Dispatch from Kenya: The home stretch

"Student Dispatch from Kenya" series

A group of students from seven Penn State colleges are spending part of the summer in Nyeri, Kenya to work on three humanitarian engineering and social entrepreneurship projects, Mashavu, WishVast and Eco-Village. These projects seek to bring technology to people in the region and demonstrate how it can affect their lives in positive ways. In this excerpt, IST graduate Steve Garguilo (WishVast team) sums up the group’s last days in Kenya.

We took some time before the final week to get on the same page with exactly what had been accomplished so far and what needed to be done the rest of the way. With that under our belts, it was time for us to each get to work in documenting the scenarios that we had validated. With these on paper, it would be easier to see where gaps still existed and therefore know who to spend our last few days with and what questions to ask.

I traveled to the Outspan Hospital Clinic in the heart of Nyeri with some members of the Mashavu team. There, I had the chance to ask a lot of people in line what motivated them to come out and also try to get a good idea from administrators how they set up such an event and how they got such active participation from the community. That information will be helpful for next year's WishVast team, as we hope to pilot the system with some groups of people in the area. I noted the effectiveness of radio advertising and also the effectiveness of just doing something interesting because many people tend to be attracted to new things that are going on and will take the time to check them out.

At the clinic, I observed the problem of glue-sniffing with street children. It is a very serious, not to mention very sad, problem. It's hard for us to picture 5-year-olds on the street sniffing glue, but the problem is indeed very real in Kenya. We would want to help the kids out and perhaps even offer them money, but they would just spend it on glue. The situation is very difficult.

It was then time for a return to Nairobi with the Mashavu team to talk to the venture capital firm Acumen Fund and MFI Jamii Bora. From a WishVast perspective, these meetings were both extremely beneficial and very interesting. We got a lot of positive feedback about our ideas and also about how we would go about getting the necessary start-up funds for implementation.

Last Updated July 09, 2009