mother and child

I love the posture and poise I find in so many women here. And I wish I could wear a head scarf with such stunning style. Just in case you were wondering: no, I do not love that there is a huge Land Cruiser in the back of this photo or the one below, but some things simply cannot be helped.

schoolgirls singing

These schoolgirls recited a poem and performed a song about water for us yesterday. Although our time with them was brief, it was a joy to be with them as their bright uniforms and vibrant voices lit up the field

a PUR demo

It is 5:30am, and we hit the road in an hour – a few stops in Mombasa to see some projects and then flying to Kisumu this afternoon via Nairobi. I still need to pack, dress, and eat breakfast, but I wanted to share at least something with you from yesterday.

These are two photos of Christine – she was kind enough to take us to her water source (a pond) and then do a demonstration of how she uses PUR packets to purify her drinking water. It was awesome to see the PUR change dirty, cloudy, contaminated water into clear, safe water. I will explain more of how it works at a later point in time, but check out the clear water in the second photo – the particles are now clumped together to be large enough that a cloth can filter them out.

My favorite part of this demo was when Christine said, “Before using PUR I could not finish one week without a child having diarrhea.” Safe water transforms lives.

beautiful people

As I head out to Kenya, thought you might enjoy this photo – a beautiful woman attending a WASH training in Western Kenya. So looking forward to engaging with more beautiful people.

online again & water at schools

This past week my computer was in the shop, and the week before that I was happily living without electricity. I like it when I can unplug and disconnect from the world… but when I am supposed to be plugged and connecting, it is amazing how hard it can be to only have partial access to things through a loaned computer. But I should not complain – my computer now is fixed for the moment and a new one on its way to the office. My work is piled up a bit, but I am fully plugged in… just in time to get on the plane tonight.

When I was in Western Kenya, I was exploring a possible school water project. Kids need water at school. They need to drink, wash their hands, have water too cook food, and wash the classrooms. Watering plants and gardens is an added benefit. While this seems like such a need should be assumed to be filled, it is, unfortunately, a poor assumption. Some schools have some water, others have none. The reasons for the situation are variations on not maintaining or simply not having. Regardless, something needs to be done. I will let you know more details if this project comes to fruition.

playing in a village

One of the beautiful things about children is that no language is required for fun to occur. And so, when children are gathered and not much seems to be going on, I take up simple games of “Simon Says” minus the “Simon Says” part of the game. Just simple old imitation. It is magic. Every time. Here we were acting like trains and saying, “Chugga chugga choo choo.” The building next to us is the location of a mobile medical clinic where people were being treated for ailments and tested for AIDS in Northern Kenya. Serious, important stuff. But at that moment, none of it mattered – we were playing and everyone watching was smiling and laughing. Just one of those happy moments from days spent in the field that do not occur when I am back in the office.

Photo by Barak Bruerd.

tested at tumaini

This blog post was written for Blood:Water Mission’s blog and can be found there. All photos by Barak Bruerd.

What is the probability I have AIDS? Very low. What are my risk factors? Essentially none. And yet today I once again understood the hesitancy to be tested, the fear of being tested, and the tummy flutters while waiting for your results. All because I decided to be tested for AIDS at Tumaini Clinic.

Two years ago when I was last in Marsabit town, a clinic was a dream. Two years ago I met with an AIDS support group and heard their stories. Stories of transformation from supporting each other and simple home-based care that was possible. I also heard stories of extremely sick people traveling on large lories (large trucks used for transportation of animals and supplies) for two or three days to reach an AIDS clinic. And amongst their stories, they asked for a clinic.

Blood:Water and a lot of our advocates caught the vision, and the seed money for FH to start the clinic was raised. After the ground was broken and the vision was quickly becoming reality, other organizations were able to see the vision too. And so, where there was nothing, today there is a clinic. A clinic that serves the population in general medicine and provides excellent AIDS care. Beyond the physical building, the clinic reaches into the community through mobile clinics, home based care, and support groups. This is an awesome transformation.

There is so much stigma around being tested for AIDS. During our tour of Tumaini Clinic, we came to the VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing) room. Flowers on the room and a smiling nurse. Part of me wanted to be tested, to be here in a way with the many who have had the courage to be tested. But then my mind immediately went to thought of, “I have done that before…Last year I had the check swab test done….This is a blood test…Really… Why?” I have no reason to be scared, and yet I backed away from the test. Which is, in my mind, all the more reason to be tested.

And so I experienced the hesitancy, the nervousness, the questions in my mind of, “What will I do if I am positive?” Then I got to read my test. Only one line. Like the other times I have been tested (this nervousness does not go away with each test), I was negative. No AIDS in my body. Sigh. It feels good. Smile.

Have you been tested for AIDS? Do you want to stand in solidarity with those who have AIDS or who are at risk and are too scared to be tested? Find your local AIDS clinic and go get tested. It will transform your mind and thought process. I promise.

kiambethu flowers

The flower garden at the Kiambethu Tea Farm is amazing. And, since I still love the happiness of yellow, I thought I would share this one with you.

lunch at kiambethu tea farm

One of the things about traveling for work is that there are few down-days or days when I can just soak life in without my subconscious ticking through my to-do list. I love those quiet times, and that is what Kiambethu Tea Farm offered me yesterday.

Kiambethu Tea Farm is located on Banana Hill about 45 minutes outside of Nairobi. It was the first farm to start growing tea, and you can feel history everywhere you walk. Marcus and Fiona, granddaughter of the original farmer, live in the farm house and invite people into their home for a tour and lunch each Saturday. The tour starts with an explanation of the tea growing and production process and the history of the farm. After a short walk through original forest, you have a home-made lunch on the lawn surrounded by beautiful flower gardens. Though the farm is a fraction of its original size, there are still 2 acres of tea, a number of cows, chickens, and an extensive vegetable garden; these are the source of nearly everything you eat and drink while on the farm.

If you are traveling in Kenya, you should carve out some time for a Saturday lunch tour at the Kiambethu Tea Farm. You will be well rewarded for doing so.

shared smiles in marsabit

This was not a legendary trip to Marsabit, but it was a good trip. No stuck vehicles or flat tires or going deep into the desert. But we were able to make it to Marsabit town, which was cut off to us by flooded roads on our last trip. There will be more about this trip later, but for now I wanted to share two photos of smiles I shared. This woman was so full of life -I hope her smile pulls you in too.

larachi video

The video of Northern Kenya that I was talking about is now out. It is so exciting to see the first batch of video I took be molded into a short story about the village of Larachi in Northern Kenya. I will be back in Northern Kenya in a few weeks and am excited to be able to share more stories with you then. Anyway… check the video out HERE.