Two leaders of the Columbus Food Co-op called Africa home in the early 1980s when they served in the Peace Corps, and they’ll call it home again for the next two years.
Michael Greven, his wife, Liz Nolan-Greven, and their 15-year-old son, Liam, will move to Eldoret, Kenya, where Greven will supervise the construction of a chronic disease care center. The family will leave this month.
Greven and Nolan-Greven, who own and operate EcoSource, a green building company and solar technology installer, were tapped by Indiana University to oversee construction of a 110,000-square-foot chronic disease care center, a project that is planned to take two years.
IU leads a consortium of academic health centers that are working in partnership with the Kenyan government and Moi University, the primary center for teaching doctors and medical professionals in Kenya. Together, they are tackling issues such as HIV/AIDS, health care, nutrition, jobs and education.
Greven became associated with IU’s projects in Kenya when he met U2 singer Bono at an AIDS crisis event in Indianapolis a number of years ago. Greven’s involvement has included traveling to Kenya and helping with construction of other projects, including a mother-and-baby hospital.
The decision to relocate was easy, they said.
“The whole premise of the project is to provide care of chronic diseases for those of lesser or no means. That was the fundamental attraction,” he said.
The facility, which will cost about $4 million excluding equipment or staff, will have areas for radiation oncology, breast cancer, diabetes, cardiac care and pulmonary care.
Also, it will be built with green technology to conserve energy, an important feature in a country where electricity can cost 25 cents per kilowatt hour. In the U.S., energy costs typically range from 6 cents for a large building, such as a hospital, to 10 cents for a home.
“They have to make decisions between power, medicine and food when money is tight,” Greven said.
Engineering drawings are in the works, and the project is set to start Oct. 5, Greven said.
Nolan-Greven said this is an opportunity for the family to continue its connection to Kenya. Her family hosted a Kenyan exchange student when she was a young girl, and Nolan-Greven has traveled to Kenya.
“We have an adventurous streak. We like to travel and have cultural experiences,” she said of the family.
Greven lived for four years in Gabon and Nolan-Greven for two years in Niger while they were in the Peace Corps. They met at a return event for volunteers.
The couple acknowledged that there will be a learning curve for the family. They are learning Swahili not only to aid in communication but also as a sign of respect. Greven said their diet will be different, and he’ll miss fresh watermelon from Indiana.
Liam, who would be a sophomore at North High School, might have the most challenging adjustment, his parents said. He’ll be entering a new educational system, won’t know any of the students and the school there doesn’t have an orchestra, such as the one he loves to participate in at North.
Liam is trying to learn the metric system before he leaves, his mother said. And some musical instruments, including a mandolin, will be brought with them to feed Liam’s love of music, his father said.
Nolan-Greven said she might occupy her time by helping at orphanages or helping people with HIV and AIDS.
Greven, who served as board president of the Columbus Food Co-op, and Nolan-Greven, who served as secretary, stepped down from their respective positions in preparation for their move.
They’ll miss the active involvement, they said, but believe the co-op is in good hands and the importance of it remains strong.
“The co-op has been the best thing we’ve been involved in for many, many years,” Greven said.
They might be saying the same thing, soon, about their Eldoret experience.
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