Friday, April 16, 2010

Home Sweet Home

I got home late Thursday night after 38 hours of travelling; I was on the last flight out of Brussels due to the volcano eruption in Iceland. I do not think the Whole Planet people made it home because they left a day after me and were going through Amsterdam. After less than 24 yours in Capitola, I fondly remember all of my experiences in Kenya but am now back to 24/7 Seventh Generation. Emails, conference calls, reports, analysis, catch-up with the Natural Specialty Team and brokers etc. now dominate my life.

At this point there is little integration between my passion and my work; luckily I work for a company I believe in that does good things. I look forward to when I can mesh both and maintain the excitement and pleasure I experienced throughout the trip to Kenya. Lots of decisions to make about how and where to spend my time after my commitment to SVG is up at the end of 2011. I will take time later this year to develop a plan that provides the balance and purpose I want for the rest of my life. I am so jealous of people that have that now!

Stay tuned to where and how I will live during the next phase of my life...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Field Trip Continued…

By the time we arrived at the Mount Kenya Safari Club to spend the night, it was after 9:30PM. We saw an incredible lightening show through the last half of the trip and Mt Kenya was highlighted during many of the strikes. It was a very powerful vision. The club was originally owned by William Holden (famous actor in the 1950s) and a few of his friends. This historic club is situated on the Equator at the foot of Mt. Kenya. The members and visitors before it became a Fairmont Hotel were royalty, heads of state as well as stars of stage and screen. They have an extensive animal orphanage on sight as well. We had a late breakfast and I have a picture of Susan, the Outreach Director of Jamii Bora before we left to an office in Nanyuki.

We met Nancy who was recently robbed because she sits alone in a small office without the benefit of the bullet proof glass or other safety features of a regular bank. Her office was next to the new Nakumatt (Kenya’s Wal-Mart). I thought Joy, Jewel and Genie (all from Whole Planet Foundation) would like to see a supermarket and they will have much to share with their teammates when they return. We then started the last leg of our journey to visit one of the newer branches opened last September in the Embu District.

The branch manager was a young man (most are older women) and he had a different perspective when it came to his clients because he wanted to bring in more young people and does a big outreach at local schools and organizations with 18-25 year old. We met some of their clients but one young woman spoke very eloquently about why she became a member. At first she did not believe the concept of Jamii Bora was “on the level” and was very skeptical. It took a few months and her girl friends explaining how they saved and were able to get a 10,000 shilling loan. She finally talked to the people in this branch and because it looked just like a bank, she thought her savings would be safe and she found five other friends to join with her. She almost has enough savings to get her first loan. I was glad to hear this story because so much of what I hear are the immediate successes and now I know they can explain the program and concept to all and make it available through the outreach programs.

I am sorry to say I did not take an extra memory card so I have no photos of this part of the trip but you can go to the Whole Planet site to see many. It was another long and emotional day but I would not have missed it! The van dropped us off at the Fairview around 7:30PM and we said goodbye to Susan. We look forward to her visit to the USA in July. I leave tomorrow but The Whole Planet Team will have some one-on-one time with Ingrid Munro.

I will write my reflections of the trip when I return home on Friday.

Jamii Bora Field Trip

We arrived in Nyeri after a three hour journey from Nairobi. The branch team and clients met us singing as they did last time. It was like a homecoming for me to see so many of the same people and I was shocked by some of their comments.
Both the men and women remembered my visit last August and I was touched by their comments. One of the farmers was telling his story and he said that he now uses “organic” fertilizer for his crops because of the comments I made on the last trip about how harmful the chemicals were to him, his family, livestock and the crops. He also said he could get more money for it and it is paying off for him and he is telling other farmers to do the same. I was shocked and very pleased that I had this kind of impact on their practices.
Another women in a beautiful red dress remembered that when I came she just started with her first loan and considered herself poor. Now she has a 20,000 shilling loan and has a shop and wanted me to see how much better off she is now.
We were then invited to visit two farms and it was an amazing experience. It was just like Rwanda where they were so honored you came to their home to meet their family and to see their farm. They also had to provide refreshments and during the course of the day ate lots of bananas, sweet potatoes and arrowroot.

This farmer (who has a degree in thelogy) was showing how he grafted different types of coffee plants to be more resilient. He pointed out his composting and manure systems to fertilize the crops and it was rudimentary but very impressive.
A woman farmer had just bought a water pump to help irrigate her fields and was waiting to install it next week. Here daughters performed a poem for us after we visited her fields.

We traveled to the Kagumo branch where we met more clients and visited another larger farm of a member who farmed as well as had the welding shop in town. This group was the most lively and entertaining as well as successful. There were three generations on the farm with the grandmother, daughter and baby. The contagious happiness and joy of this family and their friends was another highlight of the trip.

Our last stop for the day at 6:30 in the dusk was a new member who was a widow. We saw the lack of repair on her farm but with her first loan she was buying a cow to help her with organic materials to use a fertilizer and to sell the milk.

We saw many different types of clients who have been touched by Jamii Bora and there is so much more to they can do by adding banks in more communities.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Kibera is a neighborhood and division of Nairobi, Kenya. It is the largest of Nairobi's slums, and the second largest urban slum in Africa, with a population estimated at 1.5-2 million inhabitants; most of whom lack electricity and running water. To give some perspective, it is a little smaller than Central Park in New York City. Kibera accounts for less than 1% of Nairobi's total area, but holds more than a quarter of its population. If you want to see Kibera, it is featured in Fernando Meirelles's film The Constant Gardener, which is based on the book of the same name by John le Carré.

Thanks to the open sewage system and the frequent use of "flying toilets"; it is contaminated with garbage, and human waste. The lack of sanitation combined with poor nutrition accounts for many illnesses and diseases. It is estimated that one-fifth of the 2.2 million Kenyans living with HIV live in Kibera.

We met at the Jamii Boro bank branch and then went to the top of a six story building to see it from a distance. We were all standing near the laundry lines listening to a history lesson. After that we toured the market that Jamii Boro helped to rebuild after the violence during the last election. One of our guides, John was the leader of the gang that destroyed the market. He is now a promoter for Jamii Boro and has been recruiting gang members to turn around their lives like he did. There are other promoters who were prostitutes, alcoholics, criminals, and beggars. The philosophy of the organization is you have to “walk in their shoes” and speak the same language in order to help.

We met a number of their clients in the market and one from the Muslim village (a total of 15) invited us to see her home. Eleven people lived in a 10x10 shack…words cannot describe it and since it was in the Muslim community, they would not allow photos.

We traveled to another village to a restaurant owned by one of the clients and had goat, tomatoes, spinach and maize for lunch. It was all finger food and not the best meal of my visit. I wish I was a beer drinker because the ice cold Tuskers looked great. I settled for a bitter lemon and it hit the spot after six hours in the sun. We were asked if we wanted to attend a football match after lunch but we decided to come back to the hotel.

As I took my shower and began to feel like a “human being” again, I could not help but think about the fact that none of the people I saw today would have that luxury. The words of the one speaker who said sanitation means dignity, really hit home. This experience will help me make some decisions when I return. Tomorrow, we head to Northern Kenya to meet the clients in the coffee producing areas.

Friday, April 9, 2010

An Amazing Day

Each day I am amazed by the quality of the speakers and the timeliness of the topics. As a business person, today had the most interesting and engaging sessions for me. The highlight of my day was meeting Professor Yunus and Professor Latiffee of the Grameen Trust. I had the opportunity to discuss Seventh Generation and why we are a Social Business and partner with Whole Planet Foundation. I also met Hans Reitz, the CEO for the Grameen Creative Lab. Hans is someone I think Jeffrey would enjoy meeting and discussing how to tie into his global network of Social Businesses. Another fascinating speaker was the Founder of Bamboo Finance/Blue Orchard Fund from Switzerland talking about financing social business for profit. The passion they all expressed was contagious.

I attended a session that tug on my heart more than others on “Microfinance in Conflict and Disaster areas.” The speakers from Afghanistan and Occupied Palestine told their stories and managed to leave me with hope. The final session ended at 8:00PM (a very long day) with speakers talking about best practices and included Philip Sansone the President of the Whole Planet Foundation.

We took a little side trip into Nairobi Center to pick up Chicken and Chips for dinner and met the best taxi driver. Peter reminded me of Eric, our safari guide on my last trip. He will take us on a few adventures in the coming days. Tomorrow is another busy day because we will tour Kibera (largest slum in Africa).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day Two

Lots of great speakers and sessions on sustainability and how to use microfinance to propel investment in renewable energy, water and sanitation. One started off his session with this quote form Ghandi “Sanitation is more important than Independence” another said “Sanitation is Dignity”. Over 3 billion people have no toilets and the world needs a sanitation transformation. Most of us take this for granted. One example in Kenya was described where public toilets are multifunctional and you can have your shoes shined, buy mobile minutes, and charge your phone etc while you use the toilet. Another program is awaiting approved form the government to use urine fertilizer on crops. Sanitation can create many jobs for collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of human waste that can be funded by microcredit.

Grameen Shakti is an example of renewable energy program: solar panels, biogas and stoves using less wood to provide more heat. This is very successful in a number of countries and a Jordanian official outlined their solar program as well. was represented and the spokesperson said “water is life” and everyone has a right to clean drinking water but over 1/3 of the world’s population does not have access to it.

Another session focused on sustainable cities and that 1 billion people have no adequate housing today. The discussions were around slums and how to change and renew them. They gave interesting examples from around the world on how to transform slums into viable human habitats.

The best part of the day was a reunion with people from Jamii Bora, especially Susan and Ingrid. I am so looking forward to the two days with the clients in Northern Kenya after the summit concludes on Sunday.

I joined the WPF team for a lively dinner with thought provoking discussions on numerous subjects. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend this event and share my time with some extraordinary individuals.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day One of the Summit

The Microcredit Summit started today and in the opening session we heard from the President of Kenya, the Queen of Spain and a Princess from the Netherlands but the most dynamic speaker was Professor Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Laureate and Managing Director of Grameen Bank) talking about the global financial crisis and the worlds poor. He said now is the time to redesign financial architecture to reinvent these institutions to serve all. What a powerful man and message.

In another session Ingrid Munro and her team from the Jamii Bora Bank (yes, they are a bank now) were the stars talking about all the program they have developed and success stories like my friend Joyce who I met on my last trip.

I attended a session on “reporting standards” because it ties in with so many things we are trying to do at Seventh Generation. It was organized by the SEEP Network (Small Enterprise Education and Promotion) connecting microenterprise practitioners from around the world. Presenters from Palestine, Uganda, Kenya and the US talked about best practices in their countries; some of them are applicable to business.

I met a fascinating woman who works for the UN in Sudan and Care fundraiser who invited me to a party on Friday night. Since my name tag says Whole Planet Foundation, I usually have lots of explaining to do when I meet new people.

Some of the microcredit clients were selling their wares in booths outside the meeting so I will not have to go to the market for presents.

My reflections on the first day…
• There are so many amazing things going on in the world that give me hope for the future
• Business can and should do more to help alleviate poverty
• I want to be a part of this movement in a peripheral way now and more involved when I am able to retire from full-time work

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It was an amazing day in nature...
First stop was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to visit the feeding of the 21 orphaned elephants from the age of 2 weeks to 2 1/2 years.
The older elephants can take as many as three bottles (6 pints each) every three hours. I adopted Kimana (a male) for my niece Grace's Birthday. The $50 helps feed him for a few weeks a year and others will adopt him as well. Here is a photo of him taking his third bottle in less than two minutes!
I met his keeper and he showed me where they sleep together every night. In about a year, he will be taken to Masi Mara and become part of a herd.

After that my driver Peter (a Jami Bora taxi client) took me to Giraffe Manor.
Two orphaned giraffes were added to the 8 in the sanctuary so the guide said it was a difficult morning due to the new dynamic. It's good to know all families have interesting dynamics.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Lazy Day

I made it to the hotel around 1:00 AM Monday morning and immediately crashed.
Between the cold and jet lag, I spent the day resting and exploring (in between rain showers) the charming hotel...The Fairview, a country hotel in town. It is set within five acres of beautiful gardens and is owned and manged by the same families that opened it in 1946. It uses solar power and sustainable practices in every area of hotel operations. Coming at the end of the rainy season (they have had lots of rain), it is very different than last summer during the severe drought. The plants and flowers are beautiful.

I will visit the elephant and giraffe sanctuaries tomorrow. On the way back to Nairobi, I will stop by a store to buy a usb cable that I forgot to bring to download photos to the blog.

The Whole planet team arrives at various time tomorrow and we will meet up on Wednesday AM to attend the conference.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

First flight was painless

I was upgraded to First Class from SFO to ORD and it looks like I will make it into Business Class for the flight from here to Brussels. I napped most of the time but woke up due to a coughing fit.
The self medicating seems to work for 4 hours max(even with NyQuil)and then the sneezing and coughing starts again.
Connecting through Chicago has an added benefit...Garrett's Popcorn. When I had my braces I was not able to have any so I made up for it today and my hands are orange from all the messy cheese!
I only have a 70 minute connection in Brussels so I am hoping both my luggage and I make it onto the Nairobi flight. My friend Betsy would have carry on for two weeks but not me...I did not know what to bring and have two bags checked plus a backpack and a messenger bag.
I can't wait to get to Africa, I have missed the energy, joy and peace it brought me last year. Part of me belongs there so I have lots to figure out for my future; perhaps I will gain an understanding on how I can coexist in both worlds. The best thing about this trip is the time it offers me to break away from my chaotic life and ponder my next passage.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I am off to Nairobi

Just a short introduction and more to come when I am on my way tomorrow...

This trip starts with anticipation and excitement, with none of the fear I had when leaving last year for my sabbatical. I only wish I felt better and did not have a terrible head cold. I am sure my seat mates for the 22 hour flight will not be very happy with me. I am hopeful that my self medicating will knock me out for most of it.

I will miss Easter this year due to flights and the time change so I ask that you remember me in your prayers on Easter Sunday.

I will attend the International Microcredit Summit at the Kenyatta International Conference Center and visit the wonderful people I met from Jami Bora last year. I am fortunate to be part of a group from the Whole Planet Foundation who will also attend so I will not be on my own most of the time.

I have one day for fun and plan to visit the Elephant and Giraffe sanctuaries outside of Nairobi on Tuesday. I wish Betsy and Luanne could join me for many reasons but they are also much better photographers than I am so the pics I will add to the blog will not be as fantastic as many form our safari and time in Rwanda.