June 30th – July 6th, 2009
Work has been full of action and progress this week!
A far cry from the previous weeks when every time we would take a step to get anything done, we would meet a barrier. More often than not it would be gov't institutions.
Monday was a very productive day. After meeting with Roy on what needs to be purchased the three of us left to go purchase and place orders for the necessary lab, production and hardware supplies. We spent the whole day running around Oyugis and the kitchen collecting the items required. Branding of the kitchen also began that day which created a lot of excitement in the neighbourhood! In the afternoon, we headed over to the Matatus station (Matatu’s are one of the modes of transportation in Kenya) to pick up Ashley (Mwanza Intern) and the Mamas.
Tuesday was the first day of the training. Our guests were very impressed with our Kitchen and the expertise Roy, who is a dairy technician, brought to the table. Our Mamas slowly began trickling in around 9 am. I was impressed with how many showed up that day, and how active they were. The Mwanza and the Oyugis Mamas took over the training. They took it upon themselves to split the Oyugis Mamas in Groups A and B so the training held was smaller. Originally the Training was supposed to last for 3 days, but that was extended to 6 days so the Oyugis Mamas were given the training to fully prepare themselves for production. I thought it was great how the women took control over the training sessions. Ashley, Jen, Amanda and I observed from the sidelines once training began as it was conducted in Swahili. We worked on production reports, supplier’s lists, more KEMRI hassles, and the list continues. Unfortunately I was ill for most of this past week so I was not at the kitchen as much as I would have liked.
Till Saturday the Mwanza Mamas trained Groups A and B on hygiene standards, quality controls, production process, equipment sterilization, packaging. The Mamas were trained on each step of the production process from when the milk arrives in the morning to when the Yogurt is distributed. Wednesday and Thursday were spent on the Mwanza Mamas demonstrating every step to the Oyugis Mamas. Friday and Saturday is when the Oyugis Mama were asked to step in while the Mwanza Mamas observed their performance.
Sunday was the last day of training as the Mamas and Ashley were leaving on Monday. It was a bittersweet day. During the morning the Mamas went about following the production process. After that the Mwanza Mamas quizzed the other Mamas on what they had learned and held a Q&A session. What followed soon after that was a very joyous session of singing and dancing. We joined the Mamas in the singing and dancing. The air was charged with the energy and joy of the Mamas on how this past week has been so successful and the journey that awaits each one of them as we move ahead with the project.
Before lunch the Mamas and us each said a few words of gratitude for everyone who came this past week. I was impressed with all the Mamas and Roy’s dedication to this project. Many tears of happiness were shed and there was an outpouring of appreciation for all those who are committed to the success of this project.
After that lunch was served. I had my 1st home cooked meal since I have left home! It was delicious. It was a traditional Kenyan meal which consisted of kale (spinach), Ugali (a ball of cooked dough made from maize), Spiced potatoes, Beef stew (stayed away from it!), and of course the yogurt produced at the kitchen (although that is not traditional).The Mamas left on Monday after an exciting and intense week with huge smiles.
I will never forget this week as this week reinforced for me on my purpose for being here. It has been a dream of mine to travel to Africa and work with an NGO as I am interested international social and economic development if of interest to me. I can’t get over how this opportunity has made that dream come true in not only allowing me to be part of this initiative, but for allowing me to use the skills and knowledge I acquired in school for the benefit of the kitchen. I realized that the bumps encountered so far in this journey are all part of reaching the destination of making this kitchen successful.