Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bret's Kenya Journal, October 2011, Part 1

Bret is in Kenya with a small expedition.  This is potentially the most important, life changing expedition ever, as far as the Kenya people we serve.  The focus for this expedition is on agriculture and dam building.  Bret has written a summary of his first few days, in the way only Bret can.  His many trips to Kenya have given him an understanding of life in Kenya that few Americans can fathom.  The nuances of his perspective are touching and worth sharing.  I hope you enjoy.

The preparation for this expedition has been many years in the making....and I'm convinced it wasn't my plan.  With each passing day I become more convinced that the hand of my Heavenly Father has guided me and Koins to this point, placing opportunities in our path, bringing talented individuals to our doorstep, and lighting our way.  The divine hand that continues to manifest itself in our work has coordinated this work, and especially this trip, from the very beginning.

The week in Italy prior to my departure for Kenya made the transition a lot easier.  I'm sure I can convince others to join me for a similar trip in the future if it includes a week in Europe just to get "acclimated."

Walking off the plane in Nairobi feels as natural as deplaning at SLC International.  I know the fast way to the passport counters, I am familiar with the luggage handling, and tonight said hello to one of the customs people that actually recognized me from previous trips.  We have probably had a run-in at some point since to the Kenyans all white people look the same.

The flight to Mombasa was less than an hour.  Anthony greeted me as he has done so many times before.  This time he was alone, having driven a car by himself to pick me up.  He handed me the keys as we loaded the car and I gladly snatched them up and took my place on the opposite side of the car from where we normally drive.

The rains have devastated the roadways here.  I haven't seen the main artery from Mombasa to Nairobi this bad in almost a decade.  It's truly sad to see the commerce of this country choked by the inability to get the small things right.  In just a few hundreds yards I felt comfortable driving on the left hand side of the road.  The pot holes kept me busy and awake, and within an hour (due to it being one o'clock in the morning) we were pulling into the KCC.  Emily and Esther both arose from their beds to greet me and I had to stop them from preparing water for a shower and a hot meal.  It's grand to be home.

I don't mind the crow of a rooster early in the morning, but this dude has got to die.  I don't think that 4:50 is when any chicken, on any day, should begin making their racket.  A great thing about Kenya is that if I identify that rooster, I simply buy him, give him to Emily in the kitchen, and his fleshy parts will help flavor my pilau rice dish tomorrow.

Yama and I met and got the day organized.  After a few brief meetings of the mind with some of our staff, we got together with the SRA boys.  These two men are extremely gifted and highly trained in crops and animals, and have the ability to train others on better methodologies that will ultimately assist themselves feed their families better.  We walked for over an hour under a scorching sun, exploring the Koins plots between Mnyenzeni and Vikolani.  They never knew the boundary until today, and had never discussed my visions for it in depth.  With everything we discussed those two grown men were actually giddy with excitement.

Galla goats being traded for the traditional African goats, chicken give-a-way, and the tilapia starter kit, the rotational garden partnership program, and others were all discussed to their delight.  It is only possible with them overseeing the entire project, so I am ecstatic with our SRA Partnership at this point.

Stones continue to be collected for the dams, citrus trees, banana trees, papaya and mango trees are all being ordered.  They will be planted throughout the "garden" area of the demonstration plot so everyone can see how easy it is to raise these valuable and nutritious trees.  So much is in store, so much to do, so much to plan.......

Our trip to Mombasa had us visiting with the President of Steelmakers, Inc. the largest steel products manufacturer in Eastern Africa.  He had not been responsive to Yama over the last month, so I dropped in on him.  He was nervous at first, but with a lot of reason and excitement about the drills being constructed locally.......and dozens to be completed monthly (hopefully with his steel), he saw the light and began helping us.

Once in town we visited the bank, then a hardware specialty company for some items we need to make gabbion wire stone boxes for the dam, along with some "geotextile" product that is VERY difficult to locate.  These pieces need to be in place before my engineer shows up and wants to build a dam, so we're busy as beavers......yes, a pun.

Went to the Blue Room for some internet connection and dropped some emails.  Although separated from Ingrid for only 36 hours, it was fun to hook up with her through a video conference and see her early morning smile and eyes.  No matter what time of day or how flighty her hair might be, those eyes are like looking at a pair of blue-green sapphires with spotlights behind them.  Her peepers are second to none and they were good to look into, even if it was just a few minutes.

Shopping for the expedition ended our stay in town.  Although we made fast decisions and walked quickly, the process still took over 90 minutes.  Where are Jami and Sue when you need them?

The outdoor showers are a marvelous end to a sweaty, dusty, tacky day.  With the fan on full throttle and an ambient down my gullet, I hit the sack and dream of big Galla goats filling our pastures and milk containers throughout the area.  So excited!!

The rooster has to go!  At 4:10 this morning that early-rising cock-a-doodle-doer decided I needed to get up.  He's going in the pot as soon as I can identify which of the three rooster he is.  The unfortunate part is at that hour it's still too dark to see, and by the time I can see, all of them are crowing and they all sound similarl.

Anthony, Patrick, Emerson and I all departed for Kilifi after breakfast.  Due to road conditions we didn't want to go through Mombasa, so we decided to take back roads for the 50 mile ride.  The SRA boys were raised in the area where we would make our shortcut, and as it turned out, it was shorter, quicker, and a lot easier on the eyes.  There were beautiful sites all along the way, some wonderful little villages, and a dirt road much better than the main road.

We visited with the staff at Pwani University for a couple of hours.  They were glad to show us their goat and dairy operation, fish farm, chicken ranch, and mushroom-raising activities.  Although they provide a lot of academia with their projects, our application in the real world will end of benefitting them more than what they'll provide us.  However, both spectrums together will make us all a lot better in our agricultural endeavors.

Upon our return Yama headed back to Mazeras for a funeral.  I opted to remain here, spending time with the SRA boys going over what we had seen at Pwani and going more into depth.  We spent more time at the "shamba" going over details of our plans for this beautiful piece of ground, and our ideas are really coming together.  Once we have Kevin here to make a final decision on the dam placement, we can swing everything else into action.  We had our usual entourage of village children following us the entire time, calling out to me and asking for  magic rather than candy.  A couple of cheesy tricks later they had all been satisfied and filled with laughter, checking each other's ears for additional coins that might be hidden.

Buffalo came by and we went to discuss the block making for the dam.  We came together quickly making strides in our goals that should allow us to meet our timelines.  Moses and a teacher friend of his also came to visit and ended up eating dinner with us.  While sitting together Kendy called from America and I surprised her by answering his phone.  I could hear the confusion in her voice when I answered, and when she figured out it was me, her tone went to shear jealousy, knowing that I was with her beau.

Early evening, showered, hit the sack.

The sun was extremely heavy today, crashing down hard all morning, causing everyone to walk a little slower.  The shade only made it bearable, but in direct sunlight the temperature was 20 degrees more.  Simply put, it was oppressively humid and uncomfortably hot.

Thick, billowy clouds formed to the south in the afternoon........

I met with Emily this morning about the arrival of our other guests, shopping lists, how many meals per day she needed to prepare, etc.  Since my scheming session with the SRA Boys late yesterday, they prepared an outline for moving forward.  These guys are on fire with excellence, and with each passing day we make great steps in our agricultural agenda.

I visited the dispensary and was greeted by dozens of baby-toting mothers patiently awaiting their turn.  I don't know how Naomi does it, but she is a super star when it comes to this area's health care.  We went over the agenda for our small expedition, focused mostly on the coordinated activities of Grace Quesenberry.  It appears as though Grace will spend several days next week walking around the villages administering polio drops into the children's mouths.  That, along with delivering dozens of baby blankets to area dispensaries as gifts when mothers have their children in our facilities instead of at home.

Somehow I brought up the issue of HIV/AIDS and mothers.  We delved into this heavy topic because I saw several babies in the waiting line that appeared to be woefully sick.  Since I don't fully understand the "how's and what's" to this deadly disease, I have to ask a lot of questions.  I wasn't aware that babies born to an HIV positive mother wasn't necessarily infected with the disease.  However, I learned that the baby has a very high potential of getting the disease if it nurses from the positive mother.  I was floored to hear that many mothers are faced with starving their babies, or passing along their deadly disease......and therefore the disease continues.

Our goat milk program just got a new curve in it with this enlightening discussion.  Our plan is to provide the schools with milk through a small herd at each facility.  They will care for the animals and milk them daily, placing the milk into the children's porridge.  It won't provide much to each child, but when they receive nothing now, each drop counts.  With my conversation with Naomi, we will implement a similar program at the dispensaries, providing clean milk to the babies where their mothers are HIV positive.

We had the Fitzgerald's arrive today from Watamu where they have spent the last three weeks.  Their experience of "Humanitarian Work" so far has not been stellar, so coming to our village area will surely light them up.  The Koins Center is a change from the posh, seaside hotel in which they were staying before.  To their credit, it is a welcome change, and one that has them both excited, as they really are interested in lending a helping hand.

I met the Fitzgerald's in Mombasa and they helped me do some shopping for our group that will be arriving tomorrow.  We had a couple of errands to run on the way to meeting them, the first being in Mazeras.  I was standing in front of the butcher shop on the main road waiting for Anthony when a gentleman came up to me and began shaking my hand profusely.  He was rambling in Duruma and I could only catch a small percentage of what he was saying.  Thankfully, Yama came out of the shop and explained what I was missing.

It was a few years ago while I was walking through a local village when I found a pair of twins, barely alive and looking more like small birds than children.  Their mother was extremely sick and could not nurse or care for the baby girls.  Koins rarely takes a position of helping one person or family, especially with medical issues, because everyone has genuine needs.  But in this instance I could not ignore the ugly situation, and I ended up taking the babies and their mother to the hospital where they stayed for a couple of weeks.

I was saddened at the news that one of the babies didn't make it, but happy that the other had, along with her mother.  Two years passed when a lady that I did not recognize approached me at the Koins Center.  She had walked from Mazeras, some 12 miles away, because she heard that I was in town.  She was bouncing a chunky little girl in her arms when she told me, through a translator, that she was the mother of the twins.  I couldn't believe me eyes and then barely held back my tears.  When I asked to hold the toddler, she gladly handed her to me.  As I stood hugging the baby, the mother swung the kanga that was wrapped around her to her front where I could now see her twin sister.  She had not passed on, and, if fact, was fatter than her sister.  It was a happy moment.

The man who saw me from across the street today and ran to greet me was the father of the twins.  His eyes were still filled with gratitude after almost fours years since that fateful moment.  Why did I stick my head into a strangers house to see why a baby was crying?  Why did I decide to take steps, when normally I probably wouldn't?  I may never know, but I'm willing to guess that why it happened will reveal itself at some point.

On the way from Mazeras to Mombasa there was a huge traffic jam on this two lane road.  It is treacherous in normal conditions, but due to the traffic and aggressive drivers, it is near insanity to go out there.  I was behind the wheel trying to make progress in a way that can only be explained if you experience it.  But, in almost a moment where nothing was going on around us, a large 18-wheeler smacked the back corner of the car.  We pulled over to check out the minor damage, but the truck driver had no inclination to stop, and kept on going.  I looked at Anthony and asked, "what do we do now?"  He stated simply "T.I.A." - This Is Africa.  This small catch-phrase can really sum up a situation like this, basically stating that there's nothing you can do about it, so roll with it.  The estimate on the car repairs in the U.S. - $2,500.  Actual costs in Kenya - $60.  Hey, T.I.A.

I think I've identified the rooster who has consistently caused me to open my eyes at zero dark thirty since I arrived.  He crowed one too many times when I was near the side of the building and I saw which one he is.  On one hand I want to eat the flesh from his skinny bones, but on the other hand he's the only African that is timely every, I'm conflicted.

The morning was overcast with rain falling in the distance.  The Fitzgerald's were up, and Chakaya needed passage to Bofu, so I loaded everyone into the van and we went for a little ride.  Once we dropped Chakaya in Bofu, he continued to Dzendereni on a piki-piki (motorcycle taxi).  We backtracked a mile and went to Gona, checking on our final projects from July.  The Tingey School is the best looking classroom we've constructed to date.  Surprisingly, because it is Saturday, it was filled with students when we arrived.  Their teacher was there and the instruction was serious.  When I entered, the students, in their usual fashion, stood all at once and stated in complete unison, "Good morning, Sir!"  I returned the greeting and asked them to be seated.  The teacher was happy to have visitors and asked if I would take a moment and address his students.  I took the opportunity to make them laugh, make them ponder, and hopefully try a little harder.  It was a great interaction.

We took some back roads through the real African bush so the Fitzgerald's could see what living in Kenya is all about.  The clouds were breaking up and the heat would soon be oppressive, but village life was unfolding in front of us, and for a novice, it is striking.  Riley stated that he had been present in-country for over a month, but this was his first real day of being in Kenya.

We passed by the Sean Michels School to say hello to the special needs kids.  As we pulled up, those that are mobile ran to greet us.  We hurried down to the other children and all greeted each other.  We have a couple of new faces, but the ones I have known for a few years were all there in ear-to-ear smiles.  I threw Beja around, making him squeel to the laughter of everyone.  One of the wheelchair kids got a zippy ride around the compound in her carriage, chasing the other children in circles.  The SMS is a special place.

Lonny Ward is arriving on a 12:45 flight from Ethiopia.....well, that's the scheduled time anyway.  As I was about to leave to pick him up I received his text about a mechanical breakdown and probable two hour delay.  As I had a meeting planned for the afternoon with a possible replacement for Anthony Yama when he begins his politicial career next year.  Our faithful driver, Johnson, picked Lonny up, and without further delay was here at the KCC.

The rest of the afternoon was spent talking shop with the SRA Boys, Lonny, and I.  Lonny pulled out some photos from his dairy album and showed photos of his 80 liters a day cow.  Those are big numbers for me to digest, but to the Africans they were borderline fairy-tale.  Their cows generate an average of 6-8 liters per day around here when things are good, so numbers like Lonny produces has them all shaking their heads in amazed disbelief.

Rachel prepared a nice dinner, and several plans were made for tomorrow, including several contingencies based upon whether or not the delayed flights for our next group of arrivals causes problems in Nairobi.  I'm going to bed and wait for the news from Johnson, who has departed once again for the airport.

I am looking forward to more updates from Bret.  This will be a full and busy expedition, with much happening and opportunities to help the Kenyans in our service area see real change in their lives.

Watch for updates.

Asante sana,


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Youth Leadership Expedition in Kenya - New for 2012

If you would like more info on this expedition, you can contact the Koins Expedition Leader, Jami Quesenberry, at 

Go here to download an expedition application. 



Monday, October 3, 2011

Microscope at Mnyenzeni Dispensary

I received an email from Naomi, the nurse in charge at the Mnyenzeni Dispensary.  She is on our Koins board in Kenya, and requested the microscope that was provided to the Dispensary in March.  Here is an accounting of the numbers of local villagers that have benefitted from the acquisition of the microscope in our rural area: 


Investigations Done to Parasites as from 1st May 2011 to 31st August 2011

1.     Blood for Malaria parasites – 1,475
2.     Malaria cases Found positive – 429 patients
3.     Hemoglobin level – 39 patient (6 patients were anemic)
4.     Sputum examination for Tuberculosis and Follow up - 45 patients
5.     Stool examination – 171 patients
6.     Urine examination – 207 patients
Total number of patients who benefited from the laboratory services – 2,104 patients

This report was compiled and written by
Nurse in charge

Cindy observes the microscope being used by the lab tech at the Mnyenzeni dispensary

Cindy Workman, a 6th grade teacher at Windridge Elementary in Farmington, Utah, and member of our Koins for Kenya board, raised the funds, along with her 6th grade class, for the purchase of the microscope for the Mnyenzeni Dispensary.  

Health care in Kenya is rudimentary at best.  Most rural dispensaries, so called because they are for the purpose of dispensing drugs that can treat diseases, rather than being clinics, with doctors and trained health care officials available to the villagers, are poorly stocked.  Many do not have electricity, further limiting their capacity for help.  

Prior to the delivery of the microscope, the Mnyenzeni dispensary did not have the ability to accurately determine what illnesses sick patients were dealing with.  Sometimes they would treat everyone for malaria, whether or not they had the illness, other times, if there were no malaria drugs available, patients would be sent away from the dispensary with no treatment.  

With the introduction of the microscope this past spring, and 2 trained lab technicians to draw blood and view blood, urine and feces under the microscope, the ability to accurately determine illness and how to treat it became a reality.  The rural area that the Mnyenzeni dispensary serves has greatly benefitted.  As you can see from the figures above, in four months time, 2,104 patients were treated using the microscope.  

Thank you to the 6th graders of Windridge who raised the funds to purchase this microscope.  Their efforts are truly making a difference to the people of rural Kenya. 

Asante sana!