Last Week in Kenya

Last weekend, we went to Zanzibar, and where we snorkeled, played beach volleyball, learned some Kiswahili, among other things. It was relaxing and a nice break from our work. We also visited the historic Stone Town and drove around the city soaking in all the beauty.


Sunset in Zanzibar

For this week in Kenya, we are focusing on the project report and other final deliverables due for GAP and the client. We went to the client location to gather some final data that would be helpful for our project. Most of the other days, we are either working from the guest house or the ‘Java House’ (café shop near our accommodation).

We met Doctor Dennis, who works with the Client, and received his assistance filtering through some of the data resources to arrive at relevant and useful information. He was busy last week conducting vaccination drives with the government. Similarly, we also interviewed David and Sammy, who have worked closely on the product to understand their perspective on how things should move forward. I feel it is always important to take suggestions and inputs from the actual stakeholders as they are the ones who will work on the project long term. If they don’t feel committed to the ideas and recommendations, and if they don’t feel a part of the solution process, there is a higher probability of these recommendations not being implemented.

We designed the PackH2O manufacturing process based on the cycle times that we calculated. We produced a concept layout for the complete manufacturing process of the product that utilizes all resources the most efficiently. Simultaneously, we have carried forward inputs from last year’s GAP team and built a cost model structure for the manufacturing process. We have also developed a model to analyze the cost savings to the government through the distribution and use of our product.

Through our conversations, we learned that many similar programs use music concerts and skits to create awareness about diseases and their prevention. This was interesting as I have seen similar drives in India, too. We also learned more about the client’s social media presence and how they were effectively using the different channels for different goals. Unlike some of the other GAP projects, we do not have to give a final, deck-style presentation to our client. Our reports will be our final deliverable.

I am flying to Dubai after this project for a couple of days before heading back to the US. My internship starts a week after. I am sure I will be using some of the things I learned in Kenya in my career. There is so much more to see in Kenya and Africa; I am sure I will be returning back soon. So until next time… Kwaheri!

Adriana Week two Blog!

Project Blog
Week two:
After returning from our Marsabit service trip, we started our work at the Partners For Care House located in Nairobi. At the end of the week, we had three main accomplishments: sewing the first packs, a model to determine government health expenses and an analysis of the current health system. And, we set the goals for our third and final week of our GAP project.
During our second in-country week, the GAP team and Christine, a seamstress brought by PFC, were able to successfully sew the first five water packs ever manufactured in Kenya. The actual first pack is shown in Figure 1, along with Christine in the process of sewing the first pack.


Figure 1. First Water pack sewn in Kenya
The process started by analyzing the characteristics of the pack components along with the instructions received from the Greif manufacturing facility in Turkey in order to understand the process of assembling the pack. After the process was preliminarily designed, we had to overcome some challenges with finding the correct thread size at local stores in Nairobi and locally sourcing some parts that were missing from the kits shipped from Turkey. After overcoming these obstacles, with the assistance of Christine, the first pack was sewn on day two of working in Nairobi and confirmed the feasibility of our manufacturing process design.
After the second pack, we started timing the process in order to gather the data needed to understand and design an efficient procedure for setting up the micro-manufacturing facility in Kenya. This design will include multiple phases of implementation, determine total time required for each pack, break down the steps and design an assembly-line type of process to use in the manufacturing facility.
From the Turkish plant instructions Greif sent us and our own experience sewing the packs, we developed a simplified version of instructions we call “10 Step Manufacturing Instructions”. The instructions include easy-to-read diagrams with part numbers that will allow for simplified manufacturing training for PFC. A screenshot of one of the manufacturing instructions is shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2. Screenshot of steps 6 and 7 of manufacturing instructions
Second, we started developing a model to determine the Kenyan government’s expenditures on waterborne illnesses, gathering the information from the government health database diliminating by county and interviewing Dr. Dennis at PFC. We are also working to gather information from the website to collect disease-specifc treatment costs of the waterborne illnesses in Kenya. The government expenditure information will help us define the market potential for Pack H20. This key information will be used to sell the pack directly to government agencies, describing how the correct use of the water packs has the potential to reduce prevalence of waterborne illness among Kenyans and as a result reduce government expenditures to treat waterborne diseases.
Finally, using the “Kenya Health Policy 2012-2030” report, we summarized the changes to the Kenyan health system following the devolution of the national government, which gave more power to the county governments. The information gathered depicts the distribution of power within the four tiers of the healthcare system and highlights opportunities for Pack H2O in the future.
For our final week of the project, we plan to finalize the model for government health expenditures, summarize what has PFC done to sell the pack to this point, design a micro-manufacturing facility and finalize our deliverable to the client.

Our Last Week: Zanzibar, Maasai Market and Baby Elephants

Wow, how is it our last week in Kenya? I feel as though it was just yesterday that we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport ready to start our Kenyan adventure. Now, it’s almost time to leave! The week started out great with a weekend of relaxation enjoying the pristine beaches of Zanzibar Island in Tanzania. In Zanzibar, we sailed across the Indian Ocean, saw coral reefs and tropical fish while snorkeling, enjoyed a lunchtime barbecue on Kwale Island in the Indian Ocean, climbed a giant baobab tree and enjoyed fresh local fruit on the white sandy beach. After the relaxing weekend, we headed back to Nairobi Sunday evening refreshed and energized for our final week in Kenya.

O-H-I-O in Zanzibar
Sailing on the Indian Ocean
Sunset in Zanzibar

Residing close to the U.N. African Headquarters has created a unique cultural experience for the team. All of the restaurants nearby are reminiscent of places we would eat back home with Italian, Thai and Indian just a few of the many restaurant options readily available; there’s even a Domino’s and Coldstone Ice Cream right down the street (I think they’re starting to know us by name at Coldstone.) While the restaurants may have similar menus to places back home, there are definitely some differences. Whereas many U.S. restaurants are all about speed- getting people in and out of the restaurant as quickly as possible- service in Nairobi tends to be slower, which highlights the overall experience of eating out and allows you to enjoy the process and unwind after the day. Initially, this leisurely approach took some getting used to, but now that we’ve become accustomed to the longer dinner experience, it’s something I am going to miss about Kenya after I return to the US.

This week, we also had the opportunity to go to the Maasai Market to buy some souvenirs made by local Kenyan artisans. Upon arriving, we were instantly perceived as tourists, so each member of the group had one or two “personal shoppers” who took us from stand to stand picking out items and suggesting additional items to buy. It took some serious practice getting used to haggling on the cost of every item we bought. Initially, prices were sometimes a 600% markup over the final negotiated price! But eventually, we each developed some techniques to bring the price down, including grouping purchases together, walking away before making a final offer and negotiating as a team. It was impressive to see the variety of goods offered at the Maasai Market, as well as the craftsmanship that went into each piece. There were so many options of things to buy from handmade beaded jewelry to carved ebony animal statues, beautifully woven Maasai blankets to delicately carved soapstone chess sets. The sheer splendor of everything made it very overwhelming to pick just one or two things.

Thursday, we went to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which is an orphanage for baby elephants whose parents were oftentimes the victims of poachers. These baby elephants have endured traumatic experiences at the hands of poachers and remember everything that happened to them- it’s true that elephants don’t forget. Once the elephants are brought to the orphanage, they receive their own individual caretaker who takes charge of being their “adoptive mother”. This caregiver takes care of them around the clock, making sure that they are well fed, warm or cool enough, and giving them lots of love. It’s truly an amazing place, and we feel lucky to have had the opportunity to experience it. The center is open to the public from 11-12pm, when they let the baby elephants out to play and feed. It was probably one of the top highlights of the trip for me. Seeing the baby elephants right next to us and getting to pet them as they walked by was amazing.  Each of the elephants had their own distinctive personalities that were quickly distinguishable as they played outside.

Baby Elephants Drink 24L of Milk a Day


IMG_6563-min[1]As we pack our bags and prepare for the 18+ hours of travelling to get back to the States, we’ve each been reflecting on the past three weeks in Kenya. It has been an incredible and humbling experience. The people of Kenya have been so warm and friendly throughout our travels, especially the Partners for Care staff whom we’ve worked with so closely the past three weeks. Thank you Greif, Partners for Care, Impact Economics and Fisher College of Business for this opportunity; we’ve learned and experienced more than we could ever put into words and can’t wait to use it wherever life takes us.

Overlooking Downtown Nairobi

From Masai Mara to Uber

It’s fortunate (and perhaps a bit selfish) that I elected to write the cultural blog post this week. I’ll report on our African safari experience – certainly the highlight of my trip so far, and I think my group members would agree.

I admit that when I learned I was traveling to Africa for GAP, some of my first thoughts ran to animals and safari.  After all, it’s not every day that you’re in the heart of Africa, just hours away from some of the most beautiful creatures, in some of the most pristine environments, on the planet.  We agreed early that we would go on a safari, so we booked a three-day excursion to the Masai Mara in southeastern Kenya on the border of Tanzania.  Masai Mara is one of the most popular game reserves in the country, for reasons that quickly became evident — it did not disappoint.  

Simply getting to the park was an adventure in itself.  The paved road ended part-way there, so the last two-three hours of the ride were over rocky, bumpy dirt roads.  It truly felt as though we were well off the beaten path entering the wilderness.  After arriving at our camp, we immediately set out on a two hour evening tour of the park, and right away were greeted by gazelle, water buffalo, zebra, giraffes, and elephants.  It was simply amazing that, minutes after entering the game reserve, we were able to see so many animals.  However, the best part of the night was watching a pride of lions hunt and take down a water buffalo.  The action was straight out of the National Geographic channel!  Lions jumping on a buffalo, buffaloes ramming lions off the other’s back, the methodical way the lions separated the marked buffalo from the group…simply incredible.  We reflected on how lucky we were to witness this hunt, as we could probably go back ten times and not have the same opportunity.

On Saturday, we spent all day out in the rolling, tree-dotted savannahs of the Masai Mara, even crossing the Tanzanian border into the Serengeti for a time.  We saw everything – including most of the Big 5 (elephant, lion, leopard, water buffalo, and rhino).  Much of this is thanks to our driver Isaac, who was perhaps the best, most experienced guide in the park.  It was amazing how quickly he found the animals, and we were often the first vehicle to spot a rare animal.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so rather than writing further descriptions, I’ll let some of our photos do the talking:

Elephants in the Masai Mara savannah
Elephants in the Masai Mara savannah


Our driver Isaac spotted this cheetah before anyone else, so we got a great view
Our driver Isaac spotted this cheetah before anyone else, so we got a great view


We saw many more lions, but this one got the closest...almost uncomfortably so, as it eyed the open top of our vehicle!
We saw many more lions, but this one got the closest…almost uncomfortably so, as it eyed the open top of our vehicle!

I hope these photos give some sense of the experience – but mere pictures do not do it justice.  A true African safari is the experience of a lifetime, and I would suggest adding it to your bucket list.  I hope to return one day and spend even more time exploring the wild landscapes of the African bush.

Shifting gears a bit, I want to take a few moments to contrast the remoteness of the Masai Mara with modern life in Nairobi.  Most of our days have been spent at the PFC house working on our project, but in the evening we have been venturing out to some great local restaurants, sampling the local fare.  We have relied on Uber to get around, and are very thankful we can count on Uber here for both safety and convenience.  The price is right as well, since most of our rides have been about 300 shillings, or 3USD. 

Tonight we leave for Zanzibar for a weekend excursion. We have booked a comfortable place and have scheduled a day out on the water.  We’re looking forward to relaxing in a beautiful tropical environment.  Stay tuned- next week I’m sure we’ll have many more stories and pictures to share! 

A visit to Marsabit


This is my first blog post from Kenya. Our team landed in Nairobi in waves last Saturday and were greeted by overcast and cloudy weather. The driver who picked me up told me that the monsoon was late this year. Our accommodation is in a highly secure part of Nairobi, very close to most of the foreign embassies.

We had a meeting with our client on Sunday, where we were introduced to the Kenyan Team that has been working on this project. We went through a macro level planning of our next four days in Marsabit County, which is a twelve hour drive from Nairobi.

Early Monday morning we met with about twenty student leaders and staff from Mount Kenya University who were accompanying us to Marsabit. Mount Kenya University has been helping our client with field research and support. It was great to meet and interact with some peers!

marsabit team

Most of Monday went in travelling to Marsabit. It was interesting to learn from others that over the last few years, thanks to devolution, there has been much investment made locally for building roads and infrastructure. At Marsabit, we spent the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday gathering relevant data for our project and understanding the market for water packs in these regions.

We spent the first day visiting local schools that are getting free water packs. We got to talk to many locals and understand their issues. It was an interesting day and a great way to learn more about rural Kenya.

The second day, we got a chance to go to Parkishon village, which was an hour further into the interior of the main county district. We experienced first-hand how women in these villages carry water from a usually muddy source back to their villages using jerry cans.

marsabit water pack

All five members of our team tried carrying the jerry cans and then the water packs, which  helped us better understand the product. We surveyed the villagers at Parkishon to understand the pricing and usage of jerry cans among other things. I was able to gel well and have constructive discussions with local Kenyans on various issues. I could attribute it to having lived in a developing country myself and knowing the issues faced in such places.

We also visited the Marsabit county hospital and spoke to the chief doctor there to learn about the health problems that were specific for this region. We were given access to some great data resources that should help us immensely in our project going forward. I think that our initial visit to Marsabit helped us really sink into this project and country. We now know the product and the market better.

One of the most interesting parts of my Marsabit trip was that even in these remote villages, many kids could read English and were going to school every day. We also saw that the village was being connected to the rest of Kenya by a new highway. I am positive that this country has great potential in the future and am eagerly waiting for the next two weeks to see what more surprises Kenya has to offer!

First Week in Kenya! #TeamGreif

Week One in Kenya is on the books and has it ever been a whirlwind! It feels as though we have been all over this country in just this first week- from twelve hours north of Nairobi to six hours west to a brief border cross into Tanzania. We have seen the relatively modern urban setting of Kenya’s central capital city Nairobi, the primitive remote tribal living in the outskirts of Marsabit in the far north, and the unbridled wilderness of Masai Mara in the west.

We started the week on Monday traveling twelve hours by bus with Partners For Care and nineteen students from Mount Kenya University into the north of Kenya to a small town called Marsabit. Marsabit lies beyond the paved roads of Kenya’s developed cities. Our mission in Marsabit was to help Partners For Care (one of our clients for our GAP project) treat people in Marsabit, especially children, for a parasite called jiggers that is common in the red soil of the north. Jiggers emerge at night, when they come up through the soil and infect children’s feet causing a host of problems, most commonly malnutrition and severe aggravation of the infected area leading to sleep problems and difficulty paying attention in school. On Tuesday, we set out with the Mount Kenya University students to visit three local Marsabit schools and treat jiggers. The kids were amazing. Living in relatively austere conditions and infected with a nasty parasite, they were still full of joy and life. Most were excited to see us and were eager to talk with us, even though they spoke very little English. Still, we exchanged names and communicated the best we could. The Mount Kenya students were able to translate for us most of the time, but, even with that help, at one of the schools the local dialect of Swahili was different enough that even the Mount Kenya students had trouble communicating well. By the end of the day we had treated 79 school children of varying ages who would go home that night rid of a terrible (and more importantly preventable) parasite and sleep comfortably.

Wednesday we traveled another hour away into an even more remote area called Parkishon to visit a tribal village and see and experience first hand the water situation there. The people of Parkishon live extremely simply, sleeping in structures called manyatas made of gathered tree limbs and thatched roofs not tall enough to stand in. While there, we experienced what it was like for the women of the village to fetch water. We hiked about a half mile from the village to the nearest water source. There, we filled a 20 liter jerry can and took turns carrying it back to the village. It was an exhausting and uncomfortable the trip that, incredibly, the local women and girls have to make several times a day. Hopefully, we can make this difficult job easier with the PackH20 water backpack- that is our project’s goal after all!

All in all, this week has been a quite amazing and very eye opening. We have seen and experienced incredible things in just the first few days. I look forward to the next two weeks and the culturally expanding experiences yet to come!imageTeamGreifimage