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!