Thursday, May 31, 2012

ACCT International: Week One Guest Speakers

Second Day of Class

In addition to Mr. Olieka and Ms. Lutta who spoke on our first day of class, we also had several other guest speakers the first week of class in Kenya. Henry Monyancha joined us and spoke with the group on communication.

Joash Mango and Walter Adongo from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) discussed the ABCD model or Asset-Based Community Development.

Second Day of Class

Second Day of Class

— Sara

ACCT International: MUMCOP


On the second day of class in Kenya, we had our first "service-learning" experience. We went to visit a local community organization, the Mumias Muslim Community Programme (MUMCOP), located in Mumias town. MUMCOP undertakes a variety of community-development and capacity-building activities. On Tuesday, we were there to learn about an initiative to convert plastic trash into sellable products.

MUMCOP is gathering plastic trash through organized community clean-up efforts. They are then separating out the PVC plastics and melting down the rest and adding in colored dyes. The melted plastic is then poured into molds (which are mainly metal serving trays). These new shapes are painted and sold has plaques.


Before going to MUMCOP, the ACCT leadership team had some concerns related to the activity. We were unsure of the methods being used and were curious about the fumes released. Once we were there there, the students too were concerned by the current practice of simply lighting the plastics on fire to melt them, as in the process likely toxic fumes were released into the environment and were breathed by the MUMCOP participants (and, while we were there, a gathering crowd of local school children).


We returned to MUMCOP the next week to discuss possible alternative methods to melt the plastics. I will post more on that later. In addition to the plastic activity, we also saw a skit MUMCOP performs related to HIV/AIDS education and were treated to a demonstration from their senior taekwondo group.

Find more pictures of our visit to MUMCOP here.

— Sara

Name This Plant: Passion Fruit

Name This Plant

Name This Plant

Several people were able to successfully name this plant, on the blog and Facebook.

Passion fruit is native to South America. I found it here in Kenya growing in the AMPATH demonstration garden. Apparently, AMPATH once had a passion fruit juice factory they operated as an income-generating activity, but it has since closed. You can find a story on the project here.

The Purdue horticulture web site tells me "Commercial culture of purple passionfruit was begun in Kenya in 1933 and was expanded in 1960, when the crop was also introduced into Uganda for commercial production. In both countries, the large plantations were devastated several times by easily-spread diseases and pests. It became necessary to abandon them in favor of small and isolated plantings which could be better protected."


According to Wikipedia, passion fruit was named after the Passion of the Christ:

The name was given by missionaries because the parts of the flower seemed reminiscent of the torture (the Passion) of Christ prior to his crucifixion: 

  • The three stigmas reflect the three nails in Jesus's hands and feet. 
  • The threads of the passion flower resemble the Crown of Thorns. 
  • The vine's tendrils are likened to the whips. 
  • The five anthers represented the five wounds. 
  • The ten petals and sepals regarded to resemble the Apostles (excluding Judas and Peter). 
  • The purple petals representing the purple robe used to mock Jesus' claim to kingship (Mt. 27:28)

— Sara

Nine Years Ago Today

Eight Years Ago Today

Cale and I are spending our ninth wedding anniversary on an island in Lake Victoria. Last night Cale surprised me with a burrito party. Details are to come.

— Sara

ACCT International: Ferry Ride

Mumias to Mbita

— Sara

Monday, May 28, 2012

Name This Plant

This Name This Plant submission has two parts, as I am pretty sure the fruit in the photograph is unripe and will not be recognized.

Name This Plant

Name This Plant


Sunday, May 27, 2012

ACCT International: First Day of Classes in Kenya

First Day of Class in Kenya

As I mentioned before, we are being hosted at the Mumias Sugar Company these first three weeks in Kenya. On Monday, the day after our trip to Kakamega and the culture center, we began our first week of classes. We were welcomed to the complex by Stephen Olieka, the Director of Human Resources at Mumias Sugar, who opened our program. Mr. Olieka shared with us his personal experience with development work. As a child, he had been sponsored to complete his schooling and today he is heavily involved with development work in his hometown, particularly with supporting the local primary school (which now has electricity, water, additional buildings, etc. in part due to his efforts). According to Mr. Olieka, he recently discovered through casual conversation, about seven other managers and directors at Mumias had also been sponsored by the same program (or a similar program) as Mr. Olieka was as a child.

First Day of Class in Kenya

Mr. Olieka was followed by Pamela Lutta. Ms. Lutta is the Director of Marketing and Corporate Relations at Mumias. She is also the ACCT International In-Country Coordinator. And, finally, she just happens to be Dr. W's sister. She is also hosting me and Cale for the 10 weeks we are in country, along with four students for these first three weeks. Ms. Lutta filled us in on all the details of the sugar company, its background and current operations. Mumias is a green certified company and in addition to processing sugar cane is looking to branch out to other markets while making sure it is using all the by products of the sugar manufacturing process. This includes, but is not limited to, electricity, bottled gas, bottled water, molasses, ethanol, and soon, rum.

First Day of Class in Kenya

Tune in later for more details on the rest of the week, including to service learning trips into Mumias town and an overnight trip to Eldoret.

— Sara

Saturday, May 26, 2012

ACCT International: First Cultural Excursion

Kakamega Forest

The Mumias Sugar Company, our host for the first three weeks of this program, is located in Mumias town in Western Kenya. The town is the seat of the Luhya kingdom, Wanga, whose last sovereign king, Mumia, is the town’s namesake.

On Sunday we first stopped at the Nabongo Cultural Centre, which was funded by the sugar company and opened in 2008. The culture center included a library, a museum, a traditional structure, and several graves. From what I could understand, Wanga kings were buried where they died and this site was the original grave of the first king, Nabongo. In addition, it appears that Wanga kings’ remains are exhumed and brought to a mausoleum on this site after all their living brothers and cousins have died. This only applies to kings that die natural deaths. Murders, drownings, and other unnatural deaths are considered bad omens.

Nabongo Cultural Centre

In the museum, there were photographs of the current and previous kings. In these official coronation pictures the text “Wearing bracelets…” followed by the name of the king was written across the top. Interestingly, we learned that the symbol of a Wanga kings’ power is a bracelet crafted from an object from the kingdom’s origin myth.

After the culture center, we headed to the Kakamega Forest, just more than an hour away. We arrived just in time to eat the pack lunch from the Mumias Guesthouse, which included chicken, egg, and veg sandwiches, as well as bananas and sodas. There were several sodas I was unfamiliar with, including Stoney and Krest. We also spent a little bit of time sorting out our park admission fees. Non-residents are charged $20 USD admission (1600 Ksh), while residents pay only 200 Ksh. Luckily, we were able to negotiate a student rate for the interns.

Once in the park, we hired a tour guide who took us on more than four-hour, 15-km hike through the dense forest up the hillside and back down the rugged, rocky face. We also trekked out to a small waterfall and made our way back to the road through the backyards of families that live in the forest. In addition to marveling at spectacular views, we learned a great deal about the medicinal and functional value of several of the indigenous tree species, including on that is a potent treatment for prostate cancer.

Kakamega Forest

Exhausted, on our way home we made one final stop at the Nakumatt, the local equivalent of Walmart, before we collapsed into bed, dead to the world.

Check the pictures on the Flickr here and here.

— Sara

Sunday, May 20, 2012

ACCT International: Karibu Kenya

ACCT International: Arrival in Kenya

Friday, May 18, 2012 the ACCT International participants arrived in Kenya. Well, actually, some of them arrived the night before and overnighted at the guesthouse of one of our partner organizations, ANAW's Kifaru House.

On Friday, they caught a flight from Nairobi to Kisumu (the same one I had vomited on just two days before), and Pam, Cale, and I met them at the airport. We drove the hour to Mumias, fed them a lunch, and sent them all to showers and bed.

— Sara

ACCT International: First Excursion Today

Mumias to Kakamega — Sara

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Journey Thus Far

Cale and I were set to leave Indianapolis for Kenya (via Memphis and Amsterdam) Monday evening. So of course I was feeling sick on Sunday. Mostly it was just cold-like symptoms. I was tired, my nose was stuffy, the like. I honestly wasn’t too surprised. The last few weeks had been very stressful and the previous Tuesday, several members of the ACCT group had woken up with colds themselves. Considering we had all been at a potluck at Dr. T’s house the night before, I wouldn’t have been surprised if we had all ended up with colds.

However, by Sunday evening before we to were leave, I was feeling less like a cold and more like the flu, as the nausea set in. And so, I tossed and turned most of the night on the bathroom floor and found myself emptying the contents of my stomach into a bucket my our bed only 18 hours before I was set to be on a plane to Africa.

*Oops, Teresa I am sorry, I mentioned vomit without warning you in advance.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me. Friday I had given a presentation to the ACCT International interns on the symptoms of possible diseases they should be alert to in Kenya. Here I was experiencing what felt like a majority of those symptoms. All I needed was a mysterious rash and I would have been set.

I spent almost all of Monday on the couch. Sitting up long enough to arrange the limo for my sister’s bachelorette party (which of course, is less than five hours after I return from Kenya in July), wiped me out. When I finally took a shower around 1pm, I had to sit down for most of it. Here I was, sitting on the floor under the water stream trying to shampoo my hair, wondering how I was going to run through the Memphis airport where our connection between flights was only 30 minutes.

Dad took us to the airport, but our first stop was Marsh where Cale bought me a ginger ale and some ginger root to help with the nausea (Dani, I got some for you too. We’ll be ready for the ferry ride in two weeks). When we finally made it through security almost three hours before our flight (in my paranoia about missing flights, I always plan to be at the airport way to early), I immediately took up a spot on the floor and tried to nap.

The flight from Indy to Memphis was uneventful. Cale had cut up the ginger root into some pieces I could swallow whole to help settle my stomach. I am sure it was an interesting scene at the airport bar. “Excuse me, can I have a scotch and a butter knife? I just need to saw away at this random root, don’t mind me.”

As I expected, we had to speed walk to our next gate in Memphis, which, I do not believe, could have been any further away. It took us the entire 30 minutes just to move from one gate to the other at top speed. When we arrived, they were almost done with boarding, but we had to wait in line to speak to the gate agent. For reasons that is not entirely clear to me, I had no seat assignment on this flight and despite Cale’s best efforts to get me one before we left, everyone from the Delta CSRs to the ticket agent in Indy, to the gate agent in Indy, insisted that I would have to get my seat assignment at the gate in Memphis. Just to be more difficult, Cale already had a seat assignment and we were hoping to sit together. This is a difficult feat to pull off when you arrive at the gate just at departure time and you are the last people to board an already full plane. Fortunately, the gate agents were amazingly helpful. When we first asked to be seated together, they said that wasn’t possible. I totally understood. I then requested an aisle seat because I wasn’t feeling well. They had no aisle or window seats left (or really, any seats), but the agent saw the I was assigned was in an exit row and determined she would have to move me since I was sick. After much shuffling, that included a gate agent getting on the plane just in front of me and asking an already seated man to move to my old exit row seat, Cale and I were seated across the aisle from each other for our nine-hour flight to Amsterdam.

I spent most of the flight trying to sleep and being generally unimpressed with Delta’s seats. They are no Air New Zealand or Korea Air by a long shot, let me tell you. I ate some of the pretzels (adding to the saltines I had eaten earlier as my only food for the day), sipped ginger ale, and desperately asked the flight attendants for water every time they came around. Why is it that they will only give you water in tiny cups on planes? Do I only need water three sips at a time? Can’t I just have a whole bottle of it? I know, you just don’t want us up and going to the bathroom. But with all that arid, recycled air, I was desperate for water.

We were set to meet a high-school friend of mine at the airport train station when we arrived in Amsterdam. I haven’t see Dawn since we both went to Cardinal Ritter High School our sophomore years (1996? Was it really that long ago?). Somewhere along the way she met and, recently, married a Netherlander (I always want to spell this word with a “d.” That is how it is pronounced, right?). She’s been living and teaching in the Netherlands for years now. It seemed like an ideal time for us to finally see each other in person again. I, however, was a little worried about this meeting. Here I am, barely able to drag my nauseas, congested body around, and I am meant to sightsee in Amsterdam. I was worried that Dawn would have taken the train all the way in to the city (an hour for her) only to have me want to just lay on the floor and not do anything.

As it turned out, our meeting was not meant to be. When we arrived in Amsterdam, I checked my facebook to discover a message from Dawn’s husband letting us know that she was sick herself and wasn’t going to be able to meet with us. Though I was looking forward to meeting Dawn, I breathed a sigh of relief and proceeded to lay on all sorts of uncomfortable benches in the Amsterdam airport.

Our layover in Amsterdam was nine hours. Sometime after the halfway mark, I decided to be a human again. I ate some crackers, washed my face in the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and set out in search of caffeine (of course, we found the Starbucks). When a group of six American girls set up shop next to us at a café and proceeded to paint their finger nails (yeah, that nail polish remover is a lovely smell, thanks girls), Cale and I moved to our gate. We had to go through security immediately before boarding, which meant, of course, I had to board the plane without any water (great, another nine hours of water doled out three sips at a time).

The flight to Nairobi was run by Kenya Airways. Both the seats and the food were dramatically better than Delta. I ate more than half of my potato gnocchi dinner, the first real thing I had eaten since about 3pm Sunday (it was now more than 24 hours later). After getting our visas and gathering our luggage, we were met by a smiling Dr. W just outside the Nairobi airport at about 6:30 am local time Wednesday. He immediately took us for some breakfast (my first chapati and a taste of ndazi [I will have to check the spelling on those later]). We had a little bit of a wait ahead of us, since our flight from Nairobi to Kisumu was not until 1:30 pm. While we waited, Dr. W regaled us with the story of how he met and wooed his wife, the other Dr. W. After several hours, we were met by Samson of the African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), one of our partner organizations. Samson is a logistics sort of guy and he runs the ANAW guesthouse, Kifaru House, where some of our students stayed when the arrived in Nairobi Thursday night (hmm…how to refer to something that will happen in the future from the perspective of the story you are currently telling [which is set in the past], but has in fact already happened at the time of writing?). Sam showed us around the airport and assisted Dr. W to get a pass so he could wait at the gate when the students arrived Thursday and Friday.

Our flight from Nairobi to Kisumu was a little bit of an adventure. First, we tried to check in early so we could check our luggage and not carry it around when Sam showed us the Nairobi airport. This turned out to be more complicated then we thought and included myself going back and forth through security multiple times as we sorted out an issue with my ticket. Later, as we waited to board the plane, Cale remembered we needed to take our antimalarial meds again. Let me say very clearly now, when doxy says take with food, it means take with food. We had forgotten that it had been five hours since breakfast and the only thing we had eaten recently was some fresh-squeezed mango juice. As I sat on the tiny plane that would take us the 45 minutes to Kisumu, I began to experience the most amazing heartburn. However, as the burning sensation spread from my stomach up my chest, I realized it had no intention of stopping. And so, I used an airline airsick bag for the first time in my life before the plane had even taken off. It was amazingly embarrassing. The flight attendants were incredibly helpful and the flight itself was uneventful, but I was still feeling miserable when we landed. Cale explained later that he too felt the affects of taking the doxy without food. He had forced himself to not throw up.

We were to be met at the Kisumu airport by our In-Country Coordinator, Pam Lutta. In addition to being the Director of Marketing and Corporate Relations for the Mumias Sugar Company, she is also Dr. W’s sister. I was ashamed to meet her for the first time in my current state. I stank, I had recently vomited, I looked a mess. After a quick tooth brush in the airport bathroom, Cale and I found a welcoming Pam just outside the airport gates. She was not put off by our disheveled appearances or, hopefully, by our smell. The ride from Kisumu to Mumias was just about one hour. Cale found himself powerless against sleep during much of the ride. During the ride, I noticed again how things in the developing world are much the same wherever you go. The scene out the window could easily have been somewhere inland in Samoa, Thailand, or Cambodia. The roads were in quite a state and our driver sped around potholes and overtook other vehicles with relative ease. At one point, a large stretch of road was under construction, and we were shunted off to a dirt path next too the road. Luckily, it is the rainy season, as Pam explained the dust from the construction is overwhelming when there is no rain to keep it down.

Finally, more than 40 hours after we left Indy we arrived at Pam’s house on the Mumias Sugar compound. This will be our home too for the next 10 weeks. I will share the story of the students’ arrival in Kenya soon.

— Sara

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Made it to Mumias

Kisumu to Mumias
Details on our travels to Mumias are on the way. Just wanted everyone to know we have arrived and are doing fine.
- Sara

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

ACCT International: Background

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ACCT International student leader, along with Dr. Ann Marie Thomson (program co-director), Chemain Slater (SPEA Abroad), Associate Dean Reingold, and MPA program director Dr. Rushton at the SPEA Awards Ceremony. Sarah Perfetti, Ruth Pollak, Sarah Jene Hollis, and I received the Excellence in Service Award.

Soooo....I may have failed to mention that we are going to Kenya this summer. We leave on Monday. Before we leave, I thought I would explain why.

Back in late January of 2011, I had a phone conversation with Sarah Perfetti. She was interested in creating an international service-learning program at SPEA and was looking for other interested students. Someone had recommended my name and so we chatted on the phone. I planned to meet her and other interested students at the Runcible Spoon in early February.

At that fateful meeting Sarah Perfetti, Ruth Pollak, Sarah Jene Hollis, Dr. Henry Wakhungu, Dr. Ann Marie Thomson, and I sat down and began the long journey that resulted in the program that is sending me to Kenya this summer. I laugh when I look back at that meeting. I thought I was coming to learn more about Sarah P.'s idea. However, as the meeting progressed, I quickly realized that this was the team that intended to create a new SPEA program...and I, apparently, was a member of that team.

And what a team it was. In the next year and a half, we researched similar programs at IU and other universities across the country, presented out half formed ideas to the SPEA Abroad board, conducted a survey of SPEA students to determine interest, spent months developing a program concept we submitted in a 24-page program proposal to the IU Office of Overseas Studies, created a budget, recruited student participants, interviewed applicants, and accepted 15 students into the program. All the while we were forming relationships with seven Kenyan partner organizations. Sarah P. and Dr. W made a summer trip to Kenya to develop these relationships and gather data for our program.

When I try to summarize this past year into a paragraph it seems so simple. However, it has been a long, complex process that I have enjoyed immensely. Being part of this team has been the most educational and beneficial part of my master's experience at SPEA. Learning-by-doings means we have made many mistakes along the way, but we all have a much clearer understanding of what goes into creating and managing a program like this.

And so, more than a year and a half in the making, I give you: ACCT International - Kenya.

Advancing Community, Collaboration, and Training (ACCT) International combines an academic service-learning course with an on-site internship for full-time graduate students in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. ACCT International’s mission is to foster collaborative, applied learning and community engagement by applying course instruction to practical issues development professionals face, thereby increasing the knowledge, skills, and capacity of students and international community partners.

In addition to course work, IU students will partner with local development professionals to develop an internship project that will contribute meaningfully to the work of a local Kenyan partner organization and the communities where students will live and work for 6 weeks. Local development professionals will also play a mentoring role as they work with IU students assigned to their local organizations.

For the next 10 weeks, we will be in Kenya. I plan to blog the best I can about our experience while also filling in the details on the ACCT International program.

Tune in next time for tales on the first week of class that was held in Bloomington from May 7 through May 11.

— Sara