Less than 24 hours till takeoff!

29 05 2011

By Hussain Lalani

Last night on the way to bed, I tripped over a pile of folded clothes in my room and it finally clicked. For the past 2 ½ weeks, I’ve enjoyed spending time with family and friends here in Dallas while the walking space in my room has become smaller and smaller. After a few trips to Walmart, Half Price Books, and Costco, the majority of my things were piled up in my room ready to be packed. However, it never really hit me that I would be living in Kenya for the next 8 weeks. Of course, I have technically known about this trip since the team started preparing for it in January, but now as we are less than 24 hours from leaving, I’ve finally realized that what we have been talking about for months is soon to be reality!

Hi Everyone! Thanks for journeying along with me this summer to Kunya village, located in southwestern Kenya near Lake Victoria. My name is Hussain Lalani and I am a rising junior at Duke University majoring in Neuroscience and working towards a Global Health certificate. I will be traveling to Kunya village this summer with 2 friends from Duke, Ashwin and Ben, and our project involves assessing the level of malnutrition in children in Kunya and potentially correlating it with changes in cognitive development. Unfortunately, malnutrition is especially high among children in Kunya and 1 in 4 children die from malaria before the age of 5. My major goals this summer are to help quantify the prevalence of malnutrition in children, to gather some pilot data using basic motor and verbal memory tests to assess cognitive development, to develop a better sense of cultural sensitivity, and to learn more about the Montessori school system all while serving the Kunya community with hopes of improving daily life through future sustainable development. The team will be working with Mama na Dada (Swahili for “Mother and Sister”), an NGO in Kunya village that has implemented numerous sustainable projects (including a dispensary, clinic, daycare, and NEW clean running water system!) to address the needs of the community and runs day-to-day operations in the village. I’m really looking forward to meeting and working alongside Mama na Dada workers!

Interestingly, almost everyone I have talked to so far has said that this summer is going to be a “Life changing experience”. But what does the really mean? What kind of changes will manifest in my behavior and personal thoughts?  Well, not really sure, but I guess I will find out soon enough!

Finally, I am most anxious about communication. Although Kiswahili is the official national language of Kenya, most people in the Nyanza Province, which includes Kunya village, speak Luo (or Dholuo), a popular tribal dialect. This will be my first encounter with Luo although I have picked up a few phrases communicating with Mama na Dada over the last few months. I’m excited to learn the language and make the most of this tremendous learning opportunity in the field!

I hope to keep you updated on interesting encounters and how the project is coming along during our weekly trips to Kisumu, the closest city about 2 hours from Kunya.

Erokamano (Thank you!)

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2 responses

30 05 2011
Derek

Good luck, man! Have an awesome time.

30 05 2011
Sumi

Great, and talk to you soon!

-S

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