Jennifer here- the supervisor of the UPEI nutrition interns for 2013. I am approaching the end of a four year experience supervising nutrition students in Kenya. Today is Saturday, and Monday is my last day of ‘work’ before I head to Nairobi on Tuesday to return to Canada. I always have mixed feelings when I am leaving Kiirua, since, although I am excited to see my boys, my husband and my family after 3 weeks, I have to say goodbye to the women my students have worked with, my Kenyan friends and the beautiful hills and children of Kiirua. Most of all, I have to leave my students behind to do development and educational work until August. That is always a tough one for me: I have done my best to prepare them, arranging for introductions to women’s groups and schools, a ‘reliable taxi man’ and a woman to translate for our students, and learning to adapt-and thrive- in the Kenyan culture. However, I always want ‘one more week’ to attend another educational session, home visit, and just enjoy my time with these young people who have become so very special to me. I have gone through this every year since 2010, but this year is especially poignant for me. This is our final year, since CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) has cut the funding we had been granted for next year (2014). This meant that everything we do this year has to have a ‘sustainability lens’: we need to try and set up conditions that will enable the women to carry on the work and spread the messages about nutrition and healthy family meals into the broader community.
|First Family Dinner 2013!|
It is a beautiful Saturday morning- birds are chirping, sun is shining and the sky is, as always, blue. The weather has been amazing- a few very hot days, but most have only been too warm at noontime. A special gift this morning is POWER! We lost it for about 26 hrs and nearly lost about $40 worth of ground beef and chicken. But we managed to save the food (thankfully Kim bought it frozen). Last night we had our first family dinner with the full team: 2 Biology students (Alicia and Jennifer) 2 nursing students (Vanessa and Danielle) and 2 nutrition students (Sydney and Megan), Kim Critchley (Nursing advisor), Kevin Teather (Bio Advisor) and myself (Nutrition advisor). The hospital cooks, Cyrus and Belton, arrived and were able to create a masterpiece dinner even without power, since we have a propane stove top. The water stopped working, so we had to run to the bathrooms to get water for them to wash vegetables and boil pasta. They deep fried most of the veggies for the pasta (!) and the chicken- it was amazing, although less healthy than I had hoped. Sawa sawa! We had them join us and we all sat together by candlelight. Cyrus told us about working for the military, and how the men are ‘crazy’ when they return from working guarding Kenya’s borders. They loves cooking for us since he cooks only ugali, uji, githeri and stew at the hospital- a rather starchy monotonous repertoire! The pili pili curry (hot peppers), garlic, eggplant, fresh tomatoes and pili pili ho (green peppers) were, I am sure, a nice change for them, and for us! The girls are so lucky to have these guys 5 days a week. Kim is paying for them, as I am tapped out from paying for other things- and this makes the new higher rent at St Theresa’s quite affordable for the students. Thank heavens!
Today we are planning a party (sort of Hello/Goodbye) since we have not greeted all the Sisters yet, and we want our friends Salome, Festus, Mwenda, Gikundi and Harriet as well as our fave driver Charles and his wife to come and celebrate our friendship. The cooks are making pizza (although I will start the dough) and I am making chocolate chip cookies (a HUGE favourite with Kenyans, who love their sweets). I am going to present the small TV and DVD player to the sisters, which my girls will use to create a breastfeeding/healthy infant feeding video for the women who come to the hospital to give birth, and later for immunization. I wish we could make that more widely available but having access to power can be limiting. I DO think that we could make copies of the DVD and give one to the Muchui Business centre where it could be shown to the women.
The biggest excitement we have had this year is creating resource binders for ‘Super Star Champs’ teams: these include women from the Muchui and Ruuju women’s groups matched with nursery (e.g. 3-4 yr olds) parents at 5 primary schools in the area. This means we have four teams for the muchui area (a total of 20 women) and three teams for the Ruuju area (a total of 14 women). Megan and Sydney have had to ‘hit the ground running’ since we had to compile all the materials from all previous years (Kaylynne and Christina from 2010; Amy and Harrison from 2011 and Janet, Sam and Fergie from 2012) AND get these translated into Kimeru, the local language. This has resulted in some hilarious experiences with the translator, but when these were presented yesterday to the Muchui teams, their smiles made it worth it. Can’t wait!
|Elizabeth, a lead teacher at Kinyenjeri school, congratulates the nutrition interns on their binders|
|Mama Salome (Muchui woman champ) and two nursery parent champs for Marinya School|
The nutrition team will do a separate blog on their experiences soon.
I want to thank my students, Farmers Helping Farmers and CIDA for giving me an experience that I will never forget, and one that is a highlight of my life. We don’t have any more funding to bring groups of students like this, which I think is a huge loss. To watch the students learn first hand about another culture, and to become independent creative thinkers, has been an amazing experience for me. I am hoping I can choke back the tears when I say goodbye to the women, and to my dear friend Jennifer Murogocho on Monday. It won’t be easy, but I am determined to get different funding to do some research here, which would allow me to at least bring a few graduate students back to this awe inspiring place.