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Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Chronic Care Facility in Eldoret is Becoming a Reality

Greetings friends…..I am long overdue writing this note but promise to be more diligent as things get more interesting.

We are making good progress on the facility here in Eldoret. The 100,000 sf. Facility is comprised of five main areas, namely Cardiac care, Chronic care examination space, Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Research Education, and Administration.  The building will be quite beautiful as well as efficient upon completion with lots of natural light and ventilation, local stone, beautiful colors and murals, 2 million liters of rain water storage, 400 kw of solar power, solar hot water and welcoming landscaping of the grounds, to name a few attributes.

Usually I get to work by foot along a moderately busy road which alternates between muddy and dusty.  The really nice thing is that when the Jacaranda trees are in bloom, the ground is covered part of the way with these beautiful light purple flowers….particularly after a good rain…….it makes the walk quite enjoyable.

The building was designed by Geoffrey Njihia and his team at Atticspace Architects in Nairobi.  He is an accomplished young architect with a good eye and he is quite focused on environmental issues.  It has been a pleasure to work with him as well as his team of mechanical, electrical, structural, civil and environmental engineers.  Their English is far, far better than my broken Swahili, that is for sure, but they humor me along.  Despite the common language of English there are times when we have to work to understand one another clearly…..I try to keep my Ogilville twang in check.

We had an exciting ground breaking with all of the requisite hoopla in December.  The Minister of Health was here as well as many, many dignitaries….and yes, there were lots of rather lengthy speeches.  Our Hoosier institutions can be heartily complimented for their collaborative efforts here over the past 20 years.  There is a wonderful sense of partnership with our Kenyan colleagues that makes this effort all the more valuable.

Our contractor, Vishva, is Kenyan Indian, and they are very accomplished.  I had the pleasure of working with them a bit on the Mother and Baby Hospital and they do excellent work, albeit in a manner quite different than we are used to back home.  The owners, Ramji and Anil Vekaria, are good natured and enjoyable to work with.  Peter Museyemi is the site foreman and a friendly focused man.  One could not ask for a better team.  My principal counterpart at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital is Odhiambo Atogo, the hospital’s Chief Engineer.  Excellent colleague who is working hard to improve my Swahili as well……he noted that I needed help once while we were ordering lunch.  In lieu of ordering up bananas, I ordered up some “butt”……I have tried not to repeat that error too often!!!

As I noted above, things are done quite differently.  The excavation tools of choice here are the pickax and shovel………and the means of transport of choice is the wheelbarrow.  What I can tell you is that it is amazing how much digging 40 men can get done in one day.  Foundation stones are trimmed by hand here in the field, so if you know someone you want to punish send him/her my way and I will put him on the stone trimming crew…….

Although there is a quarry in the area, it is still cheaper to break stones by hand and line them up rather than simply putting in gravel and spreading it prior to pouring concrete. Then the spaces between the stones are filled with small stone chips.  Labor,labor, labor and none of it easy.  They work here 6 days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a 1 hour lunch break…..compensaton for a laborer starts at about $3.00/day, which is the government rate…..yup, per day and the men are glad to get the work.  Lunch is beans, maize and water.

When we mix concrete there it is an event to behold.  The wheelbarrows are lined up one after another while the mixing crew keeps the mixer hummin !!  There is no Ready Mix concrete here so in lieu of that there are very large piles of sand, gravel and cement that get whittled away all day long by way of lots of shovels and many, many men.  Peter does a great job of orchestrating the crew and the results are quite impressive.

The Art4AIDS benefit in Columbus had direct benefits here as well.  In addition to sending near $3750 here for Imani Workshops,, money was earmarked to paint the perimeter walls surrounding the site with murals focused on family, peace, the environment and other Kenyan issues.  I have also enclosed a couple of photos of the artists doing this work.  It is great fun to see it develop each day.

Up until now it has been relatively dry.  The rains are beginning and we shall see what kind of progress we make in the mud.  Liam and I were out walkin’ the dog yesterday and got our first good soaking of the season… was just fine by me.  

My best wishes to all with the arrival at home of my favorite season….enjoy those daffodils!!!


1 comment:

  1. Michael, this project is amazing! Thank you so much for letting us know what is going on! I can't believe how labor intensive the work is, but I saw a lot of that in Japan, too. Maybe it's valuing people over profits? Just giving people work and a purpose is so important and something that is dying out over here where the companies do not care for their workers much.
    Keep up the good work!