Pictures!

 

Hello All! 

Well Its been about a month since I returned to Canada, and I’m already so swamped with school work I can barely keep up! Yikes! 

But I figured that since you all did such a wonderful job keeping up with my blog this past summer, I would take advantage of this opportunity of some spare time (and high functioning internet!) to post the rest of my  pictures to the blog! There might be doubles from previous posts simply because I am too lazy to sort my way through them! So please enjoy, and if you feel bold today feel free to comment on my sub-par photography skills! 

 

Thanks Again for reading!

Blake ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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The End of an Adventure…

Well its here, my last night in Kenya.

We left North Maragoli this afternoon and are staying in Kisumu tonight since we are flying out from here tomorrow evening. I am happy to say that despite all the roadblocks, frustrations, and delays, we have opened a fully functioning Probiotic Yoghurt Kitchen AND Lab in the Muungano Special School!

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We had our big Kitchen opening on Saturday and it was a hit! Everyone loved our [slightly lumpy] first batch of yoghurt! It was especially great seeing the children that came enjoying it (without adding sugar!). We even had a local choir that uses the school grounds to practice serenade the crowd with a few traditional songs, that added a wonderful touch to the day.

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Despite the success of the first day, it didn’t come easy. GIllian and I had many late night trips to the Kitchen/Lab during the preceding days to make sure the probiotic was ready and then to actually prepare the yoghurt for the opening day. Needless to say we were completely exhausted, but it was all worth it to open the kitchen after so much waiting. It was also great to give the mamas the opportunity to finally make the positive impact on their community that they have been contemplating since last year when they learned of the Yoghurt Program from the Mamas in Oyugis. 

Since the opening we had a few setbacks. Most of which involved our supply of milk…you would think in an area where everyone and their brother owns a cow it would be easy to come by…this is definitely not the case. We ended up using a supplier from Eldoret for the last few days but just this morning we had to change our supplier again due to a falling out with this one. This newest supplier seems much more keen to work with us and is even willing to deliver right to the school (the other one was not). We are also receiving 5L/day from Kenneth, a Member of the HIV Group that spawned our wonderful group of “Mamas” I use the Mama term loosely here as Kenneth himself works as a “Mama” in the Kitchen, he is scheduled for Thursdays so unfortunately we never got to work with him in the kitchen, but he is a wonderful and reliable person that we were happy to purchase milk from. 

Also, another problem we encountered was a non-functioning fridge, which resulted in the souring of about 8L of milk (quite the dilemma) but, since it is still under warranty the repairs should be complete by the end of the week! So no more problems there! 

Getting the HIV/AIDS Registry completed was also a task and a half, the list of 55 people was only finalized in the last few days and it took all my time to get it organized and have the identity cards completed before our departure today. 

In the end though, we did it. Tonight has just been one big sigh of relief (not to mention having a huge sense of accomplishment). Feeling accomplished though, does not mean we’re completely happy about leaving….

This has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, regardless of any complaining I may have done in the beginning. I am going to miss Kenya tremendously, the way of life, the scenery, the nature, but most of all the amazing people and adorable children. I want to thank everyone who made this adventure as amazing, meaningful, and life-changing as it was. Including my fellow interns who shared in both the accomplishments and frustrations, as well as Louise and all the staff members at Muungano without the support of the school this project never would have been such a success.I have many high hopes for the future of this project….and who knows maybe I’ll be back in a year or two to see how things are progressing! 

I’ll end this post in the most appropriate way I can…picturesImageImageImage

Thanks for following along all summer! 

-Blake 

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The Final Stretch

Hello all,
I am currently blogging via phone from the back of a Matatu so please forgive spelling/grammar errors…its a bit of a bumpy ride!

Anyways, a lot has happened since my last post. We got electricity! Then subsequently lost it and then got it back again! So we’re happy about that, we have moved everything into the lab and kitchen space and things are plugged in and functional! (With the exception of one fridge- we have to call LG and have them send us a technician since we are so rural… Thank goodness for the warranty!)
As such, Gill ran through some lab training with Maggie and Lavender and we also hosted Ellissa, two Mamas from Oyugis and one aspiring lab technician for the weekend so they could see just what the culturing process entails, as the only thing standing in their way of success is obtaining the probiotic. We unfortunately had to end our relationship with KEMRI as they became disinterested in supporting our project through the donation of minor lab equipment – but we perservered and purchased what we needed to get started ASAP.
We were in Kisumu on Thursday attempting to sort out the KEMRI situation and ended up having to get a hotel in Kisumu for the night since it got too dark to travel back to North Maragoli – lucky for us we were provided with accomodations at the Kiboko Bay resort (at the Kenyan Resident rate). Gillian, Louise and I were very grateful for all the help the management provided us in our situation!
Tomorrow we plan on beginning yoghurt training with our mamas and polishing off our registry list of people living with HIV/AIDS and are anticipating and opening of the kitchen on Saturday! (Best case scenario) if all goes well and according to plan, we will have the mamas take some promotional material (provided by Olivia in Rwanda) to the market on Thursday to advertise our prices and location!

Anyways That’s all for now (I’m getting a little bit of motion sickness staring at my phone in this stuffy little van!)
Expect a few more posts this week as we work fervently to get this kitchen up and running in the next 11 days!

Asante Sana!
-Blake

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What a Whirlwind of a Month!

Jambo Everyone!

I can’t believe I have left it so long but it has been a crazy couple of weeks with a sub-par internet connection (thus why I am blogging from my phone).
I can’t believe July is nearly over and there are only three weeks left until we leave Kenya! But on the plus side we have had an amazing month.
First of all we had an amazing experience on safari in the Maasai Mara. We were so happy to accompany Louise and Marg as well as to have Ellissa and Frank join us. We stayed at a wonderful little tented camp that was VERY economical ($57 USD for two nights including all our meals). Our tent fit the four of us (Louise and Marg were at their own Lodge) and had running water, a hot shower, and four real beds! So no matter how it lacked in other ways we enjoyed the few luxuries all the same.
After the safari we spent a couple days in Nairobi. We got to see Louise’s infamous “cockroach hotel” (better known as the Kenya Comfort Inn) which was much better than I expected! The first night we were there Ellissa stayed with us in the hotel before heading back to Oyugis the next day. We took advantage of the city setting and saw “The Amazing Spiderman” in Imax 3D after stopping at a place known for the best coffee in Nairobi (typical of me I know). After that we went back to the Hotel and waited for Louise to arrive with Teddy and Daniel from the airport who have been with us for the last two weeks and will be leaving North Maragoli tomorrow and flying back to Canada this weekend. They have been great comopany and have been an asset to the school since they did construction on the outdoor kitchen as well as helped us with the window repairs on our kitchen. Marg had flown back to Canada on our second day in Nairobi and we were also sad to see her go but she seemed to have an amazing trip.
While in Nairobi we paid a visit to the huge Maasai Market and once again I found myself buying many souvenirs (I am an impulse shopper at heart). Also, while we were in the city, we made a stop at the Chemoquip head offices to order all the laboratory supplies which we did …AND we got an amazing deal on all of it – total 25% off each item, we were $500 under budget so that made us and Louise VERY happy! It was dfelivered within days and is currently sitting locked in the kitchen space. All together the safari and Nairobi made for an amazing weekend.
More recently we made a trip into Kisumu and stopped at the Nakumatt Mega City Plaza to purchase all our kitchen supplies now that we have everything all we’re waiting on is electricity, which should be done by tomorrow (my unbridled optimism coming through once again), but once that is done all we need to do is train the women’s group to make yoghurt and teach business skills. Gillian will also be teaching Maggie and Lavender (two teachers at Muungano)how to do the lab work. So we are very excited to get that started!
Tomorrow, we will be taking Teddy and Daniel to Mbale to catch their bus to Nairobi to get their flight. In the meantime, we’ll be working like crazy to get everything set up in our last three weeks. Ellissa will also be bringing a few mamas from Oyugis next week (if we have electricity) to see how the probiotic is cultured so they are better prepared to handle it carefully once we start producing it for them to use in their kitchens.
As you can see the last few weeks definitely has been a whirlwind of activity, and the next three weeks will most likely be more of the same!

That’s all I have to update for now, thanks for reading!

-Blake

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Training and Painting Photos!

Hello Everyone!
Sorry that I am a few days late with the photos. Its been a little hectic around here. We’ve not only been busy painting but Louise and Marg have arrived and we couldn’t be happier to have some company in our little house. But below are the photos I have promised from both the Oyugis training and the painting of the kitchen (We’ve dubbed it Maragoli Blue since everything here is either cream, blue, or burnt red).
Also, a HUGE thank you goes out to Ellissa who came back with us from Oyugis to help paint and distribute some of the yoghurt we brought back to all the students (they loved it!).

Oyugis Training with Mamas, Violet, Florence and Edith / Post- Oyugis Kitchen Progress:

Asante Sana for taking the time to once again check out my blog!

-Blake

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Greetings From Oyugis!

Hello Everyone!

Sorry its been a while since my last post! We’ve had a bit of a slow week. But…

We have arrived in Oyugis!

We have brought two of the women from the group (Mamas Florence and Edith) as well as Violet, who works at Muungano. We met up with Ellissa (Read her Blog) the other WHE Intern in Kenya. We all visited the Orande women’s group kitchen today and shared a cup of Chai (tea) with the women there. Ellissa informed us of the issues faced by the Oyugis groups. It seems that the Orande kitchen just resumed producing yoghurt this past week as much of their equipment has malfunctioned. Also, neither group is currently producing probiotic yoghurt due to a faltering support relationship with KEMRI – BUT we have come up with a plan! …

Once we have purchased and set up our lab facilities within the kitchen in North Maragoli (hopefully by the end of the month) several women from Oyugis will join us to learn how to work with the probiotic and then, if all goes according to plan, a system will be worked out through which the Oyugis kitchens can acquire the probiotic culture from the Muungano kitchen on a regular basis. The details still need refining but there is HUGE potential here and I’m extremely excited to see how this turns out! No doubt the huge support played by the Muungano school (Staff and Administration) will be an integral part of this and will allow for benefits to be reaped by all three kitchens! We still have yet to visit the Baraka group (as they’re about 30 minutes outside the town centre) but we will definitely be reaching out to offer support and hopefully get all three producing probiotic yoghurt by the end of the year. 

We start training on the yoghurt making process tomorrow, as we spent this afternoon simply getting the lay of the land here and settling into our hotel – which is quite nice for only 800KSH per night! (It has BOTH a shower and toilet – to me this is heaven) 

We are heading back to North Maragoli on Wednesday and Ellissa is coming with us to check out our humble abode as well as the school. She’ll also be helping us paint! which is exciting because if you’ve been following along, you’ll know that is the LAST construction project that needs to be completed before we can start purchasing equipment/supplies and moving them into the kitchen! So, as y’all can see there is much to be excited about here.

Louise also arrives in Kenya this week on the 5th, so I have a feeling that we will have much less idle time on our hands with such a flurry of activity in the near future!  

Another thing…We hit a big milestone yesterday!Not only was it Canada Day (Happy Birthday to my home and native land) – BUT it was also out half way point! we are officially half way through our 90 Day / 3 month Kenya adventure! We have a lot on the horizon so I have a feeling that the last leg of our time here will go by a lot faster (and hopefully see a lot more accomplished). 

Anyways that is all I have to update on for now, but check back again on Thursday for a post (and photos) about tomorrow’s yoghurt training and our progress with painting! 

-Blake 

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So Much To Do… So Little Time..

Hello All!

I have been contemplating my next post for a while now and when it struck me how much we still have to do in the next 50 or so days, the blog post practically began to write itself!

I’ll begin with where we currently stand. As of right now the kitchen space is nearly wired with electrical cable, the new windows are in (without glass), the partition separating the work space from the sale area is completed, the water tank is elevated and the sink has been installed giving us a supply of running water! – Now, keep in mind getting this far was not without its hiccups – As all of this was not part of the Western Heads East start-up budget, therefore finding the money for such jobs with the staff a Muungano was quite the headache for us. Thankfully we’ve gotten over that hurdle thanks to the support of Louise (Muungano’s Founder who will be joining us in 2 weeks ).

Our next steps include putting the glass in the windows (hopefully tomorrow), painting the room, purchasing the equipment for the lab (also, only possible due to the cooperation and support of Muungano’s Canadian board of directors), getting electricity hooked up to the building, purchasing the kitchen supplies (the bulk of which IS included in our budget!), organizing a trip for our group of yoghurt Mamas to visit the kitchens in Oyugis for training in an established kitchen, setting up the registration for the people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) to receive their free yoghurt on a daily basis, training the lab technician and some of the mamas on how to culture the probiotic, and teaching proper business and record keeping skills. If you think that sounds like a lot, it is. We’re excited to finally be busy and not playing the waiting game or e-mail tag (with a 7 hour time difference between here and Canada it can drag on and on) – but at the same time a little worried about our time frame. I’m confident that the bulk of the aforementioned list will be accomplished, it just becomes a matter of effectively using whatever time we have left.

ALSO, somewhere in the middle of all this activity I have to find time to squeeze in research that I’m working on as part of the course credit I’m receiving for being here!… Oh well all this activity is sure to make things a lot more exciting here  in little old North Maragoli!

The activity is not the only exciting thing going on, Our little house is about to get a lot more populated, as Louise arrives in two weeks with a friend who will be accompanying her on Safari and leaving in mid-July (Louise is staying until the end of August – after we leave), and then two students from McMaster University will be coming and staying with us for approximately two weeks towards the end of July, and then for our last two weeks here in August a group of three Australian teachers will be staying here! If anything all these new people and project tasks will make the last half of our time in Kenya fly by!

Well, Now you’re all caught up on our project and what we have left to accomplish before August 16th! I’ll leave y’all with some of the latest photos of the kitchen!

-Blake

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Reality.

One of the most difficult things to come to terms with: You Can’t Help Everyone 

This is especially true when working on an international development project such as this one. This reality hit home with me yesterday, as we traveled into Kakamega to do some dealings with the electrical company -( long story short we can’t afford to jump the queue so we’ll most likely be waiting a minimum of a month and a half before they come to hook up the power now that our forms have been submitted)

On our way there via Matatu, I was asked if I could A) Find someone a job B) If I had anything to give them and C) if I could pay their Matatu fare. While buying supplies to wire the kitchen, a young boy was calling to me asking for money, and on our way home we were once again asked for money by someone in the North Maragoli community who shouted at us as we refused and went on our way.

It is such a moral dilemma when someone asks you for money and you are unable and then they get angry or upset when you refuse. The frequency that this occurred yesterday is the inspiration for this post. We came home frustrated and felt as if people only see us as a way to get something. I am not saying that this is the case for everyone,but it is how we felt after such an exhausting day.

It was disheartening to have to say no to all of the above because part of you wants to give but you know that you only have so much for yourself – and running out of money 12,000 km from home is not something I’m interested in experiencing. The fact of the matter remains that we are here to do a specific project to benefit this school and this community by empowering them to create a better future for themselves by sustaining the yoghurt project and reaping its benefits for years to come.

At the same time it is part of the great balancing act of international development – how does one build capacity without generating dependence? is it even possible? – personally I think it is as long as local sustainability and knowledge transfer remain at the heart of every project. This is something that just handing things out does not do – it may provide temporary satisfaction but it does little to nothing to provide long term benefits. This is how I have reconciled the issue on a personal level, building a sustainable future – and focusing the available resources I have on that – far outweighs any simple handout. Does that make it any easier to refuse someone asking for help? The simple answer: not even a little bit. But it does provide perspective as to why you must decline and instead focus your mind and resources on what it is that you set out to do in the first place.

All of this has led me to the conclusion that International Development is difficult, frustrating, time consuming and at times overwhelming. But that does not mean its impossible?… quite the opposite – as long as the necessary focus and direction are there (along with the appropriate resources of course) it can be done successfully and have a lasting impact on the lives of many people. Therefore, it can be both one of the most stressful and also one of the most rewarding experiences out there. After a month on the ground, I do not doubt the truth behind this for a second.

Thanks once again for taking the time to read my rambling thoughts!

-Blake

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Question Period.

Hello to my diligent Blog Followers!

I figured that it was about time that I shared one of the most interesting things that Gillian and I have encountered while being in Kenya…The questions. Many of the friends we’ve made here are among the staff at Muungano and as such they’ve grown much more comfortable with asking us questions about anything and everything to do with Canadian culture in comparison to what is common in Kenya. Today posed such a scenario, we went to check in on the progress of the construction (which is going well, please see the pictures in my last post to get a visual!) and we ended up sitting in the office for nearly an hour doing our best to answer a plethora of  VERY interesting questions.

SO I’m going to share some of the most interesting ones here, there have been more but these are just some prime examples. Please  imagine how the two of us attempted to answer some of them…

  1. Where do white babies come from? Do they all come from Test Tubes? (I’m not too sure how serious this was, as there was a lot of laughter – but yet it was asked)
  2. Are we planning on getting married because we live and work together? (…awkward)
  3.  How does Latin America come about?
  4.  What do we think of Polygamy?
  5.   Where does our fascination with the Maple tree come from?
  6.  When couples break up, is one often murdered out of anger?

Despite the odd awkward question [see #2] we find these question periods quite enjoyable and it gives us the opportunity to get a great picture of how Canadian and Kenyan cultures are similar and also how very different they are. Throughout these questions we do our best to accurately describe Canada with as little bias as we can, which is sometimes difficult when we’re feeling particularly home sick.

But, I think its great that we’re in a position now where people feel like they can ask us anything… and I mean anything. It makes for great socializing and tosses a bit of humour into our days as well!

Thanks again for reading!

Until Next Time,

Blake

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Kitchen Progress! [Photos]

Hello Everyone!

I snapped some photos today of the progress being made on the kitchen space! We have finally moved beyond an empty concrete room, and now have begun the partitioning of the room, installing the sink (complete with waste water drain!), the foundation for the raised water tank has been laid, and the walls have been sanded in preparation for painting!

We are so excited that we can finally see physical changes in the space!

I’ll add more photos at the end of the week so that everyone is up-to-date on how far we’ve come!

-Blake

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