First Impressions of Muthaa Community Development Foundation - by Annemieke

Of course, before arriving, Julia and I had researched MCDF and Nairobi. However, the difference between internet research and arriving and actually seeing the city and the offices in person is striking. Getting to the office was an adventure in itself. Taking a matatu from Umoja to the city center was a haranguing ride where our bags took up as much space as two people, we almost got in an accident and we were (for the first, but presumably not the last time). After taking a taxi for the last bit of the trip and being dropped off on a corner near the offices, we wandered around for a few minutes before finding the office. We must have been quite a sight with our gigantic backpacks while wearing office clothes.With the help of some people who pointed us in the right direction; we entered the offices for the first time.

My first impression of the offices and the staff is great. Everyone is extremely friendly, and we were encouraged to feel at home. It definitely isn’t an oppressively large corporate office in which we feel lost and unwanted. Instead, we were welcomed in, allowed to drop our bags in a corner, made coffee, and given our own desk to work at. With a small office of 3 rooms with all doors open, it’s easy to see how the office operates openly and as a family unit. Lucy (Communication manager), Esther (program manager), Julia (intern) and I sit together, while Martha (administrator) has a separate office. The remaining office belongs to Emily (founder and president), but she is working outside the office today. We will meet her later in the week. My main surprise was that there is no window. To a Dutch person, this is unimaginable, as by law, all rooms are required to have a window. The lack of one doesn’t affect anything except my ability to judge the passage of time, and I’m sure we will adjust quickly. Also, I love the purple and pink walls. It’s so bright and friendly, instead of the usual white or grey speckled walls I associate with office work. In general, the use of color here in Kenya is much freer than back home, and I think the Dutch can learn a lot from Kenyan color use.

We started with a quick round of introductions, so now Julia and I are up to speed about who is who and who is married. As was to be expected, my name was a minor hurdle, but everything sorted itself out. Just a tip to parents: if you are going to let your children live and travel abroad, don’t give them the most Dutch names ever. Julia and I were updated on how the office works, which taxis to take, where the markets are, and some basic safety information about walking through the cities and taking matatu. It was nice to feel so well taken care of and that everyone cares about our well-being. They even got me a special Wi-Fi internet connection because my laptop doesn’t have an Ethernet port (materialistic side note: it is amazing to have a stable internet connection for the first time in a month)! The introductions were followed by an orientation to the different programs operated by Muthaa. We got a quick overview about FC2, Nufaisha, corporate social responsibility, Biztech, WASH, and our program, Kaleidoscope. The proposed itinerary for the coming week looks very interesting and varied. We have two days of corporate social responsibility field work, and I look forward to seeing how the interactions with the corporations go. Especially because Lucy said that the reactions might be different if they show up to the meetings with amzungu partner instead of their normal meetings. We also have one day related to sexual reproductive health training, which should tie in nicely to the work we will be doing when we go to Mariakani. Considering our research paper in Utrecht focused on condom use in Kenya, I am very excited to learn more about and interact in the SRH programs.

All in all, I think we are off to a good start. Julia and I feel happy in the office, and we are looking forward to the weeks to come.

With time, I am sure we will integrate into the office and learn how everything works.