Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Just a quick update while I'm passing through Nairobi. We just got back from Mombasa last night and we head out to Kisumu early tomorrow morning. It's a whirlwind!

Let me start with all of the fun stuff. A couple of weeks ago (has it really been that long?) we spent the weekend exploring Nairobi. In 2 days, we visited the elephant orphanage, the Kazuri ceramic bead factory, the National Museum, and the City Park. I don't know what I liked best! At the elephant orphanage, they brought out 19 baby elephants. They only allow visitors for one hour each day. None of the elephants are over 3 years old, and they are preparing them to re-enter the wild. They told the story of each elephant, how they found them, and how they were rescued. At the Kazuri bead factory, we were given a tour and saw each phase in the process of making the beads and ceramics. They employ over 100 women, most of whom are single mothers. All of the beads were so beautiful - I think we spent a couple of hours in the shop trying to decide which ones to bring home! 
At the elephant orphanage
Kazuri bead factory - millions to choose from!

The National Museum had some remnants and almost full skeletons of some of the earliest hominids. Many of the earliest humans identified have been found near Lake Turkana region in Kenya. The skeleton of one boy in particular (Turkana Boy) is 1.6 million years old! The museum also had a bunch of cultural artifacts and history of the different tribes in Kenya. We spent almost the whole day wandering around - educational and fun! We ended our Sunday at City Park. It was jam packed…with people and monkeys! The monkeys just roamed around everywhere, climbing all over the trees and people. A little terrifying, but they were cute :)

National Museum
Turkana Boy
After a couple days of work, we headed out to the southern coast of Mombasa. We spent some time getting to know the community group in the 'Bangladesh' slum. It's so different from Kibera. It's much more spaced out, organized, the houses are bigger, and there's even agriculture. It felt very much like a rural village compared to Kibera. But they didn't have a single toilet facility. Maji na Ufanisi is building one there, and it’s about half-way finished. The group was wonderful. With the location (near the school and market) and their support, this facility should be a success. We spent most of our time in Mombasa relaxing on the beach. We're about half way through our summer, and this was the perfect time for a little vacay. I ran on the beach each morning, swam in the Indian Ocean, and enjoyed the sunshine! We woke up one morning to a monkey in our house - he ate all of our bananas and pooped on the floor. Other than that, we had a great time!

Diani Beach, Mombasa
Outside of vacationing and being tourists, the project is still going really well. We got a group of about 20 women together and did a sanitary pad training. We taught them how to make the pads, and - more importantly - gathered their feedback on how to make them better and cheaper. They had some great ideas! They will be experimenting over the next few weeks to determine the most feasible and affordable way to make a pad that will meet the needs of the women and girls in Kibera. We also found our solution for disposal of the pads. We met with a guy from an organization called re:char. They make a simple incinerator that turns the contents of the burn into charcoal. In an agriculture context, the charcoal can be used as 'biochar' and incorporated into the soil to produce a better yield or better crops. In the context of Kibera, the charcoal can be sold and used as another income-generating activity for the facilities. So, ideally, the women will make and sell the sanitary pads, the attendants will incinerate the used pads, and sell the resulting charcoal at the facilities. We are just laying the groundwork this summer, but things are off to a good start!

Off to Kisumu tomorrow. We're doing a hygiene training with 100 midwives, and our hosts have been planning some other fun activities for us. I've heard rumors of Lake Victoria and hippos…fingers crossed!

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