A TEAM of Stockbridge osteopaths have embarked on a trip to Kenya to aid women and girls subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).

Owner and practice principal of Stockbridge Osteopathic Practice (SOP) Emma Wightman, has been travelling out to the east African nation providing free healthcare and support to FGM victims since 2010, but this time colleagues Tracey Jefford and Joe Batey have joined her mission.

The trio flew out on Saturday 28, October, and will be working for humanitarian aid organisation Divinity Foundation in remote parts of the country for three weeks.

In dealing with the effects of the illegal practice, particularly in the Maasai communities, many victims Emma has previously treated have had pelvic inflammatory disease, painful periods, internal and external scarring, infection, severe complications in childbirth alongside extreme trauma.

She said: “It’s tough no doubt about it, it is very difficult to get your head round why would anybody do that to anyone else and it is the women that do it. You think if they have been through it how can they do it?

“Tracey and Joe did not take much persuading in coming out with me as it is such an opportunity to use osteopathy in a completely different environment and really challenge yourself professionally outside of the four walls of a nice clinic.

“The appeal is the challenge and working with unexpected conditions, in a completely different culture and treating what you can imagine is completely different from what we see in the UK.

“You have to be flexible in your approach, that is a challenge getting away from what you know, there are little resources and you maybe the only person this patient has seen. You have to be putting on a lot of different hats here, a doctor, nurse, osteopath, social worker, children protection agent and others.”

Divinity Foundation send out teams of health professionals three or four times a year to aid women and girls, but the charity also provides education and promotes alternative rites of passage to cutters in workshops, to show them how their beliefs can still be upheld without having to use FGM.

During one of Emma’s five trips working with the charity, the health worker helped set up a girl’s rescue centre which is now named the Emma’s Angels project.

The rescue centre was established to protect girls at imminent risk of FGM and cannot go back home, therefore assuming guardianship, taking care of the children’s schooling, healthcare and safety.

The SOP team raised nearly £1000 to fund the expedition but are still welcoming donations which could go towards medication, mosquito nets and the expansion of the rescue centre to cater for young women.

Emma said: “I think most of my work this year will be with the rescue centre protecting these girls from FGM and supporting them in their next project which is building a boarding house for older girls.

“We have taken these girls out of their families and surroundings and they are in between so building a young adults vocational training and finding other communities to join is new work to do.”

To donate to the SOP team’s work visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/humanitarianosteopath