First Impressions of Kenya – May 25, 2012

1 06 2012

By: Sarah Wang

My first week in Kunya has been very eventful, and several things have surprised and/or impressed me. First, I am very inspired by women empowering others and addressing needs in their community. We met with Mama Joyce Oneko, a female lawyer who started Mama na Dada in Kunya to empower women and provide resources to the community of Kunya. She is friendly, intelligent, efficient, and warm, and I can’t help but be in awe of how she manages to keep Mama na Dada running while working in Nairobi. We also met with Mama Tina Oneko, a pediatrician from Germany who married into the Oneko family. She worked in Tanzania for many years before moving to Kenya to work with the CDC on malaria vaccine trials. She welcomed us with chai and delicious (and much-craved) chocolate cake, and she had great insights on our questionnaire questions and cognitive testing tools. In addition to Mamas Joyce and Tina, who are both highly educated, other capable women making a difference in people’s lives surround me in Kunya. Our hospitality manager, Judy, is a wonderful cook and handles all of our living situation problems with efficiency and ease. The administrator of Mama na Dada, Tina, is punctual and manages to do the bulk of the translating for us despite having countless other administrative errands to run. Eunice and Susan, the school staff, are both hard working and great to the kids. These 5 women make up the members of the Mama na Dada staff in Kunya, and they speak fluent English in addition to Luo and Swahili. They have treated Saira, Kelly, and I so well, and I respect them so much for choosing to spend their time doing meaningful work for the future of Kunya. I hope to follow their footsteps and give back to a community in need someday.
In addition, while I had researched and imagined what Kenya would be like, I was still overwhelmed by this beautiful and welcoming place. Everything is very green, and the wildlife is diverse. My favorite is the variety of colorful birds I see everywhere. I can see the shimmering Lake Victoria from my window, and the clear blue sky takes my breath away every time I look up. While Kunya is rural, we first stopped in Kisumu, which is a rather large city about 2 hours away from Kunya by car. The city was filled with colorful painted signs of businesses and advertisements, all in English, which surprised me because I thought I would not be able to understand anything. Kisumu also has great supermarkets that allow me to get almost anything I would need, including delicious mango juice! Almost everyone I have met is friendly, and they don’t hesitate to greet me with handshakes and big smiles. I have picked up a few basic phrases to use in Luo, and I hope to learn more everyday.
We started working on our project after 2 days of rest through the weekend. We had a very productive beginning to the project, quickly obtaining permission from principals of the primary and secondary schools to make growth measurements and do cognitive testing on the students. We also became acquainted with the dispensary, and I was welcomed to go help out whenever I wanted to. I really look forward to shadowing the staff there and observing how the healthcare system is run in Kunya. The dispensary also has a wing for HIV/Aids and TB funded by the CDC, and the staff there does monthly programming for mothers and children affected by HIV. I can’t wait to attend those events and learn more about the worldwide effort to beat AIDS. Right now, we are working on translating all of our questionnaires, focus group questions, and cognitive testing tools. I look forward to more productive days to come!




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