Two Months of Awareness

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Between April 5 2013- May 27 2013 I along with a soy food facilitator offered soy food and tofu trainings 3 days a week and campaign awareness 2 days a week for community members in the village of Tcheriba, Burkina Faso.  The schedule is as follows:

April 5 9am-12pm: Large town hall meeting is called with all community associations, and community members to discuss the start of the Soy/tofu trainings.  One hundred and sixty-seven people attend (167). During this town hall meeting the following topics were discussed:

-What is Veganism?

-Nutrition and combatting malnutrition

-The role of animals in “man’s” life (treating animals with dignity)

-Meat versus Soy products

-Soy products easier than assumed (overview of soy and tofu products that can be made easily)

A sign -up sheet was circulated for the soy food training beginning on April 8 through May 27.

Objective 1: Community members learn how to make soy and tofu products for nutrition, and income generating activities.

Two sessions every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Soy and Tofu product making

MTW 8AM- 12PM: Soy milk, yogurt, and ice cream making

MTW 2PM-6PM: Tofu kebabs, and flavored soy juice

Objective 2: to educate community members on the health benefits of veganism and to improve the treatment of animals.

Thursday and Friday 2pm-5pm

Campaign Awareness

Awareness of veganism and the health benefits. Animal cruelty awareness and different forms of abuse to animals.  During these campaigns we used theater for animation of the topic. At the beginning of the sessions a survey was given to test the knowledge of the participants on animal cruelty and veganism.  The survey results showed that 100% of the participants were non -vegan.  Furthermore, those who do not eat meat are because of poverty.  They cannot afford to buy meat, therefore it is not a conscious choice but rather forced because of their circumstances.

Special activity:  Through some networking I became acquainted with Donkey Sanctuary International. A UK NGO that works with communities and their donkeys around the world.

During the week of May 7th to May 14 is International Donkey Week.  I incorporated this into my awareness campaign on animal rights and cruelty.  I targeted children and farmers who have the most interaction with animals. Additionally, although donkeys are mistreated they actually a commodity in most developing countries.  In this village donkeys are an essential player in the daily lives of the community members. They carry items ranging from bricks to construct, water jugs, supplies, and more. They are used as a mode of transportation, and accompany farmers while at the farm.  It was important to have people understand their importance and how to treat them accordingly.

Participants of International Donkey Week 42 adults (15 women, 27 men) and 61 children (29 girls and 32 boys).

May 7th- 8th 

Activity 1:

- Participants learn about the importance of donkeys in their day to day survival (carrying materials, as a mode of transportation, etc.)

-Awareness of donkey welfare.

-Sanitation with farming animals (included collecting animal excrement and using as fertilizer later)

May 9th -10th 

Activity 2:

-Community wide trash pick- up (a main killer and health risk for animals in this village is plastic bag consumption)

May 11th -12th

-Activity 3:

Child play and donkeys. Children often believe the way in which they play with animals is innocent. However, sometimes their play is rough and can be categorized as animal cruelty.  In this activity children learn new playing methods with donkeys.

May 13th

-Activity 4:

Participants learn to groom their donkey (brushing, bathing, and general donkey hygiene.) Local veterinarian attended to give tips on donkey well-being

May 14th 

-Activity 5:

Closing ceremony of a skit made by the participating children.

Refreshments of soy products served.

Result 1: 237(145 women, 92 men) community members are directly trained and make soy milk, tofu kebabs, soy flavored juice, soy yogurt and ice cream.

Result 2: 415 students (239 primary school students, 176 high school students) receive direct awareness on soy health benefits and animal cruelty awareness. 184 adults (118 women, 66 men) (22 men and women from the Parent/ Teacher Association) receive awareness on animal cruelty and vegan/soy benefits.

Result 3: 52 women (or 2 women’s associations) are generating income selling tofu kebabs and soy yogurt.

Unexpected result 1: school officials decide to include soy products as part of lunch for primary school children in Tcheriba.

Unexpected result 2: 30% of participants replace meat with soy products.

*the end of project survey results showed: 30% of participants have already replaced meat in their diet; 22% say they have reduced their meat intake, and 60% say they treat their animals better.

*in the upcoming months case studies will be conducted and posted.

Think global Live global!!

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What happens when an outside source not only believes in you, but supports your cause?  You are able touch the lives of a few to many.

This is exactly what occurred that allowed me to execute the Soy/Tofu project.   I was doing online searches and networking via Linkedin.com during my hiatus from my internationalesawyer blog when I across VegFund.org merit based awards.  This award for the perfect fit for a particular project I had in mind from several months prior. The pending project which was my soy/tofu project was a relatively low costing project compared to larger ones. Although, relatively low costing, funds were still needed to start it up. Also it is a project that has great lasting impact on the community and its members.

My project was on promoting soy based food products to members of a rural community in Burkina Faso, West Africa.  In addition, to promoting soy products, I included an element of animal protection and veganism.  Why because in the village where this project was launched, the majority of children suffer from either mild or acute form of malnutrition.  Families are heavily dependent on their harvest to feed them for at least 6-7 months out the year.  Furthermore, children and adults alike do not get the vitamins that are required to live strong and healthy lives.  I learned this first hand as I spent 2 years living in Tcheriba as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  By the end of my two years, I was severely vitamin deficient.  I lacked protein, iron, B6, and 12.  I learned first- hand what it means to have a low vitamin diet.  My eyesight decreased, I lost all muscle tone, was always lethargic, exhausted, and the smallest activity rendered me completely useless physically.  Finally when I had a full medical exam, what I feared was confirmed; “you are vitamin deficient and need to have a vitamin rich diet.”  Having discovered this, I knew that something must be done to combat this in the village.  Although, I was no longer living full time in Tcheriba, I still had a duty to serve others help themselves (one of Peace Corps’ mission).  This is when I started to put full thought into the Soy/Tofu project.

In addition, people in this rural village have poor nutrition, and little to no income (especially women and children).  The ones that cannot afford meat either go without, or go to extreme measures (i.e. eating donkey meat or lizards) in order to obtain sustenance.  I long discussed soy/ tofu products, however needed to do more research to see the feasibility.  Most importantly, I had to assess the willingness of the population to try something new (which is often the hardest part).  I thought about how I can present the idea of soy for many months.  Having lived and studied in this village, I knew what the needs were, but needed to connect them into a meaningful communitywide outreach project.  Finally after much reflection and discussion with community members, it came to me…people want to make money and eat better.  They can’t eat better because they don’t have income or low income and they are not aware of how to eat better with the resources they have access to.  Therefore, I combined all the ideas (soy/tofu product making for nutritional and IGA objectives, while teaching about animal protection and soy benefits).  This is where VegFund.org came played an integral role in the implementation stage of this project.  I applied for one of their merit based awards and in a relatively short period of time, I was granted the award. I wasted no time in starting the project because the planning and analysis stage was thoroughly completed before even applying for the award.

Soy/Tofu Project GRANTED

Thanks to VegFund believing in me and my cause, I was able to fund my soy/tofu project in the village of Tcheriba.  Not only am I grateful for their funding, but for the relationship we have created.  They corresponded with me throughout the project further making me believe that they were invested in this project even from afar.  That is a main factor for successful projects and donors.  Projects that have active and involved donors during the life cycle of a project result in well executed and high completion rates of funded projects.  Furthermore, VegFund’s resources via website inspired me to take a more active and visible role in veganism and animal protection.  I have since signed on to be a virtual volunteer with VegFund since I am primarily based in Burkina Faso. The realization of this project in a timely manner was made possible by the VegFund team and my determination, plus the participation of the community.

Here is a link to VegFund’s website:  http://www.vegfund.org  

International Students

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Internationalesawyer’s work in the community gets recognized and is asked to collaborate on different projects.  One such project that internationalesawyer was consulted to organize was Springboard for Higher Education.  This is a collaboration that started more than a year ago in 2011 with a simple statement followed by a question: “I like your dedication and leadership in community organization.” “Are you interested in a youth development project?” I swiftly said thank you and of course I am interested.

The project would later be revealed as Springboard for Higher Education.  Springboard for Higher Education is an organization that mentors, coaches, and prepares students pursuing all levels of higher education in the United States (bachelors, masters, doctorate degrees).  Springboard for Higher Education or S.H.E. is goes beyond the casual education advisory.  They thoroughly examine the client to match them with the best possible institution that not only addresses their academic needs but their long term goals, talent, geographical preference, cultural and community interests.  S.H.E. provides services that include document translation, English language preparation for ESL tests such as TOFEL and IELTS, applying for scholarships, and many more services that apply to the application process for attending university in the United States as an international student.

Internationalesawyer was asked to facilitate in the information sessions, provide English preparation, and advice on overall program implementation.  S.H.E. has partners in the United States and is organizing a team of volunteers that can serve as extra support to international students once they land on American soil. This initiative is to encourage, inform, and support international students in navigating the educational system of the United States.  One major concern of international students that I hear is they do not understand the process and become intimidated by the application demands. S.H.E is created to address these concerns by demystifying the entire process.

Please enjoy the photos of the first S.H.E. information session.

Contact information: shelearningfaso@gmail.com; +226 78 82 13 65/ +226 66 99 43 21.

English leading to bright new futures!

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Once a month I am invited to have leadership discussions with university students in English (Burkina Faso is a Francophone country).  The school’s dean invited me so that the students can have extra time practicing their English with a native speaker, and getting used to the American English accent.  Moreover, the dean sought out someone who had interest in education, leadership, and international affairs.  When I was invited to provide these services I was delighted.  April makes the 4th month in which Internationale sawyer and the International Formation of Bilingual Professionals University have had this partnership.  Furthermore, on March 16, 2013, I was invited to their graduation ceremony here in Ouagadougou.  In addition to attending I was given the honor of presenting an award to a distinguished teacher.  This was my first university graduation ceremony here on the continent of Africa. What made it more impressive were all the graduating students started with little to no English; and all of them took their well -deserved diplomas with full proficiency in English.  One aspect of the graduation that I noted was all the students that gave speeches were deeply moved. They all cited God, family, and the extreme hardships of obtaining a college diploma.  They battled illness, injustice, gender inequality from within their own family, poverty, and financial instability.  I couldn’t help but to reflect on my own college graduation, some of those same emotions were shared.  One key difference was these graduates fought for their right to education, while some in other parts of the world mistreat education and take that right for granted. I guess this is because our ancestors already did the hard part, while these present day students are still in the period of civil rights.