Monday, January 27, 2014

Coming Home

Our time in Kenya is quickly coming to an end. The group is currently sitting in the Nairobi airport waiting to board a red-eye flight to Brussels before arriving in the states Monday night.

After our few days in Nairobi touring the city center and visiting the Kibera slum, we loaded up the vans and headed towards Lake Naivasha. On our way, we stopped at a tea plantation in the Kenyan highlands. While enjoying a cup of tea, we learned about the tea industry in Kenya. We learned about the different types of tea, the economic and environmental impact of tea, and the production process from field to cup.

We soon arrived at our destination and were warmly greeted by our hosts,  Jason and Lisa Hovingh, with a cup of chai. After settling in the group enjoyed a night of praise and worship under the multitudes of stars next to the fire.

The next morning we toured a flower farm. Horticulture is Kenya's number three export. While walking up and down the greenhouses, we learned about the economic and environmental impact of the flower business. More specifically, we discussed the importance and issues regarding water for the flower businesses and surrounding community.  After lunch, the group enjoyed relaxing at the Hovingh's, touring the property and learning more about their ministry in Naivasha. We also visited the river for a quick swim.

Some of the group experienced an early wake up call the next morning as the opportunity came to run in a half marathon in Naivasha. A few ambitious members of the group decided they couldn't pass up the opportunity to run a half marathon with Kenyan runners (despite the altitude and lack of training). After a two and a half hour delay, the race finally started. While we could not keep up with many of the native runners, we all put forth a solid effort. Some of us finished, some did not, but I think we all agree it was an experience we will not soon forget.  Some of the other students came out to support the runners offering encouragement and even running alongside for portions of the race. Finally, other members stayed back at the Hovingh's to play with the kids that came to the community center. In the afternoon, the group again split up and experienced different sights Naivasha had to offer. One group went to Hell's Gate National Park.  We witnessed some different animals, hiked though a gorge, learned about the geothermal power efforts taking place in the region, and visited some of the sights that inspired movies like "Lion King". Another group headed into town to experience the different culture and finish up some last minute shopping. Finally, one last group (comprised mainly of the runners) stayed back at the Hovingh's and relaxed after the long run earlier in the day.  Later that night, the group gathered around the campfire for our last night in Kenya. Many of us shared observations we had throughout the trip or lessons we learned. We couldn't help but recognize God's presence with us on the trip. It was a powerful time as a group reflecting on our experiences the past 3 weeks.

Some of the group at Hell's Gate National Park

On our last day in Kenya, we were able to sleep in a little bit before packing up, loading the vans and heading to a local church service. Some of the students helped lead worship for the small, yet diverse congregation. After church, we left for Crescent Island on Lake Naivasha to walk among the animals. Since there are no predators on the island, people are allowed to freely walk around the island getting closer to animals than perhaps possible on a typical safari. We then loaded up the vans and headed back to Nairobi to prepare for our travel back to the states.

In Swahili, the word safari means long journey. As we prepare to board the airplane, our safari is coming to a close. While many of us are excited to return home to friends, family, and a toilet that flushes, there is no doubt a sense of sadness as we prepare to leave a land and people we have grown to admire.  Throughout our safari, we experienced different encounters and interactions that are now a part of who we are.  Some experiences were tough to swallow, while others were filled with joy. We met people along the way and developed relationships with them. In forming we relationships, we learned about the different cultures of Kenya and even more about the culture in which we live. Some relationships are strong and will not be broken, while others remain fragile.

As we conclude our safari, we are left to process our time in Kenya, both as a group and as individuals.  There is no doubt that it will take some time to process and account for our time in Kenya. We filled our days learning about and engaging in the culture, building relationships, and experiencing everything Kenya has to offer. But as we work to sort through all our experiences, one question remains at the forefront, "How do we respond?" How do we respond physically, mentally and spiritually? We experienced things that not many people have the chance to experience. We wrestled with some difficult questions and encountered difficult situations. How do we respond the the cultural expectations and norms presented to us? How do we respond to the lack of water and everything that follows in Sedai? How do we respond to our experience walking the streets of Kibera? These are all serious questions we will be asking ourselves as we return to everyday life in the states.

As for me, I know that the notion of hope will be a pivotal theme in my response. It is easy to look at the lack of water in Sedai, or the streets of Kibera as a lost cause, or with no hope. Yet through all my experiences, there are glimpses of hope that shine through the darkness. We met people that work to shine a light our dark world, one action at a time.

Throughout our safari, we have witnessed God's presence and providence in unexpected ways. We have felt his hand guide us through our safari, keeping us safe and healthy. We are sad to leave Kenya, but we know that God will continue to work through the people of Kenya, from Sedai to Naivasha and everywhere in between. To God be the Glory!

Please pray for us as we wrap up our trip and travel home. Pray for safe flights and smooth connections as well as continued health and strength during our travel.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Nursing in Kenya

Here is an acrostic that will hopefully give you a little insight into what the nursing students experienced in Sedai.

Not having enough access to clean water
causes many health issues within the community; trachoma, diarrheal diseases, and skin infections to name a few           
Under tree clinic
We held a mobile health clinic under a tree in the community.  This tree was multi-purposeful during our stay.  It served as our church, shade for our tents, and a place to congregate for group meetings and meals.
Recognizing differences between United States and Samburu health care
Screening men, women, and children for Trachoma
Trachoma is a disease of the eyes caused by lack of facial hygiene. We rolled back the villager’s eyelids, looking for signs and symptoms of the disease. If we found Trachoma, the clinic provided medication free of cost. We found Trachoma in 48% of the children and 13% of the adults.            
We watched the clinical officer give immunizations at the mobile clinic to the children of Sedai, however many mothers did not capitalize on this opportunity even though their children desperately need this protection from disease.
No money for care at Arsim clinic
We witnessed a number of patients receive care at the clinic who were unable to pay for the services.
God’s faithfulness
This was evident in the work of their new clinical officer, the ability to bring healthcare to different villages in Samburu, and the newly functioning water source.

Interruption of outdoor breastfeeding clinic by goats and camels (haha J)
No electricity at the Arsim clinic
The clinic has a number of resources that are unable to be used be because of the lack of electricity e.g. ear light, printer, baby incubator.

Sanitation problems
i.e. goat dung everywhere, lack of clean water, constant contact with animals, and health education needs           
Education needs
The community was lacking in basic health education. They need much repetition and reinforcement in order to take care of themselves and their families.
Defining symptoms
We, as nursing students, often hear clear lung sounds in clinical settings. At Arsim, we were able to hear what actual complications sound like.
Always depending on God
Infectious smiles

The people of Sedai and Arsim brought joy to us through their ever-present smiles in the midst of many healthcare trials.

Servants and Slumdogs

On January 22, our group went to the slums of Kibera. It is a famous slum known for its 12 districts containing anywhere from 120,000 to 2 million people, “depending on what propaganda you listen to.” Kibera originated as an area for Sudanese refugees, providing a temporary place for them to reside. It was never meant to be a permanent place of housing. Despite Kibera’s size, it is still technically in Nairobi. The contrast of great wealth in the city and the staggering poverty in the slums was appalling. Often times in the slums, people would use “flying toilets,” which is when they defecate into bags and simply toss them out on the street in lieu of a restroom.

            We started our visit by stopping by the Swahiba organization. The word “swahiba” means “close friends” in Swahili. The organization aims to have a holistic approach in their evangelizing. Grace, the “pastor” of the group, quoted the founder of the Swahiba organization about the group’s purpose in saying, “if you must preach to a hungry person, then wrap the gospel in a sandwich.” Swahiba has several programs geared for different age groups. They also try to educate girls about reproduction in order to empower them to leave the slums in hopes of a better life.

Pastor Grace told me that many times, people send money to the government for aid, only for that money to “disappear” into the accounts of politicians. She argued that the most effective response was from refugees who’ve escaped the slum, only later choosing to return to it. The returned refugees knew the people of the slums. They are intimately aware of the problems they face. But how could you ever fault those who’ve left the slums, the ones who tried so desperately all their lives to escape? One member of our group said that it must be a calling from God that draws these people back. Otherwise, they would never return.

            While we initially planned to have three separate groups go into Kibera with one guard each, the guards wanted to have another guard be hired. This new development, coupled with the frustration of being asked by the guards to pay increasingly higher service fees, resulted in a compromise of one group being accompanied by two guards.

            As we walked through Kibera, I would see the aforementioned bags on the road and would try to avoid stepping on them. However, there became times where the bags were simply unavoidable to walk on, due to the sheer volume of bags present. Open sewers meandered through the streets with putrid sewage. Random assortments of piping and wiring proliferated in the city. Trash was everywhere. Some children walked the slum without shoes even in this environment. As I passed by corrugated iron roofs, some of which were accidentally electrified, I could see the exposed raw branches composing the houses, most times cemented only by the clay-rich soil of the area.

            With Swahiba, we visited two households of their students in Kibera, presenting free modest groceries to the families of these households. In the first house, we crammed our group inside one small room with few furnishings. The house held a father and his three daughters. He thanked us and informed us of his job as a security guard. His words were spoken with great effort, and I could see that he was exhausted. I immediately remembered our interactions with the security guards. I was frustrated by our interactions with the security guards earlier, but then I wondered about their families they, too, had to support. Of course, they would try to hire another guard and also try to raise their wage; they need the money.

            On the way to the second house, we had to cross over a stream of filth. I could see pigs wading through the waste below. I observed that many of the street merchants who had lunch would cook only slices of potato for food. Sometimes, they would cook with spices, but often times it was plain. Usually, the oil used for cooking the potatoes would be from the generators they used.

            The second house was even smaller than the first, being only slightly larger than my hotel bathroom.  Here, a mother lived with her 13 children. She asked us to pray for her health, since she suffered from both diabetes and high blood pressure.

            We arrived back at Swahiba and hung out with its members. They are so filled with the Spirit. Though their work is tough, they take such joy in what they do. I talked with Daniel extensively about his job as a Swahiba teacher for the children in Kibera. He told me about how he once heard a 15 year old student say that they’ve killed someone. He also spoke of his joy at the chance to help impact young people. After our discussion, he asked when I was going to return to Kenya. I replied that I didn’t know.
            It has been the persistent question throughout this trip: purpose. I’ve heard of students in the past who’ve desired to return to Kenya after the trip, only to be caught up in lie when they return stateside. It’s hard to leave friends and family behind. Frankly, it’s terrifying. I want to return to Kenya, but I don’t know if I could commit to that desire.

            Daniel’s question made me think about how to address the problems of Kibera. The perpetuated ignorance of the cultures present in Kibera often times prevents people from leaving. Swahiba members informed us that when their students become educated, they grow a desire to leave the slums. Yet, there are so many other problems in Kibera besides education.

Throughout the trip, I’ve had a unique experience. Being the only non-white member of the group, I would be constantly asked if I was Chinese by Kenyans (for the record, I’m Filipino). It took me 12 years to become a U.S. citizen. Yet, it has been assumed by many that I’m not. Many members of my group have expressed uncomfortable moments where people have begged them for money. Being Americans, most Kenyans assume that we are rich. This also occurs when we barter with merchants. They start at bartering with extremely high prices. In contrast, I would get reasonable starting prices when bartering. I was foreign. I wasn’t seen as “rich.” I was able to be a part of American culture and also be an observer of it.

Besides cultural differences, there are problems with poor sanitation and infrastructure. Everything is so complex as the problems interweave and interact with each other. Many Kenyans have expressed that the police and government are corrupt, and it seems that many police swindle money in order to support their families. Poor job opportunities force people to move to cheap residence. Ignorance abounds, and so is disease. Even if we scorched the earth in Kibera and rebuilt from the ground up the people of the slum would just flock to other slums because these problems would still exist. Kibera is a rallying point; it isn’t the cause of the problems for these people. The underlying factors would not be addressed, and the problems would continue.

And yet, the people are joyful. The residents of the slum that we’ve met were so hopeful in God. Their faith was astounding. With the little that they have, they feel so blessed for every day. They have friends, family, and God. In chaos, there is harmony.

And yet, America has problems, too. Despite our staggering wealth and opportunities, we still express dissatisfaction and frustration in our lives. We “have it all,” yet often times we still don’t find peace.

What is Kibera missing? What are we Americans missing?

-Jerome N.
Photo credits: Emily

Friday, January 24, 2014

Being Named

In Kenyan culture, names are very significant.

We learned on Day One in Nairobi that Kenyans often have four names: a first name, a second name often correlating to the time/weather at birth, a last/family name, and finally, a name of a relative whose personality is reflected in the child some time after birth.

In Sidai, each of us were given a name in the native language, Samburu. Each had a meaning reflecting something either the community or one of our translators noticed in us. Some were given the first day we were there for ease in medical interaction and used affectionately for the duration of the trip. Some were given on a whim at a pivotal interaction with the community. Some were given as a closing gift to our group. But they all meant an acceptance into the community and a bond created in our week there.

Want to know what the people of Sidai thought of each of our muzungus (white people)? Since I'm an engineer, I'll put them in a table for you. ;)

Emily Lawson
Ever quick
Bethany Goodrich
Ever laughing
Julie Swierenga
Soft girl
Kendra Pennings
Kendra Altena
Big fancy necklace
Stephanie Enserink
Full of blessing
Mariel Knot
From overseas
Christina Howell
Quick to act
Wendy Tabler
One who goes around
Mitchell Feria
From mountainous area
Nico Ourensma
Goose Gelderloos
Tall guy
Blake Wichtowski
One who everyone loves
Jonathan Gingrich
Nick Memmelaar
Dreads warrior
Alex Kooi
Colin Gesink
Photo man
Jerome Navarro
Quick singer
Chris Poquette
Professor Johnathan Bascom
Professor David Wunder

The names are phonetic! If you want to know the stories behind some of these, make sure to ask when we return. This was such a treat for us!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Borehole

The group is back at the Gracia Guest House in Nairobi, Kenya.  After a relaxing day by the pool and on safari, the group rose early this morning to pack up the tents, say goodbye to the monkeys and baboons that invaded our campsite, and set off for Nairobi.

Hopefully in the next few blog posts, we can give a sense of some of the things we did in our 10 day journey to the northern part of Kenya.

Last week we were in Sedai, camping right within the community that we were hoping to help.  We tried to learn as much as we could about their ways of life, mainly about how they retrieved and used their water in the short time that we were there.  Because their bore hole pump had been broken for 1.5 years, the women of the community had to make numerous 7 kilometer trips each day to retrieve water for their family and their livestock.  Some of the engineers in the group took it upon themselves to examine the bore hole as see if it was repairable.  We were given a manual, but it was for a different pump so it really did not apply to the pump we were working on.  Needless to say, Tuesday we spent a lot of time doing trial and error work trying to figure out how to get the pump out of the ground.  We finally did get it out of the ground and found there was a separation between pipes.  We changed a weak pipe, replaced the rubber seals in the plunger at the bottom and fined tuned all that we could.  The next day, we put the pipes back in the ground and started pumping.  It took about two minutes for water to come spurting out.  The excitement of the community heightened out excitement and sense of accomplishment.  Word spread quickly around the village and soon every woman came to the borehole with water jugs in hand.  Kids splashed around in the water and began to clean their faces, learning form some hygiene pointers they were given earlier in the week. Water flowed from the pump nonstop for three hours.  There are not many better feelings that what we felt as we sat off to the side and watched the water flow.   A few days later we met with the village around the borehole (the same place we meet just days before to talk about the desperate need for water) to talk about the future for the borehole.  We know there is a possibility that the borehole will fail in the future, but in meeting with the community to discuss management and maintenance of the borehole we hope to extend the use as much as possible.  We knew that we improved their lives and may save many lives in the future.  But we also know that this is just a small step in solving the water needs of the area.  Other villages remain with boreholes that are inoperable.  And more needs to be done in order to satisfy the needs of the whole community.  But this is a small step and one of many more we hope to come in the process of bringing water to rural Kenya.  God is Good!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Greetings from the Samburu Lodge and Game park.  The group is taking a much awaited rest and relaxation day by the pool and going on game drives throughout the park.  The internet connection here is spotty, so this post will be short, but hopefully as we head to Nairobi in the next few days, we will be able to fill you in on more details and pictures of our time in Sedai.

After 2 days of travel, we arrived in the village of Sedai in the northern part of Kenya.  Our week there consisted of many activities, including fixing a borehole water system, holding a mobile clinic which included screening for trachoma, and conducting censuses and cultural interviews. It was an intense week filled with joys, challenges, and wresteling with some difficult questions.

Throughout our safari, the group remained safe, and for the most part healthy.  We all came away from our experience in Sedai with a different perspective on life and the search for water in Kenya.

More to Come...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Some fun, some hard questions, all good

It was another day in Nairobi!

Today included a trip to the US Embassy to speak with the cultural affairs officer, political affairs officer, economic affairs officer, USAID, and a security officer. We were briefed on many aspects of Kenya: the cultural affairs officer tours Kenya, encouraging intelligent and promising Kenyans to go to colleges and universities in the US and will now be taking Calvin propaganda with him; the political affairs officer talked to us about the importance of human rights in Kenya and the impact the ICC trials of their president have had on local politics; the economic affairs officer told us that tea, coffee, and flowers are the main exports and percentage of the economy; USAID told us about the different projects and programs they sponsor to promote health and improved water access for sanitation and hygiene; and the safety officer told us all to tell our parents that the threat in Kenya is less about terrorism and more about small scale crime, moderately avoidable by increased awareness, and that the US prioritizes keeping US citizens in Kenya aware of safety concerns promptly.

The afternoon entailed a trip to Rosslyn Academy - a popular boarding school for people, especially missionaries, all over Africa to send their children. Here we had the chance to play some soccer under the hot, Kenyan sun and enjoy some time as a group.

We then trekked to the Masai Market, through heavy, chaotic traffic. What we didn't know was that the market itself was to be just as chaotic and potentially more traumatic. Our goal was to get long traditional skirts called kangas. As we walked into the market, the venders flocked our big group of Americans, pulling people aside to look at their goods. One of the variables in this, though, was that we were deliberately not told how much those skirts should cost. And the bargaining began. Some got away with steals, others did not - I being one of those. When I first decided on a skirt, they said it would be almost $1000 USD. What they didn't realize was that though I was a rich American, I was actually a poor college student. We hassled a bit, seemed to sincerely offend them, and got away with two skirts for about $16 USD each. We then found out, they should have been closer to $8 USD. A cultural experience, yes. But I think this highlights something we've been discovering more and more in the time we've been here, and that is this:
There are so many questions. Where do you draw the line between feeling compassion for these people and wanting to support their goods and livelihoods and just being ripped off? And how do Kenyans view Westerners? How has Western culture impacted Kenyan, and where is that good and where is it not? How much can we propose and push changing their traditions to replace it with what is our culture and things we view as right? What about when some of these practices are deeply harmful to the people, and often more specifically, the women?
Yes, there are cool giraffes in Kenya, and delicious mango juice, and perfect warmth with a slight breeze. But there are big questions, things we are wrestling through as a group.

We're about to head up in the morning to the Northern part of Kenya to spend time in the Samburu community. And there very well may be a huge clash of our culture and theirs. And it's bound to produce more of these questions, and more of a face to the health and water issues we expect to see. We're excited; these questions are good. God is good.