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 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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