Siaya County, Kenya: December 19, 2018

Breakfast was set for 8:00, and George, Benji and I enjoyed a quiet breakfast together.  Afterward, we headed toward the hospital for a site visit and brief check-ins with hospital staff.  All was moving along quite efficiently at the incinerator site, so we invited Andrew and Cynthia to join us as we toured several other incinerators throughout the area.  We thought it would be important for them to get an idea of other operating incinerators, and as EWB representatives, these check-ins were on our list of requirements to meet while we are here.   

Our first stop was at the hospital in Ugunga.  We were greeted by two gentlemen who were happy to show us their new incinerator under construction.  It was wood-fired and an impressive scale for the size facility it is serving.

Next, we moved on to the incinerator and well projects in Uluthe, the original incinerator first installed by Asheville Engineers without Borders back in 2016.  All looked good with both projects. We got the brief tour of the clinic and I was blown away by the level of poverty and simplicity. It was basically a house-sized building with four rooms and a waiting area, filled on this day because it was “clinic day”.  Patients consisted mostly of mothers with infants – lots of them. Two kind clinic nurses took the time to show us around and then bid us goodbye so they could get back to the waiting masses.

From the Uluthe clinic, we headed to George’s house to meet his wife and see his farm.  His wife had quite the spread ready for us – corn and peanuts from their farm, African tea, and assorted bottled beverages.  For the first time, sitting around the living room, Benji and I were asked questions by Andrew, George, Cynthia, and George’s wife about our lives back in the US.  I have noticed that these people seem to avoid much personal banter, but something about sharing food and tea seemed to make them feel more trusting of us and less timid to initiate conversation.  Benji and I happily obliged and shared tales of Asheville which got lots of laughs.

Too quickly, it was time to move on to meet the Location Chief Wilifred Otino for a brief visit.  Location chiefs are appointed government officials who administrate and advocate for the people of a county.  We sat briefly with him in his office and made introductions, discussed our project, and heard more about other area incinerator projects.  This meeting at his office did not last long, as we were all heading to lunch at the same place – our friend Carol’s in Sigomere.

We arrived at Carol’s compound and were greeted by Carol, Sara, Rose, and Joaquin.  They had prepared a delicious lunch of pumpkin soup, bread, and fruit. We gathered around the table and shared this meal together, while learning each story of our hosts, as well as more about Sasa Harambee.  This meal was special and we concluded with a great picture of all of us around the table together.

From Carol’s, Sara and Joaquin led us to the hay storage location for the business they are getting off the ground of selling hay to area farmers.  They are seeking money for a larger storage facility so they can grow the business and provide income for themselves and local hay farmers.

From there, we went to Sara’s farm for a tour of her corn and other crops. She has started a cooperative of training area farmers who need help getting their corn crops to grow.  She has a passion for farming and it shows through the sparkle in her eye as she talks about helping those in her community do well for themselves. Sara and Joaquin might be the two sweetest, impressive individuals I’ve met in quite some time. I truly hope they are able to grow and sustain their respective businesses and continue to do good for others.  If I had an extra $1600 laying around, I would write Joaquin a check today for the seeds he needs for his hay business. However, as Benji says, it’s better to teach a man to fish than to give him one, so the goal should be to help them figure out how to build their business on their own so that it’s sustainable long-term.

After one more site visit for the day (amazing progress!!!!), we bid everyone adieu and headed back to the compound to relax.  George is headed home early and we are awaiting a ride arranged by Andrew to get us to dinner, just the two of us. I am looking forward to some down-time alone.  While wonderful and rewarding, our packed schedule has been draining and I long for an evening with no one other than Benji. I’m sure George feels the same about time at his home with his wife.

Kathryn Blount
Asheville Engineers Without Borders Chapter Secretary