Monday, May 26, 2014

IBM invades Gatanga

Peacefully, of course.

I was really excited to get this chance to show my #IBMCSC Kenya colleagues the place I worked for two years back in 2003-2005, and more importantly, the people I worked with.  Hard to believe it was over 10 years ago I worked for Youth Action for Rural Development (YARD). As I alluded to in a previous post, YARD's work is really grassroots community work in its truest form.  The social component of what they do is so important.  YARD's office and most of its staffers live nearby, and for many staffers the line between work and social life is blurred.  Even when there are no resources to be shared, YARD and its staff are, if nothing else, a shoulder to cry on.  Sometimes just having an ally available to listen to your worries and fears, and give you advice on how to solve your problems is incredibly valuable on its own.

The IBM team gets a briefing on YARD from Grace Wairimu, Program Officer.
Mugumo-ini self help group makes and sells handicrafts
 It's an interesting contrast from our visit to the IBM Research - Africa lab last week.  While the folks in the lab are thinking ahead, looking at how cognitive computing can help solve Africa's problems, the folks at YARD are tending to some of the more basic, immediate needs.  Making sure a woman widowed by AIDS and infected herself doesn't lose rights to his or her home when her husband dies. Ensuring secondary school girls have access to sanitary towels so they don't have to miss school when they are menstruating.  Teaching farmers to grow more drought resistant indigenous crops that are also highly nutritious, so they don't go hungry the next time there's a drought. You need both approaches for sure, but I'm sure glad organizations like YARD are out there attending to some of those simple, basic needs that you might otherwise take for granted.

This women's group told us about the demonstration plots they've developed to test out different new crop varieties, a water harvesting project, a greenhouse project, and the merry go round financing they run within the group.

The obligatory musical welcome.  A Kenyan specialty.

e took a little side trip up to Ndaka-ini in Upper Gatanga, where tea is grown, towards the Aberdare Forest.  I think it's one of the most beautiful parts of Kenya, and seldom visited by tourists.  I've sometimes fantasized about organizing multi-day bicycle tours through the area. 
Me with some of my old friends from the YARD staff.   

Sebastian's daughter Nancy made some new friends in a hurry...

...and even got some free healthcare out of it. IBM gives back! ;)

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