Thursday, July 22, 2010

Music Festival Prep!

Date: Monday July 12 to Thursday July 22
Day 42 to 52
Quote of the week: TIA. This is Africa

The big day for our marketing event, the Fiti Yogurt Music Festival, was supposed to be Friday July 16th. Jackel, Kinleigh, and Emily came back from safari on Monday and we had 4 days left to finish organizing everything. But...on Tuesday we found out that there was going to be a YES campaign for the August 4th constitutional referendum on the same day and at the same location as our event! We only had one option. We had to change the date of our event. We couldn't change the location because there was no way that we could compete with a political event. The YES campaign would draw much more attention than anything else.

The proposed new constitution is a big step for Kenya and I am so happy that I was there for such an important and memorable historic event :) All across Kenya there were YES and NO campaigns leading up to the big day with people wearing red and green everywhere! In Oyugis, everyone was in support of the new constitution decked out in green YES t-shirts and hats. Almost all Kenyans from the Luo tribe were in support of the constitution partly because the Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, is Luo. Most of the senior figures in the coalition government were supporters of the YES campaign including Prime Minister Raila, President Mwai Kibaki, the Vice President and both deputy Prime Ministers. On the other end, the Minister for Higher Education and former president Moi led the NO campaign. Many people wondered whether or not violence would break out throughout the country like in 2008 after the disputed December 2007 Presidential election which left 1,500 people dead and more than 300,000 homeless.

We received an email from the Government of Canada warning us about potential violence that may occur. They advised us to avoid wearing red or green and avoid all gatherings - even peaceful demonstrations. The vote will take place in 2 weeks on August 4th!

I know I've mentioned this a million times but I LOVE SPEAKING LUO! I speak like the locals now, its hilarious. Everyone knows I speak Luo too so they don't even greet me in English anymore. Some guys even yell "omera!" at me which means "dude". A ridiculous amount of people know my name also.

Victor, Part 2:
I hadn't seen Victor, the 8-year old boy from the hospital who I wrote about in the blog Life is not easy, for three weeks until the evening of Monday July 19. There was a young boy who was following Emily and I for a while on our way home from the market but I didn't think anything of it. Eventually I turned around and saw that it was Victor. I couldn't believe it. I felt terrible that I hadn't been by his house to check up on him yet. Luckily two friends of mine were nearby and could translate so that I could talk to him. They helped me ask Victor what was going on which was when he told us that he forgot something at the market and his grandmother had kicked him out of the house threatening to kill him if he returned.

I had no idea what to do. I couldn't leave him alone on the streets for the night. I wanted to give him food and shelter for the night but I also didn't want to take him back to the hotel either, a place completely different from the home he knows. I got my local friends to give me advice and one of them kindly offered up his place for the night for Victor to stay. Victor didn't want to leave me and go home with a complete stranger but my friend encouraged him that he would be well taken care of and he was :) I was shook up about everything that had happened and I was terrified of sending Victor home. I didn't know what to do.

The following day I had my good friend Morris help me figure out a solution. Morris, Victor, and I sat outside on the grass behind the hotel talking for about 30 minutes about the situation and what to do. I was getting emotional when Victor told us that he never wanted to return home, he wanted a new family and to go to boarding school. Victor was quiet and soft spoken and he stared at the ground the entire time. His family could not provide for him and it seemed like he had been neglected by his parents. It was hard for me to deal with the fact that there are so many children that are in Victor's situation or worse.

After a long day Morris and I eventually spoke with a chief in town and Victor's grandmother to find a solution. Morris' mother had found out from a relative of Victor's that his family was in a poor situation after the post-election violence in 2008. Everything changed when we heard the grandmother's side of the story and learned that Victor's story was not entirely true. Victor had seen me in the market and come to me knowing that I would take good care of him and provide for him. I felt terrible that I had partly created this by helping him at the hospital a couple weeks ago but I also couldn't just leave the boy when he was that sick and needed help. I didn't know who to believe because Victor seemed so honest. What if he was telling the truth? Eventually we brought him home but I was terrified and so conflicted between the two stories. Even if the grandmother told the truth Victor had still told us that he wanted a new family and that was hard to deal with also. His father is away and only visits once a year, his mother is not mentally stable, and the family is living in poverty.

After Morris spoke with Victor's older brother at their home he realized just how bad the family's situation was. They are living in dire poverty. No animals, no crops or fertile land, and the great grandmother is not earning enough to provide for all four children plus herself and the mother. Morris and I committed ourselves to helping this family and returned on Saturday to discuss what we could do to help.
Fiti Yogurt - Western Heads East:
• I strongly believe that Western Heads East is an incredible organization and that the success of the yogurt project relies entirely on the people. With the right people in place this project will grow successfully and sustainably to benefit many people in the world.
• We are in the process of getting communication boards (like cork boards) made for both kitchens so that we can post documents, notes, and other materials on them for all of the Mamas. This will definitely help with communication.

• Met with our MC and YOFAK (Youth Fighting AIDS In Kenya) to discuss the event and the key messages that we would like to send.
• Ran around everywhere to change the date on all of our posters and put up new ones. Kinleigh and I even put some posters on the tarmac road! It was awesome. At one point she was redirecting traffic to go around the posters on the road.

• Met with the mayor and other VIP at the Oyugis Town Council (OTC) and the police station to invite them to the Music Festival. It was an interesting experience. Everything was pretty informal but they were all extremely nice to us and being a mzungu definitely helps. There are lots of very important people that we needed to invite.
• The t-shirts we ordered didn't turn out so well... the majority of them were dirty, had oil stains, had holes in them, and/or the printing was smudged. They also were the wrong sizes. We tried to give our supplier constructive feedback to help him in the long run with his business but the t-shirts were pretty bad.
• The stage: we looked around everywhere for a stage but couldn't find anything affordable (of course most of the time there was a "mzungu mark-up" factored in). Solution....we built one! We also rented 2 tents, 50 chairs, and 4 tables
• Coordinated transportation for the Ongiya Disi Preparatory School children and the Kadongo Yogurt Mamas
• YOGURT PRODUCTION! I spent the majority of the day on Wednesday preparing to do production for Friday.
• I lead a meeting on my own with the Nyanam Women's group who is responsible for advocacy of the project. I had Morris, a translator, there which was extremely helpful. I was nervous doing the meeting alone without the other interns but it was a great experience and it went really well! I asked Mama Jessica to choose someone to start with a prayer and then we spoke for a while about the music festival and the message that we wanted to send. I was very impressed with everyone in the group as they started having their own discussion with Morris in Luo about what to say and what to do on the day of the event.
• Thursday July 22nd...the day before the music festival, and EVERYTHING goes wrong! :) O well.....we embraced it. The t-shirts and the packaging were not finished so Kinleigh worked with the supplier to finish them. The amount of milk we had ordered was a lot less because our supplier couldn't get as much as we had requested. Lastly, the stage turned out to be a disaster but everything was fixed in the end. The wood was very old and poor, it was overlapping with nails sticking out everywhere and it wasn't supportive at all. It was extremely dangerous for school children and other performers to be walking and dancing on. Ellena and the men constructing the stage were up until 1am with flashlights and headlamps on until it was complete.
• We made some posters with photos and details about the Mamas and the project. We included maps to the kitchens as well.
• One of my best friends Frank is DJing tomorrow!!!! CAN'T WAIT :)
• Funding. The long complicated process of transferring money from World Bank to Canada To Nairobi to Oyugis really slows things down at the kitchens and can create problems. Purchasing necessary equipment and supplies and paying suppliers is delayed sometimes which harms the business. We are trying really hard to communicate the importance of sustainability to the Mamas so that they understand that their sales will have to cover their expenses in the future when the funding stops.

Most Memorable Moments
• I met some rappers/artists in Oyugis and went to check out their production studio one day. It was really cool to be there...I loved it! I did my best to encourage them and give them some friendly advice :) Work hard, don't give up, etc. They freestyled and filmed a music video, it was sweet!
• The YES campaign in Oyugis! Everyone in town was wearing green YES t-shirts and caps (paper cut-outs). It was an incredible day to experience :)
• Ellena's surprise goodbye party! She had been living in Oyugis for over 9 months and we wanted to throw her a little bash. It was Saturday afternoon and the Oyugis Yogurt Mamas, our good friends, and some of the hotel staff were all in attendance. It was really great to chat with everyone, dance, and have fun! I had another great conversation with one of the hotel staff about Canada and Kenya, and the high population growth rates which contribute to poverty. I really enjoy having those conversations with the locals.
○ I went shopping in the market on Friday which was really fun! My good friend (Morris), Jackel, and I purchased rice and beef with some spices to make a dish called "pilau" as well as some pineapple. It was really fun to actually shop for a full meal in the market.
• Playing football with kids during the beautiful sunset. Unfortunately, I haven't been doing it as much as last year but it is my favourite thing to do in Africa. Ahero football, ahero kids (I love football, I love kids).
• Visiting the small town of Tabaka where the majority of soapstone carvings are produced. Soapstone is used to make gorgeous chess sets, vases, bowls & plates, sculptures, jewellery boxes and so many other things. The drive from Kisii to Tabaka is stunning and the town is so quiet and peaceful. I absolutely love all of the soapstone that Tabaka has...I wish I could take it all home with me!
• Riding a camel with Emily!!!! Monday afternoon we saw a camel in Oyugis for some agricultural show going on. After thinking about it for a long time we decided to ride it and it was AMAZING! It was so spontaneous and I loved it. I was laughing hysterically because Emily was falling off the back of the camel the entire time. A large group of kids ran after us on the camel while Em and I made a pact to do 1 spontaneous amazing thing like that every day for the rest of our time in Kenya.
• The Oyugis Mamas keep joking about Morris and I getting married. We are always together now since he is one of our main translators and he's helping me out with Victor. He's a great friend who has helped us tremendously with the project!
Life in Oyugis
• After school children spend their evenings fetching water and fire wood and helping their parents prepare dinner.
• One of the greatest toys for a child in Oyugis is a bicycle tire. They love running around and rolling it everywhere.
Life in Kenya
• These big marketing shows/events are the next big thing for companies in Kenya. Safaricom, one of the major telecommunications company, started it and now EVERYONE is doing it. There was a company called Panadol, like Advil, set up with a stage (i.e. a truck), a PA system, tarps, and a DJ in Raila Grounds on Tuesday so I went to check it out for a while with a friend. When the MCs noticed me in the crowd, which wasn't very hard since I was the only mzungu, they called me out in front of everyone. Of course I couldn't understand a word they were saying because they were speaking in Kiswahili. They tried to get me to go up on stage and participate (and by participate they meant dance in front of hundreds of people) but I wasn't going to go alone.
As I stood there I was observing everything carefully to get some ideas and insight for the music festival. I wanted to make sure that I knew what happened at these events and how they were organized. Competitions with audience members and skits are the most common type of performance. Skits are very popular because they are well liked by children and they can be understood by everyone including people who are illiterate. Skits are a very effective way of engaging the audience and getting the message across.

• Primary and Secondary School in Kenya is free for everyone however the public school system is not very good and no one wants to send their children there. One public school that I know in town has 1,300 students and only 24 teachers which means there is 1 teacher for every 54 students. Not to mention that some of these teachers are not very committed, honest, or well educated. It is the same way with public hospitals.
• I LOVE the trees :) They are so big and beautiful and perfect for climbing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ahero football! (I love football)

Date: Monday July 5 to Sunday July 11
Day 35 to 41
Quote of the week: "Sports are 90% inspiration and 10% perspiration" 

This week the other three interns left to go on Safari so it was just Ellena and I together in Oyugis. The week was really great and I enjoyed being on my own running around doing errands (while Ellena did interviews for her research). I really enjoy the experience of working alone in Oyugis but it is challenging and extremely tiring at times. I spent the entire week preparing for the Music Festival next week :) There is so much to do and very little time...Ellena and I are exhausted!
There is an organization called SEP (Society Empowerment Project) in Kotieno, a nearby village, which hosted a football tournament on Saturday to empower girls. SEP is the organization that is working with the American girl, Aliza, with the inflatable television screen for the World Cup. I helped out with the tournament and it was absolutely amazing! Aliza and I were there all day from about 10am - 3pm, there was music blasting, and we brought Fiti Yogurt and some bread to give to all of the girls for lunch. The tournament was so great and I loved it! Some of the kids are unbelievably talented football players. By the end of the day there were over 50 girls who had participated and I was so impressed with SEP. I love football and I love kids so it was the perfect day :)
After the football tournament on Saturday I realized what I want to do in terms of international development work. I really want to do something with children and football...possibly starting up recreational centres focused on empowerment through sport. I have a strong passion for children and I believe that sports are essential in a kid's life. Not only are sports important to develop certain skills and for the health and fitness of a child but they will help keep kids motivated and away from other not so great things. At the end of the tournament Aliza and I made some speeches to all of the girls. I encouraged the girls to continue practicing "pile pile" ("every day" in Luo), and to follow their dreams and work hard. It was such a great day and I was really happy.
Fiti Yogurt - Western Heads East:
• I started getting every document that we give the Mamas translated into Luo. Communication is so important and I thought it would be a good idea to translate everything to ensure that as many Mamas as possible are informed about everything. The documents included the interns' goals, meeting minutes, and information about the upcoming music festival.
• The Oyugis Mamas decided to increase their wages from 50 Ksh to 100 Ksh (approx. $1.25) per day which is great!

• Some students from Ongiya Disi Preparatory School are coming to do some performances at the Music Festival. Ongiya Disi is the incredible school that the other interns and I supported last year. The children are very talented and truly inspirational and I know that they will put on a terrific performance like they always do.
• We are getting 100 t-shirts branded with the new Fiti Yogurt label that we have created. 50 t-shirts are for the Yogurt Mamas and interns while the other 50 are going to be given out for free to the first 50 customers who purchase 50 Ksh worth of yogurt. We are also getting 2 big banners made which both kitchens can use in the future. We are hoping that they will take the banners to the market when they sell yogurt.
• We have four different musicians/bands from Oyugis performing throughout the day. Ellena and I went to check out all of the groups this week to see them perform and discuss the festival.
• I spent a lot of time with my good friend Dennis putting up posters and giving out invitations/flyers for the Music Festival in Oyugis, Kadongo, and some other towns in between. We had a lot of fun and I appreciated him coming around with me...thanks Denno! :) The flyers are a lot more effective and important than the posters. Everyone wants a personal flyer...we had to emphasize to everyone that you don't need a flyer to attend, everyone is welcome!
Most Memorable Moments
• My best friends (aka the boys) speak to me in Luo now, it’s awesome. Everyone knows I am learning Luo and that I try to speak it as much as possible so the boys will sometimes say full sentences to me in Luo joking around but I will have no idea what they are saying. They always call me "bwana!" which is like "omera" (in Luo) or "man/dude" (in English). I also say "bwana" all the time now. It is hilarious, and I love it :)
• Saturday evening I helped Mama Sophia by carrying a tub of yogurt packets to the spot where she sells in the market. On the way there I stopped to chat with some people who were doing a marketing event for some radio station with a big truck and a PA system. I was asking them about their stage (aka truck) when all of these people started buying yogurt from me. It was really fun; I sold 17 packets in about 10 minutes :) I think it is a lot easier to sell something as a mzungu, so I really do respect what the Mamas are doing.
• I had a really interesting conversation with a local when I was buying credit (aka cell phone minutes) across the street on Saturday night. We talked a lot about Canada and Kenya and the reasons for poverty: the high population growth rate, education, and the government. I appreciated when he commented about how social I am with the made me happy to hear that :)
• Aliza and I went to the new hotel next door for some amazing live music. It was a group of four men with locally made instruments (a drum, string instrument similar to a violin, and a triangle type instrument) and they were so incredible! We danced and I even played the triangle, it was so much fun.
• Watching the World Cup Final at Sports House with the boys....YAY SPAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Life in Oyugis
• There is a swing fair ride in town and it is AMAZING! People have been setting up the ride for a couple days now in Raila Grounds (the big open space where our Music Festival will be held) but it finally started operating on Tuesday and I saw the first run. It costs 20 Ksh (about $0.25 CAD) to ride and it lasts for a couple minutes. It is similar to the swing rides we have back home at amusement parks but with an African touch. Some of the other interns think it is super sketchy but of course I think it is so cool and I couldn't wait to ride it! :) I finally rode it on Sunday night with my good friend Morris and it was sooooooooooooo AWESOME! I was definitely the craziest person on the ride grabbing the swings on either side of me to spin.
• I saw a group of young children smiling and dancing around a burning pile of garbage. Although it’s not great for the environment, it’s a source of entertainment for the kids.
• I learned a little bit from a good piki piki friend of mine about the life of a piki piki (motorbike) driver. Most of the drivers don't own the motorbikes, they pay a flat rate to the owner every day and the money that they make from day to day can fluctuate significantly. He explained to me the importance of customer service and being friendly. It was really cool... I love learning more. I appreciated when he commented on how I came back to Oyugis and how I ask so many questions because I must be interested and enjoy learning about it.
• Chillin' with the boys at their hangout spot outside Sports House is now my favourite past time :)
Life in Kenya
• A local friend of mine commented how Kenya's leaders are leaders only by title, not by example. It is sad but true. Unfortunately nepotism is too common here.
• There is a fairly popular legal drug called mirra that I've seen a couple people chewing these days. It is a plant, a mild stimulant that gives you a slight high and keeps you up for hours. You chew the bark of the plant and it is usually taken with gum or ground nuts (aka peanuts). I was told by some friends who were chewing it that it is one of Kenya's main cash crops.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Market Research

Date: Monday June 28 to Sunday July 4
Day 28 to 34

This week we conducted interviews in Oyugis, Kadongo and other surrounding areas to collect some information on the market we are working in. It was great for us to learn more about the buying behaviours and preferences of the market while gathering some very interesting information that can benefit the Mamas. We did a total of 150 interviews throughout the week hiring some of my local friends as translators/research assistants. Each interview took about 30 - 45 minutes and we gave out complimentary packets of yogurt and a thank you flyer with a map of both kitchens to all participants.

Not only were the interviews great for market research but it was also great to create some awareness about Jiko La Jamii dairies, Fiti Yogurt, and probiotics. We had a couple situations where people brought up the free yogurt being given away to people living with HIV/AIDS and how they thought that the yogurt was only for HIV positive people. We were able to create awareness about Fiti Yogurt and educate people on the benefits of probiotics while eliminating any myths and misconceptions. Overall the market research was extremely successful, beneficial, and also very fun!

On Thursday we celebrated Canada Day!!!!!!! The four of us were very spirited, just like last year, and we went all out with red and white, Canadian clothing, and red lipstick on our faces in the shape of maple leafs. As if we didn’t already get enough we had even more :)

Jiko La Jamii Dairies - Western Heads East:
• I set up two potential sales opportunities for the Mamas at two small shops in Mikai (about 20 minutes from Oyugis, 10 minutes from Kadongo) while doing market research there. I discussed the wholesaler selling price and the profits that they would make and inquired about other milk products that they sold. The Mamas would have to discuss transportation including the cost and logistics of everything.
• I saw a woman in the market wearing an Orande Women's Group dress (a dark blue dress that they all have) selling milk from containers just like ours but she was not a Yogurt Mama. I believe she was trying to look like one of our Yogurt Mamas. We are going to brand the aprons very soon so that no one can pretend to be associated with the project when they are not.
• We have started organizing things for the big Music Festival we have planned for July 16th. This involves running around town everywhere to book things and look into the costs of renting a PA system, a stage, chairs, tents, etc. We've been sending around our friends/research assistants to do most of these things so that we don't get overcharged being mzungus.
• On Thursday we had a little "tea party" to bring both groups of Yogurt Mamas (Kadongo and Oyugis) together to discuss the Fiti Yogurt label. We really want them to have a good relationship with each other so that they can work together for their mutual benefit without any conflict. We decided to bring some beads to make necklaces and earrings as a fun activity that the Mamas could all do together. Unfortunately the tension between certain Mamas in the two groups is too much and the tea party was a little awkward and intense at times. I really wish that the Mamas could be professional and work together but I don't think it will ever happen. The main problem is between the leaders of both kitchens.
• As Kinleigh, the Oyugis Mamas, and I walked to the matatu to head to the tea party in Kadongo I tried to come up with some cheer/chant to lift the Mama's moods. When I yelled "FITI!" the Mamas yelled "YOGURT!" It worked out pretty well and this is now our official cheer for both kitchens :) We also sang in the matatu which was fun.
• We did our first lesson plan/business discussion in Oyugis on Sunday and it went pretty well. I think it’s a really great idea that we are having these discussions to exchange knowledge for the Mamas' benefit and for our research. We discussed all record keeping documents and Fiti Yogurt's competitive advantage. We tried very hard to make sure that it was a discussion and not a business lecture from us.

• COMMUNICATION! Communication is key. Communication is everything. We have had a couple problems now related to work with miscommunication. It is so important to tell the Mamas absolutely EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING that you are doing. It is extremely hard to communicate with everyone when we can't speak to certain Mamas and when other leaders in the project are not helping and supporting us.
• It is extremely difficult to get all the Mamas' input on certain things because they all follow the leader(s) in the kitchen and they don't express their own personal opinion. When we asked the Mamas about which packaging label/logo they liked the best the Kadongo Mamas all chose 1 design and the Oyugis Mamas all chose 1 other different design. Out of 7 different sample logos only 2 were chosen by the Mamas. Unfortunately the 2 designs that they chose were completely different from the designs that were most popular from our market research. It was also very difficult to get a discussion going about what they liked and what they didn't like even when we emphasized to them that we were going to mix and match (i.e. choose the best things from each of the 7 samples) and put them all together to create 1 logo.

Most Memorable Moments:
• Eating lunch at a little hotel in the small town of Mikai during the market research interviews. I was so excited when I found out that I was the very first mzungu to eat in the hotel! It was a small wooden shack with a tin roof and a couple wooden tables and chairs. I had chai with mandazi. It was really cool and fun, I loved it!
• Four weeks in and I finally saw this young girl Daisy and her younger brother who I was friends with last year! I was so happy.
• Sitting in the boot of a car with Kinleigh and Emily on the way to Kendu Bay, Lake Victoria for a little Saturday afternoon trip. There were 12 people total in a small Toyota...4 in the front, 4 in the middle, and 4 in the boot (1 man jumped in the boot with us right before we left). It was pretty hilarious, 12 people in a tiny car for about 45 minutes on a very bumpy rocky road. I enjoyed it though, it was fun!
• Playing pool/billiards in Kendu Bay. Pool tables are fairly common here and they are a great source of entertainment for idle men. I played Cliff and Morris (two of my friends), beat them, and then went on to play the manager/owner of the pool table. I was close to winning but unfortunately I lost... if I had won I would have been the best pool player in Kendu Bay :)
• Singing the Shakira "Waka Waka" song with some kids as we went on a walk. A group of kids and I sang it together and it was amazing!

Life in Oyugis
• I'm pretty much in heaven here with all of the kids. There are so many kids EVERYWHERE and they are so cute!
• On Thursday it was the first of the month and I had to witness my favourite little girls next door (Sachbeah, Dierdre/Tracy, and Everlyne) being evicted from their house. A large crowd was gathered in front of their home as the landlord and others emptied their furniture and belongings on the front lawn as everyone watched. It was terrible and I felt sad...I couldn't believe it. All of the other interns had delayed me from leaving the hotel that morning because they had seen it first and they were worried about what my reaction would be. I'm sad that they are no longer outside my window :( I miss the girls and I wish that they didn't have to go.
• Men get very drunk very early in the day. I interviewed one man on Friday and realized that he was drunk after a couple questions in. When I asked "at what time of day do you take yogurt?" he replied "when I'm tipsy", and then when I asked "do you check the expiry date on products?" he replied "I don't care about the expiry date when I'm tipsy'. It was pretty hilarious.

Life in Kenya
• Breastfeeding in public is very common. One woman I interviewed was breastfeeding her child the entire time.
• Although caning is illegal in Kenya it still happens and some parents even encourage teachers to do it. Unfortunately I could hear two young students being whipped by their teacher right behind my back as I was doing interviews at a primary school. I hated being is so terrible. Later my friend told me that when he was in grade school he was whipped for getting a math question wrong.
• I can't stand the way that the majority of managers treat their employees here. The manager at the new hotel next door is terrible. He pays his employees nothing, talks down to them, and treats them very poorly. The staff is so sweet and so great and they deserve so much more.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The hardest part

Date: Tuesday June 22 to Sunday June 27
Day 22 to 27
Quote of the week: "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment".

This week was very intense and emotional for me. On Thursday I had another life changing experience that I will never forget. I was at the Oyugis kitchen in the morning with some of the Mamas when I noticed a young boy on the ground outside the kitchen. He appeared to be very ill and it looked like he was vomiting so the Mamas went over to help him and brought him inside the kitchen. The boy could barely walk or talk and he was very ill. He was in a brown tattered and dirty school uniform with no shoes on. He had 100 Ksh (approx. $1.50 CAD) in his pocket and he told the Mamas that he had been sent by his grandmother to the hospital. He was unable to make it to the hospital on his own and it really didn't look like anyone else was going to do anything so I helped the boy on a piki piki (motorbike) and we went together.

The piki piki driver helped carry him around since he could barely walk. The boy was seen right away by the nurse and the doctor. I'm not sure if it was because I was there or not but there were many other people sitting around on the benches who appeared to be waiting to see a doctor as well. The boy never really looked at me and he could barely talk to anyone. A neighbour recognized the boy and I found out some more information. His name is Victor and he is 8 years old. His mother has some psychiatric problems, his father works out of town, and his great grandmother supports three young children and a 17-yr old boy on her own. The next step was to contact Victor's school teacher to take responsibility of him and contact his grandmother. In the meantime we went to the lab to get Victor tested. He was terrified of needles and I'm sure that being alone with some random stranger didn't help. As we waited for the lab results Victor lay on a wooden bench with his eyes closed. He looked so sick and I was so emotional when I picked up the phone to call the other interns. I couldn't believe what was happening. I didn't know what was going to happen and if he was going to be okay. I was so nervous and scared.

Victor had malaria and parasites and was admitted to the ward where he would stay for as long as necessary. I spent about 6 hours with him at the hospital until his grandmother arrived. No one else was there to take care of him and pay for the necessary drugs. He kept shaking and moaning in pain. He could barely talk to anyone...he was terrified. I could barely talk to anyone either because I would get too emotional. Everyone else seemed to be so calm and cool about everything. Everything was so informal and casual and I was very unimpressed with the conditions of the hospital and the way the nurses treated their patients. Victor was one of the only children in the ward without a family member there. There were two rooms in the paediatric ward with about ten children in each room. All of the children were sleeping, eating, or staring at me. We tried really hard to identify and contact Victor's family but he could barely talk to anyone so it was difficult to find out any information. He kept saying that he attended school at Highlands Academy but two teachers from the school didn't recognize him and he didn't know them either. He lay on the bed beside me with his eyes closed.

I met a very sweet smart young girl in the ward. Her name is Lynette and she is 13 years old. She was sitting on her bed smiling and staring at me while translating everything that was going on. Her English was really good. I started chatting with her about school, her favourite subject, what class she was in, etc. She was so sweet and looked so happy to see me every time I came back to visit. She kept saying "please don't go" and "come back" every time I left the room.

When Victor's grandmother eventually arrived at the hospital I could tell that his family was in a very bad situation. There were two other young children she had left at home who she had to return to. I finally headed home after assisting Victor and his family although I really didn't feel comfortable leaving him at the hospital alone. His grandmother left him with another relative in the ward. The following morning I found Victor sitting with the nurse drawing on his medical records sheet. I saw him smile for the first time :) He looked so much better. I found out that his drugs, a cup and a bowl that I had bought him the day before were stolen. I was furious and so unimpressed with the nurses at the ward. He also didn't have a mosquito net which is ridiculous because the hospital gives them out for free. Before leaving Oyugis to meet the other interns in Kisumu I sat outside on the grass with Victor and Lynette playing cards and hangman. Victor has the most adorable smile ever and it made me so happy to see him smiling.

Victor was discharged from the ward on Sunday. He looked healthy, happy, and ready to go home. Lynette was waiting at the gate of the hospital when we left. I walked with Lynette, Victor, his grandmother and his sister towards the kitchen (which is on the way to their home) and thought about how I could help this family in the long term. The grandmother cannot provide for them and I'm worried about what will happen to Victor and the other children in the future. I'm thinking about sponsoring Victor to go to school and helping the grandmother with some income generating activity. I've thought about making bags and wallets out of the fabric here to sell in the market. I want to test it out first and see if there is any demand before giving some bags to the grandmother to try and sell.

It was a super intense week, one that I will never forget. These moments make me scared about doing this type of work that I love. It is so hard sometimes. I will never forget Victor and Lynette and the day I spent in the ward. It was a day that I will never forget.

Jiko La Jamii Dairies - Western Heads East:
• Emily and I spent all day Tuesday at Agoro Sare High School with Mama Sophia and Conzy selling yogurt. There was a music festival (i.e. competition) for primary schools going on and it was AMAZING :) There were groups of children from different schools everywhere all dressed up in costumes with body/face paint. The four of us walked around the school grounds selling yogurt and we sold over 200 packets in a couple hours! I was the load and talkative one speaking to all the kids and teachers asking "idwaro yogurt?" (would you like yogurt?) to pretty much everyone while Emily and the Mamas took care of the yogurt sales. I love helping the Mamas with field sales to get the Fiti Yogurt name out there and to encourage the Mamas to be a little more talkative and aggressive. The Mamas have fairly low self-confidence and they are very shy and quiet. However the majority of people selling things in Oyugis and Kadongo are not very aggressive at all and usually just sit around waiting for customers to approach them.
• The interns and I met with three Mamas from the Nyanam Women's Group (the 4th group involved in the project responsible for advocacy) to discuss planning a Music Festival/Concert in Oyugis to raise awareness about Fiti Yogurt and educate the general public about the benefits of probiotics. Unlike the Kadongo kitchen, the Oyugis kitchen never had an official launch for the opening so this is very exciting for the Oyugis Mamas. The meeting was great and very efficient. We achieved a lot and planned exactly what we wanted to do.
• Date: Friday July 16 (the BIG market day in Oyugis!), Location: Raila Grounds (an open area where many events are held), Other: branded t-shirts, piki piki with a banner waving behind it, musicians and an MC, school dance performances and poems, yogurt samples and yogurt for sale
• We are preparing for the market research interviews that we are conducting next week. We plan to hire some of our local friends as translators and conduct interviews in Oyugis, Kadongo, and other surrounding areas. We want to learn more about people's perception of yogurt, their purchasing behaviours, and their thoughts on the current yogurt, pricing, and packaging.
• We spent this week looking into ordering communication boards (aka push pin boards) to post things (e.g. Label prototypes and notes) to improve our communication with the Mamas. We hope that they will also use the boards to communicate with each other and to post important things such as meeting reminders. We are also looking into getting banners for the Mamas to take to the market, branded umbrellas (which many people have to create shade in the market), and a push cart on wheels to sell the yogurt from. There is a small business around the corner from the Oyugis kitchen that sells ice cream from push carts.

• Unfortunately the two yogurt kitchens in Kenya don't have the best relationship with each other. We all know how large groups of women can be...competition and lots of drama. We are trying really hard to resolve the issues and improve the relationship between the two groups but we really can't do anything to stop the name calling and backstabbing that happens. The two groups will definitely never be friends but we are hoping that they can work together professionally for their mutual benefit (i.e. Purchasing together to realize economies of scale).

Most Memorable Moments:
• Although this may not be a very positive and exciting memorable moment it definitely is memorable. Kinleigh, Jackel, Emily, and I were playing football out back with the kids and it was great in the beginning. The four of us were playing with a large group of kids who were all different ages until a group of four older boys came (about 17 - 19 years old). Of course I said they could join in but after a couple minutes I noticed my younger friends from last year (Bruce, Austin, and Boston) sitting out at the side. I immediately pulled them back into the game only to see one of those older boys telling them not to play. Since I had experienced this last year and I have no tolerance for it anymore I started causing quite the scene. I yelled, politely of course, at the older boys for a good minute or so in front of about 30 young kids, teenagers, and adults. I couldn't believe that I was yelling at them but I was so furious and angry. I emphasized that everyone is allowed to play, I politely told them to leave, and then I asked them how they expected kids to get good at football if they don't let them play. I was shocked at myself that I lost it on these boys but I didn't care what everyone around thought... just as long as the young kids get to play football. That is all I care about :)
• The four other interns and I spent the weekend in Kisumu to visit KEMRI and to do a couple touristy things. I ended up traveling on my own to Kisumu and back which was fun. I loved the independence and the experience of doing things on my own.
• Cramming 6 mzungus + 1 of my Kenyan friends into a small Toyota that we had rented for the weekend in Kisumu. It was pretty hilarious to have so many mzungus traveling the African way. The floor of the car may have hit the ground a couple times when we went over speed bumps.
• I struck up a conversation with a young Kenyan boy who was fishing at a resort on Lake Victoria. He was using long sticks with fishing wire and had a couple small fish in a plastic bag. He didn't speak much English and looked like he came from a pretty poor family.

Life in Kenya
• Young children react so differently to us it is hilarious. Some are so confused and stare at us as if we are monsters.
• All I do is DANCE! It is amazing and I love it! :) The DJs are great, the music is amazing, and the people are unbelievable dancers. I love dancing in Kenya.
• I love matatu rides! They are so relaxing and there is so much to look at and the landscape is beautiful. I love it.
• We witnessed the drastic amount of inequality in Kisumu while driving towards Lake Victoria for a boat ride to see hippos. The boat ride was absolutely amazing, so beautiful and so relaxing...I could have stayed there for hours. I enjoyed speaking to the locals about the lake and the hippos...I love learning more from them. We saw a couple hippos, but only their nostrils, eyes and ears above the water. After the boat ride we drove to this resort on the lake to check it out but I hated it. We were driving along a bumpy dirt road through a very poor area with people living in poverty directly beside a modern luxurious expensive resort. I think it is great that tourists are in Kenya to boost the economy but their money doesn't go to the people that need it the most.

I absolutely love interacting with the locals here. I think it is so important for work and I enjoy it. The majority of foreigners who I have met who are working in Kenya don't know any Kiswahili and don't have any local friends at all. They spend almost every weekend traveling to the bigger cities to hang out with the expat crowd. I am definitely not the norm here. I'm not really interested in the expat scene at all. The foreigners/expats that I have met are all very intelligent good people and I respect them. However, I don't like their lack of integration into the community and the lack of effort they put into learning the local language and becoming friends with the local people. I've experienced some expats talking negatively about the Africans as well which I can't stand. I am definitely not the norm. I love interacting with the locals and I want to spend all my time here learning more about them and gaining their respect. I LOVE learning the local language! :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Life in Oyugis

Date: Tuesday June 15 to Monday June 21
Day 15 to 21
Quote of the week: Life is like a river: the twists and turns along the way are meant to guide us, not to stop us. - an SMS text I received from a good friend here named Cena

I am a little behind on my blog postings once again but sometimes I think it is more important to spend as much time as possible living in the moment and doing what you love rather than spending so much time documenting everything that happens. Work has been hectic every day and I love spending lots of time hanging out with the kids and friends I have here. But of course I love updating my blog too and it is important, so better late than never! So back to our second week in Oyugis...Emily and I had two more students from Ivey join us this week, Kinleigh Wiedeman and Jackel Yip, which was exciting. We will be working together until the end of August (with the exception of Emily who will be leaving at the end of July) to ensure the sustainability of both yogurt businesses in Oyugis and Kadongo. It is interesting to be in such a large group of mzungus (there are 6 of us now with Aliza, the American girl) but we have a lot of fun together and spend a lot of time with my local friends from last year which is nice :)
Kinleigh, Jackel, Emily and I spent every day this week rotating between Oyugis and Kadongo to observe the current operations at both kitchens and to spend time with all of the Mamas. It is so important that we bond with the Mamas and gain their respect before assisting them with the development of the project and making recommendations for their business. As well, it is critical that we learn as much as possible about the two yogurt kitchens and how business works in Kenya. It was definitely a good idea to spend a full week at the kitchens from morning until evening and it gave us a good picture of what is currently going on. Communication is still the most difficult challenge to overcome. It isn't great that we can only communicate with certain Mamas and not with others. The project coordinator is only working at the Kadongo kitchen and he is not always there to translate so we try our best and resort to dancing and singing to bond with the Mamas.
I love Kenya but I really wish that there wasn't so much reliance on free things and funding from NGOs. However, with the extreme amount of charity and aid from the Western world what else can you expect. I find that most people spend the majority of their time writing proposals and looking for more funding rather than working on the development of their business through other income generating activities. Corruption continues to exist almost everywhere I go. Secrets, dishonesty, and fraud are too common here. I find that I am a little too trusting of people sometimes and I always want to think the best of everyone when maybe I shouldn't. It is hard to deal with the reality that some of the relationships I had with people last year were not as honest and real as I believed they were. Every day I learn something new about someone that makes me second guess if our friendship is genuine or not. It is really hard when I can't really be certain if someone is being honest with me. It hurts, but I have learned from it and I know better this time.
Again, it was another week that I absolutely loved. I love the social aspect, the excitement, the conversations, the culture, and something different. But it is still so hard at times. The conversations that I have with the people are by far the greatest learning experiences. I love it :) I met this theatre group that had travelled from Nairobi with about 15 young actors to put on performances for primary and secondary school students in and around Oyugis. They perform plays/skits for students on the novels that they are studying. There were about 10 students staying in a very small concrete building with a couple thin mattresses on the floor, but there were definitely not enough for everyone. I talked with the group for almost an hour about Canada and Kenya and everything came back to the whole you always want what you don't have and you never appreciate what you have thing. They brought up electricity and how they watch CNN and wish they could go to North America. While I brought up light pollution and how we can't see the stars as well as they can. I love stargazing here!
Jiko La Jamii Dairies - Western Heads East:
• We decided to help the Oyugis Mamas sell yogurt one day and took a cooler to a football game at Agoro Sare High School. We thought that two things would happen...1) people would be sceptical and not purchase the yogurt from mzungus or they would expect it to be for free OR 2) people would think the yogurt is high quality and very healthy and would love to talk to us. It was interesting and very successful in the end... we sold everything in the cooler!
• We are planning to do market research all next week with some local friends/research assistants through interviews. As well, we are looking into getting a stall in the market for the Oyugis Mamas.
• We gave both groups of Mamas a simplified list of our goals and action plan for the internship. I think this is so important for communication and transparency because the Mamas are typically very left out of the loop and have no idea about the role and responsibilities of interns. I want the Mamas to know exactly why we are here and what we are working on at all times which was never clearly communicated to them before we arrived.
o We have decided to purchase a communication board (maybe something like a cork board) for both kitchens to improve the communication between interns and the Mamas. We are going to post our internship goals and action plan, reminders about meetings, and any other materials for the Mamas (e.g. The Fiti Yogurt label designs).
• My observations from the past week:
o Wages are too low at 50 /= per day and Mamas are still coming in late for work.
o The Kadongo kitchen seems to be running very smoothly and lots of Mamas are always there which is great! The Mamas seem to be much more interested in taking their time with packing and production rather than focusing on efficiency which is partly a cultural thing. In Kadongo they have 3 Mamas who stay at the kitchen and 5 Mamas selling in the field every day. The Oyugis kitchen is not as well organized and they lack Mamas in the kitchen and in the field.
o The Mamas at both kitchens usually wear white aprons or lab coats when they sell in the field which is great because it looks professional and customers can easily identify the Mamas.
o Since the Mamas are still not purchasing their own supplies and equipment I think it would be a really good idea for interns to assist them in preparing a monthly and annual budget that includes all expenses that they will incur (buying a new sealer, packaging, etc.).
• We are getting a couple different prototypes for the Fiti Yogurt label for next week's market research so that we can ask customers their opinion. The most important thing is that the label is simple and clear. We are hoping that the packaging design will be finalized by next week!
• The Mamas recently had some training done by an NGO (CARE International) so it may be a good idea to assess the impact that the training had.
• On Saturday June 19th we had a meeting at the Oyugis kitchen which went pretty well. Before starting the meeting I showed all of the Mamas a Western Heads East video that my good friend Stas made using videos and photos from last year in Kenya. It was amazing to see the smiles on their faces, the Mamas loved it! We discussed our internship goals, the standardized prices & volumes we had decided on, wages and salespeople, and marketing and sales.
• We are planning a fun social get together for both the Kadongo and Oyugis Mamas to decide on the final label for the packaging, coolers, aprons, etc. However, things aren't looking great since the two groups of Mamas don't have the best relationship and they are very competitive with each other. We want the best for both of them and we are trying hard to help them understand the benefits of working together to support each other and achieve economies of scale.
• Kinleigh, Jackel, Emily and I reviewed our goals for the next two to three months and revised our action plan.
o Research potential sales opportunities for both groups of Yogurt Mamas
o Look into getting the KEBS stamp of approval (all products must have this to be sold in a supermarket). This is not very urgent right now as the Mamas still have a huge number of people willing to purchase the yogurt from the market without KEBS.
o Conduct market research through interviews and create a marketing plan.
o Assist the Mamas in branding their product and other marketing materials.
o Research different suppliers (packaging and milk) and assist the Mamas in securing and improving the relationship.
o Ensure that the operations of both kitchens are efficient and sustainable while helping the Mamas reduce costs where possible.
o Help make both kitchens more environmentally friendly.
o Research potential expansion opportunities for Western Heads East.
o Provide the Mamas with the necessary knowledge, skills, and information to improve their business.
o Conduct group discussions with all Yogurt Mamas on everything from sales and marketing to budgeting and record keeping to share knowledge between the interns and Mamas. We hope that this will benefit the Mamas while helping us significantly with our research. Closer to the end of our internship we would like to discuss long-term goals and a strategy for sustainability. We want to emphasize that these are meant to be group discussions rather than lessons from the interns.
• It has been very difficult for us to find out the balance of the project's account from the World Bank funds. We are left in the dark about how much is left in the account which makes it difficult to plan ahead and budget for both yogurt kitchens’ expenses. We would really like to communicate to the Yogurt Mamas when the funding will end and we need to know the balance to properly budget for necessary costs that the kitchens will incur.
• It is still a struggle to get more Oyugis Yogurt Mamas to show up to work and sell yogurt in the market. There is so much opportunity and a lot of interest from customers but the Mamas don't want to hire any new Yogurt Mamas from outside the Orande Women's Group. We have been encouraging them to hire salespeople on commission to increase their sales and profits for the kitchen but we must wait patiently for them to make the final decision. It is clear that the Mamas don't want to lose any control and they want to keep as much money as possible for themselves.
• The Oyugis kitchen needs some serious maintenance and repairs but there is still a problem with getting money on the ground. The Mamas don't want to use their own profits for expenses that they have been told will be paid by the World Bank funding. One day I spent a good 30 minutes as a handyman tightening the loose nuts/bolts on the legs of the gas stoves. I was covered in burnt milk and ash by the end of it.
Most Memorable Moments:
• I saw a local gym for the first time...and by local gym I mean a homemade barbell made out of a steel rod with cement cylinders at either end.
• We finally went to Agoro Sare High School to play football like last year! The 5 of us went, plus Rebecca who was visiting for the weekend, and caused quite the scene as usual. Kinleigh, Jackel, and I ran a couple laps before joining in on a recreational football game that was going on. It was so much fun and it started pouring rain as usual. As all the boys ran for shelter I stayed out in the field with the ball enjoying the refreshing rain pouring down. I loved it :) After Jackel, Kinleigh, and I debated forever whether or not to do a mud slide we finally just did it. There were quite a few boys at the school who remembered my name which was nice. As we walked home in the rain Rebecca commented on how everyone remembered my name and she also commented on my Luo saying that I even sound just like them with the right emphasis and tone. It meant a lot to me :)
• Playing football with some young kids with a really small Blue Band (margarine) container. We were waiting for hours for a football game to start at Agoro Sare so I started playing with them. It was so much fun and hilarious, everyone was watching. I love kids so much, but I can't help to always think about their future and the lack of opportunities that they have. The game didn't start for a very long time because there were players who were not actually high school students who had been recruited for the game.
• I found out that Tracy changed her name to Dierdre after I looked at her notebook from school. Her parents informed me that she wasn't happy with the name "Tracy" so they changed it.
• On Sunday I attended a funeral for a client who was in the World Bank study. He was actually a very good friend of mine from last year named Manase. He was an old man with crazy hair and an amazing sense of humour and I loved him. He would always joke about me marrying a Kenyan and having another Obama. He passed away on the exact same day that I arrived in Oyugis...I only wish that I could have seen him again.
Life in Oyugis
• There are many small video theatres/sport houses in Oyugis since the majority of people don't have televisions or even electricity in their home. They are usually packed with men crowded around a tiny screen and cost about 10 or 20 Ksh (about $0.15 - 0.25). I finally went to Sports House (just down the street) with my good friend Caxton to watch the Brazil vs. Ivory Coast game and it was AMAZING! I was the only mzungu and the only female, and everyone was really nice and respectful. I really wanted that real experience of watching the World Cup excitement in Africa rather than sitting in the empty restaurant at home in Vesture Villa. I'm definitely going to become a regular there now.

Life in Kenya
• The roads are absolutely terrible for automobiles! I enjoy walking on the bumpy, rocky, dirt roads in Oyugis but the paved highways and roads with giant pot holes make it very difficult for transportation and increase the chances of an accident occurring. Cars, trucks, piki pikis (motorbikes), and matatus have to slow down completely and swerve all over the place to avoid the potholes. The solution: the government has placed rocks in the potholes which have only made the situation worse.
o Jackel and I saw a matatu completely flipped over on the side of the road on our way to Kadongo one day. The front windshield had shattered and there were a few men there waiting around but it looked as if the accident had occurred a while before. Our matatu pulled over and the driver informed us that something happened with one of the tires hitting a pothole.
• Getting malaria here is very common (especially in Oyugis) and people have a very different mindset about illness and death. Many people wait days or even weeks before going to the hospital when they are sick insisting that they will be fine or they simply don't have the money to pay for the services at the public hospital. Not only are coffins sold on the side of the highway, but you will often see a pick-up truck drive past with a coffin surrounded by women singing after someone has passed away. The actual funeral, where hundreds of people attend, is more of a celebration than a time for mourning. People are on their phones, reading the newspaper, and talking to others during the speeches and politicians must attend if they want votes.
• Although litter is everywhere and you will see garbage being burned all the time, Kenya does have some environmentally friendly initiatives in place. The government is providing funds to people who plant large amounts of trees.
• People are extremely resistant to change. This is something very important that we must take into consideration for work. Most of my local friends will not even try different types of food (like soup and pizza) when we go out somewhere.
• People are extremely resourceful here and very little goes to waste, it is truly amazing. I found out that the black sandals that all the men wear here are made from old truck/car tires! It is so cool and they are sold for very cheap...I am definitely getting myself a custom made pair before I come home.

Oriti for now!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Date: Tuesday June 8 to Monday June 14
Day 8 to 15
Quote of the week: "Give me freedom, give me fire, give me reason, take me higher. See the champions take the field now, you define us, make us feel proud." - K'naan's 2010 FIFA World Cup song

The first week in Oyugis was amazing. It was busy, challenging, memorable, and SO MUCH FUN! On Tuesday Emily and I hopped on a matatu (the minibus packed like sardines) and headed to Kadongo (about 30 mins away) to visit the second yogurt kitchen. I had no idea where it was or what the place looked like but I wasn't worried at all...we had some fellow passengers help us out :) It was really great to see Roy, the project coordinator, waiting for us when we arrived. Kadongo is a much smaller town, or a large village, in comparison to the bustling town of Oyugis. I recently found out that Oyugis is the largest town in between Kisii and Kisumu (2 major cities along the same highway). When we arrived at the Kadongo kitchen the Mamas greeted us with singing and dancing. We got a tour of the kitchen and saw their record keeping books which were very impressive. The renovations look great and the operations of the kitchen are running very smoothly. However, the kitchen is still very new and their expenses are still being covered by funds from World Bank. The Yogurt Mamas in Kadongo are hardworking, committed, and aggressive salespeople and it is rare to find any yogurt packets left in the freezer at the end of the day, which is amazing. I'm so happy to be back doing what I love working in my dream job with the Yogurt Mamas. I know that this summer will be just as exciting as last year with new tasks, a new team, and new challenges to overcome. I can't wait!

Life in Kenya is pretty normal for me now and I feel at home in Oyugis. Emily, Ellena, and I have been keeping busy doing lots of exciting things in our free time and I am having the time of my life here once again. I love how different the experience is from last year and I love learning more each and every day about the culture, the people, and their lives. We met a girl named Aliza in our hotel from the US who is documenting how Africans watch the FIFA World Cup. She brought a large inflatable screen with a projector to show the games in a nearby village, called Kotieno, where people do not have the opportunity to watch the games. I love the idea of providing the people of Kotieno with the opportunity to watch football, something that they are so passionate about, especially when it is the first World Cup in Africa. Even though the World Cup is in South Africa, every African country is so excited and so proud. I'm so happy for Africa. I'm happy that the people of Africa get to be proud of something so incredible and that they have the opportunity to show the world that Africa is much more than disease, poverty, and violence. I'm excited for the future of Africa and the opportunities that a successful World Cup will provide.

I have been speaking Luo, the mother tongue of the Luo tribe, as much as possible whenever I can and sometimes I have full conversations with people in Luo which is awesome, I love it! A lot of people still laugh hysterically when I speak Luo because they are so surprised that any mzungu knows their mother tongue, usually mzungus would learn Kiswahili instead. I greet as many people as possible with oya ore (good morning) and nango (how are you) and when people smile and laugh at me because I'm speaking Luo I love using waynera (stop laughing at me) and then they laugh even harder, it is a lot of fun :) Many people comment on my Luo and I'm really happy that they appreciate my efforts to speak their language. I still only know the basics so I can't wait to learn even more!

Jiko La Jamii Dairies - Western Heads East:• The industry and competition: the dairy industry is doing very well in Kenya and fresh milk dairies are popping up everywhere. There is an establishment that recently opened right down the street from Jiko La Jamii - Oyugis that sells fresh milk. This isn't great for our business but we are confident that we have a high quality product, Fiti Yogurt, with a significant advantage over the competition. As well, none of the local dairies make yogurt, so the only other yogurt products are produced by large corporations and sold in Shivling Supermarket for a much higher price. Fiti Yogurt's direct competition is fresh milk which is cheaper than yogurt and people are more accustomed to it. The Oyugis Mamas sell fresh milk as well from Jiko La Jamii which seems to be more popular than the yogurt. We will be working hard to effectively market Fiti Yogurt and increase awareness about the product.
• The Oyugis kitchen: the first Jiko La Jamii Dairies in Kenya is the business that I helped start up last year with the Orande Women's Group and it has now been in operation for almost one year. The record keeping looks pretty good, but still needs some improvement, and operations seem to be going pretty well also. However, while some of the Mamas are extremely dedicated and hardworking, others are not and we are seriously lacking Mamas in the kitchen on a daily basis. The main challenge in the Oyugis kitchen is motivating the Mamas to show up on time, work hard, and get out in the field to sell the yogurt. This is extremely challenging with the slow paced Kenyan culture combined with the Mama's other responsibilities such as their young children at home. The hot sun really doesn't help either and we get exhausted easily after a couple hours outside.
o The Oyugis kitchen has two very dedicated Yogurt Mamas, Sophia and Diana (aka Mama Dee), who are at the yogurt kitchen 7 days a week and they are usually the first ones to arrive around 6am and the last ones to leave around 7pm. They are amazing and very committed to staying open late and on weekends for their loyal customers. There are 9 other Yogurt Mamas who come in throughout the week, but it becomes very difficult when two are expecting children soon and some of the older women cannot read or write preventing them from doing record keeping. As well, many of the Mamas do not have the confidence and/or social skills to sell yogurt in the field or sit at customer care (i.e. serve customers at the front of the kitchen). Mama Dee stays in the kitchen greeting customers and clients all day and she does almost all of the record keeping while Mama Sophia is the kitchen's top field sales Mama. We have recognized that they really need some support and they need rest but they are both too dedicated and they refuse to take any time off at all.
o The Oyugis Mamas have started selling flavoured strawberry yogurt with sugar which is a big hit especially with the younger customers. Instead of increasing the price for the flavoured yogurt we have decided to decrease the quantity slightly (by 25 ml) to make up for the added value and cost of the flavouring and sugar. In this price-sensitive market, increasing the price is the last thing that we want to do.
o Selling in the market: the Mamas take 1 bucket of yogurt and 1 bucket of fresh milk almost every evening to the market to sell. Emily and I went with Mama Sophia to the market on Saturday which was a lot of fun and definitely very helpful for research and observation. She sells at the same location every time so her customers can easily find her. The market operates very differently from a supermarket or a retail store and the customer determines the quantity that they want rather than selling the pre-packaged yogurt. Customers like to see the quantity of yogurt/milk poured in front of them and record keeping in the market is pretty much impossible. There were lots of people around our table purchasing yogurt and milk and we sold 1,800 /= (approximately $25 CAD) in just over an hour, which is incredible!
• The Kadongo kitchen: The second Jiko La Jamii Dairies in Kenya has been in operation for almost 3 months now and there are 24 Yogurt Mamas from two different women's groups, Baraka & Besigre, working together to produce the high quality probiotic yogurt. The kitchen is very advanced in comparison to the two yogurt kitchens in Mwanza and Oyugis. The Mamas have a large electrical vat for making the yogurt that can process up to 200L of milk at a time. Water inside the vat heats and cools the milk making the production process a lot simpler and more convenient without the hassle of changing the water frequently to cool it. However, until the Mamas scale up production the vat is not very cost effective or efficient in comparison to the method of heating the milk on the gas elements and cooling the milk in tubs of cold water. The electrical vat is not being used on a daily basis for numerous reasons and the production process takes just as long as the original method, if not longer.
o *For the purpose of sustainability and expansion in East Africa, it is important to note that it is much more feasible for future yogurt kitchens to be simple and less advanced than the Kadongo kitchen to reduce start-up costs and required maintenance. As well, a less advanced kitchen will be easier for new Yogurt Mamas to use since they most likely won't have the technical food/dairy scientist background. Ideally, we hope that women's groups will approach WHE with the interest of starting up their own yogurt kitchen. As well, interested women's groups should contribute a portion of the initial investment so that they have some financial commitment and stake in the business. This will ensure that WHE has dedicated and hardworking women who understand the importance of a sustainable micro-enterprise business without ongoing funding.
• Packaging/branding: Ellena had started looking into branding for the packaging and we looked at some samples the other day. We are working on getting a couple different designs/prototypes before making a final decision with the Mamas from both kitchens. This will definitely be a huge step for Fiti Yogurt as customers will be able to identify our product and it will look a lot more professional. This is necessary before we start selling Fiti Yogurt in supermarkets and other small shops. We plan on branding the packaging, all of the coolers, the Mamas' aprons & lab coats (which they wear when selling in the field), and the buckets.
o We are also working on securing a good reliable packaging supplier for the polythene bags that we use to pack the yogurt. It is difficult to find a good supplier who consistently provides a high quality product and we have had lots of trouble with faulty packets.

• Most of the first week was spent observing the operations at both yogurt kitchens to get a better understanding of the current situation and the issues and challenges that we need to address. As well, it is very important that we spend a lot of time with the Mamas to gain their trust, establish our credibility, and create a personal relationship with them before making recommendations and suggestions for the business. The Mamas at both kitchens love when we come by and they really don't like it when we leave...they expect us to stay at the kitchen the entire day.
o Afternoon tea is the best! The Mamas at both of the kitchens have chai and bread every day around 4pm and it is amazing. I love the chai which is mixed with 1/2 milk and 1/2 water.
• Emily and I did some costing and breakeven calculations to determine the amount of yogurt that the Mamas need to sell in order to cover all of their variable and fixed costs. When calculating the breakeven amount for 1 product (125 ml) it comes out to approximately 200 packets of yogurt that the Mamas need to sell every day to cover their expenses before making a profit. It was fun and exciting to apply some of the tools that we had learned at the Ivey Business School to a real life situation.
o For all of those Excel nerds out there...we even used Solver for an optimization problem :)

Challenges• Meetings! Although all of our meetings are very interesting and a great learning experience they tend to be very long and difficult to get through. Emily, Ellena, and I tried really hard to encourage and motivate all the Mamas to speak and share their thoughts and ideas during the two meetings that we had this week but many of the women are very quiet and do not say anything at all. We are usually the ones leading the meetings because everyone else expects us to and waits for us to start. We acknowledged the importance of getting to know the Mamas on a personal level and speaking to them one-on-one to hear their thoughts and opinions which are important. We are working hard to ensure that we are collaborating with the Mamas and assisting them with their business rather than telling them what to do or imposing our ideas on them. We have continued to emphasize that it is their business and that we highly value their opinions because they know the market much better than we do.
o Meeting #1: Oyugis & Kadongo, Wed. June 9
• Standardize prices and quantities at both kitchens for consistency in the market with a standard product.
o Meeting #2: Kadongo, Sunday June 13
• Discuss any issues in the Kadongo kitchen: the end of funding from World Bank, packaging/label, theft in the kitchen, meetings, etc.
o An interesting part of our meetings...a prayer is said at the beginning and end of every meeting.
o On African time: meeting #1 went on for almost 2 hours and meeting #2 started 3 hours late and lasted 3 hours. It doesn't help when we have to translate everything in Luo and English.
• Yogurt sales are weather dependent and it is difficult to sell on cold and rainy days. It has been raining pretty heavily in Oyugis almost every day which affects the Mama's sales.
• There will always be gossip with a large group of women.

Most Memorable Moments:• Joseph, who works at the VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing Clinic) at the Rachuonyo District Hospital, showing us his photo album which had the photos that I gave him of us last year :)
• Watching a primary school track meet at Agoro Sare Secondary School (where I played football/soccer last year) in Oyugis with Mama Sophia and Mama Consolata (aka Mama Conzy) while they were selling yogurt. I feel very close with the Mamas and I love hanging out with them. I love how we can laugh and have so much fun together even though we are very different ages and we come from such different backgrounds and cultures. Most of the time it is the Mamas laughing hysterically at me because I'm speaking Luo or just being silly. We have a lot of fun together!
• Playing cops and robbers with the kids out was an awesome workout. This young boy named Nicholas had this really cool car toy that he made out of wire and rubber straps with a steering wheel. Iti s one of the few toys I have ever seen around in Oyugis.
• Taking Tracy (the 3 yr old little girl who lives next door) to school one day after lunch.
• Going out to a bar/pub in Oyugis with live music! I have always wanted to go somewhere in Kenya with live music so I was really happy that I finally had that experience. The music is amazing here and I love it!
• Mama Dee telling Emily and I about how the yogurt has changed people's lives including two young orphans down the road who the Mamas have decided to sponsor. The two young boys (about 4 and 6 years old) come in every day to receive a packet of yogurt and Mama Dee said they have improved significantly. It makes my day when young children (some as young as 4 years old) come into the kitchen to purchase yogurt or fresh milk.
• Carrying a bucket of yogurt on my head to the market. Yup! The Mamas were laughing hysterically at me as usual. It was AMAZING but it got heavy very quickly so Mama Dee had to help me. The women here are professionals though, and they have incredible balancing skills.

Life in Oyugis• Our walks around Oyugis are the best! We've been on two nice long walks which I absolutely love. I enjoy talking to my Kenyan friends about their lives and culture while walking around the quieter beautiful parts of town. We talked about the slow-paced lifestyle in Africa, children, population growth, and development. My friends enjoy the walks as well because they usually don't spend time walking around their home town and they don't even notice how beautiful their country is until we point it out. This came up a lot last year and has come up a lot never appreciate what you have and you always want what you don't have.
• Just a refresher from last year in case you forgot...every Sunday morning we wake up to extremely loud music and preaching blasting through our bedroom window from across the street. It can get pretty bad at 9am in the morning when people are trying to sleep.
• High unemployment rates and underpaid jobs. A lot of my friends refuse to work in Oyugis because they don't want to be taken advantage of being underpaid for the amount of work that they do when the guy at the top takes it all for himself.

Life in Kenya
• I love the children...the majority of them are so amazing, so intelligent, so responsible, and they look so happy most of the time with very little. Most of the kids are very shy and will not even look me in the eye when I smile at them or talk to them. They turn their heads or look at the ground. Most of them don't get the same encouragement, affection, and praise that other kids in Canada and other countries are used to which leads to lower self-confidence. Of course they are especially shy when it comes to talking to mzungus.
• One of my favourite kids who I played football with last year, named Boston, had the most amazing big white smile :) Unfortunately when I saw him this year I noticed that his teeth had been completely discoloured. The dentist is a luxury, something that the majority of families in Kenya cannot afford.
• In the larger cities, like Kisii and Kisumu, there are quite a few street kids that spend their days looking through the garbage, begging for money, and sniffing glue. It is so hard to see the street kids because they deserve so much more than that. It is one thing to be living in poverty with a family and a place to call home, but it is another when you don't have a family or a home. Every child deserves a good family and every child deserves a safe home. No child should be born into this world without that. That is another thing that I am so thankful for that we sometimes take for granted. An amazing family and a great home.
o When we were in Kisii Ellena, Emily and I were approached by two young boys who were street kids about 9 years old. They looked weak, one wasn't wearing any shoes while the other boy's shoes were ripped and torn, and they were wearing oversized tattered clothes. The boys' faces were covered in dirt and they were both gripping bottles filled with glue. I later found out that they sniff glue because it makes them feel full so they can go days without feeling hungry. We purchased some fruit, bread and milk for the boys. We couldn't leave them without doing something and we didn't want to give them money that might be put towards glue or something else. At least we could help them a little bit. It was so hard, I couldn't help thinking about what those two young boys could have been...a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. No child deserves that life.
o A couple days later in Kisumu we saw 15 - 20 street kids down by Lake Victoria where we went to eat Tilapia for lunch. It was so terrible when we really couldn't do much. This time we couldn't give out food to just one child or even a few. There were numerous other wealthy Kenyan professionals around but we were an easy target. I left some tilapia on purpose and told the waiter to distribute it to one of the kids after we had left. Some of the boys grabbed our sodas as soon as we left our table to gulp down the last few sips in the bottles.
• The majority of the large supermarkets, hardware stores, electronic stores, and other businesses in Kenya are owned by Indians. I have an Indian friend who owns an electronic store in Kisii and I was asking him about it...he replied saying that Indians are good business people, and if an African were to start up their own business it would flop in a few years. That may be a stereotype but I don't agree with it at all...I'm going to prove him wrong.

Life here can be very difficult and challenging at times but I still love it. Home sweet home :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Arriving in Nairobi & Oyugis

Date: Tuesday June 1 to Monday June 7
Day 1 to 7
Quote of the week: Impossible things can happen

After taking the exact same flights as last year from Toronto to London and then on to Nairobi, Emily and I arrived in Kenya on Wednesday June 2nd early in the morning. Our flight from London to Nairobi was completely full which I was surprised about because last year it was so empty and some passengers had 3 seats to themselves. I believe that the improvement of the economy and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa are two reasons for that. Its the very first FIFA World Cup hosted in Africa which is a HUGE deal and even though I will not be in South Africa for the games I am so happy to be in Kenya for the celebrations! I'm sure it is going to be very exciting and I can't wait :) I'm definitely cheering for Brazil (as always for my best friend Jess) and all of the African teams.

Life in Nairobi
My experience in Kenya (round 2) so far has been completely different from last year which is good and keeps things exciting. Emily and I arrived at the Nairobi airport and jumped in a taxi to go to our hotel. Everything felt so normal, nothing was out of the ordinary, and I feel really comfortable and at home here in Kenya. Unlike last year, this time I was much more focused on reading the newspaper I had bought from my window while stuck in traffic than looking around at everything. The day before, June 2nd, marked the 47th Madaraka day (for Kenya's independence). At the celebrations in Nairobi President Kibaki ordered tough action against those provoking violence or hate speech before the referendum on August 4th to determine if the new constitution is passed. Everyone I have spoken to is very excited about the new constitution in Kenya which promotes a more democratic country where women have greater rights.

When we arrived at the hotel we met my good friend and classmate Rebecca who is also working in Kenya for our professor's research. Emily and I spent a total of 5 days in Nairobi which was definitely long enough. It is a big congested city just like any other with some of the worst traffic in the world and I couldn't wait to get back home to Oyugis. Nairobi is the central hub of East Africa and is very developed in some areas but it still has one of the largest slums in Africa. My time spent in Nairobi was completely different than my experience in Oyugis last year and it made me think a lot about the large and growing income gap, inequality, corruption, and development. There are lots of large expensive houses and properties in the Westlands area in Nairobi which is the complete opposite of the homes that surround me in Oyugis.

Some highlights from Nairobi...
• I've been trying really hard to speak Kiswahili (or Swahili as we call it)
• I immediately met up with 2 of my best friends from last year... Caxton and Nick!!!!! Everything was great and it was as if time had never passed and I had never left.
• Meeting with the Director of Economic and External Trade in Kenya. I was put in touch with the Director after meeting a High Commissioner of Kenya a couple months ago at a WHE event at UWO. He chatted with us for about an hour which was really kind of him to do and it was very interesting. We talked a lot about development and the importance of trade for a country to develop. He also enlightened us about m-pesa which is banking on your mobile phone. Kenyans can pretty much do anything from their phone with the click of a button including withdrawing cash at an ATM, paying bills, paying for things at a store, and transferring money to someone. It is amazing and I can't believe we can't do this in Canada yet.
• The Safaricom 7s Rugby Tournament! Saturday June 5th was the most AMAZING day in Nairobi because we attended the biggest East African rugby tournament. We arrived very early at 10am with a local friend of ours and cracked a Tusker almost right away. Before entering the stadium Rebecca and I got a Kenyan flag painted on our cheeks (I really wanted my entire face or half of my face painted but o well, next time). The tournament was sponsored by Safaricom this year which is the largest telecommunications company in Kenya so we got lots of cool free stuff from them...a keychain, a drum, flags, temporary tattoos, and hats. The stadium wasn't huge but it was big enough and there was a village tent area behind it with food, a seating area, a stage with music, and other sponsors with fun things. The ambience was truly amazing and I had so much fun cheering, chanting, and watching the games.
o We met some of the rugby players from Argentina and another team.
o For a long time my friends and I were the only ones dancing in the afternoon at the stage in the village. They had a cameraman there who was filming us the entire time for a jumbo screen they had. We had so much fun and the music was awesome!
o KENYA WON! The Kenya team is amazing since Kenyans are known to be the fastest in the world (next to Jamaicans I believe) and they dominated the games.

Home in Oyugis
On Monday June 7 Emily and I arrived in Oyugis after driving for 2 hours from the airport in Kisumu. It was so nice to be out of Nairobi and in the more rural part of Kenya because it is STUNNING and the landscape is beautiful. Back home I always talk about how beautiful the country is but I definitely didn't remember it being as stunning as it really is. Bikes and motorcycles fill the streets, large potholes are everywhere on the road, and lots of people are walking everywhere. As we approached Oyugis I got more and more excited. I noticed every little thing that was different...some trees cut down here and there, small improvements to local businesses, and new shops & buildings that had opened. I directed our driver down the rocky dirt road towards our hotel and as we got closer I looked for the girls who lived next door (Tracy, Sachabea & Everlyne) but I was surprised when I didn't see them because Tracy & Sachabea are always there during the day because they aren't in school.

The first day in Oyugis was amazing! I took Emily around everywhere and we saw almost everyone :) Everyone remembers me and asks about Jen and Rani. There are lots of kids who still remember me and they approach me to say hi or yell my name as I walk past. It is so great to be back and its nice to see a lot of the people and children who didn't even know I was coming back. I think they are all pretty surprised about that. We went to George's place down the road for chapati & beans, the Rachuonyo District Hospital to meet Francis (a nutritionist and Principal Investigator for the WHE project), the yogurt kitchen, the market, and the internet cafe where my close friends hang out. I was speaking Luo the entire day and everyone loved that I had remembered it. I remember almost everything I had learned last year which is great but I plan to learn a lot more this summer. I want to be fluent!

Our first week will be spent observing the current operations of both yogurt kitchens and catching up with Ellena, the PhD student who has been here for 9 months, on the challenges and accomplishments of the WHE project.

Most Memorable Moments:
• We almost missed our flight to Kisumu. Long story but there was a shuttle that was taking us to the airplane. In the end we were the very first two people to walk up the stairs and on to the plane. It was pretty sweet.
• Seeing Tracy & Sachabea (the girls who live next door) for the first time :) I saw that the steel door on their home was open so I knocked and their mother Emily called me in. I hugged them really tight for a long time as we all smiled. I didn't even notice that they were both in school uniforms until Emily said something. I was so happy that both of the girls were finally in school since they had not been last year. I am so excited and happy for them!
• Seeing the Mamas! As soon as we walked into the yogurt kitchen the Mamas erupted with cheers and ran towards me. We had a huge group hug for a very long time and they welcomed Emily. It is so good to see them again.
• Drinking the yogurt...Emily finds it a little sour and had trouble drinking a full packet but I found it pretty good and had no problem at all. I guess I'm still used to it.
• Hanging out with my best friends/the crew: Cliff, Dennis, Frank, Keenan, & Brian in Oyugis.
o Cliff was recently accepted into the University of Nairobi for Veterinary Medicine and I am so proud of him! CONGRATS CLIFF :)
o The boys have been teaching us some Luo slang which is fun
o The boys told us that Keenan is now in the army...fighting mosquitoes. He works for an organization funded by USAID to spray people's homes to prevent malaria.

Life in Kenya:
• I completely forgot that some people like to drink their beer warm so when you order a Tusker you must say "baridi" = cold
• The University of Nairobi (the best university in Kenya) is closed temporarily right now due to a student riot after a disputed/rigged student election. Sounds a little too familiar. Unfortunately this means that Nick's exams are now delayed.
• Even in the early morning at 6am Nairobi is lively and busy but mostly with security guards and police officers who roam the streets.
• "Thank you" is not something that people say frequently at all. Spoken thanks are not common in East Africa so I almost never hear it. On the other hand, I say "Asante sana" (Kiswahili) and "Ero kamano" (Luo) all the time.
• African time exists everywhere you go...people are never on time! Its not really rude, its almost expected. Life moves at a much slower pace and it is common to see lots of people taking long breaks, having naps in the park, and relaxing during the weekdays. Sometimes I really do enjoy the laidback chill atmosphere.
o Example...a friend of ours was going to pick us up around 10am to do touristy things in Nairobi. We didn't meet up until 4pm and didn't do anything that was planned. I really didn't care and wasn't really interested in doing anything touristy anyway :)
• Kenya is STUNNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE IT :) It is such a beautiful country with so much luscious vegetation, gorgeous landscape, and a beautiful sky. Its true... the sky is actually so different and so much more vibrant in Africa, especially in Oyugis.

Life in Oyugis:

• Some of the staff are still working at the hotel which is really nice and they all remember me. All of the cleaning ladies, including Pamela who looked after Jen and I last year, are still here and two of the receptionists/managers are here as well.
• People I've seen so far (this is mostly for Jen & Rani):
o At the hospital...Francis, Joseph, Maureen, Phenny
o The kids...Tracy & Sachabeah, Akoth, Valeria & Brian, Bartie, and the boys (Boston, Claudia, Austin, Bruce)
o Friends...Frank, Dennis, Cliff, Brian, Keenan, Omar, motorcycle Steve, Byron, Esther, and Johnson
o Agoro Sare boys...Dave, Steve, and Thomas
o The mamas: Diana, Sophia, Jennifer, Hellen, Leonora, Mary, Eunice, and Regina. Mama Jessica from Nyanam.
• Mama Mary and Lillian are both expecting children very soon!
o Other people in the community...George (chapati dengu)
• Some things will never change...
o There are still frequent blackouts (almost every other day)
o Matatus are still packed with 20 - 23 people when they only seat 15
• The supermarket that we always went to, Shivling Supermarket, has moved next door to a much larger nicer building that was in renovation last year. They still sell the same things but they now have a lot more inventory and it is less crowded.
• We've been out twice to play with the kids behind the hotel but there are only about 10 - 15 kids out which I'm really surprised about. I think those numbers will grow soon once the kids start to realize that we are back. Sachabea still had the rope that we used to skip with last year which is great.

It is so good to be home! Oriti!