Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
Today was phenomenal! We had a super jam-packed day but it was so incredibly awesome. The nutrition team went to Ruuju Primary School this morning to complete a feedback questionnaire regarding the school lunch program recommendations that we made last year. Last year, during the three months we spent in Kenya, we did an evaluation of the school lunch programs using a program called World Food. We analyzed the recipes for uji (maize porridge) and githeri (bean and maize stew) based on a third of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations for macro and micronutrients. Based on the results of the analysis for each individual school, we made individualized recommendations for each school and we met with each school to go over our recommendations. Once we discussed all of our recommendations, we developed realistic goals that each school felt that they could achieve. Each school committed to making one or two alterations to their recipes that would enhance the nutritional value of the meals served. Ruuju Primary School was a bit of an exception to the schools we analyzed. Their school garden happens to run by the Ruuju Women’s Group, which means that the garden contains a greater diversity of crops and the crops are much more successful. As such, the only two goals they made last year was to add more flour to the same amount of flour when making porridge, and soaking the beans and maize over night and then cooking them in fresh water the next day to make the githeri.
During our feedback session, we learned that not only are both of those goals being implemented, but they were also adding a fortified oil to the uji! They actually went back to the list of recommendations we made, and went beyond the goals they made to make further improvements to their recipes. Tuck and I were actually bouncing off the walls with excitement because today was the first day that we actually got to check up on our work from last summer, and we learned that people actually listened to us and learned from us. What we taught them last year is being implemented and is positively contributing to the nutritional status of the 500-600 students that attend the school.
To make the school feeding programs work, each parent has to donate a specific number of kgs of beans and maize. We learned today that when parents come to the school to drop off beans and maize, they notice that the school cooks are soaking the beans and maize, or are preparing meals slightly differently then they are used to and they ask the cook about the differences. The cooks have been explaining to the parents the changes and the reasons behind these changes to the parents since last year. As such, our nutrition messages have been shared with the members of the community and have extended far beyond the schools and women’s groups who we taught directly.
We also sat down with the “Champs” from the women’s groups to do an evaluation of the “Champ” model that we developed last year to work with the women’s groups. The new students this year are going to be using this same model with the nursery school parents this summer. The champs all loved the experience of being chosen as experts and the opportunity to speak to their own peers about the nutritionally improved recipes that they prepared. They also loved that they all got to prepare meals together and became really good friends through the experience. They also mentioned that they were so impressed that we actually helped them serve the food and ate the Kenyan food with them. They felt appreciated and proud to have been chosen. Such positive feedback was unreal!
Like every visit to the schools, we got to run around and play with kids for a big part of the day, which is always my favorite thing to do. We also walked to a couple of different farms to see grain cradles and thriving crops.
When we visited farms in the Muchui area on Saturday, we saw first hand the impact the draught has had on the crops and the livelihood of the women. This is the second harvest in a row that has been impacted by draught. In fact, most people don’t even have a harvest at all this season because of the severe draughts. Ruuju in contrast, actually has a maize harvest this year, and the farms were lush and green instead of brown and dry. It will be interesting to see how the schools in the Muchui area have fared with the goals we made with them last year given that their crops have suffered so dramatically.
We’ll be going out to schools in the Muchui area on Wednesday and Thursday so our fingers are crossed that we get feedback as positive as todays later this week.
After an uneventful 36 hours of traveling, we finally touched down at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi Kenya. I remember feeling way more gross and way stinkier stepping off the plane last summer than I did yesterday which was nice. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that we still all stunk - when waiting in line at customs I spent the majority of the half our wait trying to figure out if the stench was me or simply a collective of body odor seeping from each of the many travellers all crammed into a small space awaiting their turn to face the immigration officer and to be admitted into the country. When we got through immigration, Henry was waiting for us as expected and we were greeted with giant hugs and a huge smile. We've been excited to see Henry again since we found out we were coming back! He worked his magic and got our baggage, including 4 cases of veterinary medicine, through customs without a hitch and with no fees and we headed out of baggage claim and into the airport. I was really surprised to see so many people waiting to greet us at the airport! We had a welcome party of 4 of our favorite Kenyan friends! It made me so happy to get to see everyone that my face was hurting from smiling so much. I felt loved and missed and genuinely happy to the core upon seeing everyone. Definitely felt just like coming home, and quickly the exhaustion of 36 hours of travel melted away as we laughed and caught up with friends.
We headed from the airport to the wonderful Fairview Hotel where we checked in for a quick 2 night stay before heading into Meru and Kiirua to start our projects. The Fairview is awesome - the rooms are clean, there is hot running water, fabulous buffet breakfasts, multiple restaurants and bars, a gift shop, free wireless internet, a pool, a gym and gorgeous landscaping. Although the hotel is glorious, we spent the day shopping in Nairobi. Our first stop was obviously the kikoi shop! We've become quite the frequent customers at this place. It's called Haria's and it's on Biashara Street in Nairobi. The owners are friendly and accommodating and they have consistently good quality fabrics so it's worth going back every time we're in Nairobi. Tuck and I had "official business" to take care of today. We are having another 200 aprons made to sell at the Souris Village Feast on PEI this summer. The feast raises funds to build the cookhouses that we saw at the schools and they invited us to speak at the feast and to sell the aprons. We had 75 kikoi's (1 kikoi = 2 aprons) purchased before we got here and in the last week Esther has already turned half of them into aprons so we had to buy her more fabric so that she could make the rest.
The price of kikoi's has gone up significantly from last year and we were talking to the owners about it and they said that it's due to a drastic increase in the price of cotton. Although the cost of a single kikoi has risen from 350 ksh each to 550 ksh each over a year, their profit margin has also decreased. Apparently the tsunami in Japan and the flooding in Brisbane Australia, two areas that grow a lot of cotton, have greatly affected prices.
I somehow managed to leave the kikoi shop with only 1 new kikoi and 1 new kikoi towel (kikoi on one side, towel on the other....epic.) We took a quite stop into the Java House to get lunch to go and then headed to Kazuri Beads. All of these places I have been before and likely blogged extensively about them last year. This whole trip so far has given me a warped sense of deja vu. Last year I bought only a bracelet but also some pottery. This year I went all out with the jewellery and came home with some necklaces, bracelets and multiple pairs of earrings. You can also buy individual beads! There was a back room that had all four walls covered in shelves that contained buckets and buckets of single beads. While rummaging through them all trying to find awesome beads to make a necklace out of (the ones in the shop were all quite heavy with quite large beads on them..not really my style) I managed to find 4 giant yellow buttons! I love buttons. I have a whole box of them at home. I’m not really sure why I like them so much, but I was squealing in excitement when I found these yellow buttons. Last summer, I had purchased a double bed sized kikoi with plans of turning it into a duvet cover. Like most of my plans, it has never happened…at least not yet. The fabric has quite a bit of yellow in it, so I am going to use the yellow Kazuri buttons to fasten the bottom on the duvet cover and to keep the duvet itself from falling out the bottom. I happened to think that I was quite the genius for thinking this up, but in all likely hood these buttons will sit in the box with the rest of my buttons until I move into my own place and am a grown up and actually have a reason to unpack the fabric from the multiple boxes that are sitting in my parent’s basement.
I am blaming my extra purchases on the factory tour we took prior to shopping. The shop wasn't open last year so we had never taken a tour. We got a real-life "How It's Made" tutorial including getting a chance to observe and meet the women making the beads at every single stage. It blew my mind how much work goes into every single bead! They are all shaped by hand, and designed by hand, sun-dried and fired, painted by hand (including all the intricate designs) and fired a second time. The factory employs 300 women and pays them fari wages, provides transportation to and from home everyday and provides their entire families with medical coverage - all of which is almost unheard of in Kenya.
We got back to the Fairview around 5 ish, took advantage of the hotel gym (including treadmills, eliptical, rowing erg, bike, free weights and weights machines!) and then had a lovely dinner in the hotel restaurant. We lingered over dinner for a few hours and really got a chance to bond a bit before leaving this wonderful paradise of a hotel tomorrow morning for the less luxurious (but still awesome in it's own way) Mama Jen's for a week and then St Theresa's for two weeks.