Saturday, June 6, 2009

Home Sweet Home :)

Date: Thursday June 4
Quote of the day: "It doesn't matter what you do from 8 to 5, it matters what you do from 5 to 8 in your own personal time" - Roy (the amazing Project Coordinator)

    "Everything happens for a reason" - Roy


Thursday morning we woke up very early again to fly to Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya, where we met the Project Coordinator and our guide for the next 3 months Roy Omulo. He arrived to pick us up with Dr. Odawa who is a research scientist at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) studying AIDS/HIV and helping with the project. Before leaving the city we made a stop at KEMRI which is one of the leading research institutes in Africa. The institutes primary research mandate is to ensure the reduction of the disease burden due to infectious agents, particularly HIV/AIDS, and also due to parasitic infections, particularly malaria. We got a tour of the facility and met a couple of the people there which was great. We also ate our first Kenyan breakfast there which was sausage, mandazi (a pastry), and tea.


We then made our way out of the city to our home...the small village called Oyugis about an hour and a half drive from Kisumu. I spent this time to speak with Roy about the project while keeping my eyes out and observing everything out the car windows. Some of the things I learned...
  • Unlike Nairobi      there were bicycles everywhere...they are called Boda Bodas. People use these as taxis with cushions and handlebars on the back, it costs about 20 shillings as a taxi which is about 20 cents. The Boda Bodas are the most common type of transportation used in Kisumu as well as in Oyugis.
  • Luo is the language spoken in Oyugis, not Swahili! So now we have to start learning a different language that we had prepared for...o well :) Luckily all the words are pronounced like they are spelt. Ero Kamano - Thank you, Ber - Hello
  • Food grown: avocados (AMAZING! I have already eaten 2 huge ones and drank avocado juice at breakfast), sweet potatoes, pineapples, rice, bananas


  • There is a serious state of urgency for the yogurt production to begin. The Yogurt Mamas (22 volunteers currently who will be making, distributing, and selling the yogurt) have been waiting 2 years to begin. The study subjects (200 children, 200 women, and 200 men) are getting frustrated and angry      that they have been interviewed and extensive data was collected from them and they have still not received any yogurt.

Other challenges:
  • It was very difficult to get 200 men to participate in the study since many did not want to expose themselves as HIV positive
  • distribution→ the study subjects MUST consume the yogurt daily and it is especially important to ensure that the children are drinking the yogurt (and not their parents)
      • The study subjects' compliance to come to a distribution site and consume the yogurt every single day is one of the most challenging aspects of the project.
      • It is necessary to extend the working hours to provide the yogurt daily for people who work 8 to 5 and cannot make it to consume the yogurt
      • Although the yogurt is supplied free to the study subjects if they do not see the benefits then they will not want to travel every single day to consume the yogurt, which is necessary for the study to be complete.
  1. A record keeping system needs to be designed to record sales, raw materials, expenses, etc.
  2. Roy's objectives:
    1. Completion of the study (2 yrs): this is critical  to prove the results and benefits of the probiotic yogurt. The study is necessary for further funding and sustainability of the business.
    2. Empowerment of women→ financial freedom for the women
      • Women were chosen over men because they are known to use the money to support orphans and other children. Men are likely to use the money for booze and women.
      • The Yogurt Mamas are leaders in their community
  3. Other goals:
    • Help the women brand and market the yogurt to sell

    Greatest learning experiences:

  4. The study subjects ' average annual salary is 10,000 shillings which is equivalent to $140!
  5. The poverty index level is 75% who are living below $1 a day→ this is a main reason why HIV is transferred. Roy did not directly say why but I got the impression that this was because women had to resort to prostitution to earn income for their families.
  6. Women conceive children around the age of 15 and they average 5 children each. Women are pretty much obligated to have a child in order to keep a man.

    We finally arrived in Oyugis which was when things really started to get interesting. This would be our home for the next 3 months and I was a little nervous but my excitement overtook that quickly. From the moment we got there I could tell that the village was one of the poorest regions in Kenya. In this small village we are the only white people so we attract A LOT of attention and everyone is curious to meet us. Our first stop was the Rachuonyo District Hospital where we met the Medical

     Superintendent Dr. Peter Ogola, some other doctors and nurses as well as many other curious Kenyans who wanted to meet us.


    Our next step was a visit to the yogurt kitchen where we will be spending most of our time working. It looked great! Roy has taken a lot of time to renovate it ensuring that all the requirements are met to produce dairy products in the kitchen. It is very clean, operationally functional, and Roy has proven to be quite the intelligent young man who is well educated about dairy production and business in general.


    Everywhere we went we got attention especially from the children. Many of the younger children between 3 and 7 years old are running around everywhere which is completely normal. We checked into our hotel which is really great and a lot better than I had expected! The staff are amazing and the security is pretty tight especially because Roy has been very helpful ensuring we get the very best service. Lastly Roy took us on a walk around the village which was absolutely amazing! This is when we

     interacted with the children the most after they had finished school.


    Most memorable moments:

  8. The children!!! They are so fascinated with us it is amazing. They all smile, giggle, laugh, and run after us yelling "Mazungu!!! Mazungu!!!" which means 'white person'. The children also say "How are you! How are you!" all the time to us which is the greeting they learn in school. We got a couple photos with the children because they LOVE it and they loved it even more when I showed them the photo afterwards.
  9. The view from the peak of the village...Oyugis is gorgeous!
  10. Fun Facts:

  11. Popular areas of study in Kenya: Information technology & computers, community development, and business administration

1 comment:

  1. Ber p.b.!
    great post. sounds like you have your work cut out for you.
    but, ...
    I guess they didin't know luo is the language spoken in Oyugis, not Swahili!
    how did that happen? bad info from the front lines, eh. oh well, keep your
    swahili books for your next trip. ha ha.