Friday, June 29, 2012

Business in Kiirua

The weeks are flying by, it’s hard to believe we are almost at the half-way point! We are learning so much from all of the people we meet and having an amazing experience so far. We had a really good week, even with a few changes in our plan!

Throughout the week we began to analyze the business plan, and initiate the fifth draft (for the Muchui Business Center), as well as worked on consolidating record sheets for the women at the green houses. We met with two green house members on Monday and five screen house members on Thursday. After collecting data from the Muchui Members over the past month we are finding a lot of similarities. First of all, a major concern of all the women is water and the price of water. Another major challenge they face is market fluctuations and getting their product to the market. We have also noticed a huge improvement in the awareness and decision making capabilities of the women who are entering their second harvest (as opposed to on their first harvest).

On Tuesday we continued our computer literacy training with Virginia and Rebecca (at Ruuju), it was exciting for us, as we helped them enter and summarize their records on the computer for the microfinance and merry-go-round areas.
We were set to meet with two of the Muchui Sub-Committees on Wednesday, but unfortunately there have been a few deaths in the community so we had to postpone them. Instead, we finished the preparation for our CME presentation and I had the opportunity to join the nurses to watch a C-Section!!

On Friday we presented our work at a CME presentation for some of the nurses and doctors. They seemed really interested in what we are working on in their community. We headed to Machaka Orphanage in the afternoon to spend some time with the children.

This weekend we are hosting a Canada Day party for all of the amazing people we are meeting. It is hard to believe how excited everyone is to come, so we are really looking forward to providing them with a few Canadian treats!

Janell MacDonald (Business student)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Another busy week in Kiirua!

It has been another busy few weeks for the nutrition students in Kiirua! The week started out by going to Kinyinjere School where we did a follow-up interview of the school meal assessment done in 2010 and some teacher training. For the follow-up interview we asked them if they had tried the recommendations from 2010 and whether or not they are still using them for their ugi and githeri. They really do listen to everything you tell them and try to improve in any way they possibly can. This year we are doing something new which is teacher training. The purpose of this is to try and get an idea of what the teachers are currently teaching about health and nutrition to see if there is any way we can help out. As we looked through their textbooks, we were quite shocked at the information the students were being taught. They were learning about all the sources of vitamins and minerals and what happens if you have a deficiency in standard 6.

This week we did the first two family nutrition sessions with the Muchui champs. It went extremely well both days. The women were very receptive to the messages we shared which were adding orange sweet potatoes and including vitamin C at meals. The food was phenomenal both days and it was nice to be able to help make it. It’s nice that the women get to have a taste of the food and the champs tell them how the food was prepared that day so they are able to make it at home.

We also completed quite a few home visits this week. It still amazed me how generous these women are when some of them have next to nothing. They are so grateful we are visiting them and will give us anything from eggs to bananas to papaya or tea. We all feel so bad taking the food from them but it is an insult not to take it home with us. The food security part of the interview is always the hardest part and it does not get any easier the more you do it.

On Saturday, we decided that we would help the nursing students with their women’s clinic in Ruuju. Since they were going to be measuring height, weight and waist circumference we were able to do that. There was a great turn out, about 50 women showed up.

On Sunday we went to church for the first time in Kenya. It was really interesting to see how different it is from back home. All seven of us Canadians sang Oh Canada at the church. The Kenyans really enjoyed it even though it wasn’t as upbeat as their music. Yesterday was a fundraising day, which meant there was a ‘live auction’ after the service in the church. The members of the church bring whatever they have at home and donate it to be auctioned off. Some of the items were: chickens, bananas, oranges and milk. It was sure different to see chickens inside a church.

Monday, June 25, 2012

June 18-23

Our week began at St. Teresa’s Hospital. On Monday, Christine spent the day in the operating room and I spent the day in maternity. During the day, we helped staff prepare equipment for procedures, clean the rooms, and observe patient consults.

On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to participate in a HIV support clinic. This HIV support clinic occurs once a month and the members consist of all HIV positive individuals. At the beginning of the clinic, Christine and I were warmly welcomed with a song and dance from the clients and staff. We then shared some education regarding HIV awareness as well as engaged in a question and answer period. The staff then educated the clients regarding health wellness. At the end of the support clinic, we were thanked with a generous lunch.

On Wednesday, Christine spent the day in the operating room. She had the opportunity to assist the surgeon in two caesareans and a prostatectomy procedure. She immensely enjoyed her day in the operating room and received a lot of knowledge from the surgeons. I spent a busy day in maternity. During the day, I observed two births, prepared a woman for a caesarean, and provided labour support for another woman. This woman experienced a prolonged labour as well as some labour complications. However, the baby was not experiencing distress and the doctor wanted to proceed with a vaginal birth. I remained with the woman and provided support as well as encouragement. The woman had a beautiful and healthy little girl and wanted to name her Melanie. The gratitude I felt was overwhelming! The woman in labour was very thankful for the simple touch, support, and encouragement provided.

On Thursday, we travelled to Kaka School to perform hand washing and malaria education. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and beautiful school children. A lovely teacher named Dorcus, brought a class of young children together and translated our material as we educated about malaria net use. We then taught the children about proper hand washing technique. Before we left, the children were given malaria nets, and they were very thankful as well as excited! After, Dorcus invited us for delicious traditional African tea. When finishing at Kaka School, we travelled to a community women’s session lead by the nutrition students. The afternoon consisted of food preparation and food education with a group of women.

On Friday, we travelled with the nutrition students to Machaka orphanage. We spent the morning feeding, playing, and providing love and comfort. We were all invited for lunch with the Sisters at the orphanage. We shared a delicious lunch as well as many conversations and much laughter!

On Saturday morning the nutrition, business, and nursing students, all travelled to a community where we held our second women’s health assessment clinic. The clinic consisted of assessing and educating women regarding: blood pressure, weight, height, waist circumference, blood glucose, oxygen saturation, and pulse. During the clinic, if there was a test result that required medical attention, the individual received education and treatment suggestions. If the individual’s results were all within the normal ranges, praise was given. Once all the women were examined, a brief education session regarding high blood sugar and blood pressure prevention was delivered. The clinic was a success and a total of 48 women participated in the clinic.

This week was filled with learning experiences and memorable adventures! I am looking forward to next week and all the new adventures and memories waiting.

Melanie Coffin (UPEI 3rd Year Nursing Student)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Knowledge Transfer

We conducted our first training sessions this week and we are off to a good start. The women at Ruuju were enthusiastic about thinking of their shambas (farms) as businesses. For the most part these women are substinence farmers, everything they have including their employment comes from the operation of their farms. We walked them through several examples of their ‘business plans’, the inputs (costs), outputs (productions), and profit/loss of popular crops here. The women told us they found it very practical, and several of them wanted more than one copy of the “Business Planning” sheet we had prepared for them. They promised to put them to use, and even opened their homes to us if we so desired to come and check their “homework”! We are looking forward to conducting a few of these sessions with the Muchui members and community. This week we also had our first sub-committee meeting. The business center has five profit centers, and each has a few members (sub-committees) which keep its records. We are working with the center’s accountant to unify these reporting mechanisms and to teach the women to read the financial statements. This task is a little more difficult, but we will do our best to help them to understand the concepts.

We got to go to a waterfall with Salome and her sister this past weekend. The landscape here is incredibly beautiful. It is strange though how within kilometres of each other there are lush green areas which have rivers and plentiful water and also dusty dry zones that rely on expensive piped water as the rain rarely shows up in abundance.

Slowly we are adjusting to the random cow, goat, and sheep herds meandering through the streets on our way to work. The busyness that at first seemed like constant chaos now has a regular type of flow to it. We know how to greet the people in their mother tongue, “muga”, “mugani”, “habari”, and the locals really enjoy it when we holler this to them as we pass. So many friendly faces here. We have even made a few close friends and are throwing a Canada Day party on July 1st. They love to party here, and their faces light up when we give out the invitations. That is going to be a fun day! Off to Mama Jen’s for the weekend. She is taking us to church and teaching us to make chapattis. They are like African pancakes and I am excited to learn the recipe, as it is one ethnic I plan to make when I return to Canada!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Decided to post a few pictures of Morgan and I in the field we finally managed to take today. Thought it might be good to see some photos to make sense of the work we're doing (as I previously described).


Pictures from top:

"Kitten and calf in one!"
"This is what happens when we schedule a farm that is literally on the premises of a primary school"
"Measuring up"- height measurements to monitor our calve's growth, it's hard not to get suckled.
"Mother?" Morgan and Cow
"Tea with Joyce"- one of our favourite weekly visits, Joyce's view on the photo? "OMG I'm for dark!!!" And here we both thought we were too white ;)
"Jen with Cow"
A quick blog this week as we are heading off to Lake Navisha for a few days, photos and blog will come post trip.

This week is reserved for our loyal, kind and overly (at times) patient driver, Frederick. Frederick does not own his own car, he rents one, so as you can imagine, his profits from dealing with us all hours of the day are little. Yet never is this shown in the way he treats us, or the tireless efforts we all make in ensuring his car is on the road at all. I say on the road at all because upon approaching the vehicle, one can determine it is far from fit for the roads we take it down. Hills, mudslides, rocks, boulders, bigger rocks, mini-mountains, rivers, itty-bitty bridges, somehow we manage to roll our way (often by ripping through 1-3 gear in one go) through all of this, but it is for sure a team effort. This week especially saw myself, Morgan, Sylvia and Pauline pushing Frederick's car up more than a few massive mud hills (all while being spit in the face with direct petrol, the result of a lost exhaust pipe earlier in the week, Frederick had battled an even bigger hill and the hill had won, claiming the exhaust pipe in return for our pathetic attempts to conquer it). It also saw many a shaken head on behalf of onlookers, who burst into laughter at our ridiculous efforts to get this vehicle going. It seemed like we pushed it more than it drove, let's just leave it at that. All of this is said without direct documentation, but today, was the behemoth...and we got some of it on camera.

"Road construction, great," I turn to Morgan and we both give a look of concern.

Road construction in this case meant a bunch of men shovelling rocks, yes, rocks, onto the road to give it some traction. These transactions in the roadways usually see us waiting for everyone to pass, as it doesn't take much for other drivers to assess we stand no chance of making it through alive and they don't want to be stuck behind us. This scenario of course played out again. I have learned enough of the language to know that when the man in the car in front of us (often we are head on with other vehicles, vying for space in a one car road) told us to "back up and turn your wheels to the side, common man, back up", I out-loud said, "No! You can't be serious! We can't back up!" But it was too late, Frederick looked at me questioningly for a pure second, before revving the car backwards, into you guessed it, a ditch. Well, first we hit a motorbike, who shook his fist at us from the shrubs, then we rolled backward into the ditch, then revered forward into the ditch, then finally came to a rest entirely in the ditch. No movement. This is the point when we all on key get out of the vehicle, but this time things were too bad for us to handle alone...

Frederick sized up our situation.....and decided we needed help.

These men literally stopped their work and physically picked up the car, in the front and back, and placed it back on the road.

Off we were again, to face more road adventures, or the car just flat out dying (as it did on the middle of the tarmac on the way home the day previously).

While this is simply a happening here in Kenya, many people at home will get a laugh out of our situation, while I am left with admiration for our rescuers and of course, for Frederick.


As you can probably guess by now this is a blog entirely dedicated to our first safari at Sweet Waters, or the highlights of it at least. Of course I have many, many more and there will be more great shots to come but thought my peers may enjoy some of these, well, and anyone else who has ever dreamed of safari!!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nursing Team Week Three! By Christine Cassidy

Week three in Kenya has flown by! We started off the week by saying goodbye to Kim. It was sad to see her leave since she was such a great help in getting us adjusted and ironing out the kinks! This was her sixth time in Kenya so she was very knowledgeable and at ease, which really helped Melanie and I.

I spent Monday and Tuesday in the operating room at St. Teresa’s Hospital, while Melanie was on the maternity ward. The staff were so welcoming and I’ve learned a great deal in such a short period of time with them. Monday ended up being an extremely difficult first day. A patient was rushed to the OR for an emergency cesarean. Sadly, her twins were stillborn. This was my first experience with neonatal death and it was very heartbreaking. The staff handled this tragedy extremely well and I was grateful for their support.

On Wednesday we spent the day in the CCC (Continuous Care Centre) at St. Teresa’s for the HIV/AIDS clinic. Members of the community living with HIV/AIDS visited the clinic throughout the day for a follow-up with the clinical officer and to receive their medications for the next two months. The Kenyan government pays for all of the HIV/AIDS medications, which is extremely positive! However, the problem is that many people do not have the finances for transportation to the clinic to receive the medications. Melanie and I took the patient’s vitals, provided a brief information session on HIV/AIDS, treatment, and nutrition and handed out information brochures. Sister Jacinta immediately taped a brochure to the poster wall! It is nice to see the UPEI and Farmers Helping Farmers logo in the hospital.

Thursday we started out on the bumpy journey to Kamuketha Primary School to do education session on malaria and hand washing. We had mosquito nets to hand out to the nursery school children as well as the transfer students in years 1, 2 and 3. The children were so grateful and excited! All of the students were so happy to see us and interact with us. It was a very humbling experience to spend time with these beautiful children. Compared to life in Canada, we may think that they do not have a lot to be happy about; however, their smiles and energy tell a different story. I will never forget them.

We finished off the week in Machaka at the children’s orphanage. They were so happy to see us and the Sisters were so kind. We had tea and lunch there and played with the children in between. Since it is an Italian order of nuns, they have a lot of Italian visitors so the children would all wave and say “Ciao!” They were adorable! Machaka is a really great way to finish off the week.

Melanie and I are both looking forward to getting back to the hospital on Monday and seeing what our fourth week here in Kiirua holds!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Nutrition Team Update: Getting into the Groove

During the past week, we have sadly said farewell to our professors Ed, Jennifer and Kim. Ed and Jennifer departed last Wednesday (June 6th) and Kim left early Monday morning of this week. We all missed them initially (they performed well as substitute parents), but we are now content to begin our next phase here.

The seven of us- including the Business, Nursing and Nutrition teams have become a great little family here. We have instituted ‘family game night,’ (including homemade snack, of course), and ‘movie night’. We also have many adventures planned for the weekends ahead- we are all eager to try new things and make the most of our time here!

We, the Nutrition Team, have been quite busy throughout the past few weeks. We visited Machaka Children’s Home with the Nursing and Business students last Thursday. In addition to the orphanage, the facility also operates a day program which allows young children from the community to receive schooling, breakfast and lunch. After touring the expansive (and gorgeous) grounds, we were all keen to help in feeding the very young ones. Although many of us have found that babies will fear the sight of us because of our white skin (they literally start wailing!), it was not the case at Machaka. The babies were so pleased to be held by us and did not fuss as we fed them their uji (maize porridge). A few of the babies were obviously quite premature and showed signs of malnutrition due to their inability to eat all that they require. We have been told from previous students that the hardworking Sisters and staff of Machaka work miracles to nurse these most fragile children back to good health. Our visit warmed our hearts that day and we are all looking forward to returning each week (Nursing students) or every second week (Business and Nutrition students).

Looking back at this week, we (Nutrition Team) have continued to make progress in our data collection of food security/food diversity research by doing several home visits in the Kiirua and Mikinduri areas. Several of the women we visited this week were struggling significantly. Although we are all quite comfortable conducting the interviews, we still feel so distraught and heartbroken when the women state that they didn't eat lunch to save food for their children, or were without food for days or weeks at a time.It is definitely apparent that Ruuju women experience great food insecurity. Many of them walk miles away from their houses each day to rented land where they grow crops, and only a few have access to screen houses or drip irrigation. This growing season is not going well at all due to lack of rainfall and infestations or crop diseases. On a positive note, other women that we visited were doing fairly well and were proud to show us their bountiful kitchen gardens and shambas.

All of the women here work so very hard. They exert such effort and it is all to merely survive, not get ahead. It is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around- at home, we do not have to really work to obtain food. We can simply go to Sobeys and pick up what we need without hesitation. We have imagined what it would be like to be forced to grow our own food for our families. We most likely would not be able to sustain ourselves whatsoever or have even one-tenth of the success the Kenyan women have with their crops even with adequate growing conditions. These women have impressed us in every way- their dedication to their families as hardworking mothers and farmers, their hospitality that they always show to us and others, and their sheer vibrance that emanates from their smiles! These women are true role models for us.

The great highlight of our week occurred yesterday at our first Family Nutrition Session with our ‘Champs’ from Ruuju. This year, we are teaching women about the importance of Vitamin A and its relation to good eye health and preventing illness. We are teaching the women that by incorporating orange sweet potatoes into foods such as githeri (maize and bean stew), uji (porridge) and chapatis (flat bread), they will obtain Vitamin A. We are also teaching the women about ways to increase iron absorption through additions of vitamin C-rich foods. We have suggested adding tomatoes and green peppers to githeri to aid in the iron absorption from the beans. Another suggestion we have given is to have fruit with their meals. While these messages seem simple to us, they are new and beneficial to the women we are working with. We have also attempted to encourage the women to not consume tea with their meals, as the tannins in tea interfere with iron absorption. We often get laughed at over saying such a thing though. Any time is tea time here- Kenyans consume it like water!

Before the teaching session began, we arrived at Ruuju School to find our 5 Champs busy behind the cookhouse preparing the food. Janet got to work with the uji while I (Sam) helped prepare the chapatis. While rolling the chapatis, I worked with one of the champs, Mary, who wanted to marry me off to her son and send us and some cows back to Canada! Later on, Janet was cutting tomatoes and I was cutting carrots. We were using large chef knifes to slice everything up without cutting boards. We looked pretty pathetic beside the expert Kenyan women who sliced through the vegetables with ease and no worry of slicing their fingers off in the process! We all had some great laughs!

By 3pm we had everything prepared and had a good showing of the Ruuju women- all decked out in their 'uniform' of white shirts and navy skirts. Janet introduced us, I reviewed the prior messages from 2010 (from Kaylynne and Christina) and asked how many women adopted the teachings (pretty much all of them!). Fergie spoke about the new messages. After we addressed the crowd, everyone ate and enjoyed the delicious food. When we finished eating, the champs all spoke about how they prepared the food. The crowd was really engaged and interested. At the end, we were of course invited to dance with them as they sang songs of praise. It was so much fun and we couldn't stop smiling from ear to ear!

These next few weeks will also be busy for us, but we are nonetheless excited and eager to do more teaching sessions and home visits. We are also hoping to eventually be able to dance as well as the Kenyan women! Their hips can really move...our’s- not so much! Oh well, we will try! Stay tuned for more updates from the Nutrition Team!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Boy with the Green Sweater
By Jen Huizen

A tug at my side,
I look down, a smile.

Tiny fingers reach out to grasp
the collar of a faded green sweater.

It is clearly a cast off
from another family member,

who wore it until the wool began to
beg for retirement, to be allowed
to separate once and for all.

Yet somehow it remains intact
keeping a tiny child warm,

while I stand beside him
in summer clothes and sandals.

He motions for me
to take his picture,

I bend down to his height
to show him the result.

Big eyes look at the screen,
tiny fingers once again grasp

at the collar of the sweater,
he looks at me with confusion.

Look at your nice green sweater!
I say

Green sweater?
he replies

I point to his chest
and then to the picture,

a look of utter delight.

Green sweater!
he exclaims.

I suddenly realize I am far
behind the group,

regretfully, I get up
we shake hands

and I begin to walk away.

I wonder if he found delight
in the word green

or the very idea
of seeing something

that belongs to him,
marvelled at by another.

I will never know
but it makes no difference.

We have shared
a simplistically happy moment.

Looking at the picture later,
I feel embarrassed to discover

I never even learned his name.

I wonder what
he will remember of me

the boy

with the faded
green sweater.

***Author's Note:
I wrote this during one of the visits we made to the schools sponsored in part by CIDA and twinned with a PEI school (Carolyn's work). While Melaine Boyd and crew were getting a talk about the new high efficient (and most importantly) low smoke cookers, (coal cooking or open fire cooking was contributing to a lot of lung disease), my eyes were beginning to water so I stepped outside. The schoolyard was desolate, save one very small little boy, sitting alone in the middle of the playground. He sat, legs crossed, in the pure dust, picking at the edges of this tattered green sweater. He was quick to get up and came over to me while I was trying to take a photo of one of the classrooms, tugging at my shirt. He pointed to the camera and did a posed smile a few times before I clued in he wanted his picture taken. He didn't understand to look at the camera (in the first shot) and I perfectly was able to capture how I had first seen him from a distance, enthralled with the sweater. I showed him the picture but he didn't recognize it and kept pointing to the camera and smiling again. I put my finger on the playback screen of the camera, then put it on his chest. "Your green sweater" I said, over and over, until he finally had a shot of enlightenment and his eyes became huge. He was thrilled and now understood entirely how to have his photo taken, running a few feet away from me and posing as you see in the image following the poem. All of the sudden I turned to see where my group had gone, to find them out of the cookhouse and no where to be seen. Far off I could see them posing themselves for a photo at the gates of the school and realized I needed to catch up. We shook hands goodbye but forever I will be left to wonder about the boy with the green sweater. Where did it come from? Was it from someone he admired and that was why he loved it, or was it a gift, making it so special. Or was it simply, as many things here in rural Kenya appear to be, a source of joy simply in being a possession. Everywhere you see shoes and cheap clothing but the actual amount people owns seems to be very limited and shoes often are not even worn on many of the farms we visit. However on the road you'll find countless broken sandals and torn up shirts, abandoned, probably used by many individuals before being left on the side of the road to finally retire. I am told here everything is initially cheap, imported from China and the likes, but shows it price in quality, often breaking within a few months of purchase. This gives me some form of an explanation as to why half way through surveying an old woman farmer I will look down and realize she's wearing something like a "Minnie Mouse, born wild" shirt, depicting Mrs. Mouse clad in leather, riding a Harley and wearing a dog collar, or other (to me) extremely strange clothing. More than once I have been stuck in the position, trying not to stare, or laugh. Priscilla our translator, has become wise to when I am trying not to laugh and her standing behind the woman imitating the shirt or herself, breaking out in laughter, makes in none to easy to finish the questions in any reasonable time frame. I asked the girls (Syvlia and Pauline, our U of Nairobi counterparts) about whether people even knew what they meant. They responded, probably not and even if they did, clothing is clothing. Clothing is clothing, what a strange concept for us as North Americans. Even children in community housing will toss out a shirt if it's not a name brand and often when my mother worked as a guidance counsellor in some of the rougher neighbourhoods in and around Halifax, I would find her students wearing more expensive clothing than my own (be it ripped off from a truck or whatnot, regardless the sentiment is the same). While this poem is but a brief moment of my time here in Kenya, it is one I am not liable to forget. Thank you to the boy with the green sweater, I will probably not look at the clothing on the side of the road here in the same way again. I walked away from him that day a bit confused over what in specific he was most interested in during our transaction, but since have come to find that is of no consequence, for our moment together represents one in the time continuum of my experiences here in Kenya, which continue to build on my understanding of the people here.

by Jen Huizen

A word exchanged
two hands embrace
eye to eye
smile to smile.

There are no real need for words
in a country so ripe with this
ancient form of basic
human decency.

Yet still they are spoken
still they stand
unchanged by time
as they have been in other worlds.

I begin to wonder
how I have forgotten
the power which lies
in simple words
of acknowledgment.

These basic
day to day promises
which have been
misplaced in my life.

Words that come
out of my mouth
at the right time and place
so that no one will take offence.

When you must relearn words
in another language
you are brought to
this kind of thinking.

When did I begin to lose
the true intent of such words,
burry them deep in filing cabinets,
push them to the back of my mind,

to make more room
for things
I am told
are more important.

Tucked behind
grocery lists
electrical bills
Christmas wish lists
and tax returns,

these words have been given
the silent treatment.

Spoken but not remembered

said but not understood.

Without my
electronic documents
without my
pieces of paper to remind me of things
purchased and returned,

I am forced to look out the window.

On the dirt road is a woman
hidden behind an impossible
bundle of sticks, heading uphill.

Our vehicle passes
so close to her body
that I fear we will hit her
but she remains unfazed.

She has no vehicle
no electricity to pay for
no money to fulfill
christmas wish lists,

no income to claim.

Her life demands
hard work
and I am sure here aches
are many

but her baggage seems
somehow more manageable.

Maybe I will consider opening
my box of indisposable files
and redetermine
what is truly necessary.

I will bury the rest in my garden
allow the earth to break it down
into something more usable
more constructive.

I will sit on my porch
and wait for spring.

Maybe then I will find
some room in my garden
for the word


**Author's Note:
I was compelled to write this poem after traveling through the country and visiting some of the projects CIDA and Farmers Helping Farmers have helped fund. Everywhere we went (these are only a sample of the hundred or so photos I have) be it big or small, on behalf of a whole community or one individual, there were signs up thanking Canada, CIDA, Farmers Helping Farmers, and in some instances such as one of the Meru region schools, a very small specific area, like Souris, PEI. I think people here would find it difficult to believe that PEI is one of Canada's poorest provinces. It is truly amazing to see the continued commitment and benefit of these relationships and I am in awe of what these friendships have fostered.
Every day when I am on farms I hear the word asante as often as you'd expect to hear the word "like" in Canada. It is just one of those words which somehow makes its way into virtually every sentence. I find myself saying it more than I ever would at home, and found myself wondering why it has somewhat fallen out of favour in North America. Is it that we are less grateful? Expect more inherently so feel we have less to give specific thanks for? Or is it just overlooked and slowly over time has been phased out. While I cannot speak for everyone, for myself I think it has just become a word in my mind that is attached inherently to specific sentences, or is an automatic responses when someone for example, opens a door for me. I have come to enjoy using it so much more frequently here, as it is not simply an automatic response, as I had kind of felt the first week we were here because it was used to often, but a true, genuine, thought out expression of gratitude and happiness. After returning from our tour of the projects, as our taxi was bustling down a very narrow dirt road one morning, we came across a woman carrying a truly epic bundle of sticks. They were tied to her back and slung over her forehead with a piece of fabric and as our car rushed past here, we displaced her from the road, forcing her into the ditch. I turned back to see what her response would be to this, in my opinion, rather rude interaction. She did turn at look at the vehicle, but only for a moment, before lifting her hand, waving briefly and continuing up the hill. This is the point when I realized all of these words of gratitude I have been hearing are nothing but the honest truth. People do not say it on autopilot, or without truly and fully meaning it. For all of these reasons, I was almost forced into writing this poem, so I in my own small way, could return the gratitude. Thank you to all of those who made this trip possible for me and hopefully before my time is up here I will have a new way of looking at some of the things we take for granted in Canada, like the word, thank-you.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Our week began by visiting St. Theresa’s hospital. The staff were all very warm and welcoming as well as excited to collaborate and share knowledge. The hospital was beautiful and kept very organized by the sisters of St. Theresa. After our tour of the hospital, we spent the day in maternity. There were two women in active labour and it was a privilege to be with these women. Their strength and courage was admirable! It was very humbling to hear their appreciation regarding a simple touch of comfort and encouragement. Later in the day, one of the women required a caesarean birth. The woman wanted to express her gratitude for Christine’s presence during her labour experience, and named her beautiful and healthy little girl Christine. On Tuesday, we travelled to a school and performed education sessions regarding malaria and proper mosquito net use. With the assistance from the school staff and Kim, the education sessions were a true success and the content was well understood and received. There was a total of three education sessions (one for the young children, one for the older children, and one for the parents). A total of 600 mosquito nets were distributed to the children and this was made possible because of the donation from Farmer’s Helping Farmers. The next day we were back at St. Theresa’s hospital. During the day, we viewed several surgeries as well as a caesarean birth of twins. This was an amazing day because I learned a lot of new information about the procedures being performed! On Thursday, all nursing, nutrition, and business students visited the Machaka orphanage. This was another very beautiful facility run by the sisters of St. Theresa. Some of the older children attending the orphanage were from the surrounding community and could not afford school or meals. Subsequently, the orphanage provides a feeding program as well as education for these children. The children at Machaka were healthy, happy, and full of life! Throughout the day, we also helped feed, comfort, and play with the beautiful infant and toddler orphans. On Friday, we travelled to a poverous community with a community health worker. There, we provided HIV awareness and promoted the importance of cervical screening. We also visited some families that were HIV positive and lost a loved one to HIV. This was a very humbling experience. Regardless of their health statuses, all the individuals were welcoming and full of joy. I feel very blessed to be here in Kenya and am enjoying learning new information about nursing as well as the African culture. I am excited for all the new learning experiences and adventures that are waiting! Melanie Coffin (UPEI 3rd Year Nursing Student)