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Nourish International

Week 5

August 8, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Ghana, Summer Projects, UMN | By

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Ericka’s Batik

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Crushing glass bottles to make beads

Global Mamas offers an awesome experience to both its volunteers as well as anyone who is interested to learn about traditional Ghanaian arts. The Cape Coast location manages the batikers and seamstresses around the area, so Abbey and Ericka were able to meet up with one of the batikers and take a workshop with her. Seeing the women do their work first-hand was fascinating. We had a lot of fun and were able to create the fabric that we used. We also got the chance to travel to and do some smaller projects at the Global Mamas Krobo location. The Krobo area is known for beads, hosting an enormous bead market every Wednesday. There, we were able to take another workshop with Grace and Moses, two bead makers who have worked with Global Mamas for 5 years. We learned the whole process of creating beads – from glass bottle to bracelet. It was great to see firsthand the work that is done within the Global Mamas family each day.

But our project nears its end. Over the past month, we have formed amazing friendships and successfully adapted to the Ghanaian groove—traveling in taxis to the office each morning and afternoon, in “tro-tros” to our favorite beach spots and weekly cricket matches, and to the farthest reaches of Ghana to experience the enormity of the largest waterfall in West Africa. Our database project is almost complete. When it is, Global Mamas will be able to use this tool to analyze how their organization has impacted their producers since the very beginning. We meet with management next week to illustrate our ideas to reorganize their offices in order to add an inventory Room and account for three new positions at the Cape Coast location- Inventory Manager, Design Assistant, and Production Assistant.

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Some of the Krobo Staff

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On our way to Wli Waterfalls


July 21, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Ghana, Summer Projects, UMN | By

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Today marks our third week in Ghana! What an experience so far!

We continue to labor through data and enter it into the database, but we have also been asked to complete a few side projects. Ericka already finished updating an Infographic for the Global Mamas (GM) Annual Report. They have been really pressing her for her Graphic Design skills and she has really stepped up! Ash began a project last week called “Meet the Mamas,” in which he will interview and get to know many of the Mamas. GM will post some of his favorite quotes on Facebook so that customers can get to know their producers. Abbey and Nick will be introduced to their side project today related to Inventory Management.

According to the Rural Poverty Portal, around 6 million people in Ghana live in poverty. Global Mamas works not only to bring people out of poverty but also gives them the chance to prosper. GM producers earn on average 35% more than workers in the same industry in Ghana. That is 75% above minimum wage! By sorting through our data, we have been able to realize firsthand the difference that GM has in so many lives. On AVERAGE, each Mama supports 2 people outside of their immediate family and often times pays school fees for up to 6 children who are not their own.

Last week, we were able to help out in Quality Control where about ten employees examine the quality of the orders that the Mamas have sent in to the office. Our task was to remove any loose threads and make sure all zippers functioned correctly. We have a lot of fun there with the staff.

On the weekends when the office is closed, we are able to travel around Ghana. So far, we have traveled to Kakum National Park, Elmina Castle, the city of Kumasi, and Lake Bosomtwe.

Kakum National Park is located 45 minutes away from Cape Coast. We went on a canopy tour, which is like a ropes course 30 meters above ground in the canopy of the rainforest. Even though it was a little frightening at times to be supported by just ropes and wooden boards, the views were so worth it.

The Portugese, under the supervision of St. George of the Mine, built Elmina Castle in 1482 as a trade settlement, but it later became an important stop on the route of the Atlantic slave trade. Evidence of the type of treatment that was inflicted upon these people can still be seen and felt today. One of the most emotional parts of the tour was our stop at the “Point of No Return.” Slaves were marshalled through a small crevice in the wall where they could briefly glance back at their homeland one last time before being shipped off to the Americas, never to return.

Many name Kumasi as home to the largest market in West Africa. Once we made our way into the chaos, it was difficult to find our way out. Vast and overwhelming, one look there was enough for a lifetime. After maneuvering our way out of the market, we traveled to Lake Bosomtwe, which was created by a crater over one million years ago and is now a peaceful and secluded getaway. We enjoyed our time swimming and relaxing by the lake before journeying back to Cape Coast to get ready for the week.


Kumasi Market


Lake Bosomtwe

A day in Ghana

July 10, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Ghana, Summer Projects, UMN | By


Outside of our house in Elmina

1:30 AM Ash is awake due to extreme jetlag, Ghana edition
5:30 AM Ash finally falls back asleep
5:31 AM The sun rises
6:56 AM Abbey and Ericka wake up
7:00 AM Abbey and Ericka’s alarm goes off
7:00 AM Nick cannot believe it is morning
7:05 AM Nick takes his first bucket shower
7:06 AM He loves it
7:35 AM Ash wakes up
7:40 AM We leave and walk to the junction
7:45 AM We arrive at the junction and hop into a taxi
8:00 AM The taxi drops us off near the Global Mamas office
8:05 AM We’re early thanks to GMT – Ghana Maybe Time
8:30 AM The project is upon us
8:31 AM We are already drowning in data

We should probably explain what we are doing here in the first place. Over the past 10 years, Global Mamas has used a variety of models to track the impact of their work. Because different amounts and types of data were collected, none of the information is organized in a meaningful way. Our task is to populate the database for the three locations in Cape Coast, Odumase-Krobo, and Ashaiman. We will also work with the management team to identify and create relevant reports, analyze our findings to guide programs for the next few years, and possibly develop and implement a communications plan to highlight the company’s achievements to donors, volunteers, customers, and potential partners.

Global Mamas is a non-profit clothing company whose stated goal is to achieve prosperity for women. They strive to do this by using a micro-enterprise model to create fair-trade jobs for women. The ultimate outcome is to prepare women to manage their own independent, self-sufficient small businesses.

We worked on inputting the data for the rest of the day, stopping once to go across the road to the chop stand where we all got rice, beans, plantain, and red sauce. At 5 PM, we took a taxi back to our house and then walked down the road to Elli’s. Elli has a restaurant where she makes food to order, so our meal of palava, rice, and eggs was hot a ready soon after we arrived.

After dinner, we went back to the house and played some cards before simultaneously agreeing that 9:30 PM was way too late to be awake, so we scurried off to bed.

We’re goin’ to Ghana!

July 5, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Ghana, Summer Projects, UMN | By

Hello friends and family!

This post begins a series of blog posts that chronicles UMN Nourish’s project with Global Mamas in Cape Coast, Ghana. First, allow us to introduce ourselves.

Nick Cotta just finished his second year at the U. He plans to create his own major with concentrations in Global Studies, Psychology, and Social Justice. He is most looking forward to meeting the Mamas and learning about Ghanaian culture.

Ashwat Giri also just finished his second year at the U. He is entering his third and final year as an English major and plans to attend law school. He is thrilled with all that UMN Nourish has accomplished this year and is most looking forward to seeing, and being a part of, the culmination of the chapter’s efforts.

Abbey Kroll is entering her third year at the U. She is majoring in International Business and Supply Chain and Operations Management. She is most looking forward to meeting the Mamas and seeing how the organization has impacted their lives.

Ericka Wallis is entering her third year at the U as a graphic design major. She is most looking forward to implementing the project with Global Mamas and experiencing a culture very different from what she is used to.

UMN Nourish raised over $7000 this year, and has been eagerly anticipating putting that money to use. We chose Global Mamas as our partner because we believe the organization demonstrates the attitudes and ethics that Nourish stands for. We believe Global Mamas has an appreciation for the complexity of the issues surrounding extreme poverty, and we are impressed with how they have focused their efforts on designing highly contextualized, sustainable, community-based solutions.

Today, the team celebrated Fourth of July with Ericka’s family and neighbors in Madison, Wisconsin.

Celebrating the 4th in Wisconsin!

Celebrating the 4th in Wisconsin!

Tomorrow, we are driving to Chicago to catch a 3pm flight to Boston, our first of many flights as we make our way to Cape Coast, Ghana.

We invite you to connect with us throughout our project. You can follow us at this blog, or any of the personal blogs that our team members have created:

Nick Cotta: Wilhelm Commune
Ashwat Giri: antipasto
Abbey Kroll: Ghana with the Mamas
Ericka Wallis: Gnomad

Thank you for your support and interest, and look out for more posts from UMN Nourish!

Recent Attack in Kenya poses the question to the Nourish Network: Is terrorism is a form of poverty?

September 26, 2013 | Posted in 2013, Kenya, Nourish in the News, Nourish Office, Summer Projects, UMN, Uncategorized | By

Kenya boysActs of terrorism continue to wreak havoc around the world and the recent international terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya hits close to home for Nourish International as we mourn for our partners and communities abroad that have suffered from the evil of others.

Africa remains the world’s poorest continent, with over 40% of sub-Saharan Africans living in extreme poverty. In the past 10 years, however, Kenya has become one of Africa’s most developed nations, an entrepreneurial hub for east Africa. Nourish has worked there for two years partnering with organizations on the ground working in sustainable agriculture, HIV/ AIDS prevention, tree reforestation, and educational outreach. We have built greenhouses and hospitals, planted tree forests, and run outreach workshops alongside communities in Kenya.

The Nourish International Movement, founded in 2003, is built upon the tenets of empowerment, social and economic justice, community- led partnership, and systemic and sustainable solutions for communities living in extreme poverty. We engage students to participate in creating a more just world.

Theo Klimek, a Nourish Chapter Leader at the University of Minnesota Chapter spent five weeks this summer working alongside Organic Health Response in Kenya. Theo reflects on the attack this week in frustration and concern with the following: “Our Nourish team was in Kenya for five weeks and in that short window I fell in love with the heart of the Kenyan people and their goodwill. Being from Minneapolis, I’ve had a chance to sit in on some community discussions concerning Somalia, its emerging government, its relationship with Kenya, and its troubles with Al-Shabab. Putting the two together, it has been deeply frustrating watching this week’s events unfold. Kenya’s role as a friend to the young Somali government and its military investment in peace and humanitarian aid in southern Somalia are both great examples of the good heart of its people. The tragedy within the tragedy is that their goodwill is being combated with death and terror. It’s quite possible that members of the Minnesota-Somali community were involved in this attack (Somali leaders here have publicly condemned this act of terror). And although this fact is making national news, I’m glad to know that there were many more Minnesotans in Kenya this year working alongside the Kenyan people, whose names won’t make headlines, but whose actions were for good, rather than destruction.”

Poverty manifests itself in many forms, and the most common understanding is economic or absolute poverty. This would include the statistic we all know too well… that one in six people (roughly one billion!) in the world live on less than a $1.25 per day.

Economic poverty is just one representation of poverty. In fact, extreme poverty is more than the lack of material resources necessary to meet an individual’s basic needs. One critical component of the extreme poverty is when an individual lacks the opportunity to make meaningful choices that will sustainably improve his or her life. Like poverty, terrorism is a global threat that kills, prevents growth, starves, and frightens all people striving for a meaningful life and improved living conditions.

Nourish International’s network fights the disempowerment of all people and trains leaders in their efforts to alleviate and end poverty in whatever form it takes.
Acts of terrorism remind us at Nourish International why our mission to engage students and empower communities is vital to creating lasting change and developing a more economically and socially just world. Our resolve to impact those in poverty, whether it’s through hunger alleviation, disease prevention, access to education or economic opportunity has only increased this week while watching our partners in Kenya and communities in need, face the terror associated with the recent attacks.

In light of the recent events, we pose the following question to the Nourish Network in reflecting on this week’s event, Is poverty a form of terrorism?

People Behind the Projects: Organic Health Response

September 6, 2013 | Posted in 2013, Kenya, Nourish Office, Summer Projects, UMN | By

This past summer, Nourish International had a tremendous impact on poverty, implementing 19 different Projects in 12 countries around the globe.  We could not be more excited about the success these Projects had over the past three months! 

For the month of September, we will be highlighting the amazing people behind the Projects.  It was a difficult task to select these outstanding individuals and groups. All of the student interns, Chapter leaders, and community partners have completed amazing work!

To start off the month, we would like to dedicate this blog post to Organic Health Response, an incredible organization that supports an ecosystem of diverse community health and environmental initiatives on Mfangano Island in Kenya.  Many challenges exist on the island that prevent healthy and environmentally sustainable living practices, such as high HIV prevalence in remote communities, high deforestation rates, and decreased biodiversity due to overfishing.

However, despite these challenges, the Mfangano Island is rich in fresh water, fertile soil, remarkable wildlife, and a tremendous group of motivated and inspiring community activists.  These activists believe that the unique community can thrive in the future, and dream of pulling the island out from the depths of poverty and disease to create an area of equal prosperity for all.  These activists are the people behind Organic Health Response.  And they are the people behind the Nourish International Project on the island.

This past summer, the University of Minnesota Nourish Chapter sent a group of students to the island to provide resources that aid this group in creating a lasting change through community rooted partnerships and initiatives.  They developed long-term nutrition and reforestation initiatives in the community that benefited and will continue to positively impact the health, social and economic well-being of the community.  The programs were initiated and designed by the Mfangano Island residents and then aided in the implementation and resource provision process by the Minnesota student interns.

These people are motivated, inspiring individuals who look towards a better tomorrow and actively work to eradicate poverty in the region.  The Organic Health Response activists provide HIV testing and counseling, lessons on sustainable farming practices, and technology initiatives.   Over 500 community members have graduated from the informative health program, 2000 members have joined the computer and internet literacy initiative, and 2,434 members have been tested and treated for HIV thus far.  Organic Health Response believes in the fundamental values of human strength and harmonious relationships with others and the environment, and strives to create a world where these values continue to reign in future generations.

The vision of Organic Health Response is huge, and their love, enthusiasm, and community driven motivation and dedication to create a better future for the island continues to grow with every seed planted, health lesson taught, and infant death prevented.  They have completed incredible things and the future looks bright for this organization and their impact on poverty on the Mfangano Island.

UMN: A Month Later

August 6, 2013 | Posted in 2013, Kenya, Summer Projects, UMN | By

Hi everyone,

It’s been a little over one month since we’ve returned from Mfangano Island to our homes and lives (well at least for Mae and I). “Re-adjustment” should be over by now, but in many ways it’s still not. I still think of Kenya on a daily basis and talk with my host family every few days. It’s odd to be so distant from the people and place that I grew so familiar and comfortable with. To say that I miss Kenya is an understatement. There is a Theo that continues to live in Kenya, with different friends, a different lifestyle, and different values,  that I am unable to be. This reality causes a strange dissonance with the Theo that lives here and an odd “going through the motions” experience. While shampooing my hair I find myself thinking “Do I even need a special soap for my hair? Why don’t I just use soap?” Or as I put on my clothes I think “Did I ever need this many shirts? Where did I get all these shirts?”.

BMakin' a nursery in Uginaut being back to familiar faces and a wonderfully familiar American diet is certainly appreciated. While not even the most genuinely interested listener has 5 spare hours for me to fully recount my feelings and experiences, it is fun and rewarding to share the experience with friends and family. I’ve had a great time producing our recap video (see below)!

In the end, Mae, Kathryn, and I have experienced something that we cannot even share with each other. Each of our experiences in Kenya was incredible and instructive in ways unique to each of us. Personally, one month of planting trees has taught me that I’m only scratching the surface of what it is like to work abroad on “development” and “aid” projects. I’m beginning to distinguish between solidarity and charity; and I’m empowered to continue to stand alongside communities like Mfangano for the rest of my life. I have to continue to work towards greater equity for my friends across the globe and I have to continue to study how to do that in the best way possible. I cannot wait to share the relationships we’ve made and lessons we’ve learned with the students on my campus! The stories that we’re bringing back to campus will (in the words of Nicholas Olambo) “automatically” inspire our peers to take the same stand.

In conclusion, thanks. Thanks to our chapter for all the work they’ve done to make this project a reality, thanks to Organic Health Response for their incredible work on Mfangano, thanks to our host families for your loving care, thanks to our friends and families at home for your support, and thanks to NINO for all the guidance.

Oriti (goodbye) and all the best!

Theo and the Nourish UMN team


UMN: Branching Out

June 22, 2013 | Posted in 2013, Kenya, Summer Projects, UMN | By

Hey everyone! Sorry about the bad tree pun… Here’s what’s happened with the Nourish team (or as the rest of the volunteers at EK call us, the tree people) in Mfangano this week:

On Monday, team tree people were reforestation radio stars.  We were back in the studio with Eric and Olambo, with Nancy sitting by the door for moral support.  This week’s theme was the environmental impact of trees. Since this is what we were most knowledgeable about, we were really enthused about discussion soil fertility through the nitrogen cycle, the causes and impact of soil erosion, and the role of trees in the water cycle.  We said our parts in English, and Eric helped translate what we said into Dhluo.  A few people called in with tree questions, but we were only given 30 minutes for the entire program, so not all the questions were answered.

On Tuesday, we found ourselves teaching at Sena Secondary once again, this time about the economic benefits of trees. Fun fact that we learned: if you plant 1 tree here when your child is born, by the time s/he is old enough for secondary school, you can chop down the tree you planted and have lumber that will cover the cost of the secondary school fees. Besides that, the trees provide lumber, charcoal, and firewood, all of which are integral parts to living here on Mfangano. Many of the students couldn’t believe how much money could be made from growing trees.

Wednesday, we split up in the morning. Mae and Emma, our WWOOFer friend managed to successfully harvest honey from Joel’s farm. (Ask Mae about the unsuccessful attempt…) while I went up to my host father’s school. Daniel is the head teacher of Kagungu Primary School, so I got to hike up the hill to Soklo once again and meet with all the classes, which had anywhere from 6 to 15ish students, depending on the class. A few of the classes burst out into song for me, and I got to teach a baby class, about, you guessed it, TREES! In the afternoon, we all met up and worked at the nursery in Ramba, where we filled 500 bags of soil. Also, it was Theo’s birthday, and we had a nice little celebration, complete with a homemade cake!

Thursday, we spent all day in Ugina at the nursery for the women’s group. We started off by being impromptu architects and building a raised shelter for the nursery beds we made last week. Meanwhile, Olambo and Robinson got to work making a fence. We were each carrying 2 posts for the fence, through huge mud puddles and over raised gates. Mae took a little tumble while going over one of the gates, and has a good sized bruise on her right leg. She’s a tough cookie though. In the afternoon, while the men were still fencing, the ladies filled another 500 bags of soil.

Anyways, the reason this post is entitled branching out is because besides reforestation, each of the members of the Nourish team is working on their own little project. Theo wants to visit the FACES clinic, which is where the people with HIV are being treated; Mae is working on a few murals for the walls of the EK center, and I’m going into primary schools and teaching music classes. Mae’s first mural is going quite well, and Theo is slated to visit the clinic next week. On Friday, I went to Sena Primary and taught some basic children’s songs, like “I’m a Little Tea Pot” and “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” The teacher asked about reforestation, and it turns out there had been a discussion about planting some trees at the primary school, but it hadn’t happened yet. So with all 25 members of class 7 in tow, we went to EK farm and picked up some seedlings. I’m proud to say that Sena Primary is home to 40 new baby trees! Huzzah!

This week has flown by, and it’s hard to believe that there’s only one full week left before we head out.  Mae and Theo are currently in Ruma National Park, on a safari, where hopefully they’ll see some cool animals. I elected to stay home, as I’m heading out a little early and it’s my last weekend here. Hopefully I’ll learn how to make mandazi, which are like doughnuts tomorrow with my host mother. Berlin is nearly in tears thinking about our leaving, and we are too. It’s the last week, and we’re going to make the best of it! (:

Love from Mfangano,


UMN: 10,000 Seedlings

June 17, 2013 | Posted in 2013, Kenya, Summer Projects, UMN | By

Hello Everyone! Sorry for the delay, our internet was down for most of the weekend!

Things have gone on well here this week as our project coordinator, Robinson, has returned to the island along with Richard the director of the Ekialo Kiona Center. With their vision we’ve been able to accomplish a lot towards our project goals and have gotten to meet more friends around the island that are partnered with us on the reforestation effort!

Mae and Kathryn left last Sunday to visit Berlin’s (their host mom) mother’s home in Homa Bay. They had a safe trip and a fun time meeting the family. They report that both Berlin and her mother are determined to marry them both to Kenyan men. They returned on Monday without any wedding plans.

While they were gone to Homa Bay I remained at EK on Monday and performed a radio broadcast with Nancy and Eric on the radio team and Nick Olambo, a farm specialist here at the center. We discussed the cultural value of forests with callers who offered their comments and questions. The radio team and Nick did a lot of translating to Dhluo to make sure that everything that we had to communicate was well understood. We’re about to do our next broadcast and I’m excited to do it with our whole team!

On Tuesday we met with the nearby Sena Mixed Secondary School to teach some of the theory behind the reforestation effort. This week the emphasis was the environmental importance of maintaining forests. Afterwards the teacher was excited to tell us that some of the topics we covered, like the water cycle and nitrogen cycle, also come up in the students’ coursework. They were so excited about this and the way we presented the material that they want to host us again for an extra lesson.

Wed, Thursday, and Friday were all spent setting up nurseries. On Wed we worked at Ramba with a wise old tree farmer there named Oguta, on Thursday at Ugina with the women’s group there, and on Friday at both the EK center and at Sena Secondary. A nursery essentially consists of a 8 x 5 ft bed of well tilled earth on which seeds are scattered, watered, and covered in some topsoil and mulch. These beds, in 2 weeks, will yield small seedlings that we can transfer to plastic tubing filled with dirt where they can grow protected for about 9 more months until they are planted in the wild. By this time next year, the center is on track to plant 10,000 seedlings around the island!

Robinson working on the nursery in Ugina

Robinson working on the nursery in Ugina

On Saturday our team and one of the other volunteers at the center made pancakes (with a really tasty banana sauce) for Mae and Kat’s host family. Afterwards we all attended church together (it was long) and then split up for the afternoon washing clothes and helping EK members set up their own facebooks! Sunday we took the first part of the day at a nearby beach with Adam and two students here from Penn, relaxing and chatting an unwinding from the busy week.

That’s all from this week, we’re excited for what’s ahead and stressing over how little time we have left! Only two weeks remain before we leave all our friends and this beautiful island, we avoid thinking about it!

UMN: The First Tree

June 8, 2013 | Posted in 2013, Kenya, Summer Projects, UMN | By

University of Minnesota Nourish team checking in from Mfangano, so y’all don’t think we’ve been eaten alive by ants or scorpions or something, though in the past week, that has happened. The good news is, we’re still kicking.

Sunday, we took a hike up to the top of the island, which is called Soclo. We visited a few of the sacred forests, Wakinga and Kwitutu where we learned that some of the older people on the island believed that their ancestors resided within the forest. So if it didn’t rain, they would go into the sacred forests and sacrifice a goat or a chicken, in hopes of appeasing the ancestors.  We saw a monkey on our hike up, as well as the entire south side of the island. This island is beautiful, it’s hard to believe we’re in the middle of a lake because the lake is so vast, it looks like an ocean.

Monday, we spent the day WWOOFing, (World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers) which is basically exchanging labor for room and board.  One of our mizungu (white) friends is WWOOFing full-time on Joel’s farm. Right now, it’s bean season so we all shelled beans while listening to the radio under the shade of a large tree.

Tuesday, we visited Sena Secondary School and taught the Agriculture Forestry Green Club about the cultural importance of trees. After we all introduced ourselves, one of the students raised his hand and said, “Excuse me, but normally when people introduce themselves, they tell us their marital status.” Everyone laughed, and when Theo said that we were all single, we received a standing ovation.

Wednesday, we worked on the farm, moving seedlings  around. Mae started going stir crazy because time passes differently here. We wake up at 7, help out with chores and eat breakfast, before taking what I call “the mid-morning nap” at 8. We get to the EK center around 8:30 and then hang around checking e-mail and greeting all the people that walk by until about noon. On Thursday, Mae told Ana that she couldn’t take any more sitting around, so Ana suggested that Mae plant a few trees around EK.  It’s hard work. Mae used a sharp stick to dig a fairly deep hole in the ground, planted the little seedling, and now waters it twice a day.  In the afternoon, we also traveled to Ugina to speak to a women’s group who will establish their own tree nursery as well.

Friday, we worked on the farm again, transplanting some more seedlings into bags.  In the afternoon, Mae wasn’t feeling so well, and decided to skip out on the soccer tournament. Theo and I traveled by piki-piki to Rumba where all the high school teams were playing a 3 sport tournament, soccer, volleyball, and netball, which is kind of like basketball, minus the dribbling and jumping.

Mae is doing fine, after sleeping for a solid 20 hours, and we’re excited to see what next week brings!

Love from Mfangano,