T-minus one week for departure to Kenya. A pile is starting to grow in my office as I assemble the items from my packing list. It is the same list I have usedfor years and with each trip, it gets a little more refined. I also have items that just live in a bag whichI pull out about a week before departure.
Highlights from the Kenya bag include: satellite phone, snake bite kit, a pack of syringes, Halloween glow sticks (great for just enough light in the hut), DUCT TAPE (invaluable), compact tool kit, and a couple of lightweight backpacking towels. In addition, I’m bringing supplies for our truck, called the Gumpsmobile: air compressor inflator,a nylon luggage bag that can be tied to the roof rack, and a fan for the cab on those 100+ degree days as we travel around the district. I’m also bringing a few gifts: solar-powered lights, grey “Yankees” t-shirts by request, ties for the safari camp managers, and 4 copies of “It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistleblower” by Michela Wrong, a recent book about Kenyan government corruption. I’m especially delighted to be distributing this book as it is impossible to buy in bookstores in Kenya.
One of the greatest challenges in running an organization in Kenya is the rightful need to have accountability and transparency in everything we do, especially our financial transactions in a primarily cash society. So I have a box of duplicate receipts for payments to the extra staff we hire, like Semeji, our bodyguard; Omar, chef and mechanic; and Hassan, all-around helper for the big meetings in the villages. I’m also bringing some new business cards for Kura, our Kenya Operations Director.
When I arrive in Nairobi I’ll buy the rest of the supplies we need for the trip north, as well as additional gifts for the women leaders in the villages in which we work: scarves, yards of fabric, thermos jugs and mugs for the indispensable cups of chai.
After weeks in the office, primarily writing grant applications, I’m looking forward to getting out of the office and spending 4 weeks outside, taking in the sun and the heat and the warmth of the people.