Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The adventure begins...

After 2 weeks of orientation and training at Western, more shots than I can count, and tearful goodbyes I have finally left Toronto to embark on my 3 month journey with Western Heads East to Kenya. I will be documenting my personal experiences as well as my progress with the internship project including: initial goals, accomplishments, and greatest learning experiences. 

I have never been more excited about anything else in my life. I hope that I can make a difference this summer and help move the project forward to contribute to creating a sustainable business for the benefit of the people living in Oyugis.

The Project: Probiotic Yogurt for Health and Nutrition in East Africa: Women Helping Women
This project is supported by The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Western Heads East is a program at The University of Western Ontario, their mission is: To engage staff, students, faculty and the broader community in teaching, research and service targeting the African HIV/AIDS crisis. This will raise awareness and funds to support the exchange of learning experiences, while making a sustainable difference to communities in Africa.

The Team: My friend and peer, Jen Eldridge (jenheadseast.blogspot.com), will be joining me for the 3 months and I can't wait to become even closer friends with her!... after all we will be spending every second together for 86 days.

Why is the project necessary?
  • Oyugis-Rachuonyo district has a 72% poverty level which contributes to the spread of HIV
  • estimated that over 50% of People living with AIDS (PLWAs) and more than 45% of infected children suffer from diarrhoeal disease
  • 30% of the women suffer from bacterial vaginosis

My Internship Objectives:
  • Assist in the process to begin production of the probiotic yogurt for consumption and sale of surplus in their district in Kenya
  • assess cultural and intercultural communication issues around business decisions among the program stakeholders, especially the women
  • explore potential sources of grants to subsidize probiotic yogurt for PLWAs 
  • identify most appropriate yogurt packaging and distribution mechanism to ensure efficiency and effectiveness
  • develop and implement a poster information campaign to raise the understanding of the general health benefits pertaining to the program and to eliminate any misconceptions that may be associated with the yogurt
Problem Definition: The project will address the following problems...
  • Malnutrition
  • Diarrhoeal diseases: over 50% of PLWAs and more than 45% of infected children suffer from this disease
  • Baterial Vaginosis: this condition doubles the risk of women acquiring HIV
  • Low income of rural women: empowering the rural women!
Potential challenges:
  • Many challenges faced by female interns and female Yogurt Mamas (volunteers who produce, distribute, and sell the yogurt)
  • Process is very important, things are VERY SLOW in Kenya
  • Communication 
  • People have resistance to change
  • Sustainability is key
  • Jen and I are the very first interns in the Oyugis area, which is the poorest region in Kenya
  • Cultural safety
The above is the initial information that I have received from Western Heads East. I am certain that things will change and I will update information this information as often as I can.

After a long 8 hour flight Jen and I arrived in London, England and toured the city by foot for a couple hours before our next flight to Nairobi. It was gorgeous weather in an amazing city and it was the absolute perfect way to start our journey! :)

I miss friends and family already but I am so excited to start the project and live for 3 months in a completely different world! 

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