Tag Archives: kenya

Little Grace recovers from brain surgery in Kenya

Hi everyone,

A quick update on the little girl Grace in Nairobi who had a brain tumour and severe stomach pain and who had no funds to pay for medical care. (Through Facebook, we raised thousands of dollars to sponsor her care.)

As you know they removed the tumour and she responded very positively. The latest news is that her doctors are pleased with her recovery progress and she is finally well enough to go home. Grace no longer has any pain or swelling in her head or stomach. They are going to continue monitoring her condition.

Grace and her mother would like to thank everyone who donated money, sent her messages and prayed for her during her illness.

If you have any questions, please let me know. You can continue to follow Grace’s process and the activities at the school where she goes by subscribing to updates from Impoverished Children on Facebook.

Grace 001 - FB Tag
Grace is recovering well following the removal of a brain tumour. © Catherine Whiting / Impoverished Children

A story by a 5-year-old

SAM_0970-resizeFor the last week, I’ve been visiting with “my” kids at the school in Kibera, Kenya. I call them mine because over the last two years I have grown to love them so much. Here is a snap of one of the girls at the school. She is just 5 years old and is already reading and writing at a level that is about 6 to 12 months ahead of the average child in a school in Canada or the USA (that’s the whole idea, actually). Below is a story she wrote for me/about me and a picture she drew of me in the first lesson I ever gave as a “teacher”. How cool is that? This child (and 101 others like her) were selected out of hundreds of applicants as being most in need of help. At this school, these vulnerable children are given the opportunity to grow, and thrive and ultimately reach their full potential as health, happy human beings. This is happiness!

“Teacher Rayn is come agen.
I am veri hppe (happy).
Teacher Rayn is veri big.
Teacher Rayn is have gril (girlfriend).
Teacher Rayn is in school.
Teacher Rayn come with Catherine.
Teacher Rayn is have bug (backpack).
Teacher Rayn is lik waking (walking).”

By a 5-year-old girl supported by Shine Academy, run by Catherine Whiting and Javier Martinez

Day safari at Nairobi National Park, Kenya

Giraffe crossing the safari trail in front of our van

We just got back from a day safari (a morning and an afternoon game drive) to Nairobi National Park and are absolutely thrilled about our experience. It blew all our expectations out of the water. We went hoping to see a lion and came away having seen almost an entire pride (8 cubs and 3 adult females but no males) at a single site – park officials later told us that pride has a total of 11 cubs. We also saw a wide array of other wildlife: serval cat, giraffes, rhinos (black & white), ostrich, impala, guinea fowl and other birds, turtle, a dead black mamba, hippopotamus, cape buffalo, water buffalo, warthog, and hart beast. We were particularly pleased about the rhinos and the serval cat. We even saw a dung beetle at work – pretty cool!

Total cost for the day for both of us was US$200, which got us park entry, our own 4×4 safari van with an open top roof (basically a converted matatu-style van) and a driver/guide and two game drives. We capped off our day with a visit to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage – a zoo located right after the park entrance (note: there is a separate fee for this attraction). If you have kids, a visit to the orphanage before or after your safari would give them a chance to get up close to the animals they are seeing.

Park officials were professional and well-organised, and there are three restaurant facilities available, including a gift shop. The park land itself was very clean, good signage/directions throughout, and a well-maintained network of roads.

Quick tips:

– If you hire a taxi driver to take you on the safari, it will be cheaper but you will probably lose out on the conversations and valuable insight shared between guides about where all the animals are.

– In the wet season, the grasses are long and can obscure the view from a small car, such as a sedan. Roads can be wet and there were a few paths where a 4×4 was necessary. So we suggest you hire a 4×4 with an open roof top. This will allow you to stick your head out and scan the landscape for animals instead of craning your neck out a window. Remember that half the fun of a safari is just looking for the animals!

-We are told the best times to see lions are in the early morning and the late afternoon when the temperature is much cooler and they are likely to be walking around, hunting. But on our trip, we saw the lions at about 10:30am/11:00am.

– Park entry fees (currently US$40 each for adult tourists) are valid for only one entry to the park. But if you park your car just inside the entrance, you can go for lunch for an hour and then continue your game drive in the afternoon. Your guide may tell you parking is not allowed. But the park warden said we were welcome to go ahead and do that. Definitely try to do two game drives if you have time – this is great if you missed things in the morning and want to try again in the afternoon. You’re also sure to get more great photos ops the second time around!

Having been on two amazing weekend safaris before (Masai Mara, Kenya and Liwonde National Park, Malawi), I had kept my expectations low for this day safari but I can say this is a definite must if you have time in Nairobi. This was a fantastic experience and well worth the money and much more affordable than doing a weekend trip to a more far-flung safari destination that requires plane, hotel, etc.

This review is also published on Trip Advisor.

Nairobi, Kenya

I am in Nairobi, Kenya for 12 days visiting friends and colleagues. While I’m here, I’ll give a lesson to schoolchildren on hand-washing and household water treatment, go on a day safari, and try to get out to far-flung areas like Lake Naivasha or Nakuru which I did not have the chance to visit on previous travels in Kenya. Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and home to at least 3 million people. One of the most “connected” cities on the continent in terms of its technology infrastructure and air travel connections, Nairobi is a base for many multinational NGOs and companies serving the needs of the rapidly growing economies and populations of African countries.

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

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 http://facebook.com/ImpoverishedChildren.

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