Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Clock is ticking - that's for certain.

Today begins Septemeber, and I can no longer say that I'm heading out "next month".

So, yeah. Yikes.

It also means that preparations for the trip are in full effect, and not just on the packing side of the business. It also means that I'm making a few visits around Indiana and looking into what resources are available domestically to help the project that I'll be working with while in Kenya.

And what project is that, you ask? The ExtraLife Initiative, which is part of a larger program - the Tumaini Children's Center. The Children's Center itself is an incredible outreach program designed and dediciated to better the lives of Eldoret's street children by providing them with a healthy alternative to street life through education, shelter, health care and positive activity. ExtraLife will be a technology center within Tumaini that will include video game consoles amongst other communication devices within its walls.

What we hope to accomplish with ExtraLife is two-fold. First, to give Eldoret's street children further incentive to stay away from the toxic street environment and be involved with the center. The ExtraLife center will provide the kids an avenue to play video games ranging from educational puzzles to playing music together through rock-simulation games (think Rock Band and Guitar Hero).

The second is to connect these kids to a world outside of Kenya, which is where the preparation I mentioned earlier comes into play. Through gaming networks such as XBoxLive, we have the tools to introduce these kids to people outside of Kenya through the timeless communication of music. This connection works in both directions - it will connect folks from around the world to these kids and provide them with opportunities to help keep these kids off the streets through the powers of music and play.

As you may already know, I have always loved video games and consider myself a gamer. When Meagan mentioned that someone was looking for a philanthropic way to use gaming, I leapt at the chance to find a way to use the power and connections available through this medium to better the lives of others. This idea of ExtraLife has been precolating for a few years now, and the thought of beginning to get it off the ground is exciting beyond measure.

But we need help in order to make it work. While in Kenya, I'll be working with Sonak Pastakia and other folks at Tumaini and AMPATH to connect the center through the Internet and various gaming networks. It's a rough sort of test to make sure that from the center itself, we can connect to people in America and around the world and play games with everyone!

This last part is where you can come in and be a BIG help. I'm looking for people that have an XBox 360 or a Wii and wouldn't mind gaming with me online while I'm in Kenya. This is primarily to ensure that we can establish a connection from the center, as well as to see what sort of bugs or lag pops up due to the international aspect of the connection.

If you are interested in taking part in this pseudo-alpha test, please complete the short survey below:

Click here to take survey

It's a really short survey, and your information will not be shared with anyone outside of those of us doing testing. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU in advance for your help in getting things set up!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's Now or Never-land

The bags were packed, the prayers for safe flights and easy weather spoken, and we were on our way out the door.

The catch is, only one of us was heading out for real.

Meagan left Wednesday on her way to Eldoret, Kenya for her two-month turn at Moi University hospital. It's a return for her, as she made a similar trip in 2007 as a fourth-year medical student. On the surface, the main difference between this trip and her previous trek will be her role at the hospital as a resident, as well as her familiarity with the hospital and the city of Eldoret.

Well, that and the fact that she won't be without a husband for the entire trip this time around.

I'll be joining her in Eldoret for the second of her two months this time around. While my time won't be devoted to the hospital (more on that in later posts), I'll be staying at the Indiana University House with Meagan for our stay there.

I have so little idea about what to expect outside of what I've heard from Meagan, but I'm still thrilled and terrified all at the same time for this trip.

But not Wednesday. At that moment, I was staring up at the sky through sad eyes, hoping and praying for safe travels, and wishing that I were on the plane next to her. Knowing that we've made it through this before brought some comfort, as does knowing that we'll only be apart for one month instead of two. But it didn't make that afternoon any easier.

I'm happy to report, though, that she has made it safe and sound in Eldoret and is catching up on whatever sleep that she can. She's met up with a few folks from home, as well as some of the folks that she met from her first go round. So far, it sounds like smiles (albethey travel-weary ones) before a weekend of relaxing and preparing for the week ahead.

One person down there, one more to go....