Thursday, March 3, 2011

Unforgettable visits

Thursday, March 3rd will be marked as a day to remember, a day to remember for only one thing … spreading love and happiness. Yes, this is what exactly each one of us went through. It was a day filled with emotions, expressions, gestures and above all … hugs n smiles all around.

DOT and CSC Kenya Team 2 planned out March 3rd and March 4th as part of Community Days. The entire crew gathered at the reception of our hotel to head over for our first visit to Allamano Special School. Pencils, erasers, pens, chocolates, candies, footballs and other gifts were all collected and packed into our cars. After a twenty minute drive out of Nyeri, we made into Allamano Special School where we were graciously greeted by school staff.

We visited a local school called Allamano Special School. This school was home for several mentally disabled children. Our team had spent  a lot of time in our respective countries collecting gifts and valuables for this visit. Francesco from Italy even had a Lenovo Thinkpad for donation to school staff whereas Luan from Switzerland promised to hand over a digital camera. It was pleasing to see how each member contributed in his/her way for this day.

It was an extremely heart-warming start to the day; we were welcomed by the children with open-arms at school’s field house. You can very well note the expressions running on their faces … these expressions said it all. It was a special moment where all of us mingled with the children who seemed to have been fascinated by our presence. Some of us played soccer, some of us volleyball and some of us just took their pictures and shared them back. Our cameras gathered much attention; all seemed so amused by these tiny gadgets. How rapidly their facial expression changed into wide smiles and then into laughter on seeing their pictures was just something special to see J

Before departing we were presented an entertainment show by the children where every child danced and sang for our team. Not only that but even a welcome poem was read out for our team. Seeing such a performance by the children, IBMers weren’t going to sit quietly, the team had its own train dance presented to the children where they all seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed.

Francesco then on behalf of the CSC team took the lead in handing out the various gifts to the school staff. It was a lovely moment.

Our next stop for the day was to be the Mweiga orphanage. The children at the orphanage welcomed us with a touch of local flavor. We could hear Jambo Bwana being chanted loud and clear as our cars approached the gates. Jambo Bwana is a very popular hip-hop song in Kenya. It’s a Swahili word which means “Welcome”.

The children seemed to have been patiently waiting for us to get involved and talk to them. As pictures speak a thousand words, the following pictures will display how our team spent the rest of the day mingling with the children.

Anna smiling away with the children

Reka busy showing pictures on her digital camera

Dave engaging the children with his skills

Eva getting the local touch .. getting her hair braided :)

Anna sharing the poloroid snaps

Luan posing with her new friend

Myself with the two dancing stars

Bill appreciating the completed poster

The children then took the stage in showcasing their dancing talents. Yep, they had specially prepared a dance performance for us. It was a splendid performance. Reka who is a trained dancer didn’t disappoint the children in sharing some of her dance steps. It was a picture perfect moment where everyone seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed the show.

It was soon time to say good-bye to everyone at the orphanage. It was a great feeling to notice how even tiny gestures can make an impact, I was extremely fortunate and lucky to be amongst and sharing such splendid time with all the children today :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

BIG day in Nairobi

After a hectic but enjoyable break from the weekend, we were into our mother of all weeks. Haha, mother of all weeks coz this week included our stakeholder meetings/interviews. All the other sub-teams had already gotten a jump-start in interviewing their stakeholders and had started collecting raw data. It was our time now and Monday, February 28th was THE day that we all were thriving for.

Our day started early and I mean really early. We kick-started our journey towards Nairobi by taxis at 5:00 AM. Struggling with the rush-hour traffic and passing by hundreds of construction sites on the road, we made into Nairobi just in time before our first meeting with Legal officers at Ministry of Immigration and Registration of Persons Headquarters at Nyayo House.

After our first interview at Nyayo house, the team was raring to go and build the momentum for the upcoming six other interviews. Next stop was to be the Passport office where we were provided a tour of the office and experience the process behind the desks. It was surprising to see how a passport application went from one window to the other before getting into the completion stages. What was interesting to note was that the passport office seem to be the only venue where technology was being used consistently. Almost each station had a computer workstation where passport employees were busy plugged into their daily tasks. Still there was a plenty of room for change, the processes were still not up to the mark, and the productivity rate still needed to rise.

National ID cards waiting to be picked up
The most interesting part of the day was the trip to the registration offices where we interviewed registration officers at lengths. We even got our first taste of interviewing the citizens that were queued up in the lines for hours … yes several hours. Some of them traveled for hours from remote corners of the country. Kenyan citizens didn’t shy away from sharing their views with us; they all seemed deeply frustrated. One of them stating “This is the fifth day in a row that I am here waiting in the queue. Every day costs me 300 Ksh for transport. I have no more money for food”.

Archives of National ID registration (this is just from past 4 months)
We observed pretty much all the work that is being done is done manually in a step-by-step redundant fashion. Papers, papers, papers and more papers is all we stared at, no wonder why the processes needed a big time change. Being at the ground level experiencing how these processes take place exposed us to the challenges that lie ahead and justified why our CSC team had been summoned into Kenya.

Over-flowing shelves of Birth registrations
Registration papers from a single day sitting at the desk to be processed
Busy scenes at Birth/Death Registration office, Nairobi
Our day was not done yet, after several back-to-back interviews we had one more interview left. We met up with IBM account manager Vivian Ashioya to discuss our project into further detail. Vivian couldn’t have picked up a better place for the interview as it brought all our energy back in a quick flash … we were at a Kenyan equivalent of Starbucks i.e. Nairobi Java house where we enjoyed Kenyan coffee, lattes and garlic breads. Team CHUI was super-happy :)

With a ton of research data we started our way back to Nyeri reaching a few hours later late into the night. It was an extremely tiring day but a productive one as this had set the tone for the days to come ... !!!