Friday, June 29, 2007

Our Orphanage Experiences by Addie Price

Hey everyone. I’m going to talk about the orphanage that Caitlin, Angela and I visit weekly. It’s a girl’s home, sponsored by the Lion’s Club, for 24 girls between the ages of 5 and 15. Some of the girls seem to have living relatives, but usually the relatives are too old or destitute to take care of the children. The orphans all live and help cook in this home, and their school is right down the road. For the first three weeks, we visited the children on Saturdays, but this week we helped out at the primary and nursery school, made up of both girls from the home and children from the local villages.
The first weekend we visited, the girls were extremely shy, quietly mumbling their names when we asked but mostly avoiding all eye contact and conversation. But in the weeks since our first visit, there has been incredible change. The girls are much more outgoing, choosing to join us in games that we bring up as well as introducing us to some of their own games. We played “Who Stole my Letter?” the Kenyan version of “Duck-Duck-Goose” and we taught them “Patty Cake” and “Ring Around the Rosy.” One week we brought crayons and paper, something that they rarely get to use, and their discomfort and awkwardness at using the bulky crayons was noticeable (many of them opted to use plain graphite pencils instead).
There was one girl in particular that has captured our hearts. We have been careful not to make favorites, but Jessica is the youngest orphan at the home. She is the shyest and when the others began opening up to us, she pretended to want nothing to do with us. She often stood on the outside of where we were playing, doing her own thing and occasionally peaking over at us. I was finally able to get her to respond to a question I asked (she told me the Swahili word for dog was Mbwa). We hope through our continued involvement and play she will open up even further.
This week we visited the school where the youngest children attend. There were 4 rooms, each with about 30 kids aged 3-6. I even had a 2 year old in my classroom but she was the youngest they’ve ever had. When we were there we helped the children copy their letters and numbers. Each of them had a single notebook and half of a slightly sharpened pencil. They were very attentive and focused for such young children. After English lessons, we went outside and played games with all 4 classes together. It took them a while to catch on to the “Hokey-Pokey” and “Simon says…”, mainly because most of them only speak Swahili, but by the end they were shaking all about and having a great time. We plan to go back again next Thursday. Hopefully through continuous and prolonged interaction with the children, they will feel more and more comfortable being with us and opening up to us. After working most of our time with college students and faculty at Egerton University, it’s been a great change of pace to spend weekend mornings playing and laughing with such happy and fun-loving kids.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Giraffe Sanctuary in Nairobi

Caitlin, Addie, and Angela feeding a Giraffe.

Incredible Women by Angela

Listening to the hail drum rhythmically on the roof, I think to myself “I cannot believe that this is Njoro, Kenya…and that it is hailing!” Nothing can properly articulate the wonderful surprises Kenya has offered us so far in our stay here. The Kenyan people are infamous for the warm, embracing manner they welcome new friends. Professor Rose Odhiambo, the admirable woman who graciously welcomed us into her home, has become a second mother to us and made Njoro a home away from home for us. Rose is the director of the Institute for Women, Gender Development and Studies at Egerton University. Rose earned a full scholarship to Kenyatta University where she earned her doctorate on malaria research. She is now married to a respected pastor in Nairobi, and has four sons named Franklin, Dennis, Sam, and Tunu. As director of the Gender Institute and a lecturer at Egerton, Rose is truly an exceptional leader and role model for female students everywhere who face adversity on the basis of their gender. Living with Rose has been amazing! Not only are Addie and I incredibly lucky to work with Rose on the gender policy at Egerton, we also have the pleasure of being a part of her family. We have learned how to make several traditional Kenyan dishes like ugali (which is a thicker version of polenta), a savory cabbage dish, and mandazies which are fried pieces of sweet dough.

We have also been going to a lot of student group meetings and events. Our friend, Mary, a student mother on campus, is in charge of PRISM which stands for Professional Role Integrated Student Mothers. This organization was for future and current mothers who meet weekly to raise money to help struggling student mothers. Because student mothers are not given university housing (unlike student fathers) and often discontinue their studies to care for the baby, they must find alternative housing that is often in an unsafe area without basic necessities like clean water or electricity. Paying for utilities which was included in university housing is a huge financial burden for student mothers who are often abandoned by the father of the child. The students raise money for their basic needs and for medical fees. A financially desperate student mother had gone to the local Nakuru hospital where sanitation conditions and negligent hospital care amounts to torture. The poor mother was given an unnecessary C-section in which the doctors pierced her too far and cut the baby. Because of poor medical care, the child swallowed the amniotic fluid and drowned prior to birth. The mother was not stitched up properly and was sent back to Egerton’s sanitarium with her “entrails nearly hanging out.” It is debatable for locals who cannot afford a better hospital as to which risk is higher—suffering from disease or injury, or infection and death from outrageously negligent medical care. The student mothers in PRISM are amazing. Having faced such adversity and stigma, many of these women also make up the minority of female students who graduate with a BA in Science. Truly, all the Kenyan women I have met illustrate the strength of the human spirit in triumphing over any obstacle presented by society.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Jambo from Kenya! It’s been over a week now that we have been at Egerton University and we can’t wait to share our stories and experiences with you! To begin with we’d like to introduce ourselves.

My name is Addie Price and I am from Westchester, New York. I will be a junior next year at Duke, and I’m majoring in psychology while taking pre-med classes. I am extremely excited to be in Kenya this summer because I feel that it is becoming increasingly important to get to know and appreciate different people, societies, cultures and ways of life. Also, coming from the U.S. and with the resources and opportunities that are available, I want to do what I can to give back to other who are less fortunate. This summer I am working on a Gender and Sexual Harassment Policy for the University with Angela Vo. Also, I hope to shadow a doctor at the Provincial Medical Hospital in nearby Nakuru. Finally, I am excited to work with others in my group to get to know the student body, sit in on student meetings (some of which we have already joined in on such as the Student Mothers group and the weekly Coffee Hour discussions) and work with children in both an orphanage and the local primary schools. Can’t wait to share my summer with you!!

Hello! I’m Caitlin Milligan, a rising junior from Lexington, Kentucky. At Duke, I am pursuing the Global Health Certificate in addition to majoring in Biology. On campus I am the incoming director of Know Your Status – the student-run organization which provides free HIV testing and counseling to students. This summer I will be applying the skills I have learned at Duke and will be working as an HIV tester/counselor at a VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing) center. I hope to help address the stigma associated with HIV on campus and encourage students to get tested and know their status. Additionally, I hope to work with HIV-positive students to help them realize that they can lead normal and productive lives as members of the University community. I can’t wait to share all of my experiences with you!

Hey guys! My name is Angela Vo and I am a rising sophomore from Cary, North Carolina. I am primarily interested in remedying global health disparities through addressing flawed societal constructs that perpetuate human rights violations. I am currently undecided as to what I will major in but I hope that working at the Egerton Institute of Women, Gender Development and Studies will help me decide between English or Public Policy. I really love meeting new people and exploring the different intricacies of a new culture. We have already talked to a multitude of absolutely amazing people whose lives have truly inspired us. From talking to groups of empowered student mothers, the Alliance for Youth and AIDS, and to the girls at a local Njoro orphanage, I cannot believe that I am in Kenya in such great company. Just as the weather has been full of surprises (hail, of all things!), I look forward to each day’s challenges and surprises! As Addie, Caitlin, and Sherryl will tell you, I am a chatterbox! I can’t wait to tell you all about my experiences here and I hope that the people I’ve met so far will gain as much as I do from my time here.

For now it’s just us ladies in Njoro but in early July our friend Prashant Swaminathan will be joining us (for which we are really excited).

Friday, June 8, 2007

DukeEngage Kenya - Egerton University (May 31 - Aug 20, 2007)

Living with Kenyan faculty members, students will be working at Egerton University on projects important to the university's priorities. They will help wiht HIV awareness and testing campaigns and develop a support program for HIV-positive students. They will also help Egerton, a public university near Nakuru, draft a new gender and sexual harassment policy.

Caitlin Milligan (Trinity '09)
Angela Vo (Trinity '10)
Addie Price (Trinity '09)
Prashant Swami Nathan (Pratt '10)