School of Journalism

IU House’s interesting people

Story and photos by Carmen Huff

Much of the produce consumed in the IU House is grown just outside the dinning hall's windows. Photo by Jim Kelly.

Much of the produce consumed in the IU House is grown just outside the dinning hall’s windows. Photo by Jim Kelly.

ELDORET, KENYA — A blue gate rises about 10 feet into the air topped with mini gold-painted fleur-de-lis. A guard yanks each side open yelling greetings in Swahili.

A black gate with another set of guards is at the end of the short, tan brick road. The gate is much smaller and a rusty chain and a pad lock tie the two doors of the gate shut. Three dogs lie on the ground just inside the entrance during the day, but at night they are on duty protecting the grounds.

Six houses, whitewashed with red shingles covering the roofs, stand in a straight line. A red sign hangs on the green security booth reading “Hoosiers Drive.” A garden with an old wooden fence about waist high sits between the homes in front of a small cabana.

These buildings are home to short-term visitors.

Late in 1988 Joe Mamlin, Bob Einterz and two other IU faculty with overseas experience came to Eldoret, Kenya, to plan a IU collaboration with the newly established Moi University Faculty of Health Sciences. The collaboration created the project called Academic Model for Providing Access To Healthcare (AMPATH).

But it all started when Einterz went looking for a house. The Einterz family, on behalf of IU, negotiated a lease for the original house and moved into the property. They called it the IU House.

The wood floor squeaks as residents enter and exit the small computer room in House 4. In 1996 the IU House got Internet—irregular as the service has continued to be. Internet is not the only Western accommodation at the IU House. There are porcelain toilets, hot water and a cook.

The IU House has been home, a place of safety for residents and the community both. In 2008 there was severe post-election violence because of an alleged rigged election. The house sheltered between 125 and 150 frightened families for about two months. It was one of the few places in Eldoret, Kenya that were left untouched. Joe and Sarah Ellen Mamlin ensured everyone at the IU House was safe. They were the only foreigners to stay. 

“This place was a haven for travelers during the violence,” Caitlin Dugdale, resident physician says. “I feel privileged to be here and be part of that history.”

The dining hall, usually empty and smelling like wood polish, becomes a melting pot of chatter and ideas as people pour into the room during mealtime. From the outside the IU House is a series of buildings, but residents from all over the world come to stay and work with global health in some way.

 

PANINA MUSULA SOITA, 48, cook

PANINA MUSULA SOITA, 48, cook

One of the four people originally hired at the IU House, Panina has been the cook for 23 years. She didn’t know how to speak English when she was hired. She says she would listen to guests speak English and taught herself.

“I learned to read people. I was nervous at first because I didn’t finish high school,” she says. “But now I taught my kids. When I was employed here I had courage.”

After dropping out of high school she got a certificate in food and beverage management, and that is what helped her secure her job at the IU House. Panina not only cooks, but she also sings gospel music and has recorded several few CDs. She also sews bags, dresses and headbands. Residents bring her fabric and she will pull her measuring tape out of her apron, take their measurements right there in the kitchen and sew them whatever they would like.

Sarah Ellen Mamlin gave her a sewing machine and taught her how to sew. Panina started by making curtains, table clothes and bed covers. Then she saw residents bring bags back when they went on safari. She looked at them and taught herself how to do make her own. Soon after she started making dresses.

“I’m comfortable,” she says. “It has changed a lot here. We had a few people and now we have many people. It’s a lot of work.”

TIRAJEH SAADATZADEH, 24, medical student The first time Tirajeh was in Kenya she contracted with a corrupt program that stole her money and left her stranded with a host family in Mombassa. Making the most out of a bad situation, she created a Kenya-based Organization called the Community Light Programme that she is trying to register as a non-profit. Now, back for 10 weeks, she is a medical student at Indiana University working with AMPATH. She says she loves traveling and getting a taste for what AMPATH is. Her dream job is to work for Doctors Without Boarders. She and all of the medical students live in a dormatory across the street from the teaching hospital, but Tirajeh stops by the IU House to access the Internet, do laundry and shower. “The IU House is a wonderfully organized community of like-minded people,” she says. “Everyone is playing their part. Being surrounded by wonderful people who keep me in awe and humbled at the same time is the best part.”

TIRAJEH SAADATZADEH, 24, med student

The first time Tirajeh was in Kenya, she contracted with a corrupt program that stole her money and left her stranded with a host family in Mombassa. Making the most out of a bad situation, she created a Kenya-based Organization called the Community Light Programme that she is trying to register as a non-profit.

Now, back for 10 weeks, she is a medical student at Indiana University working with AMPATH. She says she loves traveling and getting a taste for what AMPATH is. Her dream job is to work for Doctors Without Boarders. She and all of the medical students live in a dormitory across the street from the teaching hospital, but Tirajeh stops by the IU House to access the Internet, do laundry and shower.

“The IU House is a wonderfully organized community of like-minded people,” she says. “Everyone is playing their part. Being surrounded by wonderful people who keep me in awe and humbled at the same time is the best part.”

CAITLIN DUGDALE, 28, resident physician

CAITLIN DUGDALE, 28, resident physician

Three years ago, Caitlin came to Eldoret as a medical student. She learned the basics of how medicine does and does not work in the developing world.

Now, as a resident she wants to do global health full time.She says she cares for about 40 patients at a time in a system with a lot of challenges.

“This experience has been confirmatory in my passion for global health,” she says. “It is a lot of problem solving and trouble shooting.”

Her dream job is to do global health systems development. She wants to look at how to make aid more effective and how to integrate sound business practices into health systems.Her next step is to pursue her MBA, she thinks.

“I want a more basic understanding of business and economics to create a better design systems for effective care,” she says.

The first time she was in Kenya she lived in the medical student dormatory, which she says she preferred.

“The IU House is great. We have hot showers, it’s quiet, there are toilets with seats, and there are other mzungus [white people],” she says. “But you can work together and play together, but if you don’t live together you aren’t together. [The dormitory] made me experience that sense of community.”She says the “America land” does provide a wider range of people. “The melting pot of ideas is not something residents working 80 hours a week are often exposed to,” she says. “It gives me other ideas.”

NYOMAN RIBEKA (WIN), 28, engineer An assistant engineer for the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis working under the IU School of Medicine, Win is in Kenya to collect data. “There is a lot of patient data at AMPATH,” he says. “I am working on a project on improving patient care through technology intervention.”He says he runs into many challenges because in the U.S. it is easy to create systems because the infrastructure is better, but in Kenya the Internet connection and electricity are both unstable. He says living in the IU House does not feel quite like living in Kenya. “It is convenient. Someone cooks for you, someone does your laundry and water is available. There is nothing more you could ask for.”

NYOMAN RIBEKA (WIN), 28, engineer

An assistant engineer for the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis working under the IU School of Medicine, Win is in Kenya to collect data. “There is a lot of patient data at AMPATH,” he says. “I am working on a project on improving patient care through technology intervention.”He says he runs into many challenges because in the U.S. it is easy to create systems because the infrastructure is better, but in Kenya the Internet connection and electricity are both unstable. He says living in the IU House does not feel quite like living in Kenya. “It is convenient. Someone cooks for you, someone does your laundry and water is available. There is nothing more you could ask for.”

TERRY VIK, 55, professor of medicine

TERRY VIC, 55, professor

An assistant engineer for the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis working under the IU School of Medicine, Win is in Kenya to collect data. “There is a lot of patient data at AMPATH,” he says. “I am working on a project on improving patient care through technology intervention.”He says he runs into many challenges because in the U.S. it is easy to create systems because the infrastructure is better, but in Kenya the Internet connection and electricity are both unstable. He says living in the IU House does not feel quite like living in Kenya. “It is convenient. Someone cooks for you, someone does your laundry and water is available. There is nothing more you could ask for.”

RYAN GRIMM, 30, newly graduated physician Pediatrician Ryan visited Kenya the first time as a fourth-year medical student. He says it was good to see different pathologies and to work with Kenyans. When he returns home after his eight-week stay, he will work at the County Line Medical Pavilion in Greenwood, Ind. He says working in the wards in Kenya has showed him the importance of prevention and early intervention. “Preventing poverty is huge in health and wellness and vaccines and maternity care,” he says. “And it plays a big role in pediatrics.” He previously worked at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis and says he wants to do more with international projects, but he isn’t sure just how yet. He also worked in India for a month traveling from village to village providing his services. While in Kenya he works with the Moi Medical School. “Working in Kenya has taught me not to take for granted how efficiently our healthcare and preventive care works,” he says. “Government and infrastructure are important to support a robust healthcare system.”

RYAN GRIMM, 30, physician

Pediatrician Ryan visited Kenya the first time as a fourth-year medical student. He says it was good to see different pathologies and to work with Kenyans. When he returns home after his eight-week stay, he will work at the County Line Medical Pavilion in Greenwood, Ind. He says working in the wards in Kenya has showed him the importance of prevention and early intervention. “Preventing poverty is huge in health and wellness and vaccines and maternity care,” he says. “And it plays a big role in pediatrics.” He previously worked at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis and says he wants to do more with international projects, but he isn’t sure just how yet. He also worked in India for a month traveling from village to village providing his services. While in Kenya he works with the Moi Medical School. “Working in Kenya has taught me not to take for granted how efficiently our healthcare and preventive care works,” he says. “Government and infrastructure are important to support a robust healthcare system.”

JANET MMBOGERAH, 55, housekeeper Every morning Janet climbs onto the back of her husband’s bicycle and he pedals her an hour to work. In the evening he fetches her, too. For 12 years she has been one of the three housekeepers at the IU House. Mother of six kids and seven grandchildren, she says she needs a good job to care for her children. As she ages she recognizes her limits. Her left knee hurts and she has stomach ulcers. But when she or her husband goes to the hospital, the IU House pays for it, so she continues to do her job. And she just she likes it. She says it is a good job. Janet started working for mzungus 21 years ago and has ever since. “When the white people leave they pass me on to other white people because white people like me,” she says. “They give me a good salary, are kind and don’t mistreat me.”She says she sees many guests and different faces, which she enjoys. However, she says it is hard when people leave because she misses them. “Those who come are all so nice,” she says. “I appreciate and like them. We talk and say hi, but then they leave.”

JANET MMBOGERAH, 55, housekeeper

Every morning Janet climbs onto the back of her husband’s bicycle and he pedals her an hour to work. In the evening he fetches her, too. For 12 years she has been one of the three housekeepers at the IU House. Mother of six kids and seven grandchildren, she says she needs a good job to care for her children. As she ages she recognizes her limits. Her left knee hurts and she has stomach ulcers. But when she or her husband goes to the hospital, the IU House pays for it, so she continues to do her job. And she just she likes it. She says it is a good job. Janet started working for mzungus 21 years ago and has ever since. “When the white people leave they pass me on to other white people because white people like me,” she says. “They give me a good salary, are kind and don’t mistreat me.”She says she sees many guests and different faces, which she enjoys. However, she says it is hard when people leave because she misses them. “Those who come are all so nice,” she says. “I appreciate and like them. We talk and say hi, but then they leave.”

DUNIA KARAMA, 39, administrator

DUNIA KARAMA, 39, administrator

Her fingers fly across the keyboard of her red laptop in the IU House main office. Dunia has been administrator for 13 years. She oversees all of the houses, employees and guests. She worked at an Internet café previously, but the IU House was her first opportunity to work with foreigners. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” she says. “But I really appreciate the IU House. I’ve learned to be very patient. It has helped me to grow emotionally and be more understanding.” She says one major problem in the beginning of her time at the IU House was food. She says Americans have certain kinds of food they like. She was getting complaints but didn’t understand why. For Americans, she learned, lunch should be lighter food and heavier food should be served at dinner.
“It’s been my second home here,” she says. “You meet different people and I have made very good friends. You meet people that are all different backgrounds and expectations. It’s fun. It’s a challenge.”

ASHLEY SCOTT, 23, MPH student

ASHLEY SCOTT, 23, MPH student

Ashley is a master’s student from Notre Dame studying global health. She is in Kenya for five weeks to train veterinarians and medical students on how to test for counterfeit drugs. She really wants to work for an international health NGO to work specifically with women and children. She chose Kenya because she says she always wanted to go to Africa. “The need here is greatest,” she says. She uses Paper Analytical Devices (PAD) to test drugs. They work by rubbing the drug across the paper, putting the paper in water and seeing how the chemicals react together. “Counterfeit drugs are a problem in developing countries,” she says. “They estimate around 25 percent of all drugs because it is a low risk, high profit business.”At the IU House she says she likes meeting different people and listening to all of their projects. “It is nice to know there is global health community doing the same things I am.”

ROBERT SHILOSIO, 43, security guard

ROBERT SHILOSIO, 43, security guard

Before becoming one of the main guards at the IU House, Robert was training as a boxer and was teaching others how to box. He has been at the IU House for 18 years. “I take care of our guests,” he says standing tall and straight. “I take care of the gate. I let new guests in and visitors and take care of them from the dogs.”The compound has three dogs that work at night to ensure the premises are safe. Robert says he likes his job. “I help in any way I can,” he says. “If there is something that needs to be carried or the trash needs to be taken out, I help.”He says he has met many people at the IU House, and enjoys seeing people come and go. “Kenyans love you mzungus,” he says. “You are important people to us and you help us. You are just a human being.”

About Carmen Huff

Carmen is a junior at Indiana University in Bloomington. Her concentration is in enterprise journalism and she hopes to edit a magazine in NYC one day. She is excited to be spending her first trip abroad in Kenya using her international studies minor. See more work at carmennhuff.com.