Good Morning Good Morning
June 19, 2010, 12:23 PM
Filed under: TRIP SHENANIGANS (Kenya 2010)

Hey friends.

Greetings from Nairobi, Kenya! Today is my second full day in the city and so far, everything is absolutely magnificent. I am currently broadcasting from an internet cafe in downtown Nairobi. I’ll get to Kenya in a minute, promise, but I figured I’d start things off with what I’ve been up to this whole week. Prepare for a long post, sorry I’m not sorry.

On Monday, June 14th, I traveled to DC for ThinkImpact’s Global Development Internship (GDI) training. The other interns (we call ourselves GDIs) and I stayed at the Potomac House residence hall on GW’s campus. Infinitely nicer than Darnall…typical. Anyway, we crammed an intense amount of material into two straight days of training. Although it was an large amount of information to digest in a short time span, I am finally relieved that I have a much firmer grasp of my duties this summer. I might be able to articulate it quickly, so here goes.

We began our training with a discussion of ThinkImpact’s development philosophy. This part assuaged any of my fears about choosing the right organization and experience for this summer. ThinkImpact originally began as any other aid organization, building infrastructure like schools, soccer fields, latrines, etc. However, after these interventions were completed, the staff quickly began to realize that this method of development was not sustainable. The community of Kayafungo had no involvement with these projects besides enjoying their eventual completion, meaning no local ownership and by extension, a general dearth of empowerment. Also lacking was any income-generating components, essential for smaller enterprises to achieve sustainability and lift individuals out of a cycle of perpetual poverty. Since the completion of these projects, ThinkImpact’s development philosophy has shifted from development as building things to development as encouraging relationships, networks, and social innovation. Social innovations, ThinkImpact’s core area of emphasis, is effective, efficient, and most important, sustainable. Incorporation of the creativity of the stakeholders serves to ensure the project’s success. This philosophy was foreign to me, but it seemed incredibly appealing. I have always been a supporter of grassroots, bottom-up modes of development, and ThinkImpact finally articulated a model that actual seemed to have real, tangible, achievable benefits and successes.

The work I’ll be doing as a GDI seems fascinating. GDIs live and work in Kayafungo, a rural developing community in Kenya, to serve a facilitators catalyzing ideas into action. Our primary responsibility is to lay the foundation for the development of local social businesses. To do this, we work specifically to incorporate ideas of the asset-based community development (ABCD) methodology (I know, about time I told you about this, right?). ABCD encourages community members to identify and understand their own gifts, talents, and resource. Thus the participatory development can strive to be sustainable. We work to empower, not overpower, by focusing on the “possible” not the “obstacle” within the community structure. Now, this to me seemed appealing, but still pretty abstract and a lot for me to digest in one sitting. I was having issues conceptualizing how these ideas actually function when put into practice.

Luckily, we dived right into the actual procedures we would follow to accomplish our goals. In Kayafungo, our first responsibility as a GDI is to complete capacity inventories, intensive interviews with diverse segments of the Kayafungo community to help them and us discover their talents. After completing a high number of these inventories, we compile the data by using a technique called asset-mapping (sorry this is so technical, but you asked to know what I was doing, so boom, there you go). Asset-mapping explores the resources available in the local community and analyzes their unique linkages. It allows community members to map their assets in such a way to facilitate relationships and identify possible opportunities for linkage between said assets. The exercise helps people understand the intricacies inherent within their local economy.

Once we complete these steps of ABCD, we will begin a phase of monitoring and evaluation (M+E, so many acronyms, I know) of past projects to determine their effectiveness and societal impact. This step is crucial to the data collecting process, because if one does not measure results, one can not tell success from failure. M+E relies on ideas from the Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology. SROI takes into consideration the impact on social, environmental, or cultural aspects of a community by expressing social value relative to investments. Basically, through valuation games with community members, we look for quantifiable answers to the question of societal impact. While it involves some technical steps (and math?), I think it will be both important and fun work.

Everything I just described above will take up my first four weeks in Kayafungo. We will also have a lot of time to just experience the community, through interactions within our homestay and the people we meet in our interviews, etc. I cannot stop talking about how excited I am to play with every child in Kayafungo. It is a personal goal of mine. I also can’t wait to check out the local music scene and hopefully get a dance/drum lesson or two (or ten, fingers crossed). Beyond the immersion, once the four weeks are over, we as GDIs reach a pivotal point in our internship. Our next step involves choosing a track for our final four weeks of research, either through an Advocates or Fellowship track. If I decide to pursue a Fellowship with ThinkImpact, I need to find a community partner and work together to develop a comprehensive model and plan for a new social business. This is such an incredible opportunity, because if selected, I would become a funded fellow, allowing me to return to Kayafungo in 9 months for a stay of one year to carry out my project. Obviously, a great opportunity leaving me lots of options to consider (ex: Georgetown, Vittles, life, etc.). The Advocates track requires me to choose a research project and carry it out within the last four weeks I have in Kayafungo, but no commitment to return to Kenya like the Fellowship offers. Both are amazing opportunities, so it’s going to be quite the decision when the time comes. We’ll see how my first few weeks in Kayafungo go. I’m sure the answer will manifest itself!

So, that’s training in a nutshell. I hope it gives you a better picture of what kinds of things I’ll be doing this summer. After training was finished, the real fun began. Wednesday night my flight to London left, arriving early Thursday morning. We had a long layover in London and left for Nairobi late Thursday night. We arrived in Kenya at 6am yesterday (Friday). I had never felt so disoriented mentally and physically before. I guess that’s what two nights on a plane and like 300 time changes will do to you. Right after we got in, we met the Kenyan team, specifically the ThinkImpact country director Abdullah, who is the MAN. We drove to our hotel in Nairobi, dumped our gear, then went to some meetings. No shower, no sleep, no complaining. It was quite the day.

We met with Root Capital, an organization in Kenya working to extend finance/credit to agricultural businesses. Banks in Kenya normally refuse to lend to the agricultural sector because of risk, even though so much of the economy is dependent on it. Quite a fascinating problem. We next met with the Kenyan Ministry of Water to discuss Kenya’s water crisis. The UN benchmark for water per capita is 1000 cubic meters, the US is 8000 cubic meters, Kenya is 647 cubic meters. The disparity is blaringly obvious. The meeting was informative and really put everything into perspective. We last met with Kickstart, a Kenyan NGO working to get people out of poverty using simple technological innovations. Their technology was so neat. I was struck by the possibilites that these innovations represented. Incredible.

On the way out of the meeting, exhausted and barely lucid, we drove through parts of the slum to gt back to Nairobi. Maybe it was the exhaustion, or the disbelief that i was finally in Kenya, or the incredible amount of information I was attempting to process, but I was blown away. This face will prove to be quite the mental roller coaster.

I can’t believe I was in DC only four days ago. I feel like I have been here for weeks already. I also feel like I’ve known these GDIs for years. Everyone is amazing! I am inspired by all of their stories. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to share this experience with.

Time to go check out the National Archives. More to come later.

Much love.




7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Hi there!

I can’t tell you how proud I am of you for doing this internship and for how you are approaching it and experiencing everything it has to offer. I can’t wait to hear more about the experiences on the blog since I KNOW that phone calls and text messages will be spotty.

I hope that you discover your true passion while in Kenya this summer and return to the US energized about the experiences you’d like to have for the remaining 2 years of Georgetown.

Hope to be able to talk to you and wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY next Saturday.

I’m sure you couldn’t even dream of a better place to celebrate your 20th birthday.

And, I agree with Melanie…you’ve grown up to be an amazing young woman:)


Love you tons…


Comment by Sheryl Pattek

I just finished reading all your posts. This is an amazing blog. Thanks so much for doing this so we can all come with you in some small way. Sorry I missed your good-bye party. Will be thinking about all all summer & particulary on 6/26. Happy 20th Birthday! You rock
Much love
Aunt Beth

Comment by Beth Zemsky

You have a amazin’ way with words!!! I am really proud of your accomplishments and I really hope you achieve all that you went there for. I am really looking forward to following your adventure!!!! :)) Love you! DAD

Comment by Jeff Pattek

Great Blog. I’m so proud of you for going on such an amazing adventure and allowing me to share some of it with you via your blog.
Have a wonderful birthday. Keep up blogging as often as you can.
Love, Hugs and kisses,

Comment by Sheila Zemsky

First, I really enjoyed your writing! I am glad your mom sent me this link. I feel like I am along for the ride and experiencing your first few days. Honestly, I can’t wait to hear about your journey and progress and most importantly stories of playing with every child in the community!

Comment by Andy Gordon


You are one, one amazing girl! I’m bursting with pride that you were my student once upon a time. However, to be quite candid, the tables have turned & I’m learning from you. I’m equally proud of that. Your energy is infectious. Those kids in Kayafungo are going to have one heck of a playmate.

I love you!

~wendy woodmore
Spanish River
AP World History teacher

Comment by wendy woodmore

I think you are having a wonderful and exciting exerience and a so proud of you!

We’ll in Barcelona and we miss you. Wish you were here!



Comment by Sheila Zemsky

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