Tag Archives: Burkina Faso

Hosting Development

On my previous post “Finding my way through Service” (on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140917151341-42414239-finding-my-way-through-service?trk=mp-reader-card) a reader commented and his comments again brought me to reflection.  His comments were centered around the fact that my time abroad working/ volunteering has not helped anyone except me.  The reader discussed his interactions with Peace Corps volunteers over the past several years; and how he did not see much good or development coming out of such organizations.  I reminded the reader that development is not always tangible. Development can occur with knowledge and resource sharing.  Human resources are often overlooked when we think about development.  Nonetheless, his comments made me reflect if there has been an impact due to my presence in the developing country in which I reside (Burkina Faso).  As it turns out I didn’t have to look nor reflect so far or so long before the answer surfaced.

Many of you may not know, but usually when Peace Volunteers enter into a country, we are placed with host families.  These families are an important if not obligatory part of the program.  The host families help integrate the volunteer, and serves as a support among other things.  In my situation I forged a great and lasting relationship with my host family.  We shared many great and some sad experiences together.  However, the most remarkable of my time with the host family were the days and nights we were able to have “causerie” (chats/ dialogue).  It was during that time that I shared my experiences of school, and forging through tough times in my education.  It was during that time that my host brothers and sisters shared their frustrations with the education system in Burkina. It was during that time that we shared notes on similar life experiences as a student.  It was during that time in which we learned from one another.  However, I think what was most remarkable to them was the will I showed to be successful in the harsh conditions.  To endure a heat that was unimaginable to me, along with all the other uncertainties was something that stuck in their minds.  There was one host brother at the time who was not in school and was trying to make his way working.  I had many conversations with him regarding education and its importance.  I listened to him as he reminisced about being in school when he was younger.  I had no idea the impact our conversations would have on him in the near future.

About a year and a half ago, the same host brother that was out of school called me saying that he saw me on television presenting graduation diplomas.  The university is called CFPREM International and I was asked to be a visiting professor/ collaborator where I perform different activities such as judging English competitions, providing career counseling, and lecture.  Based on what my host brother saw on television, he went to the university and there he saw a photo of me with some of the professors.  He did his research on the different programs and eventually enrolled.  On October 11 I was asked to once again present diplomas at the CFPREM International graduation.  When I arrived I saw my host brother dressed in his graduation regalia.  But what I didn’t know was that he was not just a regular student graduating.  It was during the course of the graduation ceremony that I learned that my host brother was not only the class president, but also valedictorian.  He graduated at the top of his class, and won so many awards that at one point when the announcer called his name he was shocked that it was him again.  He received a scholarship to continue his studies, and an offer of employment.  He later told me as we were taking photos that our conversations served as an inspiration. He stated that no one else spoke to him about the real importance of education. Lastly, he stated that sharing my experiences of also struggling as a student in America helped him realize you can still be successful even in the face of challenges.  All he needed was a push, a story different but same as his own, and a physical example plus his will.

When I think about development, and especially my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer, it is the human relationships that come to mind.  Unwittingly my presence in this country has put a lasting effect on someone and many others just as they have put a lasting effect on me.  What my host brother has gained is beyond development as he can start to break a generational cycle of poverty.  The implications of his actions will be felt for generations to come.IMG_0297IMG_0294 IMG_0289 IMG_0286

Video

Impromptu Capacity Building

Impromptu life

Some middle school to high school girls ran into me while in village and asked if I could help them understand their menstrual cycles and how to track it.

Community is needed

Hello Community, LIFE

WANPOT has created a crowds funding for our project to make a big impact at the community and national level.  We have pooled our resources and still have some ways to go.  LIFE is an educational program that will inform girls and teachers in various life skill matters such as gender violence, and sexual reproduction health.  However we have a peace building curriculum and after school activities that include clubs and the arts.  All activities are for social and cultural building.  The link for further information is: http://gogetfunding.com/project/life-3Image

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  

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.