Soon to Depart for Africa

Our departure for Kenya is just over two weeks away and, although your group is smaller this year, we have much planned. First, after an overnight stay in Nairobi on July 5th, we will take a few days to relax. While Clarice enjoys the bird life at the base of Mt. Kenya, Emily Lyn (our daughter) and Susanna (recent graduate and now Master’s student in Mechanical Engineering at ASU) will set off for a 4 day climb of that Mountain. Although it is 2,000 feet lower than Mt. Kilimanjaro, which straddles the boundary between Kenya and Tanzania, Mt. Kenya will provide many wonderful sights and challenges. We look forward to the climb and opportunity to witness dawn from the top.

Once we descend Mt. Kenya, we will head back to the lodge where Clarice will be waiting, clean up, and then on to Nairobi (about 3 hours drive) in time to catch a flight to Kisumu in western Kenya. From the moment we land, the projects will be our prime focus.

There are devices to deliver, which have been designed and developed by bioengineering students in the ASU Fulton Schools of Engineering. These students, each year, rally to the call to spend their final, senior-year, project to benefit people they will never know but with whom they come to identify.

In all cases, up until now, these design and development projects have been intended for a specific individual. This year, however, one project focused on a specific need that will benefit many women in Kenya, Malawi and (ultimately we hope) many other countries. One bioengineering team led by Peter, with Lingyan, David and Li, designed and developed a maternity bed made from bamboo. If you wonder why they chose bamboo for the construction material, it is readily available in western Kenya and throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, thus cheap, and very strong.

Bamboo Maternity Bed

This bed design is the product of the ASU Senior bioengineering team (Peter, Lingyan, Vi, and David) who have now graduated from the program.

The prototype bed, seen in the photo, will soon be shipped to Kenya where we plan to use it in demonstrations to women’s groups, maternity clinics, and students at St. Joseph’s Technology school for the deaf, near Bondo. Our plan is to demonstrate construction of the bed and to share the technology so many will be able to build and make them available in many parts of Kenya and Malawi.

I will continue to report as we progress through our demonstrations, both in Kenya and Malawi. However, we already are assured that the training will continue after our departure.

A second ASU engineering student, Clay, will join us 10 days later and we look forward to having him with us. Clay will fly to Kisumu–his first trip outside of the US–to join us and I have made arrangements to have a trusted friend meet him at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, to make sure he successfully transfers to the domestic terminal and flight to Kisumu.

During part of our stay in western Kenya, we will be honored guests at the home of the Kenyan Ambassador to the US, Dr. Wenwa Akinya Odinga Oranga. She has made arrangements for us to meet with the chief of their village, south of Kisumu, who, himself, is excited about the maternity bed design. With this sort of attention, we have great hopes that this maternity bed design will significantly affect, in a very positive manner, the birthing practices and environment for women in sub-Saharan Africa.

We will return to Nairobi, by bus, accompanied by our good friend and colleague, Silas, who will see us off on our flight to Malawi. There, the process will be much the same as we deliver devices and provide instruction on how to build the maternity bed. Although the prototype will remain in Kenya, we expect to be able to initiate production there as well. In every case, we will target women in our efforts to learn the skills so they can earn income through their own entrepreneurships.

Throughout our five-week trip, I will continue to report progress on this site. The five of us have much to accomplish and there are certainly some additional projects that I have yet to describe. Susanna will spend time in an effort to investigate levels of interest in the maternity clinic now be fashioned by engineering students on the ASU Campus from decommissioned shipping containers. Emily Lyn will be looking at areas related to her field in nursing. Clay will investigate potential mechanical engineering projects, while Clarice will provide instruction of the use of discarded plastic shopping bags to “knit” useful items. I will interview more people with disabilities and we will all partake in deliveries of those devices being shipped. Of course, we will hope to make progress on the “School for Women, Girls, and People With Disabilities” although the major hurdle remains efforts to secure funding to support construction.

We also have a number of backpacks for children, loaded with school supplies and hair-care items (for girls), that have been donated by the staff in the Harrington Department of Bioengineering at ASU. Those treasured gifts, and more, will be provided to children in both Kenya and Malawi.

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Celebrating Amongst Kenyan Disaspora

This was the Prime Minister's first Official visit to the City of Los Angeles


In a recent correspondence from the Kenyan Ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Wenwa Akinyi Odinga Oranga, we received an invitation to attend special events to celebrate the first official visit of their Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga. Clarice and I were honored by this invitation and readily agreed to attend. We also invited one ASU Engineering student, Susanna Young, who is leading the Container-to-Maternity-Clinic project and will also join us on our trip to Africa this summer.
The events to celebrate Primi Minister Odinga’s visit took place on April 16th and 17th, and, in anticipation of our trip, we contacted a very special person who lives near Los Angles and, together with her high school classmates, has worked hard to gather donations for our Well Repair project in Malawi. I had met Emily in November when she, her mother, brother and grandmother, had stopped to visit on their way to Tucson for Thanksgiving. At that time she had described how she and her classmates, through cooperation with our partner nonprofit, New Global Citizens, had already earned some donations and would be doing more in the coming months. A report on their project was later released on the web at: http://calabasas.patch.com/articles/high-school-musical-star-visits-students-advocating-for-a-better-world#photo-3800696

Emily and her friends have done a great service in support of the Malawi Well Repair project and we felt it would be ideal if we could stop to see them and perhaps have chance to personally thank them all in person. As it turned out, Emily’s parents invited us to stay with them for the weekend and hosted a BBQ so the students could come together and meet us.

Emily (standing in center wearing black) with Clarice, Susanna (behind Clarice) and me.


We enjoyed the warm hospitality of Emily’s family and were greatly impressed with the eagerness on the part of the students to learn more about the people their efforts would benefit. We are, as well, very appreciative of the warm and generous hospitality on the part of Emily, her father (Frank), mother (Kristi) and brother (Andrew).
On Saturday, we attended the first of two events scheduled for Prime Minister Odinga at a luncheon to celebrate the launching of the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Foundation-USA (JOOF-USA) in named honor of his, and Ambassador Oranga’s, father, who was instrumental in the fight to free Kenya from British colonialism back in the late 1950’s and early ’60’s. Their father had fought alongside Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first President, during the Mau Mau Revolution and he was also became a significant player in the formation of their Government. To this day, their family is highly regarded with a history of true humanitarian concern for Kenyans throughout.

The Kenyan Ambassador the the US and Prime Minister (sister/brother) during the celebration to launch the JOOF-USA Foundation


On Sunday, April 17th, we attended anther special event to hear the Prime Minister address Kenyan Diaspora and Friends of Kenya in a ballroom at California State University, Los Angeles. We had asked Emily to join us for this event and she was clearly excited to go. The facility was packed with hundreds of Kenyans and a few dignitaries while they also web-cast his address, live, to many more over the Internet. We were unexpectedly honored when Ambassador Oranga asked us to stand and be recognized before the assembly–indeed a very special honor.
All four of us were excited to be present for the Prime Minister’s address and we made several contacts with people who became interested in our projects designed to promote improved maternal health and birthing facilities for people in rural sections of Malawi and Kenya.
Before our departure for Phoenix on Monday, the 18th, we stopped at the Kenyan Consulate to leave our visa applications and speak with Ambassador Oranga’s Deputy, Jane. During that discussion, we provided plans for the container conversion-to-maternity-clinic and design drawings for maternity beds constructed from bamboo. We hope to start production of these beds during our visit this summer in collaboration with a technology school (St. Joseph’s) for the deaf in western Kenya.

During introductions prior to Prime Minister Odinga's address to the Kenyan Diaspora

Ambassador Oranga during the introduction of her brother, Prime Minister Odinga

The Prime Minister during his address to the Kenyan Diaspora

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Thoughts as we plan for our return to Africa

Each year, at this time, we find ourselves involved with plans for the pending July trip to Africa and, each year, we experience new developments. Oftentimes those proverbial new developments represent some sort of a setback but that is not the case this year.
Students at ASU, Schools of Engineering, are working to develop a prototype of the maternity clinic from converted 40-foot steel shipping containers. That project had to wait for about a semester due to need to replace the first donated container, which was laced with pesticides, with one free of contaminants. Once the new container was in place, in the Engineering shop yard on Campus, the students were ready to wash and paint it.

The Container-to-become-maternity-clinic

Students paused for photo before they finished painting the top of the container.

After a weekend of cleaning and painting, ASU engineering students from the EPIC GOLD class pose with their to-be prototype maternity clinic.


The container will soon have a door and window cut into the side and then they will work on the interior to add insulation, wall board and features designed specifically for use as a maternity clinic.
Additional developments include an opportunity to meet with the Kenyan Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga, during his first Official visit to the City of Los Angeles. An invitation arrived for this event on April 1st, from the Kenyan Ambassador to the US, but it was certainly no joke and we feel both privileged and honored to have this opportunity. Some of our students are working on projects for Kenyan people with disabilities and we hope to have at least one of them join us for this special occasion. We also hope to be able to discuss the container-to-maternity-clinic project with him. Although this project was originally targeted for Malawi, we also see its possibilities for Kenya.
Another possible project we would like to consider is an idea originally fostered by a farmer in Zimbabwe and it involves development of a water retention–he refers to it as water farming–for rural farmers. the majority of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa rely upon seasonal rains to water their crops and those rains tend to be unpredictable. Sometimes they come in brief, though heavy, storms that wash their crops away. Often, those rains don’t come at all. This farmer, Mr. Phiri, has developed a system to retain water in his soil (see an article about him at
http://www.theecologist.org/how_to_make_a_difference/food_and_gardening/360257/case_study_drought_resistant_farming_in_africa.html) and we see no reason why his method cannot be promoted elsewhere in Africa.
We have two engineering students who plan to join us this year, along with one of our daughters, Emily Lyn, for our work in Kenya and Malawi. More to come on the projects and trip in future postings.

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Personal Thoughts on the Libyan Revolution

Water pipes is smoking shop--Old Town Tripoli

With news stories on the Revolution in Libya coming across the news outlets at an accelerating rate, I have found myself distracted and of the mind to share some thoughts. I cannot, for reasons related to concerns for safety of Libyan friends, make political statements. Rather, I wish to reflect my thoughts based upon personal experience in that Country.
Nearly three years ago, I had the privilege to visit Libya for two weeks at the invitation of a friend, who I will only identify by his first name, that we first met when he came to stay at our home through a home-stay arrangement associated with an international conference hosted on our ASU Campus. Saad was a delightful guest and we enjoyed him thoroughly. With some possible interest in professional collaborations, he arranged for my visit–one can only enter Libya after having such an invitation–that was paid for completely by my hosts.
I was intrigued by the opportunity and found my experience to be highly rewarding. Virtually all that I experienced, while there, was positive and eye-opening. The people I met were virtually all courteous and friendly beyond any sense of official hospitality. Even before I landed in Tripoli, I met a young man who sat next to me in the plane. Not having much to share in terms of conversation, I happened to notice a ring he wore and paid complement. In a unhesitant moment, he removed the ring and presented it as a gift. Although I made repeated effort to share that I had only wanted to complement him on his ring, he would not listen and I have worn that ring everyday since.

Young man from Libya who sat next to me on the flight to Tripoli and insisted on giving to me the ring he wore.

Sabratha Phoenician Columns

Me standing in front of a Sabratha Mosaic Wall in the on-site museum

Camels riding in the back of a truck in Tripoli

Office buildings in Tripoli that were designed to appear as up-side down whisky bottles

View from my hotel balcony to show Green Square where much of the Revolution has been staged. The Bay, made famous in the Marine Corps hymm ("…to the shores of Tripoli") is in the distance.

After our arrival in Tripoli, I was met by my friend, Saad, and lost contact with that young Libyan man but have never forgotten that memorable occasion on the plane.
There were many such events during my stay in Libya–the numerous opportunities to share thoughts with Saad, meet his colleagues and friends, sit and enjoy Libyan coffee in a 700 year old coffee shop in Old Town Tripoli, watch people walk by while I sat in a smoke shop with Saad and his friends as they smoked from the variety of flavored water pipes.
There were many opportunities to see Tripoli on a daily basis and always present were the large photos of the Libyan leader, Col. Gaddafi with a display of the number of years he had ruled the Country. One morning, on the way to meetings, we came upon a flatbed truck carrying camels much like we would see someones dogs in the back of a pickup going down the road in the US. That same morning we saw office buildings shaped like upside down Jim Beam bottles–a symbolic move on Col Gaddafi’s plan to remove alcoholic beverages from the Country.
Of course the current news from Tripoli, coupled with photos of the people and mass destruction of the City, stand as significant, and saddening, contrasts to what I witnessed. Photos from the New York Times that illustrate the Revolution are telling. One that really caught my attention was of a revolutionary soldier, from behind, with a long string of bullets draped around his neck, as if a necklace, with each pointed, ironically, at his own head but ready to be loaded in his automatic weapon.
However, my experiences outside Tripoli, especially to see Saad’s boyhood home town and the two ancient Roman cities of Sabratha and Leptis Magna are also made fresh in my memory due to the ongoing news stories. The name, “Tripoli” means ‘Three Cities’ and that city sits on top of one ancient Roman City with only one Roman arch evident. The rest of that ancient city remains under the modern city of Tripoli with no effort made to reveal it. The other two cities of the ancient triad remain very evident, however. Sabratha, about 50 miles to the west, and Leptis Magna, somewhat further to the east of Tripoli, are still quite evident and beautiful to see. With Saad, I was able to walk through each of those city ruins and rarely saw other tourists. With that being said, upon our entrance into the open air theater in Sabratha, we came upon a group of British tourists–one of whom had an operatic voice and stood upon the stage to deliver an impromptu performance of a piece from an opera in which she had performed. The phenomenal acoustics of that theater projected her voice with such strength and clarity that I could not have imagined.

Sabrath Theatre

Today, much of the news on the Revolution makes mention of Sabratha, and my hope is these beautiful remnants of a time long ago remain untouched. My sense is, given the very positive experiences I had with Libyan people, that they will take care to avoid damage to these treasured antiquities. May we, likewise, see very progressive movements arise from the structural ruins of this Revolution.

Seating in the Theatre in Sabratha

Old Tripoli shops at night

Sabratha Columns

With Saad, in a 700 year old coffer shop in Old Town Tripoli

Sabratha Municiple Court

 

Arches and ancient Sabratha with the Mediterranean Sea in the back ground

 

Below the stage of the theatre

On the theater stage at Sabratha with Saad

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Quiet Winter

During the winter there seems little to write about since we are not in the travel-to-Africa mode but there are some things to share. On a literary note, an exceptional editorial essay, by Nancy Gibbs (her writing tends to be of the highest quality), in Time Magazine, “To Fight Poverty, Invest in Girls,” is dead-on. Although Gibbs’ essay is not about the plight of African women and girls, she does quote a Malawian girl and provides persuasive argument that would certainly benefit the leaders of many African countries, not to mention leaders around the World. One can access the article, online, in the February 14th issue of Time.
There was also a nice article about our well repair project posted on November 4th, by WaterWideWeb.org, “Repairing Water Wells in Africa.” Further, in relation to this project, a dedicated group of high school students, with work through New Global Citizens (see the link on our main page), has undergone some tremendous fund raising efforts to help us train and outfit a few select Malawian men and women to repair and service bore holes (wells). These people will have a skill and means to earn a living as they move about their local areas and many more bore holes will remain operational over longer periods.
Yet another bit of good news arises from a November communique, to me, on the part of the Kenyan Ambassador to the US, Dr. Wenwa Akinyi Odinga Oranga. Ambassador Oranga wrote to say she wanted to visit and discuss our projects, and in early December she came to Arizona State University to attend a meeting I set up that included students involved in projects for people in Africa, our Dean of the Schools of Engineering, Professor Johnson, the Associate Dean, Professor Collofello, my colleague and partner in the projects, Dr. Pizziconi, and various other faculty members.
Ambassador Oranga, herself with a Ph.D. in Chemistry, outlined her ideas on how we might collaborate on projects with the University of Nairobi. Not long after her trip to ASU, she returned to Kenya and shared some of our ideas with her brother, the Prime Minister of Kenya.
This past week, she sent a message to indicate that she wants to talk more about our ideas and will follow up with a phone call. Our follow-up plan is to meet the Ambassador at her Consulate in Los Angeles later this spring and I anticipate having the team of students who are working on a project for a man in Kenya who suffers a disability due to a bicycle/ automobile accident a few years ago.
I am proud of the work on the part of that group as well as another team involved with a project to develop maternity clinics from old, decommissioned, 40 foot long steel shipping containers. These containers are the same that you see on the backs of trucks and trains, as well as in ships designed to take them across the seas. Once they are deemed no longer sea-worthy, these containers are stockpiled in ports around the world. We have seen them in Dar es Salaam, Durbin and Long Beach for starters and the plan is to develop a prototype on the ASU campus and then produce the clinics in Africa. Our students are working with a local (Phoenix) OB Gyn who has provided insight in what they need in the design and has agreed to travel with us to Malawi to train midwives on how to use and maintain the clinics.

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Grant writing time

We have been home for over 2 1/2 months but the efforts continue. These past weeks have meant time spent on grant writing. Not necessarily enjoyable, but necessary. If only we could hit on a major one.

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Photos from the last few days in Malawi

Final assembly the night before delivery

Kyle Karber helping to assemble the hand cycle

Ready to head to Senga Bay for the delivery

Meeing with the Ministry of Gender and Children

Our group at Mayoka Village, Nkhata Bay, Malawi

Our Land Cruiser safely storred for our return next year

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