Monday, July 9, 2012

Work and Adventures

Wow, what an amazing week! Lots of work followed by a weekend of adventures.
View of the Silanga village in Kibera

On Monday, our project manager Anthony facilitated a business training with the facility attendants and some members of a community group (the Silanga Development Group, or SDG) who were chosen to manage the facilities when they were first built. The training was intended to be a refresher on recordkeeping and how to track usage of the facilities and other sales such as water, soap, and the water treatment. The training ended up being mostly educational for us. The attendants hadn't been using any of the recordkeeping documents. While it's likely that many of the documents were never distributed to the facilities, it was clear that the attendants did not understand them or how to effectively use them. The collection of this information is important for us, as researchers, to gauge the success of our intervention. But more importantly, for those living in Kibera, it helps us understand how the facilities can better serve the community, create an environment of better hygiene practices, reduce diarrhea and other water-borne diseases, and generate a stream of income for the attendants, those who manage the facilities, and other community members who make and sell soap. That being said, the training also gave us some insight into how the facilites are (or in some cases, are not) being run. It turns out that the SDG has not been very involved in the management of the facilites. They are not providing attendants with toilet paper and soap (and how sanitary can a sanitation facility be without those?), they are not paying the attendants, and they are often nowhere to be found when it's time to unlock and open the facilities. A big part of our work this summer will be trying to uncover the "real story" behind the SDG. While the business training was taking place, some of us were conducting informal interviews with community members who live near the facilities. We discovered some issues...the facilities are never open, the showers don't work, there isn't any water, there's no soap...and some of the people we talked to were very frustrated. The community wants to see the facilities up and running. Not only are they taking up valuable space on their land, but they truly want to use them. Ideally, we would like to transition management from the SDG to the community members themselves. Then, those who use the facilities will have a vested interest in (and the ability to) keep the facilities open, ensure they have an adequate water supply, keep them clean, market them to other community members, increase usage, and increase profit. More to come on this...
Obligatory shot of cute Kenyan kids
On Tuesday we invited Helen to teach us and the Maji na Ufanisi staff to make liquid soap. Helen lives in Kibera, was trained by a previous DU group on how to make soap, and has since been so successful selling soap that she saved up enough money to open up her own hair salon. She's also super sweet and very good teacher. Making the liquid soap is easy, inexpensive, and allows for a pretty significant profit margin. Since we learned that most of the facilities do not regularly have soap available, there are opportunities for community members to sell it to them. After soap-making, we met with Megan from Zana Africa, an organization that is creating a low-cost sanitary pad made from local agricultural materials. While the pad will not be available until early 2014, we were able to learn a great deal about the "pad scene" in Kenya and what options are available for girls in Kibera. Commercial pads (such as Always) are prohibitively expensive. Most girls end up using pieces of old clothes and often skip school when they are menstruating. This summer, we are trying to determine what alternatives they have so that they can manage their periods and stay in school. We are also looking in to ways they can dispose of the pads in sanitary, environmentally-friendly ways.
Helen teaching the hygiene club to make liquid soap. She rocks!

We headed back into Kibera on Wednesday to do a soap-making training with the hygiene club at Undugu school. The club is made up of about 40 students who we hope will manage the facility at the school and become peer health educators. Helen and Rina (our lead hygiene trainer from Nairobi) facilitated the training with the kids, and it went really well. The kids seemed to be really into it and are well on their way to becoming little soap-making entrepreneurs. We'll meet up with them again next Thursday and Friday to do a full hygiene training.

Rina came over to the apartment on Thursday to do a practice-round hygiene training for us. We went through all of the activities that we take our Community Health Workers through - we even made up our own handwashing song. It was a very fun, informative, and interactive training. I can't wait to see it in action with the hygiene clubs and other community groups!

On Friday, we headed out to Meru for our first big trip! Anthony travels back and forth from Meru every weekend to visit his wife and 2 kids, and this weekend, he took us along with him. We arrived Friday evening and were welcomed by Anthony's beautiful wife, his super shy son, his chickens and dairy goats, and a huge delicious dinner. It was so nice to get out of Nairobi, experience some of rural Kenya, and spend time in a warm loving home. It had to be one of the best dinners I've ever had. After we stuffed ourselves, we headed over to Hotel Incredible (across the street from the Glorious Cafe) to get a good night's sleep....we had to hit the road early for our SAFARI!! We went to Meru National Park and were very pleasantly surprised by all of the animals we were lucky enough to catch out in the wild: giraffes, rhinos (even a baby rhino!), hippos, buffalos, zebras, ostrich, antelope, gazelles, countless beautiful birds, an elephant butt, and a glimpse of the lion. We topped the excursion off with a flat tire that we fixed right there in the park. Afterward, we visited one of Renee's former students, Karambu, who started an organization for AIDS orphans. She had such an amazing and inspiring story. Not only do they provide housing and schooling for the kids, but they have an enormous organic farm, complete with drip irrigation systems, to provide a sustainable source of food. It was great to see someone put this IIC degree to good work!

On Sunday, we made the gorgeous drive home around Mt. Kenya. It was too foggy to see, but we drove through what has to be the most green, lush part of Kenya. We stopped by a tea farm, but the best part was stopping by Anthony's mothers house. She has a sweet little house on a lot land...she raises dairy goats, chickens, and cows and grows bananas, papaya, avocado, and coffee (to name a few). We had tea and bananas and spent some time breathing some very refreshing and much needed clean air. She sent us on our way with a huge bag of avocados, and we made the trip home. It was a wonderful weekend!

Other than's been cold here! It's Kenya's winter, but I was still expecting it to be much warmer. Aside from all of the walking we do each day (and it is a lot), I haven't been getting much exercise. It's probably too dangerous to run outside, but I wouldn't want to anyway for all of the pollution. Even walking around outside - with all of the burning charcoal, burning trash, and car exhaust - makes my lungs burn. We had 2 visitors for a few was nice to spend some time with an IIC friend before she continues on her African journey. We've been eating a lot and eating delicious Kenyan food.

Back to work today! I'll keep the updates coming and will post some pictures to Facebook soon. No offense, but I haven't been missing home all too much yet. I love it here!
I'll leave you with a smiling baby goat from Anthony's mother's farm :)

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