July 15th - July 23st, 2009
Work has been incredible this week. This past week has been full of activities and was probably the one that put a lot of momentum into the project.
The four of us have been visiting the hospital and Ober (our farthest distribution site) since Wednesday to collect missing data from the study participants for the research. Roy and I visited Ober while Jen and Amanda covered the hospital catchment area. After compiling the data of over 600 study participants we realized that we were missing crucial data for the study participants that are important for the research. We also needed to distribute the client ID cards to them, which the 1st 300 study subjects will need to carry with them every day in order to receive their packet of yogurt.
Visiting Ober was great. It is such a quiet and peaceful village surrounded by a gorgeous view. Today was the first time I met the study clients. All the clients from Ober were HIV positive and some were so much healthier than the other. I had a pretty chilly experience with one of the clinic's patients who was interested in joining the study but we could not accept her as we had reached our quotas for the number of men, women and children required. To appease her, Roy said that she can be part of the 2nd group, the control group, for the study which begins in 6 months. Before leaving she looks at me, dead in the eye, and says "I will be back in 6 months if I am not dead." Not to sound like a weakling but I had to sit down as it hit me once again that most people, especially in hard hit regions such as Oyugis, don't have the luxury to plan for the future. They have to concentrate on surviving today, and maybe perhaps planning for the immediate tomorrow if they are able to, but even planning ahead for the month is far too down the road for many. Suffice it to say that patient was not pleased with Roy and I at all.
Aside from that, I had a great time getting to know the other client subjects who came in that day. Since I have started learning Swahili, and gotten really well at it if I must say so myself (my teachers agree too!), I was able to converse with them since many are unable to speak English. It was a awesome talking to the clients in Swahili, although I still needed Roy's help occasionally. The clients were also patient with me as they could clearly tell I was a newbie.
At the end of our second day in Ober, one of the study clients dropped by to sell us some dinner buns and told us they were made using solar energy. These buns were baked using the Sun's heat! How cool is that. The oven, very creatively so, is called a Sun Oven. It was donated to the citizens of the Ober community by a US NGO. I think it is a great addition to the community as the people here work collectively to bake the buns then distribute it to orphanages and sell the surplus. Also there is no electricity in Ober (not even in the clinic), so this is a very creative way for them to bake goods.
After finishing work in Ober and passing the message along to the clinic staff that the pro-biotic yogurt distribution will commence on Monday July 20th, 2009 we left the hospital. Since we had time, Roy took me to visit his home in Wire, a village located next to Oyugis. Such a picturesque area. We walked up the hill to where his house was and the view was breathtaking, especially with ominous rain clouds in the horizon. It was a great day: we listened to the radio, had mangoes from his tree, and then went over to meet with his cousin and her son whom I had met when we went to Lake Victoria. The four of us together had a mini photo shoot, which was fun. We ended the day with my daily Swahili lessons.
The next couple of days was a similar a roller coaster ride as it was full of meetings, smoothing out conflict issues, meeting with the women's group Chair Lady, working with the milk supplier to make sure we receive the milk on time on Sunday and so much more. Despite all of this I am very, very happy to let you all know that production for the study began on 20th July of 2009, and distribution took place on 21st July of 2009. These have been some of the most exciting days for all the partners involved especially for the Mamas, the Oyugis project team and the study participants as the start of the production has been looked forward to for a very long time.
91 study subjects showed up on the first day at the three different distribution centres (Kitchen, District Hospital and Ober Health Centre). Although this may seem like a low turnout, I know this will increase in the upcoming days as word of mouth will spread the message to the other study participants since many do not have access to a telephone. We had distributed to almost 150 participants by Thursday. We also placed posters around the area to notify the study participants.
The on site team is also eagerly looking forward to the site’s certification by the Kenya Dairy Board which should happen before us interns leave Kenya. I can't believe I have less than a month remaining!! That thought itself is daunting.
Memorable and Amusing Occurrences
• I have so far been bit by mosquitoes and insects a whopping 31 times!
• Jen, Amanda and I have started a "Sick Day" count to record how many days each of us have been sick. Jen is in the lead, Amanda was 2nd in the running until this past Sunday when I took over. Jen should watch out since at the rate I have been ill these days I might just be in the lead soon. =/
• Ironically enough, one of us is always sick. We seem to be taking turns being ill, which is a good thing cause because it is always imperative that two of us are always at the kitchen, although all of us are needed.
• The adults in the study LOVE the yogurt! Kids, not so much since it is not sweet. So the feedback for the yogurt has been mostly good. We have been taking videos of the clients telling us how they like the yogurt which is excellent.
• Our friends Christopher, Boston, Claudia, Austin, and Bruce who live behind our hotel surprised us with such nice and thoughtful gifts yesterday. Their grandmother has weaved baskets for us and the work on them was so intricate. I have already started using mine as a fabric basket. Almost makes me want to take up knitting so I can use it as a knitting basket. Nevertheless, with my luck I will probably accidentally end up hurting myself with the needles.