Dog Wasitis - Doug is Mzungu

First, I apologize to those of you who keep checking in for blog updates.  After travelling from Washington, DC to Kenya, the A/C cord that powers my laptop decided to stop working this past weekend. I was away from any internet access on Monday and Tuesday (see below) and tied up yesterday so am just now able to provide an update.

"Mzungu" is a Swahili word meaning "white man" (not in a derogatory manner, it really implies someone who is a visitor) and one with which I became quite familiar this week. I began the week by accompanying Peter Park, his colleague Ann, and a few other team members to visit four small rural villages along the Ugandan border. Peter's team is responsible for assuring each clinic is stocked with adequate medical supplies, including ARVs. In addition to that task, our team met with Group Integrated Savings for Empowerment (GISE) members to extol the benefits of creating community-based savings groups to financially empower group members.

We departed IU House on Monday morning with a plan to overnight in the town of Malaba and return late Tuesday afternoon. Our destination the first day - the town of Malaba - is 127 km from Eldoret, but the drive took much longer than I anticipated. I have learned that one of the major impediments to Kenyan prosperity and access to health care is the lack of adequate infrastructure, particularly in the nation's rural areas, and the journey to Malaba only confirmed this. For much of the trip, we shared dirt roads with motorcycles (boda boda), tractors, and pedestrians. 

Both of the Malaban clinics we visited were crowded with individuals (mostly mothers and children) waiting to see physicians or to refill prescriptions. The same situation would unfold the following day when we visited the clinic in Port Victoria, an even smaller village located on Lake Victoria. I heard the word "Mzunga" many times over the two-day period, mostly from children who would approach me to touch me or shake my hand. Ann mentioned that some of them may have never before seen a Mzungu. After completing our work at the clinic in Port Victoria, our team met with members of a local GISE group in the home of one of the members.  That member, who serves as the secretary or head of the group, seemed honored to have us in her home. I have found Kenyans to be very hospitable and welcoming-our treatment in Port Victoria bore this out.

Doug Wasitis
Assistant Vice President for Federal Relations
Indiana University

GISE/community-based microfinance meeting: roll call and collecting dues.


Red Kenyan roads.


road 2


Posted at 06:15


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