Sunday, 2 June 2019
Hi everyone! This is Haley Mackenzie, a 2019 nutrition intern working with Farmers Helping Farmers and funded through the Queen Elizabeth Scholar program.
I’ll start by telling you a little bit about me. I was born and raised on a vegetable farm in Prince Edward Island, where I live with two lovely parents, a younger sister and older brother, and two Yorkshire terriers. I enjoy spending my summers in the field with my parents, whether it be transplanting cabbage, delivering string beans, or manning the corn maze at our roadside stand. Last summer I worked for the City of Charlottetown as a ‘Sustainable Horticulture Intern’, where I fell deeper in love with agriculture and horticulture.
Come October, I visited Dr. Jennifer Taylor’s office for an advisory meeting and saw the ‘Want to Make a Difference?’ handout on her door. Although I had heard about this trip many times (you know what I mean if you’ve taken any course with Jen), the sign struck me differently that day. I had an Aha-moment where I realized that I could combine the things that I love most—nutrition and horticulture! Of course, I sent in an application.
The handout that brought me to Kenya
Seven months later, we landed in Africa. We would be spending the next 90 days working on nutrition projects such as working with women’s groups using the train the trainer model, visiting schools to complete nutritional assessments of the school meals, and visiting homes of the women’s group members to complete interviews. In this blog, I will focus on the school assessments.
Last week, the nutrition team visited Rugetene, a Naari school with a cookhouse, water tank, screenhouse, and grow bag. The cookhouse was large and beautiful, with a chimney, two large cookers/pots, two sets of stainless-steel cups and bowls, and an extension of the building for storage space.
It was wonderful to see happy students and staff as a result of Farmers Helping Farmer’s and the Souris Village Feast’s hard work! The school parents and staff were inspired by the cookhouse and are now also building a new dining hall for the students; they had just started working on the foundation. The staff and children were very excited, appreciative, and inquisitive.
Nursery children lining up for uji at Rugetene
We began our first assessment by measuring the height, diameter, and distance from the top of the pot down to the uji. We then weighed five cups and bowls in each of the two sizes to determine the portion sizes. We were happy to see that Rugetene had implemented some of the nutrition messages taught by previous nutrition interns: they were adding two grains to uji, and were using soaked mpempe (whole grain maize) and were adding kale to the githeri (maize and bean stew). When the uji was ready, we weighed five cups and took the average. While the children received their uji, I took this chance to try a cup myself. I did note that it was extremely hot in the stainless-steel mug and I burnt my tongue on my first sip. After 10 minutes of sitting in a cold bowl of water, I got a taste of my very first Kenyan uji! It was very similar to cream of wheat porridge that I’d had at home and aside from my burnt tongue, I enjoyed it.
Here I am measuring the height of the uji pot
Julia and I weighing uji at Rugetene to determine average portion size
After the uji, we left the cookhouse to greet the children since we had to wait for the githeri to finish cooking. Many of the students asked us if we knew the Canadian teachers who had been working at the school earlier in the year which was quite cute. We were invited into the Headmaster’s office for tea, arrowroot, bread, and watermelon. Julia & I then returned to the cookhouse to complete our githeri assessment.
Rugetene’s cook hard at work stirring the githeri
The next day, we visited Kiborione, a Buuri school that had not received any nutritional messages or FHF support as yet. The school had many water tanks and a garden with white sweet potatoes and some fruit trees. However, they had no screen house and their old cookhouse was very smoky. Julia and I ran in and out of the smoke to take measurements and ask questions, holding our breath and tearing up.
Julia handing out githeri at Kiborione
Only three weeks in to our Kenyan experience, I have learned so much and have adjusted to a completely different lifestyle than what I’m used to on our gentle island.
We just returned from an amazing weekend at Sweetwaters resort on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
When we were leaving, we told our server that we are returning ‘home’. Of course, he asked about our flight time and we realized, we had just referred to Kenya as our home for the first time.