There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t been writing. A lack of time is certainly one of them; I underestimated how exceptionally busy my months in Nairobi this summer would be. I also don’t prioritize blogging, as I don’t necessarily see it as a required part of my job. With a to-do list longer than my arm, it often gets put on the back burner as a non-essential task, though I do understand that this serves as just one more way to communicate about the Oasis Program and all its glory. Then there’s the problem of having so many things to write about that I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of where to start. Not to mention the fact that this time around I’m blogging not as a volunteer, but as a Flying Kites staff member. What I write needs to be relevant not just to my own life and experiences here, but to the program as well (thus, my new blog site and theme).

My schedule is so full that it’s gotten to the point where I literally sit down every Monday morning and block out my entire week by hours: For example – Monday: 9am-10am: emails/admin work, 10am-12pm: grant writing, 12pm-2pm: volunteer recruitment and so on. It seems a bit silly, but it has really helped me focus and be much more productive; if I’ve written it down on the schedule, I have to do it, even if it’s something I’ve been putting off. All of this ends with me sitting here at 12pm, staring at a Word document I started on June 2nd (I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve
been putting this off).

In an effort to not put anybody to sleep, I’m going to post these as separate entries, though they’ve all been written in one sitting. Hopefully that will help to break up the density of the material into smaller, more manageable bites. We all know how I like to write posts that rival some short novels. 🙂 There’s a lot here, but hopefully by the end you sit back with a more thorough understanding of The Oasis Program and its power. It’s difficult to put into words how amazing it feels to be so overwhelmed with work. It means that things are really taking off; it’s hard to believe that when I left Kenya in May of 2010, the Oasis Program was no more than a binder full of needs assessment surveys and a map of Nairobi with 20 little circles on it. While there are SO many people who are responsible for the success of this program, it feels good to know that I played a small part in the story.

The Team

To refresh the memories of those who don’t know the Oasis team, I’ll briefly introduce the two people who have been working tirelessly alongside me this summer.

Frannie Noble has been with the Oasis Program as Program Manager for over a year now. She’s based full-time in Nairobi and, pending some logistics, will be here for another two (!!). She is the incredible force of Oasis on the ground in Kenya and is largely responsible for leading the program to where it is today. I am insanely grateful for everything she has sacrificed to make a life here and I know the entire Flying Kites team feels the same way. It’s hard to put on a value on having someone stay on staff for 3 consecutive years; the relationships and trust she has worked to hard to build with our Member Homes and contacts in Nairobi will serve her well for years to come. While she was holding down the fort well enough on her own, I could almost SEE the
weight of the world lift off her shoulders when reinforcements arrived.

Nele Groosman joined the Oasis Program as our Program Assistant in May of 2011, just a couple of weeks after I arrived in country. She was immediately comfortable in her surroundings and her independent qualities have served her well in dealing with our Member Homes, going solo to conferences and making important contacts for the program. She will be with Frannie in Nairobi until the end of November, helping us with the important details of the program that often fall through the cracks with just 2 staff members. Situations will often arise that require us to visit one of our Member Homes (pictures for the website, checking on and approving volunteer accommodations, getting video footage for a clip we’re compiling, etc…). Unfortunately, these visits can quickly eat up an entire day once public transport, the notorious Nairobi “jam” and the visit itself are factored in, leaving Frannie or I’s chances of getting around to any computer work at slim to none.  Nele has been invaluable to us this summer, taking on the majority of the fieldwork burden, leaving Frannie and I to our computer-related tasks and meetings. It’s a great way for her to get to know the homes we’re working with and it gives us another, fresh perspective on our program.

I assume most people are familiar with my job description, but as US Program Director, I am focused primarily on fundraising and volunteer recruitment in the states. There are plenty of other tasks that fall to me on a daily basis: accounting, donor relations (sending thank you notes and tax receipts), compiling and creating our newsletters, researching and seeking new partnerships and being the “Face of Oasis” in any situations where our face is required. So much of my time leading up to my trip here this summer was focused on getting all of our volunteer contracts and documents in order and planning the events for this summer that I’m really excited to see how my role evolves upon my return in September.

I am living with Frannie and Nele in a 3 bedroom apartment which doubles as our office, in the Kileleshwa neighborhood of Nairobi, about 10 minutes from downtown with no traffic (an anomaly). We are actually saving money in many respects with this apartment and of course it’s an added bonus to be able to host Flying Kites staff as they come in and out of the city! During Frannie’s first 9 months here, she was commuting in from the Flying Kites Leadership Academy in Njabini, about 2 hours via public transport each way and spending her nights in a local hotel in downtown Nairobi. The emotional and physical toll that living out of a suitcase 3-5 days a week takes on a person, not to mention the cost of that many nights in a hotel, was reason enough to justify the permanent move to Nairobi. Needless to say, we’re very grateful and fortunate to have found such an amazing place and I’m already sad about returning home where I’ll be back to a NYC-sized apartment and paying 4 times the rent!

Please read the rest of today’s posts for an update on the work our dynamic team has been doing this summer!