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W&L Alumna on Year-Long Mission in South Africa

As a student at Washington and Lee, Keri Klein Geiger participated in a service trip to Nicaragua with Bridges to Communities. It had a lasting impact and is, in part, why the 2008 W&L alumna is spending a year in South Africa.

After she graduated from W&L with a degree in biology, Keri earned her R.N. from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Nursing and went to work as a labor and delivery nurse in Richmond.

That Nicaragua trip, as well as service trips she had taken with her church in high school, were never far from her mind, though.

On her fascinating blog, Unto the Ends of the Earth, Keri describes what she found especially frustrating about the Nicaragua trip she made during her W&L years.

“There I was trying to build a latrine,” she writes, “and I couldn’t even hold the hammer right! I decided then and there that I would do another service trip, and this time I would use the skills I had been given in a place where they were needed.”

And so she is.

In August, Keri left her Richmond home and her husband, Richmond Times-Dispatch writer Jacob Geiger, of the W&L Class of 2009, and headed to Hawston, South Africa, a small fishing village along the southern coast. She is participating in a missionary trip with Young Adult Service Corps of the Episcopal Church. Her assignment was facilitated by HOPE Africa, which is based in Cape Town and runs hospitals, clinics and programs for children across southern Africa.

Instead of hammers this time, Keri is making full use her nursing skills in Hawston Hospice, formally the Overstrand Care Center.

As Keri describes Hawston Hospice in one of her posts, “It is really more of a rehabilitation facility that a hospice. Some patients are terminal, but many are not. Patients are admitted for a variety of reasons. Some are coming from the hospital, and are not quite ready for care at home, so we take care of them until they are stable enough to be cared for by their family members. Others are usually cared for at home, but come to the center if a certain issue flares up, or if the family needs a respite from care.  There are usually 8 patients in the clinic.”

One of only two nurses at the facility, Keri will assist the supervising nurse but will also be joining the home-based “carers,” comparable to certified nursing assistants in the United States, on visits to patients’ homes.

To get a clearer picture of what Keri is doing, you need to check her blog, which features lots of photos of the scenery as well as her clinic and her travels in South Africa: http://untotheendsoftheearth.blogspot.com/