As I (Kathi, your official blogger) write this we are safely back on American soil and again ensconced in the working routine. Much has changed with regards to the planning of our second trip, which will now NOT occur this July, as originally planned. It turns out there is too much further work to be done before we can plan a successful tissue collection event in Kenya. We don’t know the new date yet, but we do know it WILL happen.
For now…back to Kenya. Friday, January 18th, was Rose and Elsie’s day to shine. Rose and Elsie are Kenya Project Coordinators – they are our presence on the ground over here, and have been invaluable to us. Rose has a PhD in Public Health. She is Kenyan but lived in Indy and Bloomington for the past few years getting her doctorate. Rose has her own unique set of strengths, and Elsie has another. Rose has been going out into the communities for the past year or so, working for us and also working on her own research project, holding focus groups and testing the water to see whether, if we held a collection here, anyone would come. Ok, here comes an educational moment. Eldoret is the fifth largest city in Kenya, with a population of about 200,000 according to the census 10 years ago – it’s the fastest growing city in Kenya, so that’s probably higher now. Here’s what you need to know though – it swells to about a million people during the day when everyone comes into town to work. After work they all go home to their farms and communities. So relatively speaking, not many people actually live in Eldoret town, they live in their tribes and communities, and they follow the mores and customs of those particular communities, all of which can be quite different from each other. What Rose needed us to understand is that there really is no such thing as “city people”, at least there aren’t a whole lot of them. The nurses, hotel workers, mall employees, even many of the doctors, go back to their farms and communities at day’s end. So Rose went out to them, surveyed them, gave them some basic info about the KTB and what we do, found out if they knew anything about breast cancer, asked if they would be interested in learning more, and signed them up to come in to Eldoret and attend a day-long educational seminar. They came, and it was an awesome day, with 150 women attending the community gathering we held today. The women arrived in groups from their different communities and greeted us like family. The room was packed with women ready to learn, and they soaked up all the information they were given like sponges.
The primary focus of the meeting was breast health and breast cancer information. We originally intended to do a test tissue collection of five people, but the formal proposal (protocol) and approval had not yet been submitted by the time we traveled. This meant that instead of recruiting women to donate to the Tissue Bank, we focused on general breast cancer education. It turned out to be a blessing. These women were so ignorant of sometimes basic breast cancer facts, and so appreciative of receiving the knowledge, that in the end we believe that now, a successful collection here will be much more possible than if we had tried to go a different route. The meeting lasted all day and the attendees received breakfast, lunch, tea, and compensation for transportation. They also each got a formal certificate of participation signed by Dr. Storniolo which – though none of us is quite sure why – thrilled all the ladies hugely.
On Saturday, January 19th, we got up and out for some personal time and souvenir shopping, then went back to IU House to finish packing. We left for the airport at 3:15. Dr. Storniolo and I (Kathi) traveled together, and spent 30 hours in the air getting back home. During the long flight I was thinking about all the things I had forgotten to tell all of you, so to finish up this Kenya blog I will leave you with a few stray pieces of information:
As we toured the hospital and visited different departments, we were often asked to sign guest books which were kept in the offices. This is apparently part of the culture and is a common occurrence. Could this be a quirky and fun addition to our work culture?
All business meetings in Kenya start with formal introductions and a formal welcome. Each person – both hosts and visitors – must introduce him- or herself and describe the work role before moving forward.
Did you know that they drive on the left side of the road here? Also, there are a plethora of speed bumps on the roads. They come in the middle of the block or at either end, with no apparent rhyme or reason to them. There are no warning signs that they’re coming, you just have to know. The in-town traffic is chaotic, and there are no stop signs or stoplights at all. They put a light up a few years ago and there were instantly several accidents. They did not have any education in place to explain what stoplights were or how they worked. After 15 minutes they turned the stoplight off and it has never been used again.