Thursday, July 2, 2009

Embrace Life

Date: Monday June 22 to Friday June 26
Day 21 to 25

Quote of the day: Impossible things can happen

The Project:

Unfortunately our project work this week was very slow, complicated, and frustrating. We wanted to spend the week completing some necessary tasks for production to start (which is our main priority at the moment) but instead we had some financing limitations and other restrictions from KEMRI (Kenyan Medical Research Institute) which held us back. Instead we worked on anything and everything that we could think of to do for the kitchen.
Our accomplishments this week:
• Financial statements including a balance sheet and projected income statement. These tasks have been very difficult to complete with such large amounts of missing information (e.g. start-up costs). As well we must decide whether to create these statements for the kitchen as a commercial business or as a project including the World Bank funding and the study.
• Completed a rough draft of a business plan for the project kitchen in Oyugis (including the study)→ this will be used by all stakeholders involved. We can also make slight changes to the business plan to make it appropriate for the kitchen as a commercial business.
• TRAINING→ On Thursday we had a very successful training session with 9 of the women from The Orande Women’s Group (our Yoghurt Mamas). Unfortunately I was sick and had to stay home at the hotel :( I wanted to be there more than anything to see the Yoghurt Mamas again!
o Topics covered: project summary, yoghurt benefits, the Yoghurt Mamas, and Yoghurt Mama profiles (occupation, why they are involved, goals, etc.)
o I created a project summary sheet for the Orande Women's Group which includes the objective of the project, the benefits of the probiotic yoghurt, the role of the Yoghurt Mamas, information on the study, and a list of resources/contacts. This information was reviewed with them on Thursday as part of their training. Many stakeholders have not read the project proposal so this document will be used as a brief but thorough summary of the necessary project information.
• I also worked on my personal work responsibilities by summarizing some information informally to assess the cultural and intercultural communication issues around business decisions among the program stakeholders in Oyugis.
• I received feedback from the Yoghurt Mamas on the marketing materials (poster, flyer, and packaging inserts) and made necessary changes to make them more eye-catching with clear and concise information
• I designed and created client ID cards and dairy farmer tender posters
o Although Roy already has milk suppliers, KEMRI is requiring us to distribute the posters to attract milk suppliers for formality
• We created the training schedule for next week when the Tukwamuane Women's Group from Tanzania will be training our Yoghurt Mamas. These women have been involved with the Western Heads East project for 4 years and they are successfully operating the Fiti Yoghurt kitchen in Mwanza. This training will be very empowering for both women's groups and I know that the Orande Women's Group will gain more hope and excitement for the project after next week. Some things that will be covered in this training are:
o Hygiene & cleaning procedures
o Yoghurt production process
o Business practices: sales & distribution, record keeping, ethics, financial statements (opening and closing entries)
o Personal benefits for the Yoghurt Mamas

I love the work and it is so great to actually be using what I've learned in school. We face many challenges every day and work is very slow (something we are not used to at Ivey) but we are doing absolutely everything we can to get the kitchen up and running.

• We have a long list of THINGS TO PURCHASE BEFORE PRODUCTION which we wanted to buy this week but unfortunately KEMRI, a government institution with a lot more authority than us, has very specific requirements which must be met and they are extremely slow on transferring funds so this did not happen.
o As well our project manager Roy has ordered many of the necessary supplies for the kitchen and we are still waiting (after many weeks) to receive them.
• Although the Western Heads East project is very important to many people it is a very small project for KEMRI and this makes it extremely difficult for anything to get done.

Most Memorable Moments:
• Watching a group of kids (about 7 or 8 years old) taking turns riding an adult's bicycle down a hill. The kids would stand on one side of the bike with 1 leg through the bars to reach the other pedal. It was incredible.
• Climbing a tree at Oyugis Primary school. It was COVERED in ants so I was a little hesitant at first but of course I just climbed away. The children who followed us up the tree were like monkeys climbing at double the speed of us.
• Again I have to mention the children yelling my name  Everywhere we go I get many children who have now replaced “Mzungu!” with “Amanda!”
• Tracy (our 2 year old neighbour) speaking for the first time ever!
• Making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Yummmm...after eating huge portions of chicken or beef with rice or potatoes it is nice to have a smaller option available for lunch or dinner

Life in Kenya:

THE CHILDREN→ usually the children wear exactly the same thing clothing every single day (which is usually ripped or the wrong size). I can't believe how much we complained to our parents about wearing hand-me-downs. Their feet, hands, and faces are very dirty and the soles of their feet are as hard as rock from running around without shoes. One time I attempted to play soccer without shoes but barely lasted 10 seconds...running on the stones and hard ground was so painful!
• Children don't cry very often but when they do their parents are usually not around and so they are left to cry on their own.

I constantly think about how grateful I am to be here and how perfect this opportunity is for me. I love everything about the project and living in Africa is an incredible experience. I will always have a place in my heart for Oyugis, the project, and the people I have met here. I wake up everyday and still can't believe that just over a month ago I had no idea what my summer plans were and now I am living my dream.

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