Encountering Celebrities in Kenya

Our fascinating family adventure in some of the remote regions of Kenya continues.  Who would have known that this experience would have me working with semifinalists of East Africa’s Got Talent and Time Magazine world figures? Every day is a new, exciting cultural experience that amazes us all in many ways. Our second month has made us more comfortable in our new surroundings, especially navigating Nairobi’s chaotic traffic. My job involves supporting Amref Health Africa’s global partnerships strategy leading on process, technology, inventory and policy aspects. This specific area has been identified as a need for improvement by the Gates Foundation, who will help fund the recommendations. The Audit and Compliance teams are also leveraging my GSK experience as I provide consultancy in driving a data driven risk management strategy. The needs of many NGOs are highly dependent on fundraising and are immediate and stress producing. Recently, while lunching with a colleague in charge of fundraising for Kenya, a staff member at the Kibera Slums Health Clinic frantically indicated that the backup generator had malfunctioned and the clinic needed $12,000 for a new one for refrigeration, life support, and incubators given the fickle nature of the country electric lines in Nairobi.  Situations like these seem to be a daily occurance.

End of day townhall at Kenya GSK office 

Working in Nairobi has also allowed me to occasionally visit the GSK office. A couple of weeks ago,. I attended the all day visit with the leadership team and learned about the “Comeback” strategy of Drive, Fix, Learn that the Country GM is leading in order to ensure the country is profitable. The most interesting takeaway for me was the dilemma that many pharmacists have of being health care professionals, but also running a business, therefore influencing prescribing habits.

The pride and enthusiasm by the entire village for the ceremony was overwhelming!

Commitment Ceremony with Village, County, School, and Amref Leaders

On a more personal note my family and I have become involved in two Amref initiatives: Anti female genital mutilation (Link: FGM) and Dagoretti Children Service Center (DCSC). In the first, we were invited, by FGM advocate, Nice Naliente (Link: Time Magazine Most Influential People in 2018), to a Maasai village in the shadows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, where thousands had gathered to show commitment to eliminate ‘The Cut’ in lieu of Education as an Alternative Right of Passage. My three daughters each spoke to the girls about this issue while my son climbed trees and played soccer with the village boys using an empty plastic bottle as a ball!                                                                                                             As for the second program, we spent the day at the center to learn about services for street children who need rescue, rehabilitation, re-intervention & reentry into normal life and school. The Center very much harnesses the artistic skills (music, movie production, arts, crafts etc) as a way to express difficult emotions and struggles the kids are going through. We visited a library (without many books) that served as a safe gathering place for street kids, who showed full accountability of the care, cleaning, and maintenance. Happily, my kids even got to play alongside the center band “Jua Kali” (meaning hot sun) which has made it to the semi finals of “East Africa’s Got Talent” tv show using all recycleable trash (Link at 7:45 mark)!  These kids are making the most of products that would generally end up in a landfill, are we?

Family in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro          Son playing with friends

Jamming with the Jua Kali band
Playing soccer against the Jua Kali kids 

POST #1: GSK Supporting my Global Pro Bono work                                   POST #2: Hakuna Matata


  1. John, what a wonderful experience for all of you. The best with your assignment. Looking forward to reading more about your work in Kenya.

  2. What a phenomenal learning and growth experience for all of you – I’m glad to see you making the most of your assignment!

    1. Patrick, appreciate your feedback and I always keep in mind the respectful photography guidelines you trained us on.

  3. @John, love your post & all of the family pictures ! It looks like you are all having such great, meaningful experiences — your children are sure to remember these for a long long time!! So happy to see you connecting w/ the local GSK Kenya colleagues as well as w/ celebrities!! Keep writing. Best wishes, Manu.

    1. Thanks Manu, I certainly hope they remember. Appreciate all your support. If WordPress wasn’t so clunky, I would probably do more posting :).

  4. Hello John. A great snippet to allow us to peak into your “new world”. Each one, reach one! Warming to see the difference you and your family are making. Safe travels!

  5. Hi John, thanks for sharing. It’s great to read about the work you’re doing with Amref and also of the opportunities they have to lean on you with the vast experience you bring from your work and experiences at GSK. Its also great to see you taking the time to get to know and network with GSK colleagues in Kenya and absolutely wonderful to learn about the initiatives your family is involved with there aimed at improving the lives of children. Best of luck the rest of the way, please tell your family I said hello and I hope the kids enjoy their school experiences. Take care.

  6. Thank you for sharing John – love seeing you and your family get so involved to make your mark with the teams and people there! You are making memories for a lifetime!

  7. John – awesome to see your experience with Pulse and how your family is getting involved. I’m quite certain your youngest was in a stroller the last time I saw him. I wish you much continued success as you are learning and making an impact in Kenya.

  8. Great to see you having settled down and doing great stuff like a local – playing soccer with the boys, visiting the local tourist destinations etc.

  9. This is just SO inspiring. I love that your daughters are sharing with them about STEM and FGM. Really moving.

  10. Wow – you & your family are soaking up every opportunity to fully immerse yourself into life in Kenya, giving back & meeting so many new & exciting groups of people. I cannot wait to hear more about your continued adventures John!

  11. A delayed response, but I wanted to post. What an incredible experience for all of you. I can only begin to imagine how this has changed your outlook on the world. I look forward to talking with Lillian about her time in Kenya!

    – Julie Jacobson (Lillian’s 6th grade science teacher)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s