I Am Officially a Mzungu

Image     Another week has gone by here in Nairobi at AMREF.  So much to learn here.  The week started off with no Internet when we got to the office.  So I looked over a lot of documentation about my NGO, which was very helpful.  I thought I knew quite a bit about what AMREF does, but this helped to fill in the blanks.  While I was looking over the documents, one of the IT people came into my office and asked me if I worked in IT back at GSK.  When I said that I did, she said that they were having issues with their internet firewall and asked if I could figure out what the problem was.  Unfortunately, that is not my area of expertise so I was not able to help them.

When we finally got the internet restored, I was asked to look at a system that they wanted to roll out for their annual budget planning, and see if I could help write a user guide for the system.  I had never seen the system before, but I decided to give it the old college try.  So off I went to create a user guide and hoped that I would not bring down the entire network.  Along the way I found a few problems in the system which did not show up during the testing of the system before.  I alerted the developer who made the fixes right away.  Best to find the problems now before the system was released for everyone to use for planning their budgets.

During the week I also researched some vendor products that could be used on cell phones to track safe wells for drinking water in the rural parts of the country.  While only about 10 percent of the population in Kenya has access to the internet, over 80% of the people here have cell phones.  They are very inexpensive here and people use them to for anything from making calls to paying for food and gas for their automobiles.  There are applications for their phones, such as M-Pesa, that allow them transfer money from their account to a vendors account with no hassles or service charges.  There is hardly any use for land lines here in Kenya so they don’t need to create the infrastructure for land lines.

The weekend arrived, and we were invited to travel out to Nakuru in the Rift Valley to visit some orphanages there.  Along the way we saw many zebras and impalas in the fields by the road.  After about a 3 hour ride from Nairobi we arrived at the first orphanage.  This place had about 200 children; most of them lost their parents to AIDS and other 3rd world diseases.  The children were having a church service so we sat down with them.  While sitting there, a little boy about 9 years old turned around and asked “Mzungu, would you like to sit next to me?”  Mzungu is a Swahili term for foreigner (usually a Caucasian).  So I went and sat next to him for the rest of the church service.  After the service he and another boy each grabbed one of my hands and took me around to see where they went to school, where they slept, and where they ate.  We had lunch with them, but it was time to leave and return to Nairobi.  Before we left, the boys agreed to have their picture taken with me.  I will attach that picture to this blog.

On the way back to Nairobi, we needed to stop at another orphanage to drop off some items.  When we got out of the van, the first thing that I heard was “Mzungus”.  I’m here in Kenya for 3 weeks and I am now officially a Mzungu.  This place had about 40 children all under the age of 6.    Most of these children will hopefully be adopted by Kenyan families within the next year.  Seeing these orphanages really drove home my goal for the next 6 months to help AMREF fulfill their mission to improve the lives of all people throughout eastern Africa.


  1. Curt you look great! Life in Kenya is definitely agreeing with you! I hope we get a chance to meet up. I arrive on Nairobi on Monday night. Will give you my contact info once I get it.

  2. Hi Curt. You do not know me. I work as a Clinical Research Associate in US Monitoring/PCPS and I am based in Phoenix, AZ. My current therapeutic areas are HIV and opthalmology. I have been working within HIV, monitoring our clinical drug studies/working with our investigative study sites for several years. Seeing your description above, and the photo attached just serves to remind me (even more) of the GSK values…helping people live longer, do more, feel better. Thank you for sharing the beginning of your story….I look forward to watching the chapters unfold!

  3. Hi Curt,
    I don’t know you either but I follow many PULSE blogs. I work in Global Internal Communications here in Philadelphia and we are always looking for ways to make the GSK Values real for people – you are living it my friend. Thank you for what you are doing! I’ll be reading and following you along on your journey – best of luck!

  4. Hi Curt,

    Great blog!! Way to contribute in your early days on assignment – looking forward to more of your pictures and postings! Speaking of mobile phones, my friend (and former GSK IT employee) started a telemedicine company to address the global healthcare access challenge of the underserved populations. If you find this technology worthwhile in the communities you’re working in, I can put you in touch with the founder. Take a look at this website for more info: http://clickmedix.com/.

  5. Great to see some pictures! Now I won’t have to keep bothering you about getting one. Looks like we need to sign you up for “Firewall Diagnostics 101” in myLearning :-). Take care and keep these very inspirational blogs coming.

  6. Hi Curt, I feel your energy and enthusiasm for this assignment in your writing. Keep posting so we can follow your adventure from “back home.”

  7. Hi Curt! It is great to read about your PULSE experience and see the photos. I can see what an impact the assignment is having already on you personally and your client organization. Thanks for sharing your story and letting us keep tabs on your experience. A very inspirational and heartwarming story! Please take care and keep the updates coming!

  8. Thanks for sharing Curt. It’s great to hear what you have been doing in your first few weeks with AMREF and how this has impacted you. Keep telling your story, we look forward to hearing more!

  9. Curt – thanks for sharing. Sounds like you are already making an impact. Take care. I will enjoy checking back here and following your adventure.

  10. Curt – Thank you for the updates. I’m so glad that you have an opportunity to impact so many people’s lives. This is truly a worthwhile cause. I look forward to hearing more.

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