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Chicken Tickles?

May 19, 2010

Last night, in the gentle tropical breeze and shivering palm tree shadow, we arrived in Nairobi, Kenya. The first night was peaceful and everyone got here safe and sound. This morning, we had breakfast at two local restaurants and experienced for the first time the Kenyan concept of time. What would take the Waffle Shop in State College 10 minutes took almost an hour here. After that, we went to visit the Giraffe Park and the Animal Orphanage. Many of us “made out” with the two beautiful giraffes. Don’t worry – their saliva is anti-bacteria. In the Animal Orphanage, a girl on our team experienced an epic scene – a monkey who escaped out of the cage saw her banana and robbed it! We saw many other animals that star in “Lion King”, including a sleeping lion, cheetahs, ostrich, warthogs, and leopards. We continued on our journey, and arrived in the “Ivory Resort” in Nyeri. This is where we will be staying for the next three weeks. Tonight, we had several meetings to discuss the big picture and specific plans for our time here. The busy night foreshadows our hard work and crazy schedule ahead.

A local hang-out by our hotel in Nairobi

Giraffe’s kiss


Jumbo from Nyeri, Kenya. We arrived in Nyeri at about 7:00PM and while waiting to get the debriefing, the team sat down and got both WishVast systems operational. Laptops are ready, cell-phones loaded! WE ARE READY TO FIRE!!!

Penn State students are hard at work on the different projects here, with a group of nearly 40 students, faculty, and staff in total.  While we will be demonstrating and operating the system within the context, the first thing is to get all cell-phone users from the Penn State teams on WishVast, so that we have a nice ready to use communication channel within the group.  We’ll be making recommendations and demonstrations to the entire group soon as to how WishVast can be used to help with coordination and logistics while here in Kenya. In the grand scheme of things, a major priority is to identify partners at the CYEC tomorrow and begin sharing our projects with the local community.

Aside from testing and implementing the projects, the teams will be taking additional steps to increase learning and development opportunities.  For instance, we will be actively documenting issues that arise around ethics and cultural sensitivities.  As we will be working closely with local children from the CYEC to market our ideas and seek help in navigating this region of Kenya, it is difficult to speculate on the specific issues that may arise.  Regardless, we have a process in place to systematically document all ethical issues and how they are resolved.

Alongside the WishVast implementation, we will also be conducting IRB approved interviews to understand the common practices within the working communities in and around Nyeri, and East Africa in general. We will be meeting with Mary, the nurse at the clinic at CYEC, who will be helping us identify specific communities and individuals.

Essential Design

For our teams in Essential Design (EDSGN), the trip has been eye opening!  Shengnan told about our adventures in the trip so far above. Besides these fun observations, we also came across more “real” observations of everyday life, even pertaining to our projects.  FOr the High Tunnel team, they saw large scale greenhouses, much like their own project; the Irrigation Drip team saw many farms and uses of the tanks in the area; the tanks were also important to the Anaerobic Digester team, since it will be a crucial material for us.  bananas. Also for our team, we saw people lugging firewood and charcoal to their homes, which are problems we are trying to address.  These observations helped to inspire me more in that we saw what we have been studying all semester.
When we got to our hotel, we immediately settled in and buckled down with group and Khanjan debriefings.  It is important for us to get a solid gameplan in order to run smoothly.  In our team meeting, we began thinking of ice breakers and activites to initiate fun relationships with the kids we are working with. Then we started to develop a way to teach the kids about the problems and how our solutions/projects will address them.  Then, we sat down with Khanjan and Andrew (our technical guru from the CYEC) and developed budgeting and financial plans.  Tomorrow should be a crazy day for Essential Design!


Nairobi is a big city thriving with businesses. There are many huge billboards. Surprisingly, many are in English. English is an official language of Kenya, alongside Kiswahili. Children start learning English in Primary school. This makes the communication process of Mashavu easier.

This morning, we met with Ryan Tinker, a website developer from Chicago working for the CYEC for the next three weeks. He told us that currently, there is no way for the health administrators and CYEC administrators to know what the epidemiology or health trends are in the country. All the health data is compiled in paper. He has already developed a digital data collection system similar to the medical history survey that Mashavu uses in the beginning of an encounter. His responsibility is to teach the nurses in the CYEC clinic how to use the system. With the data system, the health administrators will be able to add some solid data in their reports and make decisions such as what medicine to purchase based on the database. We saw that Mashavu could potentially be a good addition to the database, since we will be able to collect the vital health measurements. Tomorrow, Ryan will meet with Mary and CYEC kids to discuss about what are essential to include in the database. He will update us on that.
Tonight in a series of debriefings, we laid out the big picture for the next three weeks. Our three clinics will be spread out in three weeks. This Saturday, we will hold the first one in CYEC. Next Saturday, a clinic will be held in Mweiga, a small town 45 minutes away. The “Big Bang” demo will potentially happen in the UNIDO energy kiosk in Ngong. For the time between our clinics, Mashavu team will be seperated into the following teams: Focus group survey, social science survey, “fun” survey, website team, and Samir will take the lead on a study combining social entrepreneurship and life principles. The plan for tomorrow is to meet with CYEC kids and make them understand the concept and operation of Mashavu.

Blog Authors this round:

Shengnan Chen (Mashavu)

Chris LoRusso (WishVast)

Liz Bell (Essential Design)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Peter Connolly permalink
    May 20, 2010 12:26 pm

    Make sure you yield to those warthogs! They have the right of way!

    Ferdik and the rest of you…I hope all is well. Upload some more photos!

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