Haraka Haraka

Steve and I have been in Nairobi for the past 3 days, both working to organize Mashavu’s next steps and also a variety of small CYEC-focused projects. The main task of Friday included shipping rice bags to the US to aid the greenhouse team’s research. The guy working at FedEx thought we were insane because we were paying over 100 USD to ship something that is considered to be trash in Kenya. We also stood in the FedEx office trying to stuff over 40 rice bags into a single box. But the hope is that Penn State students will be able to replace greenhouse plastic with sewn together rice bags. If it works out that would be a major cost-saving innovation and could cut the $500 current cost of our greenhouses in half. Also I am glad to say that the rice bags have already arrived at Penn State, making me thoroughly impressed with FedEx’s capabilities.

After completing this, our focus shifted to finding a metal working that could construct a scythe and a seller that had 26-gauge NiChrome wire in stock for the new pyrolysis machine. We traveled to an industrial park on the outskirts of the city to pay a visit to the East Africa Foundry Group, because we believed they would have the nichrome wire. After overshooting the place, then taking another matatu back to it. Once we arrived not only were they closed but we also quickly realized that they would not have the wire. The place is a huge metal manufacturing company so they should be able to construct the scythe and if they do they will be the only company in Kenya to do so.

For Mashavu, we realized that if we are going to scale our operations, we need to find reliable sources for the products that go into the kit (weighing scale, blood pressure machine, 2 white dust coats, receipt books etc). On Friday and Saturday, we went to multiple chemists and uniform distributors to see if any would tell us where they source their supplies from. That was a fruitless effort because everyone wanted us to buy from them. At dinner on Saturday night, Paul suggested we go to the wholesalers by the University of Nairobi and so that is where we ventured to today. We had immediate success at the first store we went to, who was able to get us nearly everything we needed and directed us to other venues for the remaining items. For the white coats, we are going to employ some of the older girls at the CYEC to make them for us. We see this as a great way to maintain our partnership at the center and give business to people who really need it. Also, while we were at one place we casually asked if they had Nichrome wire and they did! It was an awesome moment.

Visiting the wholesalers made us realize how much more economical it is for women to use manual blood pressure cuffs with a stethoscope. This lets them avoid the recurring cost of batteries and manual cuffs are much more difficult to break. However, we aren’t sure whether this is something that could be practically done in the middle of Nyeri town where our ladies work. So we purchased one manual cuff and this week are going to have Ann Thiru (our employee and the head of the Gatitu CHWs) teach the other women how to use the manual cuff. Then we will give them the option of whether they want the manual one or want to continue with the automatics despite the battery cost. Though it may seem as though we are moving slow, we are going in the direction of standardization and are quite excited about it.


– Rachel