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Preparing for take-off

January 22, 2012

I very much enjoyed a 4 day stay in Nairobi. Medair has an office and two apartments there – one for the rest and recuperation (RnR) for the Somalia/Somaliland team and one for the SDS team. I stayed 3 nights in the Somaliland apt. because no one is in the SDS apt, and then 2 nights in the SDS house. I met a midwife from Australia, a pediatrician from Britain, a nurse from Switzerland, a nurse from Canada, and a logistician from Italy. They are a lovely group. I am especially enjoying the company of the Aussie. She is probably in her early 40s, very sweet, energetic, caring, and helpful (and a good cook!). The apartment is quite luxurious with a veranda, 3 bathrooms, 4 bedrooms, washing machine, daily maid, etc. It is nearby a mall with upscale shops and restaurants, and a store much like Walmart, called Nakumatt. There’s even an authorized apple retailer in the mall. The prices are quite reasonable. The weather has been delightful, too. The sun shines during the day, probably low 80s with a slight breeze on the veranda. At night it cools off a bit, perfect for having the windows open all the time! Nairobi is apparently quite high altitude. The Aussie woman said it even gets cool enough for boots and a down jacket at times. There is a slight pattern of wet and dry season, but apparently it is not consistent, and the weather changes on a whim, being very close to the equator. Something else that’s great about Nairobi is the multi-cultural population! Driving around and in the mall, you could see people from all over the world and hear many languages being spoken all around!

All the Medair staff that I talk to say that my job is a really great one, since I get to work with the national staff more than most, and I get to travel around to see so much of the country. The Aussie said that I shouldn’t worry about not being able to do the job well because everyone will automatically think that whatever I do is fabulous…since not many others have an MPH and this position has been vacant for about 6 months. That’s not to say I can’t make a difference or I’m not needed, but that whatever I do will be an improvement. That takes off a bit of the pressure. Most of the pressure I am feeling is self-imposed… After meeting with my line manager, the Deputy Country Director of Programs, I am feeling even more excited about the position! We have very similar ideas of what my position should be and she is very excited about what I will be doing – having her enthusiastic support is a special gift! Since health and hygiene promotion (HHP) is included in medair’s funding proposals for all programs – in static program bases and emergency response locations – and across all sectors – health and nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) – I will be coordinating HHP activities across all Medair programs in South Sudan! I will be coordinating with each program manager and overseeing the HHP training and teaching activities of Community Liaison Officers (CLOs), who are nationals. CLOs do HHP activities (such as training health and hygiene promoters in the community), as well as community organization and coordination – to find appropriate partners, request permissions from the local authorities, find local volunteers and employees, etc. This bridges the gap between medair and the community, and encourages a community participation approach to make the programs accepted, community owned, and encourage sustainability. My line manager would also like me to help with capacity building of the CLOs. I don’t really know what this entails, but I do know that I love to empower individuals and communities! Another exciting thing I learned is that I must “find” 3 mobile/transient cattle settlements in which to provide HHP training! Sounds like a good challenging adventure to me! So firstly, this week I will go to a field site to see the current activities of HHP.

I’ve had a good time in Juba getting to know the team that stays here. All the new social interactions are tiring! This was my first weekend here. On Saturday, some of us went to a pool at a nearby lodge. Today, we went to a Christ Embassy church and then out to lunch. It was really good to get out of the house/office. Tonight, we will go out to a Thai restaurant!

I now have a phone number for when I am in Kenya, a phone number for when I am in South Sudan, and a postal address for mail/packages. Please email me to request this information if it interests you.

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