Category Archives: Lives of Women

Baby Vaccinations and Weighing

One of my favorite activities during my service was helping with baby vaccinations and weighings.

A baby from the "jeere" (bush) village of Kodiolel that just got vaccinated

Baby being weighed!

Coumba vaccinating a child in Ndioum

Coumba and relais weighing an infant

Polio oral vaccination

Bush vaccination village of Kodiolel

Kodiolel mothers


MSS Finalists go SHOPPING!

Here are some pictures of the 3 finalists going shopping at our local bookstore for their $30 worth of school supplies under the supervision of the middle school’s PTA president.  The girls were excited to receive their new supplies.  Thanks to those who donated to make this possible!



Please Donate to the Michelle Sylvester Memorial Scholarship

If you haven’t done so yet, please think about donating to the Michelle Sylvester Memorial Scholarship Fund.  We still need to raise $6400 to fund this scholarship program for the more than 400 scholarship winners throughout Senegal.  A donation of only $10 will help keep one of these girls in school by paying for her annual school fees.  An additional $30 will pay for the school supplies of one scholarship finalist.

To donate online, click here.

“[I]nvestment in girls’ education may well be the highest return investment available in the developing world.” –Lawrence Summers


GIRLS LEADERSHIP CAMP and then some

Here is an old post from the week of the 18th of July:

The Podor department just finished with a week-long Girls leadership camp (10th to 16th of July).  The camp was held at the NGO Tostan’s regional house in Ndioum.  Each volunteer invited 4 female students from their community.  All girls were from the last grade in elementary school (CM2) or the first grade in middle school (6eme).  Jonno also invited 6 (3 of 4eme and 4 of 5eme grade) of his MSS girls from Taredji to act as junior counselors (JCs) for the camp.  In all we had 29 girls from Diambo Dialbe, Donaye Taredji,Ndioum,Aram Soubalo, Madina Ndiathbe, Boke Dialbe, and Boke Salsalbe.

Girls after an EE lesson on trash at Girls Leadership Camp

On the 9th of July, Jonno (with help from Paul and myself) lead a JC training to teach the older girls about their role and responsibilities as counselors and role models for the camp participants.  The other girls for the camp arrived the 10thof July.  The camp started the 10th and closed with a party for the participants and their parents on the 16th.  Each day of camp began with breakfast followed by an environmental lesson, a health lesson, and a guest speaker presentation before breaking for lunch.  After lunch the girls did an art/crafts activity, followed by a life skills session and then a cultural activity before dinner.  After dinner, the girls watched films like Planet EarthMulan, and Bend it like Beckham before heading to bed.

Environmental lessons taught by Sarah and myself covered trees/pepineres, moringa/nutrition, trash management, animals/ecology, and environmental issues.  Hygiene lessons taught by Amber covered basic first aid, dental hygiene, washing hands, and neem lotion.  Paul taught sexual health about HIV/AIDS and organized guest speakers: Madame Ly taught the girls about STIs and talked about her work as a matrone, Cheikh Diallo (Jonno’s host dad) talked about the right to education, Kadhiata Ba talked about her entrepreneurship women’s group who makes/sells yogurt and gardens while also providing trainings to surrounding villages.  I held sessions about tye-dye and pottery while Amber taught the girls to make homemade shampoos, conditioner, lipgloss, and face scrub.  Jonno and Hadiel taught life skill lessons about role models, forming short/long term goals, effective communication, and self-esteem.  Evan taught the girls about cultures around the world through sports, food, dance, and collages.

Group Photo of Girls from Leadership Camp

It was amazing to see girls from such different backgrounds making friends with each other and growing in confidence when voicing their opinions and ideas.  We hope the girls learned skills and knowledge that will help them make good decisions and motivate them to become the future leaders ofSenegal. On the last day, each girl invited a family member to come to Ndioum for a party.  We ate good food, the girls showed their parents and loved ones what they had been doing all week, Tidiane gave a small speech to the girls, the girls presented their action plans to help people in their communities, and each girl received a certificate for her achievements.

For the most part, the camp went really well although there were small issues such as name-calling, stealing, watching TV, and going outside unaccompanied.  The girls left Saturday afternoon, many of the counselors and girls crying sadly about leaving.  It was a long time for many kids to be away from home, but it also was a week filled with lessons that will hopefully affect how they live their lives.

Even with the camp ending, the excitement did not end.  As the camp came to a close, Hadiel and Jonno fell ill.  While Jonno recovered quickly, Hadiel’s fever mounted to a 105 deg F the following day.  With the sudden onset of her fever, Team Podor quickly moved into gear.  We managed to do a malaria rapid-test that came back positive, two lines appearing and not disappearing.  We got Hadiel her medication and into Tidiane’s car to Dakar the following morning.  She is doing well now, recovering and regaining her strength.  It was scary to see a friend get so sick so quickly.  A warning to people visiting malaria-infested areas: take precautions to prevent malarial symptoms—prophylaxis, using mosquito nets, etc.  We always think things like this won’t happen, and then they do to people who are close to us.

More photos to come on my flickr once I can get our internet to load up my huge back-log of pictures 🙂


Donate to the Michelle Sylvester Scholarship Fund!

I have blogged about our MS Scholarship at the Ndioum middle school.  The funding for this scholarship comes mostly from the generous donations of people like you.  Throughout Senegal, there are several PCVs participating in the MS Scholarship, amounting to about 53 schools and 500 Senegal middle school girls who will be receiving money from the scholarship.  Please donate through this website: https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=685-181

All you need to do is submit the amount you would like to donate on the right sidebar of the website and press the “donate” button, which will take you to a page where you enter all your information.

These are 8 of our 9 girls:

Please donate if you have the time to.   It will benefit many girls who are good students but do not the means to continue their schooling.


Closing the Gender Gap

Paul and I are back in the Fuuta. We had an incredible 3-week vacation back to the states–three very short weeks jam-packed with graduations, a beautiful wedding, and lots of family time.

Then we headed back to Senegal up to St. Louis for the annual Jazz festival. Stayed at a little hotel on the beach where we chased crabs, swam, and dug for coquina clams in the sand.  We listened to little jazz but enjoyed exploring St. Louis and being in the company of good PC friends.

Finally we moved into our new home in Ndioum. Our neighborhood kids are constantly jumping our wall to come greet us and play soccer in our huge yard. Paul is constantly chasing them away with a broom.  Bad cycle: we come home, kids jump our wall to greet us or to stare at us through our windows in curiosity, parents find their kids and yell or beat them with sticks, kids run off crying, cycle starts again.  For the most part, I enjoy talking to the kids and playing but its gets exhausting, especially if there are 20 little boys and girls all yelling at once.

Paul and I have been frantically running around trying to finish up our work for the Michelle Sylvester Scholarship. I mentioned this scholarship in a previous post, but to reiterate: the scholarship awards nine girls in the middle school (three from the sixieme grade, three from cinquieme, and three from quatrieme) 5,000 Fcfa to pay for next year’s school fees. We conduct interviews, home visits, an essay-writing session, and get teacher recommendations and grades.  After the entire process, a committee chooses three finalists from the nine girls who are then awarded an additional 15,000 Fcfa to pay for school supplies.  The scholarship intends to close the gender gap by assisting girls who are good students and highly motivated but lack the financial means to continue schooling.

Although equal proportions of girls and boys enroll in primary school, a smaller proportion of girls than boys enroll in secondary school.
Data collected in 2009 show that there are approximately equal numbers of boys and girls in each grade for the first six years of school. After that, however, the percentage of girls in each grade steadily drops.

We called one of our girls to see if she could come in for the proctored essay exam and she informed us that she was in a city far from Ndioum.  The next day, the middle school teacher in charge of her grade level told us that she had gotten married.  This girl is now married at 15 years of age.  She is one of our favorites and inspires to be an English professor.  We  hope that she will continue her education even as a married woman.

Today, we tried to visit one of the MS Scholarship girls at her village a couple km outside of Ndioum for her home-visit.  She said that she lives in a village called Kahel.  Turns out, as is typical in Senegal, there are three Kahels…and she does not even live in one of them.  After circling several small villages at least twice, asking random houses about her family, and trying to ride a grazing camel, we think she may actually live in a small village called Diara Waalo, which is some 7 km off the main road toward the Senegal River.  Since we biked and brought little water, we decided to turn back; we will try to find her again later this week, perhaps go by charette.  Wouldn’t if be nice if her family had a cellphone?

In other news: Paul and I are celebrating our 2nd year wedding anniversary.  We plan on celebrating by eating our favorite Senegalese dinner dish lacciri haako (cous-cous and leaf sauce) accompanied by some Senegalese wine, diluted and made drinkable by a spritz of Sprite.


Liggey Update!

Just a small work update:

Ecole Maternelle: I have been helping a preschool (ecole maternelle-kids ages 2-6) in Ndioum with a pepinere and garden.  Tried growing some sunflowers and lavender, but the seeds did not germinate at all…maybe too old.  The kids are adorable and enthusiastic.  I put the eldest class to work filling tree sacks and planting seeds.  We “de-mysted” the new married couple in PC Senegal recently (Ivy and Nick are currently in training and came up north for their volunteer-visit).  The four of us taught the kids about trees and seeded the pepinere with cashew, pomegranate, lime, mandarin, Cassia, leucaena, Ziziphus, tamarin, and mango seeds.  Hopefully we’ll be able to plant many fruit trees in the preschool during the rainy season. Today I planted morning glory and cowpeas near some lattices we built to climb the outside of a classroom as a way to decrease heat inside the classroom. The kids and I also seeded moringa, bissap, okra, cucumber, dikon, carrot, onion, eggplant, cabbage, and hot peppers.

Ndioum college: Paul and I have started pepinering at the middle school.  The middle school has few trees and a lot of hot sand.  In addition, we have started the process of Michelle Sylvester Scholarship.  The director chose nine gals who are good students, motivated, but lack the monetary means to pay for school fees and supplies.  All nine candidates will receive 5,000 Fcfa (about $10) to pay next year’s school fees.  We are in the process of getting teacher recommendations, interviews, and home-visits done for each of the girls before heading for vacation.  After we get back into Senegal, we will proctor an essay-writing session and send everything to Dakar.  The scholarship committee will select three from our nine girls to give an additional 15,000 Fcfa for notebooks, pens, and other school supplies.  So far, the home visits have gone well but it is hard sometimes to see how difficult the lives of some of these girls are.  The father of the girl with the highest grades out of the nine told us that if a man comes asking for her hand in marriage, he will give her away, putting her education in the hands of her new husband. Monday, we visited a girl whose father passed away less than a month ago.  There does not appear to be any incoming money and we worry that this girl will have to drop-out of school to help out her family.

SeneGAD: Paul was in Thies recently to introduce the work of SeneGAD to new trainees. He went on a tour of all the training villages and presented SeneGAD’s projects and goals.

Mud rocket stoves: I went to a training by a fellow PCV who has spent most of his service perfecting the mud rocket stove.  These stoves aim to increase the efficiency of burning wood as a way to decrease smoke and wood use.  Most women in villages burn over an open flame.  This mud stove directs smoke and heat through a combustion chamber to a mud-skirt that surrounds the entire base of a cooking pot.  I hope I can build and teach people how to build these in Ndioum as a way to decrease the health hazards of breathing in the smoke and ash and decrease the environmental issues of cutting trees for firewood.

In other news, we are still living in the regional house. We were hopeful that we would be able to move before going on vacation, but it appears that the week we can move in is the same week we head down to Dakar.