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!)