“If I can’t feed a hundred, I’ll feed one” is the mission statement that Michael Mutinda lives by daily. Growing up as the son of peasant farmers in Malikini village in Eastern province in Kenya, Mutinda knows what it is like to be truly hungry.
A two-year famine swept through his country when he was 9 years old, causing his family to lose much of their livestock. Mutinda would walk barefoot for two and a half hours (not including the return journey), twice a week, carrying a bundle of firewood on his back in exchange for a single cup of paddy rice.
Mutinda sought out higher education after graduating from high school and received a certificate in business studies from a Kenyan university.
He applied for the American Green Card Lottery Program in 2001, and upon receiving a permanent resident visa, Mutinda entered the United States in March 2003. His wife and daughter arrived in October the same year.
“I was grateful that the United States of America had given me a chance to pursue my dreams,” Mutinda said. “America was at war. The Army was seeking recruits. I knew it was risky, but it was the right thing to do.”
In March 2005, Mutinda became a naturalized citizen. He served tours in Korea and Iraq and went through a series of promotions in the Army. Two years later, he graduated with an associates degree in general studies from Central Texas College. He is currently enrolled as a first-year nursing student at UMHB.
Throughout his journey, Mutinda has not forgotten where he came from. He has a vision of helping his home country and has called upon the university to help him fulfill it.
Twelve nursing students along with a doctor, dentist and a faculty member will travel to Mutinda’s home village, Malikini, this summer to set up a medical camp.
Dr. Sharon Souter, dean of the College of Nursing, will also be a part of the first medical mission team that the college will send out.
“In the nursing department, we’ve continually been looking for a place to go and just needed a guide, a place or an idea, and this is it,” Souter said.
While on the trip, students will be working as nurses alongside Kenyan physicians performing assessments, handing out antibiotics, dressing wounds and possibly giving immunizations.
Senior nursing major Imani Innocent will be returning to Kenya for the first time since he lived there as a refugee.
Born in the city of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Innocent fled to Kenya during the Rwanada genocide to live in the Kakuma Refugee Camp for six years.
“Even though I’ve been there,” Innocent said, “it is all going to be new to me, just like my classmates.”
He remembers as a young boy when white people, or “mzungus” as the children would call them, would come to his village.
He said, “We would run behind them and touch their hair, but when I go I am not a mzungus, so I will not get that much attention.”
Innocent is fine with having the attention on his classmates and realizes the importance and significance of his role on the trip.
“Just because I am from Kenya doesn’t mean I can’t go back to be a missionary,” Innocent said.
“You could say that God sent me to America to be a missionary. Wherever you are, you are a missionary. God places you there for a purpose .… Whether I am in Kenya, the U.S. or Congo, I am representing Christ regardless.”
Mutinda hopes to establish and build a center that will allow missionaries across the globe to come into Malikini and provide spiritual and medical care for the locals.
He is currently helping put together a maternity center about 15 miles away to help with the loss of lives due to medical complications during delivery.
Souter hopes eventually to make this medical mission trip open to students annually and even allow them to save all their clinical hours to use in Kenya.
“We talk about people who don’t have a lot of running water and about people who are truly classified as Third World and what that means regarding healthcare, but I think to see it first-hand is always eye opening,” Souter said.
The College of Nursing will be selling T-shirts for $15 in the nursing office in Wells to help with the cost of supplies.
Mutinda said, regarding his mission statement, “I am not poor, and I am not rich, but I can do something.”