Tuesday, August 9, 2011

East Africa Day 81 (Tues Aug 2): Equity Group Foundation

When I was up at Daraja earlier this summer, one of the members of the Daraja staff mentioned that Equity Bank has a good education program. I stopped by the Nanyuki Equity Bank Branch and had a really great conversation with the Branch Manager. He was nice enough to provide me with a copy of the Equity Group Foundation's 2010 Annual Report, which provided me with a lot more information about the Education Pillar. I read it cover to cover while treading water in my compound's inground pool, recently:) I wasn't able to reach the Foundation by email or phone, so I decided to head over to the Foundation's offices today in person, to see about scheduling an appointment.

I'm still not feeling well, so it took me a little longer to get out of the house than I'd planned. I took a bus over to the Equity Bank HQ building, located on the outskirts of Nairobi's Central Business District. I was amazingly fortunate. I was able to enter the building and made my way up to the Foundation suite, where I then got to meet with the head of the Education Pillar, Chris Khaemba! When I read his bio online recently, I decided that I HAD to meet him while I was here! He is the former Headmaster of one of Kenya's best high schools (Alliance Boys), was the Dean of the African Leadership Academy (which I've never visited but absolutely love), and is doing amazing, ground-breaking work at the Equity Group Foundation. Chris introduced me to Issac, another member of the Education Pillar Team, who spent some time talking with me about my interests and reasons for visiting their offices, and the work that he is doing. I was invited to check out the 2nd annual Education Pillar Conference, which begins on Sunday. WOW - I feel so fortunate, and so appreciative!

There was an approximately three hour gap between when I first stopped by the Foundation suite, and the hour when Chris and Issac had time to meet with me. I spent that time walking dirt trails directly next to the roadside, exploring the neighborhood.

I found Kenyatta Hospital down the street from Equity Bank's HQ. I walked onto the property and then through the maze of hallways. I wish I could have snapped some photos, but really didn't think that was appropriate. The interior of the hospital was like a courtyard, with open hallways that had a roof over them, but no inner walls. On the side of the hallway with walls, were doorway after doorway, with a sign on each door identifying the doctor's name and specialty who used that particular office. There was every kind of specialty you'd imagine that you'd find, and benches in the hallways outside of each office, where many Kenyans were waiting for service.

photo: one of the hallways inside of Kenyatta Hospital, taken from this blog.

I have no idea how the system works, but it seemed that you first needed to get in line to schedule an appointment, based on the rather disorganized crowd that I found gathered in front of a sign and bank-teller style windows with wire fencing separating the customers from the hospital employees. I would also assume, based on my experience at Nairobi Women's Hospital, that patients have to pre-pay for services before they are performed. I saw several signs pointing to spots where one could make a payment.

I couldn't find the ER, though I did see a sign outside of the hospital directing persons to its entrance. There were so many Kenyans there (no other wazungu) - some lying in the grass outside of the hospital, some walking around, and many sitting on the benches inside. Honestly - I walked away from the hospital thinking that I need to be more careful, so that I don't have to be rushed there for a visit.

Many buses passed me while I walked along the roadside, enroute to the hospital. The black smoke (which maybe could even be called "soot") that comes out from the tailpipes of these buses is overwhelming. As I walked along, trying to cover my air passages to avoid breathing in the fumes, I gave silent but profuse thanks for the Clean Air Act and my former colleagues on the US Senate EPW Committee:)

photo: this is Guatemala, but it might as well be Nairobi ...

I soon had a very bad headache, which persisted all night. Still not sure if that was from the air pollution or from my sickness. I was also physically very tired by the time I made it back to Equity's HQ for my meeting. I was happy to get home and into bed.

That being said, it was a good day! I found my very first organic restaurant, Bonds Garden Restaurant located around the corner from the Equity Bank HQ, and had a great soup and chapatti lunch! Definitely the best food that I've had in Nairobi, yet!

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