Preparing For Rwanda

Tomorrow I depart for Rwanda to help deploy an open source medical records system in a rural health clinic in Gitwe. I will be joined by the incredibly talented Lucky Gunasekara, Steve Andersen and Jordan Smock. The OpenMRS system we’ll be deploying in Gitwe will initially be used to register and manage local HIV-positive patients, with plans to later be expanded to monitor TB, malaria and general patient care.

This past year I’ve tried to focus my efforts on initiatives where technology can drive social change. I am also particularly interested in the innovative ways mobiles are being used in Africa, especially in healthcare. So I am honoured to have the opportunity to collaborate with Lucky, whose work at Frontline SMSMedic is helping empower health workers in rural areas around the world.

The trip has come together in a rather short amount of time. I received the first email on December 29th asking if I was interested, and now six weeks later will be making the journey from Saskatoon to Kigali traveling through Calgary, London and Nairobi. Our team will also be installing the computer hardware which Steve, Jordan and myself will be bringing along with us.

Packing has been somewhat challenging, my first trip to Africa, I want to pack lite but also bring all the necessary items. Besides the two Samsung N150 10″ netbooks for the clinic, I’m also packing the following items. For clothes; Salomon trail shoes, Birkenstocks, pair of shorts, pair of MEC travel pants, long sleeve breathable MEC shirt and a breathable t-shirt. For medical items; Malarone, Cipro, Advil, Tylenol, Robacacet, Imodium, Gravol, Sinutab, Polysporin, Blistex, Purell, few band-aids and some travel probotics. Other items; Katadyne Exstream XR water bottle, Pristine water treatment drops, Ultrathon insect repellent, Ombrelle sunscreen, mosquito bed net, Petzel headlamp, Gerber multitool, universal power converter, sunglasses, hat, digital camera, an unlocked cell phone and finally a copy of Mountains Beyond Mountains.

Inspired by Stuff Your Rucksack, I am also bringing along several packages of pencils, pencil crayons, notebooks and pencil sharpers which hopefully will go to good use when we visit some nearby schools.

To better understand the important role technology can play in healthcare, checkout this great video on Partners In Health’s work in Rwanda.

I’m honoured to be involved in such an incredible project. I’m nervous and feel somewhat under prepared due to the nature of the trip coming together so quickly. But mostly I’m excited to have the opportunity to travel to Africa, which hopefully is the first trip of many.