About a month has gone by since our Camp G2LOW in Niangoloko. I’ve mentioned these camps before, how it started out as Girls Leading Our World. However, in Peace Corps Burkina Faso we believe that in order for lasting change in communities to occur, both guys and girls need to be on the same page. Thus, the G2. 58 students, ages 13-15, were selected from six volunteer villages to participate in the camp.
Throughout the camp we discussed several health topics, environmental issues, leadership and gender equality. Several interactive activities were included in this year’s camp. We made soap to go along with hygiene lessons. Women were brought in from the community to teach how to make tofu, which went along with nutrition lessons. Campers planted trees, built water filters and conducted a community clean up in conjunction with environmental discussions. Doctors from the hospital came in to discuss HIV and other STIs with the campers. Local community leaders from various fields were invited for a discussion panel to aid campers in thinking about future planning and possible career options.
And it being camp and not class, students had time to hang out and play games. Campers played several soccer matches and volleyball. A few nights they even did Insanity with a few PCV counselors, which was pretty entertaining as Burkinabé don’t really do workout videos (goal #2! Haha) The campers also learned a dance to Pharrell’s “Happy.” Hopefully we can get that video up soon!
The goal of the camp is not only to benefit the campers themselves, but for their communities to benefit as well. Students are encouraged to share their experiences with their friends, families and communities. Throughout the camp, campers were given time to discuss and plan how they could improve their communities, how they could share what they had learned. We also hope to make these camps sustainable by working with community counterparts so that in the coming years camps can be completely community led, with little or no outside aid. The Burkinabé counterparts who worked the camp are high school students or older. Already as a result of the camp, counterparts from Niangoloko have started to meet in order to create an organization that will work to bring gender equality to the area.
I had the opportunity this year to co-direct the camp with my site buddy Matt, with additional support from our neighbors Rebecca and Barry. Months of planning go went into camp and would not have been possible without host country nationals and PCVs teamwork! We had 10 Burkinabé and 11 American PCVs who worked as counselors for the camp. Thank you so much to everyone who made Camp G2LOW Niangoloko possible!
Moving along…I have a temporary roommate now. Her name is Ashes. She was Matt’s cat, but he just finished his service. Hopefully she can take care of my mouse problem before she is adopted by another volunteer. However, she keeps running out of the house at night, which is when the mice come out. Then she comes back at around 3am, climbing up my screen window, whining to be let back in, waking me up. Not cool, Ashes. Not cool. Okay I think that’s enough writing about a cat.
Last week I was going to write a blog post to inform you all that my grant for our well project had been approved and was now on the Peace Corps website, waiting for your donations. Originally, I had written a grant to receive funds for two covered community wells through our Water and Sanitation Fund. This was back in February. However, this fund ran out of money. I then had to file the grant as a PCPP, which means I ask you all for donations for the project. I was a bit worried that the project would not get fully funded as we are on a time constraint with rainy season and me nearing the end of my service. I was praying for the project to be funded quickly. Then a crazy thing happened. The project was posted to the website and the next day was fully funded! What?! This was in thanks to Water Charity. You should check them out here and like them on Facebook. They have funded several PCV water and sanitation projects around the world. Thank you God for generous people working to improve the lives of others! And thank you to my mom as well for being the first to donate to the project! Since the project was fully funded, her donation was moved to our Gender and Development Committee fund for our upcoming Bike Tour. (More information to come later, but check out donation page here! If you do decide to donate now, make sure you write in the comments section “GAD Gender and Development Committee” so it gets to the right place. )
The wells will be constructed in one of our satellite villages, which is technically still a part of my village. This community started by the Mossi people who moved from northern Burkina in search of fertile farm land. Over the course of around 40 years the community has been growing and is now up to around 700 people. Next year the government will begin construction on an elementary school. The community has only one well and while we were working on the well grant, another organization built a pump. The houses are pretty spread out and these two water sources are not sufficient. Community health workers and community leaders approached me about the lack of water and thus the project began. Not only will we be working together to build wells, but a hygiene campaign will be conducted throughout the community to improve their overall well-being. When you add up materials and labor costs, the community contributed to 70% of the project! The outside funding is mostly going to the cost of cement. We will continue to hold meetings, but construction will begin after the rainy season. Prayers would be appreciated for successful teamwork and no complications!
Monday was Ramadan, celebrating the end of fasting for Muslims around the world. In Burkina, Muslims do not eat or drink while the sun is up. At night however, many people eat porridge to break the fast and may eat rice or toh. This goes on for forty days. During this time is one of the few times that I saw the whole family praying together. Ramadan is not as big as Tabaski here, but is still a day prayer, time spent with the family and good food (if people have the means!). Many people killed chickens or guinea fowl to eat as a special treat. I spent the day visiting several families around village, enjoying some good meals and conversation. I love how in Burkina, Muslims and Christians can share their respective holidays together, inviting one another to celebrate in each other’s’ homes, peacefully discussing their differences.
Continued prayers: LESS MALARIA! We are in the middle of rainy season, which is prime time for mosquito breeding. Each time I’m at the clinic, the waiting room is full of patients who have tested positive for malaria (thankful for rapid tests though that help with giving proper treatment). Among the sick, small children are the majority. Unfortunately, the mosquito nets from last year’s distribution are no longer killing mosquitos as the insecticide has diffused out and the nets themselves are not great, leading to easy entry for mosquitos. Continuing to look for solutions, as telling people to sleep under a net is not enough. Early treatment is usual the best case scenario. Hopefully there has been progress on that vaccine!