Presentation to Rotary Club of Nairobi East

Click this image to download my presentation and speaking notes in PDF format (2.4MB)

The Rotary Club of Nairobi East recently invited me to give a presentation to their club on my Peace Fellowship experience and work in the water sector.

By way of background, the Peace Fellowship is a generous scholarship program funded by the Rotary Foundation. Every year the Foundation chooses 60 mid-career professionals from around the globe to undertake postgrad study in a chosen field (whether economics, education, journalism, law, or in my case – public health) at selected universities in different countries. These studies must also focus on how we can make a constructive contribution to peace.

For my Fellowship, I chose to undertake a Master of Public Health at the University of North Carolina. In my presentations to Rotary Clubs I talk about this experience and share some of what I learned about increasing access to safe water for vulnerable populations such as people living with HIV, orphans and vulnerable children, pregnant mothers and people displaced by conflict or natural disasters. If time permits, I also give a demonstration of water purification methods.

My presentation focused on three key points (you can download the slides here). Firstly, although access to improved and safer sources of water is increasing worldwide, it is not reaching those who need it most, such as those who live in rural areas or who are living on extremely low incomes; secondly, home-based treatment and safe storage of drinking water are proven public health interventions (and a component of many Rotary water projects) which address this problem but there is a still huge unmet need; and finally, clean water is not just important for health but can also contribute to the broader social and economic progress of communities (and ultimately increased peace) which is why water is one of Rotary’s six core areas of focus.

What carpe diem means to me

The beach always inspires me and gets my mind whirring. Today I was thinking about how our time on Earth is filled with moments that can be sad or happy, painful or pleasureful. We tend to welcome the good and shun the bad but without one we cannot have the other. We need failure to appreciate success, right? It has taken me years to appreciate this but the realisation has changed my life for the better and helped me become more resilient, able to bounce back from disappointment, face fear and live my dreams. I’m learning to live as if each day was my last – appreciating the miracles around me – but more importantly planning for the future with purpose and passion. Truly living with heart and soul – this is what ‘carpe diem’ has come to mean for me. What does it mean for you?

Diani Beach, Coast Province, Kenya

Raising awareness for Parkinson’s disease

Michael J Fox is one of my childhood heroes. I loved watching Family Ties and specifically Michael J Fox for his wisecracks and business savvy. So much that for years I wanted to be like him and even signed my name with the middle initial “A” for Alexander. Haha… makes me smile thinking of it.

Then he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease over 10 years ago, effectively ending his acting career as he focused on dealing with the illness. But he still used his celebrity status to raise awareness for the cause through political advocacy and fundraising. More recently he has turned back to acting as described in the article below. That’s it for me right there – combing passion with purpose. You’re still a hero for me man!

Check out the non-profit foundation he set up to support research efforts into a cure for Parkinson’s disease – the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, also on Facebook.

Michael J. Fox participates in 9/11 event to raise money for charitiesMichael J. Fox is marking the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by helping others. The actor is spending Tuesday participating in the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund’s Charity Day, along with a host of other celebrities. Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial firm that lost 658 employees in the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, has marked the anniversary of that day by raising funds for charities. This year, more than 100 organizations are expected to benefit.

Bits of home

Today I received a nice little care package from Canada which neatly brought together worlds both old and new: authentic Québécois maple syrup as a gift for a friend, accumulated mail from previous addresses in Montreal and North Carolina, and a suit shirt and shoes for business meetings and presentations where previously I was wearing hiking boots, casual cotton slacks, and a white golf shirt. These little bits of my past “homes” and experiences are fun and the best part is that I can enjoy and appreciate them in a whole new way. Un gros MERCI to my friends and family for organising this.

Care package from family and friends

Fighting against cancer

An old friend, Peter Sheremeta, being interviewed by CTV news in Montreal on his work with the Terry Fox Foundation, which provides support and leadership every year to hundreds of Terry Fox Runs across Canada and around the world. Ever since I met Peter in 2004 he has inspired me with his tireless dedication and passion for the cause of fighting cancer and raising funds for cancer research.

Find a Terry Fox Run in your city or country using the Foundation’s Find a Run Site tool

CTV News: Peter Sheremeta and Eddy Nolan on Terry Fox’s legacy

CTV’s Paul Karwatsky speaks with the Quebec director of the Terry Fox Foundation, Peter Sheremeta, and cancer survivor Eddy Nolan.

Happy reunion in Kibera

First day back in Kibera after more than a year. It was a very happy reunion with the kids at Shine Academy. Seeing the difference a year of education, love, food and clean water makes in the life of impoverished, abused and malnourished children is the fuel that feeds my passion. What an awesome and emotional experience! Thank you to my heroes Javi and Catherine for doing all that you do (see previous posting).


The children of Shine Academy in Kibera, Nairobi

Bananas in Africa

African bananas (at least those I’ve found in Kenya and Malawi) seem to be smaller than the ones I grew up eating in Montreal. When I was a child I would put bananas on toast with peanut butter, and I’d always have a quarter banana left over, driving me, well… bananas!! :p Here I can get the entire banana on two pieces of toast. Ah, the simple pleasures.

Banana and peanut butter on toast :)
Photo by Ryan Rowe

Two of my heroes

After one year, a happy reunion tonight in Nairobi with two very good friends of mine. Javier and Catherine are the founders and managers of the small pre-school in Kibera that you have all heard me babble on and on about. On a daily basis, they are literally changing the lives of 75 impoverished and vulnerable children for the better, by giving them a safe place to play and sleep, two meals a day, safe drinking water, a clean toilet, a place to wash their hands, and the devoted attention and unlimited energy that kids between the ages of 3 and 7 need in order to maximise their learning potential. Learn more about their school by visiting

With Javier (left) and Catherine (centre), the amazing couple who run Shine Academy, a pre-school serving impoverished and vulnerable children from the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya