Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Saga Begins...

The Project:
About three weeks ago I was accepted for an internship with Western Heads East and Ivey to head to Oyugis, Kenya for two months to work on the probiotic yogurt project that began production there last year. The project in Kenya is a replication of the probiotic yogurt project that was started in Mwanza, Tanzania in 2005. The mission of the project is to teach, research and aid the African HIV/AIDS crisis while making a sustainable difference to communities in Africa. The means to this goal is through probiotic yogurt. Probiotic yogurt is an easy, economical and effective way of helping people receive the health benefits they need. More specifically, it has been found to help alleviate some of the symptoms and discomforts for people living with AIDS.
Yogurt kitchens are set up in communities with a high prevalence of AIDS and a high rate of poverty. Local women called the Yogurt Mama's volunteer their time to make this project happen. They are responsible for the daily production, distribution,  and selling of the yogurt as well as all other aspects of the project (except actually making the probiotic culture which is done by an expert).
My job in Oyugis will be to support the Yogurt Mama's and help them towards building a more effective and sustainable kitchen. I will also be doing research on further benefits and uses of the probiotic yogurt, as well as general operational aspects of the project.

The Arrival
After two long days of traveling we have finally arrived in Nairobi! Our overnight flight got into Nairobi at 6 am and we deplaned to a warm, humid morning. Getting out of the airport was way faster and easier than I usually experience with traveling. Getting our Visas was simple and fast and our luggage came out immediately. We cabbed into Nairobi, which took awhile because of the traffic. Nairobi so far is so different from anything I have ever experienced. Its like Cuba meets New York. It looks more like a tropical city to me than the desert images mostly associated with Africa. I am definitely not used to traffic yet as I almost got hit by a car already. Pedestrians absolutely do not have any right of way when it comes to traffic. Our hotel is really cute and we had a delicious breakfast this morning of eggs and fruit and lots of tea and coffee! We’ve also met up with another Ivey intern named Rebecca and a local, Janet, who she will be working with. They are going to be staying in Kisimu, which is two hours from us so I’m looking forward to hopefully spending time with them over the next couple months! I also got a cell phone and although I hate to admit it, my crackberry ways have really slowed me down on my new cell phone. There’s a lot of interesting buildings and I’m looking forward to doing some touristy things while I’m in Nairobi. Our traveling went really smoothly which is a nice change from the penguin-like way my family usually travels (ie everyone is all over the map and everything takes forever) but I have had a few frustrations. I wasn’t able to deposit my funding cheque, which has been quite a hassle to figure out especially with limited internet. So far I’ve just been borrowing money from Amanda when I need to. Hopefully I can get it sorted out before I get to Oyugis because I know it will be even harder to figure out there. Actually I guess I’ve only had one frustration. But it’s getting pretty annoying so I count it as a few. I can feel the exhaustion from two nights of minimal sleep setting in so I will probably pass out really early. But not until I have tried a real Kenyan dinner! Can’t wait for that. 

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