Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Victoria's and Evelynn's watertanks

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I saw Victoria's and Evelynn's water tank yesterday. We were on Margaret Muriuki's farm where we were assessing the practical skills of the applicants for the horticulturist position. She has one of the PHFAMS greenhouses which has tomatoes which have just started production.

Inflation in Kenya

Inflation in Kenya is reaching 19%, according to Jennifer Murogocho and Shaad Olingo.
They tell me about the price of petrol which has gone up from 85 shillings per litre at the beginning of the year to 125 shillings per litre today. The price of a tank of cooking gas has gone from 2150 to 3900 shillings.
The price of cooking fat has gone from 120 to 260 shillings.
The price of 2 kg of sugar has gone 160 to 375 shillings for a 2 kg packet.
Shaad says everything has gone up- especially the prices of spare parts for vehicles. He says that most people just drive their vehicles when they have to.
But farmers can still expect prices to go down when their crops are harvested. All of Kenya has received a lot of rain and everyone expects a good harvest.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Getting stuck on the way back from Kamuketha School

Shaad Olingo and I visited the Kamuketha Primary School yesterday.
The road was difficult to drive over because of the damages from the rain during the past month.
After we had a good visit with the head teacher at the school, the skies started to darken and Shaad said we should get going back to the Mbaaria Market because he expected rain.
We no sooner got into the Gypsy than it started to rain hard.
We got about 500 metres for the school when we stopped- and Shaad tried to get to the upper side of a low spot on the road. However the Gypsy couldn’t make it to the upper side. We tried many times to get out- until we were crossways on the road with the rear tires in the low trench.
Meanwhile it was raining harder and harder and Shaad conceded that we were stuck.
Shaad decided to telephone for help- but there was no network on Shaad’s telephone- and I searched in my bag for my Kenyan phone. It wasn’t there- but my Canadian phone was in a zippered pocket where I had put it away.
In desperation I tried to call Jennifer on my Canadian phone- which showed two bars of network. It worked- and her voice was very clear. We asked her to call the Kamuketha head teacher so he could help us. He then called us back and promised to help.
The head teacher came with more than a dozen boys and a Kenyan hand plaited rope. They hooked the rope under the bumper and pulled the car out of the trench up to the high ground. (The Gypsy is quite light).
The boys escorted us until it was obvious to them that we would not get stuck again. The head teacher got into the back of the Gypsy and travelled with us to Kinyinjere. He helped again when we encountered an ox cart which was stuck- the wheels on one side were in a trench and his oxen would not pull together to get it out.
This was not nearly as traumatic as when Karl Winter and I got stuck in this area during the El Ninya rains. Then there was a foot of water on the road and you could not see the trenches.
But it made for an interesting safari.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Safari Njema!

Written by Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith and Danielle McConnell

We started off our last week in Kiiura and at St. Teresa’s with our third and final presentation to hospital staff. This presentation included a summary of our internship where we shared our favorite moments and some of our learning experiences. We ended the presentation with recommendations for the hospital based on our work there as requested by the sisters. Our original presentation was on Monday morning, however we repeated it on Thursday afternoon so that all hospital staff were able to be present and anyone who wasn’t able to come Monday had the opportunity to hear what we had to share.

On Tuesday our original plan was to visit Ruju school to complete the last of our school presentations, however there is currently a teacher’s strike occurring in Kenya and school did not commence like it was supposed to. That left us with time to make some home visits to clients from the HIV support group mentioned in the last blog that were to receive a goat. We set out on a goat mission and were able to purchase and deliver 4 of the 6 goats to the clients’ homes. They were all very grateful and the home visits allowed us to met some of their family members who will also benefit from a goat.

Wednesday’s have been our favorite day throughout the summer because they are always a big surgery day when all the main surgeries for the week are taking place. Each Wednesday we have been assisting in the theater and have come to love working there. The theater is also where a lot of our learning took place over the summer because the doctors and nurses were great teachers. We were sad that Wednesday was our last day working there and thanked the staff by bringing some Canadian baking goods to show our appreciation.

We also made some other Canadian dishes that we shared with our friends, the sisters and hospital staff on Thursday after our presentation. We gathered in the guesthouse with our company to share one of our last evenings together and say our goodbyes. We can’t believe that 90 days has come and gone so fast and it is the time for our friends and colleagues to say ‘Safari njema’ (safe journey) and send us on our way. We are sad to say goodbye to our new friends, not knowing when we will see each other again, but we know that our work here is not finished and that their kindness will never be forgotten. One wise Daktari left us with these words:

“Go forth into the world in peace and of good courage
Strengthen the weak and faint-hearted
Render to no man evil for evil
and may the presence of god be with us
His power enables you peace with god assure today and always.”

We will miss you Kiirua!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

HIV Support Group

By Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith and Danielle McConnell

This month we had the opportunity to join in on a HIV support group meeting at the CCC clinic at St. Theresa’s hospital. The HIV support group was established in 2008 and has had up to 62 members but numbers have been dwindling over the past few years. The day we attended the meeting there were 30 clients that travelled from up to an hour away, however the month previous, there were only 18 members present. We did a presentation to the group about HIV transmission, prevention, and HIV in pregnancy. The clients had a lot of questions about their weight and how to know what is a healthy weight so we ran back to the guesthouse and brought back our scale, measuring tape and calculator. We took each client’s measurements and calculated their BMI and taught them what it meant. We also took the opportunity to record the results. There were 6 clients with BMI’s below 18.5 indicating underweight nutritional status.

The hospital receives fortified flour from USAID for client’s who are HIV positive with a BMI under 16, which indicates severe malnutrition. However, none of the clients at this time qualified for this supplementation, despite their poor nutritional status. Thanks to the support of the UPEI School of Nursing, each member at the meeting received a bag of maize flour and a bunch of fresh kale as well as lunch (ugali and gtheri) with tea. Two weeks later, some of the members who are struggling to have enough food received maize and beans. We also discovered that the money donated by UPEI school of Nursing helps pay for medication fees of clients who come in to the hospital with opportunistic infections as well as supply the HIV testing kits.

After several weeks of doing HIV outreach in 4 different communities, doing home visits, and spending time in St. Theresa’s Comprehensive Care Clinic (CCC) we feel that the HIV support group has the potential to grow and be a beneficial resource in the community. We have envisioned the group becoming like the Muchuii or Ruuju women's groups. We would love to see the group be more than just an educational and psychosocial support group, but also help in assisting with sustainable living needs. If the group could help provide client's with nutritional, transportation, and perhaps employment needs, then this might attract more members that otherwise wouldn't come because of stigma, while improving the health of the clients, therefore increase the lifespan of the HIV positive client. Just as the Muchuii group employs some of the women, members could run the support group.

To gather more information and ideas for strengthening the support group at St. Theresa’s we visited the CCC at Meru General hospital. There are 5 different support groups based out of the clinic that meet every month and provide for the members in different ways, depending on their need. The 5 support groups consist of two groups for HIV positive clients, one group for HIV positive youth, a group for caregivers of HIV positive family members and a support group for hospital staff.
We were very impressed that there is such an interest in the support group at Meru that there are two different groups for HIV positive clients and that support is offered to such a wide population. We hope that someday there will be such participation and interest in the group at St. Theresa’s.

For now we have decided that the best way we are able to help the support group and it’s members is to assist the client’s with low BMI’s and nutritional status. The 6 members with low BMI’s have a poor nutritional status, however are not in enough need according to the USAID guidelines to be supported and recognized to receive nutritional supplements such as fortified flour. With money that was kindly donated from Winsole United Church we have arranged to buy goats for 6 members in the group with BMI’s under 18.5. Our time in Kiiura is coming to an end and we are hoping to purchase the goats and bring to their homes by the end of the week. In the past, students have purchase goats for clients in need and we believe these 6 clients’ will benefit from a food source that can be sustained over a long period of time.

Our hope of transforming the support group into a group similar to the Muchuii or Ruuju women’s groups is something that we realize cannot happen over night. We have purchased bags made at Machaka Orphanage to bring home to Canada to sell in order to raise more money to support the group and we hope that with the help of UPEI and Farmer’s Helping Farmer’s we can continue to work towards establishing more resources for the support group at St. Theresa’s Hospital.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ruuju Women's Clinic

By: Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith, Danielle McConnell, & Hannah Hughes

This week we had the pleasure of returning to the Ruuju area to hold a clinic for the Ruuju women’s group. We hadn’t been to the Ruuju area since our first week in Meru, so we were excited to go back and re-assess the women. With 47 women in attendance, we assessed 15 more women than during our first clinic in June. Most of the women brought their health cards that we gave them in June, and some even came with the cards that the nursing students gave last year. We offered the same assessments as for the Muchuii Women’s group including: Blood Pressure, oxygen, blood glucose, height, weight, BMI, waist circumference, and HIV testing. The forty-seven women gathered at the school and chatted and waited patiently as we made our way through all of their assessments, which took us 3 hours. As we began our assessments, Dorcas began educating the women on HIV and the importance of being testing. We weren’t exactly sure what she was saying but she had the whole place in laughter! Every woman was tested for HIV and they expressed a strong interest in having us come back to offer testing for their husbands.

When we were all finished, one of the older women taught us the handshake of a happy woman, which she did with each of us. All the women gathered outside as we were leaving and sent us off with a song and dance!

This week we also picked up 25 nursing scrub tops from Ester, one of the Muchuii women who is a seamstress. We picked out a bunch of different Kenyan materials and brought them to Ester with one of our scrub tops from Canada which she used as a template to make the Kenyan scrubs. We are very happy with how they look; they are so very nice! We plan to bring them back to PEI to sell and to return all money raised to help fund some of the Muchuii women's group projects.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Update on the Cookhouse

By Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith, Danielle McConnell, & Hannah Hughes

On Tuesday after our day at the hospital, we walked down to Kieni-kia-Ndege school to see how the building of the new cookhouse was progressing. We were really shocked yet excited to see how far along the building of the cookhouse has come in just two weeks (picture above). It was coming close to what would be the end of a Canadian workday, but there were still about five men working hard showing no signs of stopping. They have been working hard over the last two weeks and plan to be finished in another two weeks. They explained to us that they could finish sooner, but they want it to be perfect. There were also two new water tanks on the property that will be put up, along with one almost finished handwashing station. We look forward to visiting the school again in the September when the children have returned to class.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Research Project Coming to an End!

by: Hannah Hughes

The last couples of weeks were busy, and have flown by! I continued on with my home visits, and have finished up most except two of them. I feel as though I’ve been able to see and experience so much the past couple of months by the Muchui women kindly letting me into their homes, but I am sad to see my time working in the community coming to an end! I am so excited to see the final results of this project, after part two has been completed in two years time. I’m grateful to have been able to be a part of it!

On August 4th, Harrison and I got to go on a little adventure with three of the Muchui women who we have been working with, Emily, Dorene, and Cecilia. They let us tag along for the day while they went to collect wood on one of the hills in the Kiirua area. We were able to collect wood on Dorene’s farm, as she owns land on most of the hill. It is illegal to take wood from land that you do not have permission to be on, so these women are lucky to know someone nearby who has trees that can be cut for firewood. We walked about 2 kms from Emily’s house to Dorene’s, and then proceeded up the mountain another km before we could start collecting wood. There is an area of 2-3 kms once you get to the top of the hill that these women usually collect wood from. As I tried to help out, I learned very fast that they have precise methods of collecting firewood. There are specific sizes of wood that they collect, and certain types that they don’t collect at all. I suppose this makes sense that the women would develop a strategy of what works best if they must collect wood anywhere’s from three times a week to everyday. While Harrison documented our adventure, I got to help the women cut down wood. At first I was a little nervous of swinging the huge machete, but after a little while I got the hang of it. Although, me getting the hang of it doesn’t mean I was able to cut down wood very efficiently. It is extremely hard work, and the women thought it was hilarious how terrible I was at cutting wood. So even though I wasn’t able to contribute as much help as I would have liked to, I provided them with some entertainment for the day. It was a great experience, and has really put into perspective how hard the Muchui women have to work to provide for their families every day. I have so much respect for them.

As schools have closed for the term, a lot of them have been busy with projects while the students are absent. We stopped at Kinyinjere Primary School one day on our way home from home vists, and there was a lot going on there! The school has been getting prepared for their new water tanks by building the bases for them, and the entire school (except for the new addition donated by the VanLeeuwens) is currently being painted to brighten the school up! Along with those projects, the school is also harvesting their crops (which did very well this year) in order to sell them and make a profit to support the students in the upcoming school year. It is great to see them doing so well.

The nursing girls summed up the last little while pretty well. It was very sad to see Harrison and Amy leave, and exciting to welcome the Italians! It is hard to believe that we will be arriving in Charlottetown a month from today! Time has flown by.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Goodbyes and Hellos!

Written by Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith and Danielle McConnell

Monday was a sad day here at St. Teresa’s as we said good-bye to Amy and Harrison, as they took off to Nairobi because their 90-day internship has come to an end. We are now down to the mzungo 4 and cannot believe how quickly our time here is passing. We began last week at the St. Teresa’s hospital with a presentation to the staff from Amy and Harrison on Monday morning. They summarized the work and projects that they have been doing in the community and hospital, and the staff were delighted and receptive to the recommendations on diet and nutrition they presented. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday at the hospital and took off to the community of Murinya for HIV outreach on Thursday. Once again we did HIV testing and counseling with the help of Dorcas and Freeda from St. Teresa’s. We also spent the week preparing for a health clinic for the Muchui Women’s group, which was held Saturday. We prepared brochures on healthy living and HIV and worked hard to print and fold all 400 of them, which we handed out at the clinic and will hand out the remainder in the communities which we do HIV outreach. The clinic was held in Kinyinjere at a local church and included blood pressure, pulse, oxygen saturation, height, weight, BMI, blood glucose and HIV testing. Dorcas once again was a great help and joined us to assist with HIV testing and counseling. There was a great turnout of 33 women who circulated through the different stations and we finished the clinic with a presentation on each health topic. Sunday the mzungo 6 headed to church in the morning and in the evening had a farewell dinner with the sisters for Amy and Harrison. We were sad to see them leave but things at St. Teresa’s didn’t stay quiet for long. This week two medical students from Italy arrived and this morning 5 volunteers also from Italy arrived, and will be staying in the guest house with us.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


By: Hannah Hughes

It’s really hard to believe that our time in Kiirua has exceeded our halfway point! Even though we have done and experienced so much since the end of June, it also feels like we just got here. Last week was summed up pretty well by Harrison and Amy, as we did home visits together, and also got to see the beginning of the new cookhouse at KK! We were also privileged to witness the new horticulturist being introduced to the Muchui Women’s group, who welcomed him with open arms and many songs! This week, I am busy finishing up most of my home visits with just Mama Jen, as Amy and Harrison finished last week. Today we made it to five homes that are very far out in Kiirua, and it required a 10 km walk around one of the large hills around the area! It was quite the experienced, for both Jennifer and myself, as she had never been to the area before either. We were lucky and thankful to one member of the Women’s group, Doris, who kindly took us around to all of the homes. Once again, I am blown away by the generosity of these women, who will do anything to help, even if it means taking 5 hours out of their day, as Doris did for us today. We were also able to see one of the new stoves installed, which was very exciting! We stopped in a few homes that we have already visited as well, to see the stoves there. All of the women are SO excited about these stoves, and it is such a nice sight to see. I know that these stoves will make such a positive impact on the lives of these women, and their families, and am very happy to be able to be able to see this project being initiated! On our way home from visits, we stopped by KK to see the progress of the cookhouse, which is progressing very well thanks to some very hard working people. It’s great to see the impact that Farmers Helping Farmers has in the community of Kiirua.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Accessibility at its finest!

Written by Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith and Danielle McConnell

We have returned back to Kiiura safe and sound after spending an amazing five days with Danaiet’s family in her homeland Ethiopia. We started off the week at the hospital and had an exciting day in the OR on Tuesday. All three of us had the amazing opportunity to take part in the birth of twins. The mother delivered by caesarian birth and we each had a role, two receiving the babies and one scrubbing into the surgery. The result was two beautiful healthy babies, one boy and one girl. This was something that was exciting to us, as none of us had taken part in the delivery of twins and we were each able to contribute.

On Wednesday, the dream team Harrison, Danielle, Danaiet and Gloria headed to Kiiura Boys and Kiiura Girls Schools to share our knowledge through education sessions. Edwin the new Horticulturalist recently hired with Farmer’s Helping Farmer’s became part of the dream team as he joined into our presentations and was introduced to the schools. We arrived at Kiiura Boys in the morning to find that only form 3 and 4 were present. Form 1 and 2 had been sent home early for the year due to a food shortage at the school as a result of the drought and food crisis happening here in Eastern Africa. We taught on the subjects of malaria and hand washing and were told that we only had 30 minutes to complete our teaching before the boys had their morning break. Two hours later we had to cut the boys off from asking questions because we had to make it to Kiiura Girls School before the end of the day. The boys were very eager to learn, not just about malaria and hand washing, but asked us questions on every possible health related topic, such as nose bleeds, heat attacks, chemotherapy, BMI, and genetically engineered food. We were very thankful to have Edwin and Harrison as part of our team as some of the questions were related to their field of study and together we were able to answer all the questions they had. After arranging another education session with the boys in September, we made our way to Kiiura Girls. There we were surprised to see that over half the school consisted of boys from Kiiura Boys School. A recent fire at Kiiura Boys limited the space available and the boys were moved to Kiiura Girls to learn for the remainder of the school year. We taught both the boys and girls on malaria before having girl talk and teaching menstruation with the girls. We also inquired with the girls about the reusable sanitary pads that they received the previous year from Farmer’s Helping Farmer’s. The girls were all very pleased with the pads, as they are able to attend school and not miss any time when it is that time of the month.

Thursday the three of us took off to the community of Machaka, along with Dorcas and Freeda from St. Teresa’s Hospital to do HIV outreach. We met up with Dennis, a nurse at the Machaka clinic before beginning our journey into the community. Dennis was a great help as he is well known and familiar with most of the faces in the community. The day was spent educating then testing people for HIV with a simple blood test. As we were making our way back to Kiiura we were met by some locals in the community who wanted education on HIV. Dorcas did a wonderful job providing education in Swahili and drew quite the crowd, as more and more people joined. They then wanted to be tested for HIV and although we didn’t have enough test kits left to test everyone, we set up a station in the middle of a field. At the end of the day we felt like we finally understood the meaning of accessible and health promotive health care. We were amazed at the accessibility to the education and testing that we were able to provide, and our ability to be versatile was evident when we set up our mini testing clinic in a field with goats.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ending July with a bang: A busy week in the Meru Region!

by Harrison Blizzard and Amy Rawlinson

As we come to the end of our experience of a lifetime we have been busy in keeping up with our work and wrapping up many of our projects. Amy had two infant feeding sessions with the women out at Muchui and Ruuju. The women were very receptive to the new feeding recommendations and the turnout was great with fifty parents at Ruuju and eighty at Muchui! Harrison finished up his report on food service at the St. Theresa’s Hospital and will present next week to the staff. Hopefully the hospital can take this information to increase the nutritional wellness of the community and hospital patients and become a health care leader in the region. We both worked with biology student Hannah to wrap up our interviews with the women of Muchui on food security and food diversity. The cooperation of these women has been so amazing and it is their willingness to help answer our questions that Farmers Helping Farmers will be able to work to increase the wellness of these great women. It was somewhat sad that we had to finish this work though as we really enjoyed meeting these women. We were also able to witness the building of one of the new cookhouses at Kieni-kia-Ndege school (picture above). What a project they were working on and the teamwork from the parents was amazing. With such hard work, the cook house will be ready just in time for the children when they come back to school. You could see the joy in the faces of the parents, children, and staff at the school which was refreshing to see in a community who has had to deal with so much with the current dry spell they are experiencing. We also got to meet the newest member of the Farmers Helping Farmers team, Edwin, who is the new horticulturist. He had the pleasure of giving the Muchui Women’s Group their new shipment of 2500 tissue banana plants that were planted and will provide delicious bananas for the community very soon. Between all the work we have been doing out in the community, we have also been busy preparing reports to bring back home to record what we have witnessed here during our stay. These are equally as important for Farmers Helping Farmers and UPEI to continue their work in the future. Overall the week was bittersweet as we know our time is coming to an end but also knowing that we have enjoyed every minute of our work here in Kenya.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The final Countdown: wrapping up Ruju and saying some fair wells

By Amy Rawlinson and Harrison Blizzard

On Monday we visited the Ruuju area to complete our food security and diet diversity data collection. We were able to arrive early in the morning and, consequently, we had time to complete the remaining seven interviews. As per usual all of the women we interviewed were so grateful. At each home we were given Kenyan style tea and even bags of eggs from others; we are leaving in two weeks and even now we are still taken aback by the amount generosity these women show us. With the dry weather the women of Ruuju have been having difficulties, though not to the same extent as the women of the Muchui area, with obtaining enough of their staple foods, fortunately, some women (who farm land many kilometres away) that we interviewed we able to get a satisfactory crop yield this growing season. We have left these women with in hopes that this and the next growing season we come with plentiful rain to support themselves and their families.

We also visited two schools, Marinya-a-Ruibi and Kieni Kia Ndege, to say our farewells and show our appreciation for all of their hospitality. Just to remind readers, during our time here we visited five different schools and presented nutrition education and methods of increasing the nutrient content of their traditional Kenyan dishes to the nursery school classes parents. Without the great support from the teachers of all of these schools our presentations would not have been successful as they all were. We said our good-byes to all of the teachers and then to the students.

At the end of the week we visited Machaka orphanage where we gave a brief education session on infant feeding recommendations to a group of students, some Machaka staff, and some people from the community. For this presentation we arrived early, during prayer time, and ended up having to do our presentation in the middle of prayer time, which we are thinking was in place of the sermon. All in all we said sawa sawa and everything worked out just fine. We both hope that we will be able to bring this laid back attitude back to Canada! After our presentation (or sermon on nutrition) we went and helped feed feed the infants and just give them a bit of love and attention before we had to leave.

We are sad that our work here is slowly coming to a close, but we are hopeful that the nutrition education we have done here will have a positive impact on those we were able to share our knowledge with.

Emergency Food & Water Supplies

By: Hannah Hughes

The week before last (sorry for the delay in writing this blog), Jennifer and myself were driving back to St. Teresa's after doing home visits, when she asked if I minded stopping at the Barrier Market. I told her I did not, but was not aware of why we were stopping. I thought she may just need to pick something off or drop something off to one of the shops there. When we pulled up, I saw a huge crowd of women, some with ox carts, some on Boda Bodas, and many just on foot. I asked Jennifer what was going on, and she told me that these were the emergency food supplies that had been donated by Farmers Helping Farmers. As soon as we got out of Mama Jen's car, I was greeted by a few of the women from the Muchui women's group who I have come to know pretty well. Esther, Emily, and Harriet were beyond happy, and had difficulty expressing just how grateful they were. They kept repeating "I am so excited, so happy, and so thankful to you". And by "you", they are thanking Farmers Helping Farmers and the people of Prince Edward Island. I am so lucky that Jennifer wanted to stop at the Market that day, as it was an amazing experience to see the women receiving this food, and getting to hear from them first hand how much it means to them and their families. Some of the women who have smaller families told me that this food would be able to last them up to three months. They all also got their water tanks filled, which is a very big deal as many of the farms we visit are running on little or no water in their tanks. It makes me so happy to see the women receiving something they so desperately need, and will need in the upcoming months. So any money that can be donated to Farmers Helping Farmers to help the Muchi women and their families, is more appreciated by them than any of us will ever know. Of course, this would be the one day that my camera would die, so unfortunately I was not able to get a picture at the market. But to be honest, a picture wouldn't have done justice! Thanks again to Farmers Helping Farmers, and to any Islanders who support their causes. The difference you are making is evident here in Kiirua, and once again, the women thank you all, so much.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Karibu to K.K. Ndege and Marinya Primary Schools!

By Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith and Danielle McConnell

We started off the week on the right foot as we presented to the staff of the hospital on the prevention of pressure ulcers. Our presentation went well and was well received by the staff and we were asked many questions about the information by the staff throughout the following days at the hospital. We really enjoyed presenting and are looking forward to the next opportunity we will have to present.
Wednesday was another amazing day as we visited two of the new FHF supported schools: Kieni-Kia-Ndege (KK Ndege) and Marinya-a-Rubi. At both schools we taught the students about malaria, the use of malaria nets, and we talked to the girls in the upper grades about menstruation. We gave out a total of 420 Insecticide-treated Malaria nets and 68 reusable sanitary pads. The Malaria nets and sanitary pads were purchased with donations from FHF as well as the generous donations from Gloria’s church, Winsloe United.
We were greeted at KK Ndege School by the schools twinning teacher, Dorcas Mutuma. She organized the students who came to greet us on the soccer pitch, sitting in neat rows by standard. We started off each presentation by asking the students to raise their hands if they had ever been sick with malaria. Almost every student raised his or her hand. We were shocked! We were also shocked when we asked the students how they might contract malaria and they answered “by the female Anopheles mosquito.” We were hoping they would say “mosquito” but never expected such specificity. We demonstrated to each class how to use the nets by getting volunteers from the classes. The students really liked this part and this is where we got to ask them questions to make sure they were learning. After the malaria teaching, we sat in a circle with the older girls and had a “girl talk.” This was challenging with the combination of it being a sensitive topic at that age and with the communication barrier. The girls were very pleased with their reusable pads and had a lot of questions. We ended our time at KK by handing out the soccer jerseys that the Van Leeuwens donated and running around the soccer pitch with the kids. Dorcas showed us around the school, which has been open since 1997. They have a small cookhouse, a water tank (but no handwashing station) and two long wooden buildings for the classrooms.
We followed the same teaching set up at Marinya School, which was about a 15-minute drive from KK. Marinya School is made up of three long brick buildings, two of which are for classrooms, and the other is a teacher’s room. There is also a cookhouse and water tank at this school but no handwashing station. Again, we had a lot of fun teaching the students! We had so much fun with the girls and sang and danced with them when we were all done. At the end of our session with the girls, a large group of boys came running out into the field, in perfect form, all wearing a soccer jersey from the Van Leeuwens.
Both new schools were thrilled with the teaching and the nets and pads that they received. We had a great day and look forward to the next two schools will be going to.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Van Leeuwens in Kenya 2011

Blog by Charlene VanLeeuwen
Jambo! As many of you know, the VanLeeuwen family has been happily anticipating our trip to Kenya for some time. John has shared so many stories from his FHF trips with vet students over the years that the rest of us could hardly wait for our turn. Katie, Pieter, Julie and I set off at the end of June to begin our Kenyan adventures. John was in Ethiopia since mid-June and he met us in Nairobi. In addition to our family, for the past several days we have travelled around with 2 students who have been working with John through “Vets Without Borders”, along with some or all of the UPEI students working in Kiirua. We even went a short distance with everyone crammed in the van – matatu style.
We have just returned to Nairobi and I can hear early morning Nairobi traffic going along. I am happy to avoid it for the time being. My head is spinning with images of the past several days as we have visited so many places, met so many people and seen so many things. Our internet was not working all that well so I have been saving up my reflections for this entry. It is hard to know where to begin! I could start with the Wakulima Dairy where we saw John being met as an old and well-loved friend by many, many people. They were very happy to tell him that they are now shipping 38,000 litres of milk per day and to show us the plans and work that has been started for a new expansion to begin processing their members’ milk. Or I could write about the shambas we saw in the Othaya area where many women were out harvesting tea. There were also our visits to Machakas orphanage where we played with the young children who are part of the daily feeding program or the tiny premature infant that I fed and cuddled while watching our 3 children, all the UPEI students, the 2 vet students and a med student from the UK feed and play with the other slightly older babies. Our school day visits to Kinyinjere, Ruuju and Kiirua Girls Day School were two other highlights, not to mention the celebration to open the new classrooms at Kinyinjere School and the 5 football games (soccer, to us Canadians) that helped wrap up that afternoon. Then there was my day with the women from the Ruuju and Muchui Women’s groups. Of course, my kids would remind me not to forget our safari with the two vet students Laura and Valérie, and the nutrition students, Harrison and Amy, which started off with the combi getting stuck in loose sand right beside a lioness. This delayed us just long enough that we were still around when she decided to go on a hunt for a warthog and we were right there to see the chase and capture. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Katie, Julie, Pieter and Laura feeding babies at the orphanage

The first of the highlights of this trip that will stay with me is the celebration that was held at Kinyinjere School for the opening of the four new classrooms organized and funded through FHF. Upon our arrival at the school (a bit late since church went on quite a bit longer than expected) we were met out at the road by the older girls. They were singing at the top of their voices to greet us and they danced alongside the combi as we drove into the school compound. There was quite a large crowd gathered there to welcome us. Mama Jen (Jennifer Murogocho) told us later that she has never seen such a large crowd come out for an event at the school. We were officially welcomed by the Head Teacher along with the Chairperson and members of the school committee. We were treated to some wonderful entertainment from the girls and boys of the school, the women parents, and a small group of the Muchui women. There were poems and songs from the students and lots of dancing led by energetic Katherine. The university students had never seen anything like this. We were all on our feet dancing along with our hosts to the delight of the parents and other children who were watching. Julie, in particular, enjoyed being part of the dancing! Then it was time for the official opening of the four classrooms. John and I opened the one sponsored by our family, Katie and Julie opened the classroom sponsored by the Challenge Girls Leadership Club (Katie is a youth leader and Julie is a member – see picture), and the Canadian girls followed by the Canadian boys opened the remaining two classrooms to much applause and cheering – African style! Then we ate, all of us. All the children, parents and guests sat down and enjoyed some rice, githeri, mokimo and chapatis. Following lunch, some lovely gifts were presented to all of the Canadians and we presented several gifts to the school including many Canada pencils and stickers along with skeins of thin yarn. Hold on now before you begin thinking that this was the wrap up of the celebration, because there was still one more highly anticipated activity to happen. Football! We had 5 soccer balls with us and several teams worth of donated jerseys, so with the help of some of the teachers, we got our enthusiastic players divided up into teams for 5 separate games, 3 for the boys and 2 for the girls. Our kids played, John played and refereed at times and I was in there too helping out with the youngest group of girls. We quickly figured out a few key phrases like “out ball”, “free kick” “green or white team”, and “starting positions” and then we were good to go. The parents enjoyed watching all of these various games and lots of football fun was had. We all headed for home quite a bit dustier than we started out, but the wind made us Islanders feel right at home.

Katie and Julie in front of the sign designating the new classroom paid for by fundraising efforts of the Challenge Girls Leadership Club

My second highlight was my day with the members of the two Women’s groups that work with FHF. Early Monday morning Shaad, Amy, Harrison, Rosemary their translator, and I all climbed into Shaad’s car matatu style for the drive to meet some of the Ruuju women. Several were coming to the school to pick up some lumber for the corn cribs that had been delivered the previous day. Amy and Harrison took advantage of the transport to be able to go and interview more of the women for their food security project, I went to talk to any of the women that were coming to the school. When we first arrived Farida took me on a tour of the gardens and then we walked over to see a few farms and to see the new tomato greenhouse. Things were lovely and green there. Farmers were busy harvesting maize since they got rains at just the right times to sustain this crop, unlike the situation for the Muchui women. I saw a couple of the corn cribs ready to store the maize drying out in the sunshine. They will be filling up over the next few days. We headed back to the school and found more than just a few of the women had come, it was more like 25, a few more than anticipated (see picture). But since this is Kenya, you expect the unexpected and we settled in to talk about family-related issues that concern them since I am a family scientist. As we were about to leave, the women wanted to thank me for coming to talk to them so they took me over to the church to sing and dance for me. Amy and Harrison came along and they were also swept up into the singing and dancing. Then we were back into Shaad’s car to go to Kiirua where I would leave the students and go on to meet with the Muchui Women. Word had spread and once again the turn out for this meeting was very high, with over 55 women coming to the business centre (see picture with part of the group). We started this meeting with enthusiastic and cheerful greetings and much singing and dancing. This was incredible to me given the tremendously horrible situation they are facing with another almost complete crop failure. These women are incredibly resilient! But we eventually got down to more serious discussions about the family issues that they have, and other ways that we might be able to help them and their families. I have clear ideas to share with the FHF project committee upon my return. I could go on and on but since the kids are waiting for the computer to be able to work on their blog entry, I shall say ”kwa heri” for now.


Charlene with Ruuju Women’s Group members

Charlene with Muchui Women’s Group members

Blog by Katie VanLeeuwen:
All right, it’s my turn. Since this trip has been an amazing experience, it would be horrible for our blog to be boring or repetitive. With that in mind I decided to focus less on what we did and more on the things I noticed or saw on this trip.
Getting through Nairobi traffic at night was a full blown adventure story complete with danger, commotion, chaos, close calls and luckily a happy ending, arriving safely at our destination thanks to the heroics of our drivers Peter and David.
In the more rural areas we were the only wasungu (white people) around and that made me uneasy at first because everyone would look at us, but I got used to it. There was even a farmer who videotaped us on his phone while we were playing with a baby. I realized they are just as interested in us as we are in them.
The topography is incredible. It seems like we’re always going up or down. The farmers deal with this by digging terraces like huge steps into the hills so that they can still plant fields. Another nice touch that adds to scenery is the bougainvillea. It’s huge and it’s everywhere! It does very well in this climate and it grows in hedges, trees, bushes, vines, along fences and comes in all different colours.
It’s always interesting to look at the markets in Kenya because they are active, diverse, and also very colourful. Many of the shops are paid by big companies to have advertisements painted on their walls in the bright signature colour of that company. It does look nicer than plain brown or gray.

Painted shops

I loved meeting the kids everywhere. Just after school lets out and the students are walking home, we would wave to them and they would get all excited and start shouting and pointing and laughing and wave back at us. Another time, at one of the farms, there was a little girl we started playing with. Though she was wary at the start, by the end of our visit she was completely comfortable with us and we all had a ball.

Children waving

We got to play with all of the kids in the park at the orphanage too. There were so many of them they would all but jump on us trying to feel our white skin or hold our hands. They were so cute in their blue sweaters and hats knitted for them. One of the vet students compared them to smurfs. I think that’s a pretty accurate description.

Katie playing with kids at the orphanage

Pieter, Valérie and Sister Alice playing with kids at the orphanage

We also had a chance to experience some traditional dancing. It involves a lot of drumming, shouting and clapping. The dancers wear very bright decorated costumes. The women shake their hips or shoulders and the men jump, stomp and parade around.
There were definitely many different and interesting things about the culture here in Kenya.


Blog by Pieter VanLeeuwen:
Mom says that I shouldn’t write everything that was interesting or fun because it would take forever to type so I’ll just do the highlights.
On the first day that we were in Kenya, we went to the elephant orphanage where we saw around a dozen young elephants. But there weren’t just elephants there; there were also some warthogs and a blind rhino. We then went to the Bomas of Kenya where we saw some tribal dances and some acrobats who were insane. The next couple of days were pretty slow (our parents had meetings) until we went to Mukurweini where we were staying for a few days. We went to farms where there were health problems and watch Daddy do his vet thing. We stayed in a rented house and if we would have lived there for a long time, I would become so fat that I would have died, the food was so good. It was hard to leave that place.
Near Meru, there was a celebration in our honor at the Kinyinjere primary school. We had lots of fun watching the singing and dancing, and we exchanged gifts. We gave them some stuff from Canada and they gave us some crafts. We organized a bunch of soccer games and lots of kids got to play, I was surprised at how good a lot of them were and how hard they could kick in bare feet. The next day we went to the Ex-Lewa dairy and went to some farms to check on some sick cows and to get blood samples from calves. While walking back to the van after the third farm, I brushed against a stinging nettle bush for the second time in the same week; it hurt so much my leg went numb. Back at the dairy office we exchanged gifts; they gave us a bunch of different crafts and we gave them some medicine for sick cows and some for dry cows.
Then we went to the Samburu National park for a couple of days of safaris with the two nutrition students Harrison and Amy and the two vet students Valerie and Laura. On the way to the lodge we got stuck in some sand and had to get another van to push us out. Now I’m very happy that we got stuck because at that very spot, a lion chased, killed and ate a warthog (see picture). It was amazing to watch and listen to. We also saw a female ostrich which was pretty cool. We had lunch and then went swimming at the pool. At 4pm, we went on our first full safari, and we saw loads of elephants and lions, some warthogs, lots of deer-like animals, a bunch of different kinds of small animals like dikdiks and Guinea fowl, we even saw a couple giraffes, but the best thing was that we saw a leopard. Unfortunately it started to get dark so we had to go back to the lodge for a buffet supper with a make-your-own pasta station. Harrison ate so much I thought that the cooks would make a limit of how much food you could eat. The next day we woke up at 5:30 am to have some hot chocolate and a cookie before going on our morning safari. It wasn’t as eventful as the day before but we all saw a hawk and a baby elephant nursing her mom, and elephants drinking at the river. Breakfast was even better than supper and there was even a make-your-own omelette station. This time I was surprised that they didn’t run out of food because of how much food our table ate. Most of us then went to the gift shop to look at stuff and my mom actually let me buy one of the slingshots that some of the employees use to make sure that the monkeys don’t get in the kitchens and dining rooms. On the way out of the park we saw a male ostrich and a zebra that was only around 20 meters away. We then went back to the hospital to pick some stuff up and drop of Harrison and Amy we then continued on to Othaya where Val and Laura will be staying for the next 2 weeks, and then went through the Nairobi traffic adventure to get to ILRI. Today we are going to go to the Nairobi national park for a long afternoon day safari. Our final safari before we leave tomorrow.


Lion with a warthog by its neck

Blog by Julie VanLeeuwen:
I don’t want to bore you with everything that has happened during the trip (some said by others above), so I will just give you MY highlights. The elephant orphanage was fun because an orphaned elephant almost knocked me over with its trunk – we were told that they like to play with shorter people. The traditional Kenyan dancing and singing was really interesting to watch, both at Bomas of Kenya, and at the Kinyinjere school. The acrobats at Bomas and at the National Museum really made my eyes pop out! Samburu National Park was amazing – especially when we got stuck, allowing us to watch a lion hunt a warthog (see Pieter’s blog). Kazuri Hand-Made Beads and Pottery was soooo cool! We saw the process of how they make the clay, form the beads and pots, heat them at 1101 degrees celcius (for the pottery) and 1000 for the beads, paint them, fire them again, and sometimes paint and fire them again, depending on the designs. With this process, the beads are rock hard and can be dropped without breaking, but the pottery is more fragile, and so it needs to stay in the firing oven for 3 days after the 8 hour bake to allow the temperature to gradually go back to normal to prevent cracking from temperature shock. They had so many cool colours and designs, including people and zebras and giraffes on pottery (see picture), and polka-dots and zebra stripes on beads. The best part is that they employ 340 women, mostly single mothers, to make the beads and pottery, so buying things there is helping single moms (see picture). The souvenir shops have so many things, it’s hard to chose. It was fun to watch Dad bargain with the shop employee, because they thought Dad was a tourist and so gave him tourist prices – but in Kenya, that is just the starting price, and then the bargaining begins. I got a jembe (drum) and some sandals with beads on them as souvenirs – memories of Kenya.


Painted pottery before and after firing.

Single moms assembling beads.

Blog by John VanLeeuwen:
OK, it is my turn. The good thing about going last is that the others who have blogged before you have already reported on the biggest and best highlights of the trip. For me, in addition to the highlights already mentioned, my biggest on-going highlight has been re-experiencing many things with a fresh perspective, through the eyes of my family, and watching their reactions to the many new and wonderful activities that they are doing each and every day. However, this trip has not been without many other first activities for me, even though this is my tenth time in Kenya. This was the first time I was involved in the interviewing and hiring of Kenyans for jobs that will help to implement projects funded through Farmers Helping Farmers – the examination/verification of the original documents from high school, university, and other courses is not something we normally do in Canada. This was the first time I helped open new school classrooms – a humbling and overwhelming experience. And this was the first time that I climbed to the top of one of the many hills that dot the landscape around the Muchui Women’s Group (see picture). It took us about an hour of many switchbacks, but the view from the top was spectacular and worth the effort, and it finally gave me the perspective that I was craving, to help me get oriented on the relative locations of local schools, local markets, and many of the women’s farms, not to mention the 20-30 km we could see in all directions. Wow! It also showed us how desperately dry in every direction we looked and could see. Nothing but dried up fields, lined by some trees and cowpeas barely hanging on. Even from that high point, I am sure that I could have heard the cheers of joy from the Muchui women when they found out that Farmers Helping Farmers was going to provide them with some corn, beans and water to get them through to the next harvest in January!
With Charlene and the kids here, it was also time to do some of those touristic things that many people do when they come to Kenya, but we usually don’t do when we come focused on Farmers Helping Farmers business. We went to an elephant orphanage, the Bomas of Kenya (recreations of the village architecture of the many tribes in Kenya – and demonstrations of their singing and dancing styles), the National Museum, and the snake park. These were all worthwhile outings, if you are into that kind of thing. And we will be going to a hand-made bead and ceramics factory (pottery, art, jewelery, etc.) and the Nairobi National Park before we leave on Sunday – all things that I had not done before, saving them for when I could enjoy them with my family.
One final first to add to the list…this was also the first time that I drove a vehicle in Kenya, in Nairobi, on the left side of the road, of course, as we needed a second vehicle to get to church on the first weekend. Since I had gotten my international driving license for when we go to Holland next week, I was legal, and brave or crazy enough to try it – but only on a Sunday morning when the traffic was light and we were only going 10 minutes down the road. Most of the crazy Nairobi drivers (mostly matatu taxi drivers) are not awake on Sunday morning. So I guess I am not that brave after all. Some people think I’m crazy for even coming to Kenya, let alone bringing my kids here, and maybe I am crazy, but the rewards for coming to Kenya far outweigh any nuisances. I look forward to sharing more memories with you on the other side of the pond.


Hilltop view of Mbarria market and Kinyinjere school

Friday, July 15, 2011

Samburu and Interviews!

by Harrison Blizzard and Amy Rawlinson

Another great week in Kenya began with heading out to Ruuju School to complete some food insecurity interviews with the Women’s group. Many of the members were there to gather lumber for the building of maize storage cribs that are being built throughout the community. We finished the day dancing with the women as they thanked us for all of our help the past couple of months. On Tuesday we headed to the Samburu National Reserve with the VanLeeuwen family and two veterinarian students doing work here this summer. We had a great time with the family and students and even got to witness a lion hunting a warthog. We headed back on Wednesday and had to say goodbye to the VanLeeuwens as they were making their way back to Nairobi. They will be our last Canadian visitors during our stay. It was back to work on Thursday when Harrison headed out to do more interviews with Hannah on food security and Amy was busy preparing a report on infant feeding for the Machaka orphanage. The women were so grateful for our visit and the information collected will greatly help this community in years to come. We even met a woman who has goiter (the result of a deficiency in iodine). As unfortunate as it is, it is very interesting to see nutritional deficiencies of these sorts here in Kenya as we do not see them often home. It helps us realize that problems that we have successfully tackled in the developed world are still an issue in other parts of the world. Friday was a day at the compound to catch up on some report writing and preparing for a busy week next week of interviews back in Ruuju. This weekend we will be heading out with our friend Salome to hike out to a waterfall. There is no shortage of exercise here that’s for sure! Above is a picture of us with the VanLeeuwen family and vet students Valerie and Laura before their departure.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jambo! From the Mzungo 6!

Written by Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith, and Danielle McConnell

We have just finished another jam packed week in Kiirua! We started off the week as per usual in the hospital, Monday and Tuesday. Monday morning started off with a great presentation by Dr. Nthurima on Hypertension. After this, we split up to three different areas of the hospital: maternity, outpatients, and surgical. We are still getting used to the routine and the staff and have much to learn! Many babies are being born everyday, and many more to come with at least 10 pregnant mothers in for checkups.
Wednesday, the dream team (Harrison, Amy, Hannah, Danaiet, Gloria, and Danielle) left St. Teresa in the morning with Jennifer Murogocho destined for two primary schools, Kamukethe and Kinyenjere to do teaching on proper hand washing. We had a great time doing this! The kids were amazing and many of them remembered a tune the students from last year had taught them to sing while washing their hands. The head master at Kamaketha, Henri assisted us in organizing the classes and translating for the younger students. The pipeline to the hand washing station was being repaired so we improvised and filled jugs of water to rinse the students’ hands. At Kinyenjere School, which is about two times the size of Kamukethe, all the teachers warmly welcomed us. We presented to the students at their hand washing station with the help of one of the enthusiastic teacher Charles.
Thursday was spent in the community of Kimirichia doing community outreach with Dorcas, a community worker, and Freedah, a social worker from St. Theresa’s. Back at the compound we were greeted by the Van Leeuwan family and company (Laura and Valerie, two Vet students). It was great to see Canadian faces and to hear all the news from Canada!
Friday, we spent the entire day at Machaka with the children! We spent the morning with the babies, helping with feeding and then we helped serve lunch to the older children. The Van Leeuwan clan joined us for the morning, and was off to Kinyenjere School in the afternoon. We stayed for a generous and delicious lunch with the sisters.
We had a lovely weekend, which was spent mostly with the Van Leeuwan clan. Saturday afternoon we hiked one of the many hills in Kiirua, close to Kinyenjere School, with the guidance of Noel. We had a great view of the Kiirua area from the top, even with the haze of the day. Sunday we were so lucky to be a part of an amazing and generous ceremony that was thrown at Kinyenjere School in honour of the sponsors of the school, which included the Van Leeuwen family, and the youth group that the Van Leeuwan girls are a part of. All teachers, students and their families, as well as the Machui Women’s group collaborated to organize the event and the different groups sang, danced, and even recited a poem for us. Thanks to all of the sponsors, Kinyenjere boasts an increase in student enrolment, an increase in mean national scores, and an improved health status of the students with the provision of milk and the school gardens. We were all so grateful to be a part of the celebration and were humbled by the gifts and meal that were so generously given to us. Though the people at Kinyenjere were so generous and hospitable, it is a very difficult time for the people of Kiirua, as the crops are dry and food and water is sparse.
It was a busy but exciting week in Kiirua. Looking forward to week 4, with a hospital presentation on Monday morning and another two school visits on Wednesday! Stay tuned for next weeks update!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weeks 2 and 3

by: Hannah Hughes

Time is flying by in Kenya! The research project is well under way, and a lot has been accomplished since the project was first blogged about our first week in Kiirua. Last week, Kevin, Kim, and I (Hannah, the biology student) put on respiratory clinics Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for the Muchui women between the ages of 25 and 45 who are eligible to be part of the research. Although that is the criteria for the research, that did not stop men and women alike of all ages to come and get a health assessment done by Kim! The first day we put on the clinic we had almost 30 women come, which was amazing. Afterwards we were questioning why we had worried about the women showing up! Not only was it an opportunity for the women to get their health checked, and to become part of the study, it was also a great social outing for them. This was evident in the time that the women spent sitting around talking to each other, even hours after their assessments had been completed. On Tuesday not quite as many women showed up, as I think many of them thought it was just on Monday. Of the women that did show up on Tuesday, one woman walked 12 kilometers to come see us, and had to get excused from teaching for the afternoon to do so. We had just been about to get in the van and head back to St. Teresa’s, but thankfully she caught us just in time! I was amazed and appreciative that someone would go to that much effort to come see us, and be able to participate in the study. On Thursday, we held the last clinic for the Muchui women, and we had almost 15 more women come. The three days combined were a great opportunity to meet all the women who will be participating in the study, and get to know them a little bit before I go to their farms. Kevin and Kim left on Friday, and I am now on my own for the remaining research! Between Tuesday and Thursday of this week, I did a total of eight home visits along with Amy. I was able to see some diversity in the women, as some had more income than their farm alone, and that was visible in the fact that these women buy their firewood, and even gas in some cases. All of the visits went great; the women are so welcoming and easy to talk to. I am looking forward to visits scheduled in the upcoming weeks!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Week 2 in Kiirua

By: Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith, and Danielle McConnell
This week was another great and busy week here in Kiirua. Amy and Harrison summed up the week pretty well and we just wanted to write about the health clinic that was put on in the community of Mikinduri for the Ruuju women’s group. The clinic took place at Ruuju School and there was a great turnout of 25 women and 5 teachers for a total of 30 participants. We prepared health cards in advance and handed them out to each participant. Stations were set up to assess vital signs, blood glucose, height, weight, waist circumference and a chest assessment was performed. The clinic ran smoothly throughout the morning with the help of the two professors, the nutrition students and the biology student. This clinic provided the women with an assessment of their overall health and allowed us to identify potential health concerns they may have, such as hypertension, pre-diabetes, and respiratory illnesses. For the most part the women were healthy, however those who were at risk were given health education with the help of a translator and a few were encouraged to seek further medical attention. We had a lot of fun putting on the clinic for the women and it is a simple, easy way for the women to have accessible health care. We will return to the community at the end of August to re-assess the women.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Transition for the second half of our internship

By Harrison Blizzard & Amy Rawlinson

This week consisted of mostly preparation work to get us ready for our last full month here in Kenya. It is hard to believe that we are over halfway finished our time here and it feels like we just got here! This month we have two projects that we will be working on. One is infant feeding sessions (which are headed by Amy). These sessions are for infant mother to teach them about proper nutrition for them and their babies. Most of this work will take place at the hospital as nursing mothers come in and also up at the Machaka orphanage to help the staff learn for the young orphans. Foodservice assessment (headed by Harrison) will also take place at St. Teresa’s hospital. Currently the hospital does not have a dietitian so we were asked to assess their foodservice practices to help the staff increase the wellness of the patients and make any recommendations if needed. On Wednesday, we joined the nursing and biology students in their health clinics that were being completed at the Ruuju women’s group. Thursday was spent getting ready for the infant feeding presentation for Friday and developing worksheets for the food security data that will be gathered all this month during our home visits. The work week ended on a sad note as we all attended the funeral of Jennifer Murogocho’s nephew who passed away the previous Friday. We wanted to help out the family during this difficult time so we took the morning to help pass out snacks to the attendees and then attended the funeral service. It was very important to help the family as the whole family has done so much to help us during our stay here. On Saturday we celebrated Canada Day by having a party inviting some of our Kenyan friends. This was a great event to bring a little bit of Canada into Kenya for the day. We prepared some dishes that are popular in Canada and had some Canadian music to listen to. It was so much fun for us and our guests and it made us feel as if we were back in Canada! (Without a visit from Prince William and Catherine of course!)

Monday, June 27, 2011

We’re here! Kenya believe it!

Written by Danaiet Teame, Gloria Smith, Danielle McConnell, Hannah Hughes

We have successfully completed our first week here in Kenya! We arrived in Kirua where we will be living for the next three months on Tuesday, after spending two days in Nairobi. We were greeted at our new home at St. Teresa’s by Amy and Harrison, the nutrition students, and Sister Naomi. On the first full day in Kirua, the nursing students had orientation at St. Teresa’s hospital, where they were warmly welcomed by the staff and had a tour of the hospital. This tour ended in the OR where they observed the birth of a beautiful baby boy! Thursday was also spent in the hospital, where the students observed the birth of a gorgeous baby girl in the OR. The students and Kim then spent the later part of the day supporting a labouring mother and assisting with cares. The same day Hannah, the biology student went out into the community along with the nutrition students and Kevin to visit the homes of two women from the Muchui Womens Group. The biology research that will be conducted over the next three months is to assess the health and ecological impact that using firewood as cooking fuel has on women from the Muchui and Ruuju Womens Groups, as well as their families. Over the next 90 days, Hannah will be visiting 40 women between the ages of 25-45, and asking them questions about their health and wood collection/usage. Measurements of their cookhouses, as well as weight and moisture content of the wood used for cooking will be taken. Three more homes and women were visited on Thursday. The data collection went very well on both days, and it was great to be invited into the homes of these women, to get to know them and learn more about them.

We wrapped up the week by visiting the children at the Machaka Children’s Home on Friday morning. We look forward to visiting Machaka every Friday and will write more as we get to know the children. The weekend was spent at Samburu National Reserve as we observed the amazing local wildlife. We are looking forward to spending a full week in Kirua, working, and getting to know the community!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Another week in Kenya.

Written by Amy Rawlinson and Harrison Blizzard.

This past week started off a bit slow. On Monday Harrison and I just organized ourselves, catching up on writing and preparation for our food service and infant feeding work, which will take place over the next few weeks in unison with the food security data collection. On Tuesday the nursing and biology students arrived in the early evening. We were both pleased to have the company of them all as the compound has been very empty the past two weeks.
Wednesday and Thursday we went on joint home visits with biology student, Hannah, and biology professor, Kevin. This was the first time of Harrison and I were doing the food security questions solo, so it was exciting to finally be doing some research work independently. We visited two homes and the interviews went very smoothly, however, it was difficult to hear that the women were having a very hard time getting food as a result of the dry weather. The three women that we visited on Thursday were no exception to the food insecure majority, as they too were all having a very hard time feeding themselves and their families. This is an eye opening experience for us as food insecurity is not an open issue in Canada; here it is right in front of us, we are dealing with the direct effects of drought weather and starving families. Interviewing these women will not get easier. Harrison will be interviewing the women of Muchui and I will be interviewing the women of Ruju; Ruju is an area that is much more lush than Muchui, however, the food security of this area may still be poor. The work of Farmers Helping Farmers will hopefully make a lasting impact on these families and sustainable farming to help support them better for future droughts. This experience is constantly proving to be a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in a Country with such abundant food sources.
On Friday, the 24th of June, we visited Muchaka with the nursing and bio students. On arrival at the orphanage we were greeted by some Sisters and then were taken on a tour of the orphanage and their grounds. Muchaka’s development has been supported by the work of the NGO “Trame Africane” founded by an Italian by the name of Pasquale, their impact on this area is truly amazing. The orphanage is currently housing 30 children under the age of 4 and the feeding program is providing two meals a day and school lessons to over 30 children from the local slums. We were able to help feed and play with some infants, well, technically I did not feed the infants as some of the girls did as I was worried about choking them with porridge! but I was there to comfort some. Before we left we served the young children, of the feeding program, their githeri and then went back to St. Teresa’s. The nurses and biology students left for Samburu National Park to enjoy a weekend of safariing. Harrison and I stayed behind to work on some reports and preparation for next weeks infant feeding at the hospital. We are hoping to go to another safari before we leave though.
Next week we will have reached our half way point, it is sad to know that our work will be half over soon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Finishing up the Nursery Parent Nutrition Sessions!

by Harrison Blizzard and Amy Rawlinson

This week we wrapped up the nursery parent sessions at the schools: Kamaketha, Ruuju, and two at Kinyenjere. Kamaketha went very well the parents really enjoyed it and Henry (the school’s Headmaster) was so pleased to have us talk to the parents. He wanted us to mention that they are so grateful for all the help Farmers Helping Farmers has given them and they could not have made such a fast improvement in the community without the help from the people of Prince Edward Island. We were very pleased that he has already arranged a meeting with the parents of the school to talk about nutrition and is getting the nursery parents to teach. This is how our message can be passed within the community and hopefully the families can make best during the drought they are experiencing. Further relief came today for the children at the school from the generosity of Farmers Helping Farmers when a shipment of food was delivered so the children will have nutritious meals throughout the rest of the school semester. At Ruuju School we experienced unusually low numbers of parents in attendance due to the community’s bean harvest. The session was still positive however with the parents who were very interested and asked many questions on how to improve nutrition for their families. Our two sessions at Kinyenjere were our largest to date as there are a total of seventy one nursery children at the school. These parents showed a high interest in our presentation and loved the food prepared by our Champ parents. They especially enjoyed learning about chapattis and how pumpkin and carrots can be added into the recipe to increase beta-carotene levels. They insisted we come back to teach them more which we hope we can do if time allows in the near future. On our way home we were pleased to see workers installing a new water tank at Kieni-kia-Ndege, which is one of the newer schools being assisted by Farmers Helping Farmers (picture above). They were so pleased with the arrival and even the school children were helping to mix the cement to prepare the foundation. Both the Headmaster and the School Chairman were present and expressed their thanks and gratitude to everyone who made this possible for them and that they will put it to good use. Overall this week alone showed how much can be done in a short time frame while giving the people in the community skills and resources that will help create sustainable development for many years to follow. We will now reflect on our work over the past few weeks and begin our transition to prepare for home visits to assess food security in the area and also prepare for the arrival of four of our fellow UPEI students.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Week Two: Presentations!

Written by: Amy Rawlinson and Harrison Blizzard-Nutrition Team 2011

We are pleased to announce that we survived our first week of nutrition presentations to the nursery parents. Of course this past week did not pass without some out of the ordinary experiences!

On monday we met with the “Champ” parents of Kamaketha school. This school is too far to walk to so we had to take a taxi. Unfortunately the road to Kamaketha is very rocky and difficult for many cars pass by so we had to leave the car and walk a kilometer or two. We arrived back to the car several hours later to find that the battery was dead! It needed a jump start, but of course they do not have jump cables in rural Kenya so the driver had to resort to roll starting the car. Unfortunately for us the car was parked facing down a hill, a hill that the car could not go down because of the rocky terrain. So the only solution was for us and one other man to push the car up a hill backwards so it could be roll started. It is safe for us to say neither of us has ever pushed a car up a hill before, thankfully for our “Beach Body Insanity” training we were able to muster enough strength to get the car up. Disappointingly the car did not start, so we had to roll the car back up the hill again and again and again with no luck! The car needed more momentum, which meant rolling it further up the hill, something we could not do. Fortunately for us there were two oxen handy so the farmer hooked them onto the back of the car and got them to pull it up the hill backwards, this worked like a charm and after three or four runs up the hill and two hours later the car started! Hopefully we will not have to be pushing any cars up hills in the near future!

We had three nursery parent presentations from Wednesday to Friday. For each session there was food samples provided to demonstrate a balanced diet. We wanted to interact as much as we could with the “Champs” so we arrived early to each school to help the them prepare the food. They all really enjoyed making fun of our slow peeling and chopping techniques, but all in all we had a great time learning more about Kenyan cooking. All of the presentations had a great turnout or parents present, the majority being the mothers, but we were pleased to have a few fathers at each presentation too! Our presentation at Kieni Kia Ndege (which we abbreviate as KK) on Thursday was proceeded by an unfortunate accident as we were walking back to St. Teresa’s. We were accompanied by a horde of children, as class had finished at the same time as our presentation. There were many bodaboda’s (motorcycle taxi’s) on the road, all of whom were driving much to fast! To our horror one of the drivers hit a child in front of us, Harrison was forced to stand over the child to prevent anyone from trying pick the unconscious boy up, he came to eventually and another bodaboda driver took him to the hospital once he could stand. Luckily, we later found out that he had no serious injuries, however this was an eye opener for us to always keep our wits about us when we are walking during rush hour. We were happy to have Friday arrive so quickly and we were able to finish our presentation by 2 pm (about 2 1/2 hours earlier than usual). The headmaster then took us to a school dancing and singing festival. This was a little awkward at first as we were being stared at like we had beacons flashing on our heads and the sea of children parted before us as we walked towards the dancing. Once we got seated we really enjoyed seeing all of the traditional dances and songs, the rhythm that the children had was amazing!

We are looking forward to an action packed week to come as we finish with the nursery parent presentation and keenly await the arrival of the nursing and biology students!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Week one!

Written by Amy Rawlinson and Harrison Blizzard

We have just finished our first week alone without our mentors and we were sad to see them go on Monday morning. After a couple days to prepare for our Champ meetings with the nursery parents, we headed out to Ruuju school with a little push to get the cab started. We were pleased to have all the five parents show up to meet us during Madaraka Day (the national holiday that commemorates the day Kenya gained self-rule from the UK). They were happy to meet with us and looked forward to working with us to prepare Kenyan food for the nursery school parents. We were also pleased to have both male and female parents actively involved in the process and we believe that this shows the increasing interest in nutrition among the communities that Farmers Helping Farmers is involved with. Thursday and Friday we visited Kieni-kia-Ndege School and Marinya-a-Ruibi School respectively to continue with our Champion parents orientation. The parents were as equally keen and we were honored that they asked us to be involved in preparing the food for the parents. This will be a great opportunity for us to understand their cooking methods and take some skills back home to cook for friends and family. We get a sense within these schools that the sessions will help the parents and children practice healthy eating and the schools are happy to be involved so their students will thrive in academics. We will spend the weekend busy preparing for the presentations and we will cap off Saturday night having pizza with our lovely Italian friends before they leave to go home. They are responsible for the great work that has been done at St. Theresa's and the Machaka orphanage and it was great to spend two weeks with them. It will be an empty two weeks at the residence until the rest of the UPEI team arrives!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Home visits

Written by: Amy Rawlinson & Harrison Blizzard-Nutrition Team 2011

This week we visited four women’s homes as training for our food security interviews that will take place in July. The homes were located in two communities, Ruuju and Muchui, which are approximately one hour apart. We asked the women questions pertaining to their gardens, crops, and food. The first day we started at Muchui which has suffered from two consecutive droughts. These first two visits at Muchui were unique in that they were our first interactions with the women of this area and also it was our first time asking these women to recall upon their hardships. We started by listing the foods and beverages that the women consumed the previous day. While we had experience doing these interviews through our university course work it was difficult because we were unfamiliar with some of the foods (for example the food Changa, which is a dish composed of pounded maize and beans), beverages (a soy drink, where they use crushed soy beans and hot water instead of tea), and meals that the women ate and drank but also we were collecting this information through a translator. As we transitioned into asking the women our questions on their food security it was apparent that the women have been experiencing tough times with their food sources, however it was uplifting to see the resilience and positive attitudes that the women had towards any future successes. The opportunity to measure heights and weights of children under 5 years of age was new to us and proved to be a challenge as they chose not to cooperate but with time, patience, and persistence we were able to collect the data.
Two days later we travelled to Ruuju to complete the same training. The area of Ruuju is much more lush and has received more rain than Muchui; knowing this we assumed that the questions asked would reflect a much more positive feedback on the women’s food security, however, this was not the case. The Women of Ruuju are in fact experiencing similar problems with their food sources as the women of Muchui. They are equally, however, as hard working and hopeful of good crop yields and a better season to come. Our experience preforming the questions were better this time as we had more practice with asking the questions. Also, our communication through the translator was much more free flowing. The young children were still uncooperative with us, but with help from the mothers and other children they allowed us to take their measurements.
At the end of each interview we presented a bottle of (fortified) Golden Fry Oil to the women as a token of our appreciation of their time, this was a gift which they were very pleased to receive and helped to lift the somber atmosphere that generally followed our food security questions.
These four interviews allowed us to be able to reflect on our performances at these, which will help us to successfully attain the needed information for the 40 more interviews that we will be completing in the near future. We are looking forward to revisiting these communities and women throughout our stay in Kenya. We are hopeful that the information we gather will help to improve the quality of life for these families.

The “New Nuts” First Impressions of Kenya

Written By: Amy Rawlinson & Harrison Blizzard-Nutrition Team 2011

After a long flight to Kenya we arrived in Nairobi. The first day we went to purchase some African fabric for Kaylynne and Christina’s Apron project. Harrison was a little overwhelmed with the amount of colors to choose from, later that day we visited a bead factory and again Harrison was overwhelmed by the selection and girlyness of the day. The next day we travelled to Meru, where we will be staying for the duration of our project and met Jennifer Murogocho, our fill in Kenyan mother for the summer. It was a great week to spend with her and we learnt a lot about the Kenyan culture, such as making chapatis and how not to burn your fingers on the chapatti skillet. We also got to look at the agriculture practices in Kenya and we were very excited to see the amount of maize and beans grown together to help fix the soil with nitrogen. The maize is nothing like the sweetcorn that we eat in Canada, it tastes like nothing, it is very starchy. Kaylynne and Christina were ecstatic when they saw some coffee trees and unsuccessfully attempted to dry and roast the beans they picked, but they made a good effort:)
We travelled to Sweetwaters lodge, located in Ol Pejeta Conservatory, the following weekend. This was a nice break before we started our community work. We saw many new animals including four of the “Big Five”. Our closest encounter with wildlife was when our guide was swarmed with African wasps, resulting in four stings, consequently we came out unscathed but had to walk back through a black rhinoceroses latrine. Overall the Sweetwaters experience was a great one as we got to witness amazing Kenyan sceneries and many majestic animals.
On our return from Sweetwaters we arrived at St. Tereas, our home to be for the next few months. The sisters warmly welcomed us with a traditional Kenyan dinner, song, and dance, which included an accompaniment by the Great Canadian Soda Flutist, Harrison. The highlight of the evening was the “cutting of the cake” ceremony. We are now settled into our new home and are looking forward to meeting the staff of St. Teresa’s and working in the communities of Muchui and Ruuju.