Sarah Kenworthy is our 2pm guest speaker at our Expo. With a strong laugh, a big smile and an even bigger heart, it is no surprise that Sarah Kenworthy is so deserving of the Victorian Young Achiever Award in 2016. I sat down with Sarah to discuss her achievements and humanitarian work in Mannya, Uganda. Here, she volunteered in the health centre delivering babies, administering injections, travelling to remote villages and looking after the patients there. With the help of St. Bernard’s Belmont and the Cotton On Foundation, Sarah travelled to Uganda to work towards her dream of helping people in third world countries with her medical expertise.
While talking with Sarah, I found it astonishing how much these people lack that we in Australia take for granted. The children need to walk several kilometres for the only source of water, which is dirty; they have to go to bed as soon as dark falls as they have no lights; and the animals need to live inside in order to keep them safe and warm. Uganda has an alarmingly high maternity morality rate and many children die before reaching the age of five. In Uganda, patients must pay to see a doctor, meaning that they often cannot afford treatment that we would receive through free healthcare programs. On one occasion, a pregnant woman came into the clinic where Sarah worked with a urinary tract infection that she could not afford to have treated, and she cried when she could not afford a $1 item. “I realised how blessed we are in Australia,” Sarah says.
Sarah tells me about the many incredible people she met in Uganda, who demonstrate incredible resilience and positivity despite their hardships. One child with whom Sarah worked, called Immaculate has an intellectual disability that prevents her from communicating verbally. Due to the stigma surrounding her disability, her parents did not know how to handle her and tied her to a tree for years. As a result of the neglect, her fingertips and toes had been eaten away by rats. Despite the horrendous conditions in which she had grown up, Immaculate is very caring and has almost a fifth instinct about her friends’ needs. But Immaculate also has a cheeky streak, as Sarah tells me. While playing Uno, Immaculate would try to give Sarah the entire deck whenever she called Uno. “They don’t have much,” Sarah says, “but they are happy, friendly, and welcoming people.”
The gears in Sarah’s head had already been turning long before she arrived in Mannya. Knowing that solar lights were a cost-efficient and brighter option used by Rotary, Sarah trialled several lights before bringing solar panels over to the village in Uganda. It was an ingenious idea for the very sunny climate there, as a solar panel left in the sun provides up to 8 hours of illumination at night. The alternative with which the people in Uganda had been living was kerosene, which is toxic and burns easily. The costs for the solar lights were raised from an outstanding community effort from Rotary and Lions clubs, barbeques, cake stalls, school presentations, church fundraising, and articles in magazines both nationally and internationally. So when Sarah returned to Mannya this year, she monitored the progress of the already-installed solar panels, brought more money for additional solar panels, and provided further education from her Nursing and Midwifery studies.
I was humbled by her ongoing dedication and support for the villagers and her drive to bring her skills over to help people even further.
In 2016, Sarah was awarded with the Victorian Young Achiever Award for Volunteering as recognition of her selfless efforts to help the Ugandan people. “I was honoured and humbled,” Sarah tells me, and was especially awed by the community of helping that had been fostered in the region. Sarah is currently finishing her degree in Nursing and Midwifery, which will enable her to further improve the quality of life for people who don’t have the opportunity to.
Written by @Steph Downing
Be sure to register your place to hear Sarah speak at 2pm at the Humans in Geelong Expo on Sun 8th Sept at Deakin Waterfront, for more of her inspirational stories. www.humansingeelong.com for booking & Expo details.