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May 24, 2010

It’s another evening at CYEC.  Skies are mostly blue, a few cumulus clouds forming.  Maybe tonight it might rain, maybe it won’t.  It hasn’t rained since we got here.  A cool tropical breeze is over the Nyeri plains, birds chirping, happy laughter of kids in the field playing (as they should always), a few “muthungus” getting their hair braided, and all in all, a good day for both CYEC and the Penn State delegation.

I wander over to a group of kids, who curiously instead of crowding around the Penn State students like they usually do seem to be around a Kenyan boy aged around 9 or 10.  It’s mostly girls around him, and one of them seems to be translating for the rest of the group.  They seem to pepper him with a lot of questions.  I get from the conversation that he just arrived today at the center, a stranger apparently dropped him off.  The circumstances around his arrival at the center are so heart-wrenching.  I’m fighting back to hold it together, soon enough I can’t hold it much longer. I pull the hood on my sweatshirt over my head, slowly retreat, and find a corner and let it all out.

I won’t repeat the boy’s circumstances.  Nor do I want to tell the world another sad story from Africa – actually let me be specific and call it Kenya since the continent is big.  Rather, it is stories like his that truly give us the opportunity to reflect and get grounded.  The problems people face come in all forms and it’s no use trying to decide who has the biggest one.  Our focus is and should be on doing something about it (directly or indirectly).  As Penn State students and citizens of the world, a trip like this affords us that opportunity to do something and I’m thankful to each and every person that has in one way or another contributed to our presence here.   Long after we leave, I hope that what we have done here offers that kid who arrived here today a platform for a new start full of hope and great promise.  So go out there and just do something, “pay it forward.”

And now what the essential design teams were up to today:

Drip Irrigation
All today was geared toward getting the first raised bed completed.  The tropical sun on you as you work the fields definitely gives a heavy workout – move over P90x, Tony you couldn’t handle this! We had a great collaboration with WishVast as we officially hired two people from the local community through the system. Tomorrow we hope to finalize the first bed, and move on to the second.  There will be nine in total.

The first raised bed, Kerri busy adding manure on top of banna leaves.

Anaerobic Digester
This team today spent the day digging.  Heavily soiled, gallons of sweat, and a few blisters later the team had a 5 ft deep hole, and 3.5 feet in diameter.  This is the most critical part of the system as it will be used to hold the digester tank, which by the way arrived today.  Tomorrow the plan is to return to the same local community as yesterday and conduct many more surveys as the final materials arive from Nairobi and Nyeri.  Wednesday building will commence.

All in a day's work

High Tunnel
Good day for the high tunnel.  Jeff spent the day as a hands-on project manager, primarily working with all the other essential design teams procuring wood from an old structure, and later spending the rest of the day treating the wood with used car oil.  Min split off to take his turn tracking down the supplies in town for all the essential design projects.  Ofcourse we didn’t let him wander off alone into Nyeri town, could you imagine all the autograph requests with people thinking he’s Jet Li?  He was accompanied by Andrew, who has been a ton of help to all the teams.  I’m amazed at how much he does, from logistical issues, to having a firm grasp on the technical details of all the projects….and BTW, he’s got one of those accents that make you want him to keep talking.  The high tunnel team will spend their Tuesday trying to set up the skeletal structure of the tunnel using manual drills.

Jeff and his project team, treated wood in the foreground


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