dollars a year and uses that money to buy the basic necessities – shelter, food and water. She had never owned a pair of scrubs.  The look in her eyes when she received her scrubs is forever ingrained in my mind and heart.  It is hard to describe what I saw in words but being there with her brought tears to my eyes.  She immediately changed into her scrubs and her entire demeanor shifted – she stood up a little straighter, smiled a bit brighter, and thanked us profusely for what she called “a gift from God.”  I had long memorized all the factual statistics behind benefits of our scrubs, but this was the first time I experienced the emotional impact of putting on one’s first official medical apparel - that same pride that you see radiating from white coat ceremonies for first year med students compounded a hundred fold.

I know it will take a long time to change the face of global poverty, but if we can change how people think and feel about themselves, we are one step closer to changing society at large.  Maybe I am being a bit idealistic, but my experience with Caroline moved me on a deeper level.  I realized that despite growing up in radically different circumstances, we all ultimately want the same things.  We all want to feel good when we wake up in the morning. We all want to throw ourselves into something we’re passionate about. We all want to be recognized for our hard work.  We all want to be part of a team, a community larger than ourselves.  And I saw how something as simple as a uniform can capture all of these feelings. 

I can’t wait until my next trip to Kenya and share where we will be then! See more photos from our trip in our Facebook gallery here.

-Heather

P.S. I'd also like to give a shout out to the folks at Project C.U.R.E. Your reach and impact is truly exceptional!