I think that now would be the time to say a HUGE thank you to Appropriate Projects, Janine and Bob (and the Tiee family), and Yuan for their donations to my latrine project in Podor! I never really posted anything about the completion of the project, and Appropriate Projects has just posted the conclusion report.
The project was a huge success, mostly because of the trustworthy and well-intentioned actions of my school director and president of the PTA. I am more than grateful for their willingness to translate my terrible Pulaar into action, filling in my blanks with their expertise and determination to improve the latrines. Before the project, the students were regularly not using the latrines and going in groups to relieve themselves behind the building. My last several visits saw a huge improvement in the usage of the latrines. Each visit, there were groups of girls and boys using the latrines due to the lack of smell, working toilets, re-constructed door hinges, and overall cleanliness of the latrines. The school works hard to maintain the latrines, rinsing them down at the end of each school day. The school, all students and teachers, are grateful for your donations!
See our Completed Projects page linked above and here to see all the projects we’ve worked on. I’ve realized that we have been writing sporadically and very little about work. To summarize and add some small details and memories:
I wrote a grant to train about 35 Educators (teachers and school directors) of the Podor department on how to teach Community Context Based Instruction (CCBI) in the classroom as a way to incorporate nutrition and environmental education into the normal curriculum. 6 volunteers asked teachers from their communities to attend the training held in Ndioum. The french curriculum here in Senegal is quite rigid, all the lesson plans and objectives lined out day by day. CCBI tries to incorporate important and relevant environmental and health issues into normal lessons so that students can get more out of each lesson. Our APCD Mamadou Diaw did the training and it went fairly well. The teachers were especially interested by the section Diaw taught on Moringa and its uses as a nutritional supplement. PC Senegal has taken on a moringa initiative as a means to helping communities with issues such as malnutrition, anemia, and infant mortality. For the most part, the training went well–a few issues with transportation and the paying of drivers, but several mille later, all the teachers returned home at least a bit more informed on how to bring EE and HE work into the school.
Many volunteers in the area held discussions with PC coordinator Awa Traore during one week of January. Awa is an exceptional woman with a mixed Pulaar-Bambara ethnic background. Her background and experience make her the perfect woman to talk about certain topics that many volunteers feel they cannot address. She annually tours the entire country to visit PC communities to talk about sexual health, the importance of staying in school, and gender equality. Paul and I organized a talk at the Ndioum and Podor colleges. At Ndioum, we showed a PC film called Elle Travaille, Elle Vite! before the talk.
Awa really is an incredible speaker. She comes in and starts out by asking simple questions about names and age. She tells the audience that she is 19 or 18 and is the same age as a older sister or mentor (even though in reality she is quite a few decades older). All her information for her talk comes from the girls. She asks them about their culture, their dreams, their friends. She asks them what characteristics the students most admire about their friends. Then she asks for reasons that kids may have to stop going to school or the issues that face the youth. Slowly she works from this basic understanding of these students, their dreams and values to talking about sexual health and what the consequences of having sex are. She is one of the only people I know who talks openly about sexuality. To her, this knowledge is what will protect students from STD’s and early pregnancy, issues that ultimately lead to dropping out of school and a future that is quite limited.
During her talk in Podor, the students brought up the issue of teacher-student sexual relationships. A girl, who walked in late but who had been participating more actively than the other girls, told her story. She had been asked by a teacher to have sex and had refused. Since saying no, her grades had been suffering. It was sad to see the transformation. This girl had been confident, gesturing with her strong hands to emphasize her opinions, her voice filling the room. As she was speaking about her situation, I could see her body curling into itself, her voice cracking and becoming small. She could hardly talk from the anger and sadness. Awa tells us that this is uncommon. Regularly she hears stories like this from all over the country and from many communities.
During the Ndioum film showing, our PC Senegal volunteer facilitator of the north (Tidiane Diao) explained the meaning of equality with a beautiful analogy: women and men are like left and right shoes. You would never say that the right one is identical to the left one, but both are of equal importance. (I then watched as a boy sitting near me took off both his shoes and switched them, trying to see if it was possible to wear his shoes on opposite feet. It wasn’t.)