FLAGLER BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Dr. Scott Smith never had designs on building a hospital but when he realized how difficult it was for him to provide medical care to residents of rural Kenya, he decided to take on the challenge.
“I've gone on medical mission trips throughout the world, since 1999, to make the world a healthier place,” said the doctor of osteopathic medicine
during an interview at his Flagler Beach home before venturing out to bicycle across the state of Florida during a recent weekend to raise money for the hospital. “They are living at the edge of the world.”
Getting approval for a hospital in the area wasn’t easy, Smith said, because many of the Maasai, native to the country, live on government-owned ranches and don’t intermingle. “It's very political,” Smith said, noting that the nearest private health system is four hours away and that public health care is virtually nonexistent.
What makes the hospital Smith is working to build possible is that it will be located on the “land trust” campus missionaries Ken and Sandy Taylor built to house the Kimana School of Leadership and Professional Studies, he said.
“I thought about it and prayed about it,” said Smith, who was raised in Tanzania.
It's not the only big thought Smith has worked to fulfill, said Dr. Warren Bruhl, a friend and fellow director of the nonprofit Dreamweaver International, through which funds are raised for the hospital and a number of other projects.
“Truly, Dr. Smith is a local hero who goes about his business of serving with little desire for accolade but instead focuses his love for healing on some of the poorest people on the planet,” Bruhl said in an email.
Smith trains doctors through the Rocky Vista Osteopathic College in Colorado during regular mission trips, Bruhl said, and makes four to five trips a year to Kenya. “Instructors come with 10 to 12 students,” Smith said. They travel with whatever supplies can be carried in a Land Rover to treat those living in the Kimana Rift Valley near Mount Kilimanjaro.
The hospital will not be a “square box,” Smith said. The hospital's design will mimic the round huts with low roofs typical of the area. He's chipping away at the hospital “one project at a time.”
A deep well was dug on the property since the beginning of the year, Smith said, and two septic tanks were installed. The next step is to build a bathroom with showers and living quarters to house the volunteers who provide services, whether medical or construction. “The building will be cement with the waiting room in the center,” Smith said. “The waiting room will be covered but open. Around the waiting room (built as spokes off it) will be doctors' offices, a pharmacy and X-ray facilities.”
Smith estimates the waiting room portion of the hospital will cost $20,000.
Smith along with this daughter, New Smyrna Beach resident Beret Meyers, and five others rode bicycles from High Bridge through Palatka to Cedar Key, raising more than $7,000 for the project. The named the event “Biking for Higher Mission.”
Meyers, a photographer and videographer who once worked as a Palm Coast firefighter, said the event will become an annual event.
“There are other ways people can donate money to the project,” she said. More information is available online at razoo.com by typing in Mount Kilimanjaro Mission Hospital.
“In some cases, the simple lack of adequate antibiotics or other medication is the determinant in life and death,” the site states. “Many suffer with debilitating pain and chronic disease including HIV, arthritis, gout, diabetes, and a host of other conditions. Lack of adequate clean water, healthy food, and poor living conditions are strong contributors to the condition of many people.”
Smith said the hospital will be a faith-based facility. “This is God's project,” he said. “I'm not in charge. I'm just the tool.”
MAKE-SHIFT HOSPITAL: In this December 2013 photo, Dr. Scott Smith cares for an 85-year-old Maasai woman who suffered a hip fracture and required emergency treatment in the bush of Kenya.