Hello. Happy 50th Jamhuri Day! Today is the Golden Jubilee of Kenya’s 50 years of independence. There are banners and celebratory messages throughout the city. A man was selling Kenyan flags of every size, walking between the cars on the road.
I didn’t hear any cannon fire last night- and today dawned with pouring rain. However, midway through the class, the sun came out and we could hear singing for the next two hours.
Eleven participants came to the class, despite the fact that it is a national holiday. As a matter of fact, 6 of them were in their seats before 9:15 a.m.- which was a first in these 9 days of training!
The training topic was marketing, and everything went smoothly until… Near the very end of the session, we were assessing the various advantages and disadvantages that the participants’ organizations had in relation to their nearest competitors.
Mary, who is a devout Catholic, told us that the Holy Spirit had spoken to her and she needed to ask Paul, who works for Marie Stopes, what his organizations top services were. Apparently, #1 is providing safe abortions so that, according to Paul: (1) the women are safe and healthy and (2) they are able to have children later.
(I later learned that Marie Stopes Kenya is the country’s largest specialized sexual reproductive health and family planning organization).
Mary pointed out that abortion is illegal. Paul explained that the law would soon be changed and that women needed safe abortions.
I intervened to say that this was beyond our focus and we would be moving on to the next scheduled topic.
Mary insisted she had something to say (I assumed she meant about marketing). No, she stood up and started to advise Paul that any of the staff involved in the abortions would go to Purgatory.
At this, I talked her down and said that we needed to respect individual differences. Yikes!! Who would have imagined that discussing marketing would lead to such a controversial topic.
After that, Mary left the room for the next hour. But when she came back, just as the class was ending, she was calm and collected. Good grief!
Mary is the one who has tended to come at the very end of a session. Today, she was there two hours before the end. Kamau came 15 minutes before the end. So I briefed him after the session.
I really wanted to go for a walk because it turned glorious (at least for a few hours). But last night, Piotr (my contracting contact for this mission) advised me not to walk alone. When I double-checked with James, he confirmed that it would be a very bad idea. So I stayed in my hotel room.
Later, Piotr and I had a Skype conference for almost 2 hours, discussing next steps. We need case studies of real issues faced by Kenyan health practices. Since there are some wonderfully bright folks in the class who continually offer stories and examples, we are going to ask them to provide information for the case studies.
My job is now to go through all 22 modules to identify the topics and needs for case studies, create a matrix of the topics, the types of facilities, and who wants to provide the stories. I also have to create a template to guide them in providing all of the information necessary so that I will be able to create the case studies. But not tonight!
I also found out that I will be returning to Kenya to conduct a train the trainer program for whoever ultimately assumes responsibility for facilitating these business management modules for health practices.
One of the very dynamic women who conducts training for the AIDS network discussed how she is enjoying the program and knew from the moment she walked into the class and saw how the room was arranged (with kites on the walls and colorful kinesthetic objects on the tables, as well as the candy) she was intrigued. Then the content and learning activities drew her in and she couldn’t wait to come each day to see what we would do next.
The AIDS network conducts 50 training programs a year throughout the region (including South Africa, Kenya and Uganda)- and they have done this for 15 years. They may be exactly the organization we need to take over the program.
Tomorrow is the last day of training, which is somewhat bittersweet- although knowing that I will be back and will hopefully see many of these folks again is reassuring.
Each time I conduct a training program that lasts 3-5 days, or 8-10 days, whether in the states or in another country, the participants and I become a family. It is pretty wonderful. I learn and gain so much from each of them- and take a part of them with me when I leave.
True, the travel can be intense and uncomfortable- and sitting in a hotel room away from family and friends can be lonely and tiring. But all of this pales in relation to the amazing people I get to know and the beautiful and interesting places I get to visit.
Now, if only USAID had some projects in France, Italy or Greece…