Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Week 5...A month in Mwanza!

June 5th, 2013
Things are going well in Mwanza!  I have been here for over a month and am starting to feel at home.  Having Stephanie here has been a great addition to our team.  I have been trying to work with APYN as much as possible and am assisting on finance, marketing, and am hoping to be more involved in the community.  Last week we went to all of the kitchens to collect samples of yoghurt for quality control.  This gave us an opportunity to meet with the mama's and ask more questions about the kitchens.  I am interested in observing the processing steps that are taking place within the kitchens and documenting everything to see where there are some variances.  Through testing, Stephanie was able to conclude that the kitchens are all producing very different qualities of yoghurt.  Having one standardized practice may be helpful in attempting to control the quality.  I think documenting the process for each kitchen and talking to each kitchen about their own business goals and how they approach the market is essential. 

The kitchens have agreed to allow us to go into the market with them to gain a better understanding of how business is conducted.  I think this will be very helpful in developing strategies to make the business more efficient and effective.   Y2Y kitchen has also requested to have someone come and help them with their English and business skills.  Since this falls right into my area of interest, teaching and business, I am excited for the opportunity!  I am going to try and arrange to meet with them at least once a week to work together on these skills.  I think it will be a great opportunity for both of us!


I have become very comfortable in my environment.  I have developed a much better understanding of the language and culture.  I had an amazing experience last weekend when my roommates and I joined up with other international volunteers and went to Ukerewe Island. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.  We took the ferryboat to the island, which was about a 3.5 hour trip, and stayed for one night.  During the day, we biked over 20 kms around the island.  We rode up and down hills, through the countryside.  It was difficult but worth every second!  I would highly recommend this to anyone who visits Tanzania.  The views were amazing.  We rode through small villages and on dirt roads.  Everyone was very friendly.  We visited an old palace and the first church ever built on the island.  It was absolutely amazing! 
That night we had dinner right on the beach! The stars filled the sky, it was such an incredible day.  On Sunday, we went hiking.  We walked through small villages and hiked up rocks.  At the top of the rocks was the most wonderful view of the island and lake.  Many of the children from the village followed us up the rocks and enjoyed the view with us.  It was definitely an experience I will never forget.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Week 3! Discovering Nairobi!


May 22nd, 2013

We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya after a 12 hour bus journey.  We left Mwanza at 6:30am.  The drive was nice as we drove though an area of the Serengeti.  I really had no idea what to expect when entering Kenya.  Once the bus stopped, we began to walk towards the border.  We were approached by many people trying to sell us items, including Kenyan shillings.  It seemed strange to literally walk across the border with almost no security at all.  Once we were at the Kenyan side of the border, I proceeded to try and get my Kenyan Visa.  The officer told me it would cost 50 USD.  I did not have USD on me but was able to find a location close by that changed my TSH into USD.  We finally buckled up on the bus that would take us into Nairobi. 

The drive through Kenya was more gorgeous than I ever imagined!  Although, it was hot and very crammed on the bus, I was very happy to be able to see all the country side.  It was so green!  The rolling hills and valleys were breath taking.  As we moved closer to Nairobi, we drove past the Great Rift Valley of East Africa.  The scenery was unreal!  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  I remember thinking, this must be nature at its very best!  I tried to take as many pictures as possible from the bus window but the sun and glare did not give them justice.  There was a very kind elderly man sitting next to us that kept trying to tell us all about what we were looking at and give us stories about Kenyan history.  I’m sure what he was saying would have been very interesting,  unfortunately, I was unable to understand him and had to just keep shaking my head in an attempt not to come across as being rude.  When arriving into Nairobi I was stunned.  There were many bill boards, buildings, and cars.  The big city atmosphere definitely felt more like home.  I remember continuously saying how much I love Kenya in my head. 

Our hunt for the perfect packaging began early the next day.  We started by going to the industrial area.  To get there, we had to ride matatu’s (small vans that fit many people inside).  They are very cheap but drive a little crazy.  We visited 6 companies in total over two days.  Everyone was very friendly and informative.  We were feeling positive about the information that we were receiving even though our hunt had lead us to some very remote places.  Meeting the people working for these companies was definitely worth the trip.  The information that we were able to gain and the questions we were able to ask were irreplaceable.  On our second day, our colleagues from Muungano kitchen in Kenya joined us!  It was great to see them.  We discussed everything that we had discovered the previous day and they were just as excited about the information as we were.  We proceeded to visit a few more companies together and were able to touch base on issues from both kitchens and exchange our thoughts, ideas, and future goals. 

Travelling around Nairobi was a very interesting experience.  People seem to cross the street just about everywhere, regardless of the traffic, and there is a lot of traffic!  The streets are crowded and the roads are jammed.  It is a busy city that does not sleep!  From my hotel window I could hear the matatu’s honking their horns for most of the night. Although our trip was going well, it was time to head back to Mwanza! 
We began our travel back on Saturday evening.  It was a long trip through the night.  I was a little nervous at first but everything turned out fine.  Upon arriving back to Tanzania, I was happy to see familiar ground.  The trip was definitely long and the bumpy ride did my body no favours.  Overall, it was a very successful trip.  We made connections and networked in ways that would be impossible over the internet.  Meeting with our colleagues from Muungano was fantastic for building our relationship and sharing our thoughts and business plans.  I would definitely visit Nairobi again but for now, I am very happy to be back in Mwanza! 
On Monday morning we presented our findings during the morning meeting. I proceeded to create a document that outlined all of the information we gained and added the photos to help with the description of the products.  Today, we had another full meeting with the marketing team and things are starting to develop as everyone is beginning to generate ideas and add their opinions about the direction of packaging and production.  I am very glad that I have been able to work with APYN during this process and am excited to see what the final result will be.  In addition, our new roommate arrived on Friday.  It is great to have her here.  It is hard to believe how quickly the time is going already.  As I get more involved in my work here and building relationships, I can see that it will be very difficult to leave. 



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Week Two!!!!

May 14th, 2012
Today marks the end of my second week in Mwanza, Tanzania!!!  So far things have been great!  I am really enjoying learning more about the culture and language and am feeling much more comfortable in my surroundings.  On the weekend I visited the Kittitimo Orphanage in Singida.  I had worked there previously and wanted to ensure the children that I am committed to building and maintaining our relationship.  It was a great trip and helped me adjust even more to my environment and getting around by bus, it was definitely not as scary as I initially thought it would be. 

Yesterday morning we had a meeting with APYN to discuss what we accomplished the previous week, our plan for this week, and our monthly agenda.  Last week, I spent time at two of the kitchens (Ebenezer and Buswelu) using a checklist to assess the overall condition of the kitchen and to spend time with the Mama’s.  Spending time at the kitchen seems to be a very important part of building an understanding of the unique dynamics of each kitchen and to form relationships with the Mama’s.  I learned a lot form doing this and am very impressed with the work that the Mama’s are doing.  I am interested in spending more time with the Mama’s and observing and documenting the process of the yoghurt production in each kitchen to compare the differences between them.  By doing this, there could be a more unified strategy of ensuring the quality of the yoghurt. 

My plan for this week is to travel to Nairobi, Kenya with the APYN marketing staff to source out possible packaging manufactures.  Finding the packaging has been an important goal for APYN.  I am hoping that we will be able to find the proper packaging resource so that the marketing strategies can expand.  I think traveling to Nairobi will be an interesting experience.  We are taking the bus which is supposed to be a 10 hour ride.  I will have to get my Kenya visa at the border upon arrival.  I feel positive that this trip will assist APYN in reaching their packaging goals.
As an intern, I am trying my best to figure out how to fit into the flow of the office and daily routine.  The staff have made me feel very welcome.  I am still trying to understand the dynamics of the office and familiarize myself with the organization.  I have felt the challenge of trying to figure out exactly how to fit in and my position as an intern but I know with time everything should start to feel much more comfortable.  Although I have only been here for two weeks, sometimes it feels like much longer.  I assume this means that I am feeling comfortable in my environment.  I look forward to adding updates about how the trip to Kenya goes. I feel positive that it will be a productive endeavour.  SAFARI NJEMA!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Week One: A day in the life of Mwanza, Tanzania!!!

May 1st, 2013
I arrived yesterday, April 30th, 2013, after a long trip from Toronto.  I flew from Amsterdam to Nairobi and finally Mwanza, Tanzania!  So far I feel that I am adjusting well.  Upon my arrival, I realized that my luggage had not been sent on my flight from Nairobi to Mwanza.  It was an interesting experience.  The airport in Mwanza was extremely small.  Once I entered the building from the plane, there were many young men there to assist in carrying luggage.  Unfortunately, this time it was unnecessary, as I had no luggage to carry.  There wasn't really a line up during the passport checking process, just a glass that divided the employees and the new arrivals.  My passport was taken by an employee, no words or questions asked, and it was quickly given back to me.  I took this as a good sign :-) 

There was a lot of confusion and chaos when we started to realized that the luggage had not been sent with us on the airplane.  Instead of being given any details, it was simply implied for us to stand around and wait to fill out a form regarding the missing luggage.  When it was finally my turn to report my lost luggage the employee assisting me was very friendly and a great help!  He put my mind at ease by saying "it happens every day."  The following day, my luggage was returned to my apartment by the same man who helped me fill out my form.  This taught me a valuable lesson for the beginning of my trip...relax, everything will be fine! HAKUNA MATATA :-)

May 2nd, 2013
I went to APYN for the first time today.  We dropped off yogurt at seven of the ten kitchens.  Everyone seemed very friendly and helpful.  They asked me to introduce myself and what plans I had to work with APYN.  I expressed my interest in working with them on their business development, finance plan, and marketing strategies.  They filled me in on the current position of the organization and goals.  I definitely feel excited to work together.  I felt bad that my Kiswahili was not better.  I did not understand a lot of what was being said around me and needed help understanding.  I am really going to focus on improving.  As a side note, I  had not had a good shower since Canada because our shower was broken.  It was finally fixed today!!! I had a nice shower and am feeling a little more refreshed. SAFI SANA!!!
May 6, 2013
Today, I experienced my first meeting with APYN.  The meeting began by addressing what had been accomplished from the previous week, what the intention is for the coming week, and ended by discussing what the month would entail.  When asked what I planned to accomplish for my upcoming week, I discussed some marketing and finance ideas that had been raised the previous week.  My input seemed to be very appreciated and supported. 
Some of the marketing and production ideas that were raised have been in regards to packaging, monitoring the activity in each kitchen by documenting and recording the patterns of sales, and to outline the step-by-step process regarding quality control of the product in each kitchen.  As my one week mark of being on the ground comes to an end, I am feeling very positive.  I am adapting to the language, culture, and I feel very welcome.  I know I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work with APYN and am excited to be a part of putting the future plans into action.