For Senior Manager of Interactive Marketing Mike Nelson, being immersed in an African culture was not a new experience. With several mission trips in African countries already under his belt, Mike boarded another plane to Kenya this May, but this time to give the gift of hearing. We caught up with Mike to hear more about his incredible adventure helping Starkey Hearing Foundation in Kenya, visiting an elephant orphanage and his blog Kenya Hears. Read below to learn more about his remarkable journey.
What was your role in the mission?
Our team in the U.S. is now working with the Foundation on the database that collects information about the patients served by the Foundation. It was previously being managed externally but now, we’ve taken ownership of that. It was important for me to be able to get into the field and see the environment the database would function in.
What made this mission unique from other Foundation missions?
It was a very unique mission compared to most because there was training in the morning for all of the local staff in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and a number of the other local countries. Then, in the afternoon we were able to do a Phase 1, a Phase 2 and a Phase 3 all right in a row. In the past, that hasn’t been the case; they’ve taken place months apart. My goal on the mission was to test the database; so going through all three phases in the afternoons gave my team the opportunity to do that in all three of those phases. Additionally, we were fortunate to have some people from Dan Ariely’s Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University who helped work with us to see what we could improve from a process standpoint to make the database work better.
Was it hard to adjust to different technology while you were there?
That was an interesting juxtaposition. We were promised we would have Internet at the site, and frankly it worked incredibly well. However, back at the hotel the Internet was not so solid. So we did a lot of texting back-and-forth to work with the team back home.
In your personal blog, you decided to write about the sounds you missed while you were gone. How did that idea happen?
I just thought it was really cool. I think that as somebody there to help provide better hearing, it was a fun hook. I think I thought of it while mowing the lawn. Some of the sounds I missed were: the quaking aspen in my front yard rustling in the breeze, the purr of my cats snuggling up for a lap nap, the sizzle of steaks on the grills, fireworks during the National Anthem at Target Field and the sound of my wife’s voice.
You’ve been to Africa before, so what was unique about Kenya for you?
The reason I was excited for it to be Kenya was because I have done mission trips with my church to Tanzania, which is right across the border. So Kenya for me felt like the right place.