Monday, July 14, 2014

We Have Arrived!

We arrived at our Kisumu home after dark, feeling lucky to have made it at all. After four of the five of us were delayed by an airline that strictly obeyed the policy, “in Africa, there is no hurry,” and a treacherous taxi ride that involved tying 6 suitcases to the roof and many moments when I thought I might never see the light of day again, we were greeted with warm food, hot sugar water, and welcoming smiles.

Singing from a local church was the soundtrack to our introduction to Mumias the next morning. The music followed us as we walked along a path through corn and cement homes until we reached the main road in Mumias. Sunday is market day, so Mumias was bumping with music, shouting, and colorful produce. We were the talk of the town wherever we went; it’s hard to be discreet when five mzungus (foreigners or white people) are seen carting bags full of groceries from one fruit or vegetable to stand to the next. It was a day of endless shopping, termites for lunch (politely refused), goats in the kitchen, rats in the bed, and cockroaches on the porch. It was after 1 a.m. when the World Cup game ended and we finally crawled under our mosquito nets and fell asleep, completely exhausted.

Today, we attended the WOPLAH monthly meeting. We were first introduced to Khamis, a nurse who works at the Maternal Child Health Center (MCH). Khamis explained to us the challenges involved with pre- and post-natal care and family planning. The clinic’s services are offered free of charge. He talked about the pervasive myths and stigmas that prevent women from feeling comfortable using contraceptives, getting tested for or talking with their husbands about STIs, or continuing treatments once they have been prescribed. Khamis then stated that WOPLAH has been an answer to a prayer. He explained that Edwin, the Program Coordinator for WOPLAH, an ARV distributor, and our Dad/supervisor for the next six weeks, has been instrumental in coordinating a successful movement to reduce the stigma around STIs and improve the health of the women and children of Mumias.

Next, we joined the circle of 14 Ambassadors of Hope and 1 intern, Mark, under a tree outside the clinic. The meeting started with a general check-in, in which each person was asked to report on the progress of his or her projects. Next, the AOHs introduced themselves and their role in WOPLAH to us, and we introduced ourselves to them. Together, we discussed our assigned reading from last night, Article 25 ( and Story of a Girl ( Over the next 6 weeks, we will be brainstorming ideas for how WOPLAH and GlobeMed can best contribute to these internationally-oriented health projects. After a soda pop refreshment, we outlined a plan for the coming weeks and listened as the AOHs discussed Village Banking balances—a project that entails lending money to to the WOPLAH support groups in order to fund microfinance projects. Tomorrow, we will get to see one of these microfinance projects in person, a mostly male support group that works on pig raising.

The GROW interns with the Ambassadors of Hope and WOPLAH intern, Mark (bottom right)
When the meeting ended, we took motorcycles (piki pikis) to the market so that we could pick up a few more things before heading home for the night. After our full day of shopping yesterday, one would think there would be nothing left to buy, but, alas, we had somehow managed to finish all 12 bananas in 24 hours. It was our second motorcycle ride of the day and the second of our lives, but already we felt like naturals as we rode through the streets of Mumias. We are transitioning, pole pole (slowly), and soon we will begin to feel at home (dskia nmbani).

-Claire McNellan, Neuroscience Major / Bioethics Minor, Class of 2014

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