Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend Girls' Camp at my site!

Ahh yes, Weekend Girls' Camp #2 chez moi! We continued using the same four themes: Life Skills, English, Health and Sports.

Preparing for the camp was a little less insane at my house -- organizing the middle school visit; organizing the ridiculously huge task of feeding 22 people (may not seem like much but damn, do these kids eat a lot!); preparing the school; talking with guest speakers and school officials; dealing with my corrupt school director (long story short, the moment he found out I got a grant for this Girls' Camp, he straight up asked me for money because he deserved it and that because I was using the school. WTF?! You're obviously new and don't know that I work for the school too, douchebag. Ugh. Excuse the angry sentiment...); etc. So it was a lot of running around and calling people to prepare...

On Saturday morning, Jon and his 10 girls arrived at my site. What's crazy is that many of my girls are children of fonctionnaires (civil servants) that have salaried jobs. So they've had more of an opportunity to travel around Burkina Faso and have a little more means. Not so much the case for Jon's girls, which is why it was such a treat for them especially to come to my site!

We headed straight for the Collège (middle school) which is fortunately within walking distance. They JUST built it andit looks brand spankin' new! I had their Director, a very nice man named Mr. Meda, give them a little tour and encourage them to continue their studies to the secondary level and beyond. When we went back to the school, we continued the Life Skills activity on creating goals and objectives in life, which actually turned out really well!

Regarding Health activities, we focused on proper handwashing and Moringa/its nutritional value. Maybe it seemed a little like class but our hope is that they learned something that they'll carry with them. We also invited my friend, Koro, who works at the CSPS (village medical center) as a sage-femme (midwife?) to give a session using an image flipbook that I had on HIV/AIDS...clearly a very sensitive subject but something that definitely needed to be addressed. Never too early, especially here in Burkina Faso/Africa!

We did a little English this time around and the Sports focus this time was soccer which EVERY child in Burkina Faso -- heck, all of Africa -- enjoys! These girls are good!

All in all, an excellent final weekend followed by handing out Certificates of Participation and a grand group photo.

All right, enjoy the pictures, round 2:

Jon, Mr. Meda (middle school director) and the girls after their little field trip to the middle school. When Mr. Meda talked to the girls about the importance of working hard to get to the secondary level and seeing how different the environment was (and how new the school was!) got them really motivated. I started seeing lightbulbs flickering!

My 10 girls and I at one of the entrance signs to my site.

Talking to the girls about proper handwashing and why it's important to use water that's either running or tossed on your hands AND soap. The two girls to the right (Adissa and Aicha) are so ridiculously intelligent, it's inspiring.

We did this experiment with three girls and fabricated stories to make it interesting. The first girl went to play soccer out in the field and ended up touching the ground a lot. The second girl simply was in class all day. The third girl just washed her hands after using the bathroom. The idea was to have each of the girls was their hands with soap and water in the small white basin and show that washing your hands with running water is extremely important, but most especially with soap and by rubbing your hands to get rid of all the germs.

Jon conducting a cool English game where the girls race to draw a specific object and then they learn the translation in English.

My good friend Koro from the CSPS, using the image flipbook to discuss HIV/AIDS -- who it concerns, modes of transmission and ways of prevention. A very successful presentation; hopefully she can come again for a final Girls' Camp I'd like to host before leaving this year!

First group picture at my site.

Ali leading the girls in soccer. Damn, they're good and many of them have never played before in their lives!

A special dinner treat out at a restaurant in town.

Moringa and nutrition presentation.

After the presentation, we went outside and the girls made their own Moringa nursery that they could take home and grow by themselves.

After packing the empty water sachet with dirt, we watered it a little to get the soil moist.

Then we put in a couple of seeds to ensure that if one doesn't grow, the other will.

A really good picture of Alimata (one of the girls in my Girls' Club). Good job, Jon!

Explaining that when they get home, they need to poke two holes in the bottom to let the roots breathe and have excess water leave. That way, it'll be easier to transplant it to the ground.

Clémence and Franck helping bring the food over. Mmmm!

Madame Hien and Ali preparing the salad -- a real treat since it's lettuce season right now and not too far from my house, either. Holla!

Jon with the massive amounts of food. Rice with eggplant and fish sauce (sounds weird but it really, really good!) and salad with onions and spices. A true feast!

Jon and I with our 20 girls and their Certificates of Participation. A final picture!

Jon and I after the Camp...exhausted but well worth it. =)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

African sunsets and baby Grace-Victoire.

Here in Burkina Faso, there are many things that just make me happy. After a busy week/weekend planning and executing the Weekend Girls' Camp, it was nice to just be back at site and just take everything in again.
As of late, I've noticed the sunsets have been unusually nice lately. And because they set right behind my house, I've always been inclined to walk outside and stare, even if the window for a good sunset can be as little as a few minutes (once I was walking outside and saw a really great sunset, went inside to look for my camera and it took a couple of minutes, finally found it, went outside and saw the sun already set!).
Part of it might be because I believe I officially am at the last 6 months of my service. So I think I'm just trying to take everything in because while I am excited to return home, I know that -- at least hearing about other Volunteers who have returned back home -- you'll definitely miss aspects of your service, Burkina Faso, the people, etc.
I thought I should also share these pictures of my neighbor's baby, Grace-Victoire. She can finally walk now and talks gibberish ALL THE TIME, especially when she's sees me! It's hilarious because we have raised porches and whenever she's on her porch, I'm on mine and she sees me, she'll start to babble away in gibberish. Perhaps she wants to learn English? haha

This photo probably best describes her personality. Always laughing! Look how cute that is. =)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Weekend Girls' Camp at Jon's site!

As some of you might know, Jon and I are both volunteers under the program "Girls' Education and Empowerment" (GEE) and while we've done our own respective projects/activities at site, we've always talked about collaborating and doing something together. Anything GEE-related! Plus, we only live 12km from each other, so really there was no excuse NOT to collaborate.

...and then it hit us. A Camp des Filles or Girl's Camp! Long story short, we applied for a Gender and Development (GAD) grant to help pay for transport, food and other necessities, organized a program based on four themes (I'll talk about it later) and worked with teachers and other school officials to get logistical details off the ground.

Choosing the girls was difficult since we each had our respective Girls' Clubs at the CM1 level (5th grade in the US) but to make it fair, we had the CM1 teachers of his school and my school choose the top 10 girls with the highest academic achievement. Sweet!

Because the second trimester was back in full swing, we decided to make it a weekend Girls' Camp -- the first weekend at Jon's site and the second and final weekend at my site -- so as not to disrupt their studies during the week. The idea would be that my 10 girls and I would leave Saturday morning from my site, do a full day's worth of activities on Saturday, sleep over, continue on Sunday and head back that afternoon.

Many of our girls haven't left their village in their lives, so it was really an adventure for many of them to travel a little distance and make some new friends!

Just to give you the basics, our Girls' Camp was centered around four (4) themes: Life Skills (future planning, goals and objectives, having model women speak), English (basic greetings, numbers), Health (hygiene and nutrition) and Sports (Frisbee and soccer).

All right, enjoy the pictures!

Jon found the best tree to sit under at his site. Got plastic mats out and our first session was pairing the girls off with name tags they made for each other, handing out pens and notebooks, and did a drawing activity on proper nutrition.

We also did a Life Skills session inviting model women in Jon's community to come speak about their lives how they got to where they were, and gave advice to the girls. Salimata is one of the higher-ups at the Mayor's office and Safi is a nurse at the CSPS (village medical center).

We did a little bit of English, which the girls seem to always love!

We also did a Life Skills activity that had them imagine their lives tomorrow, in a year, in 5 years, in 10 years and so forth (which explains why they have their heads down). Pretty interesting stuff and a great segway to establishing goals and objectives!

First group picture - Jon and I with our 20 girls!

For the Sports theme, we decided to focus the weekend at Jon's site with Frisbee.

Before dinner on Saturday night, we took a tour of Jon's site. In Lobiri, his village's name means "lake"-something so naturally the girls were interested in visiting the lake. Fun times!

One of our icebreaker activities was "telephone." Definitely a great activity but I honestly think it was either Jon or I that screwed up the sentence we tried to pass around the circle.

One of the health activities we did was invited Safi over again to give a 'sensibilisation' (awareness raising session) on malaria, how you can get it and how to avoid it. A huge, huge issue here in Burkina.

My girls getting ready to leave to head back home!

Weekend Girls' Camp #1 done...Weekend Girl's Camp #2 at my site up next!


Currently in Gaoua and don't have the patience to wait 57896 hours for pictures from Girls' Camp 1st Weekend that Jon and I have put together for the 10 highest-achieving girls in our respective Girls' Clubs (I'll probably do that when I get to Ouaga in mid-February for a meeting) BUT I do want to update this blog with adorable pictures of my neighbor's dog, Hércules! The longer I live here, the more I want to take him back with me to the U.S. Oh boy!

Look at how he sleeps!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's 2011 hiking in Dogon country, Mali!

Check out the water sachets in Mali!

Cliffs in Dogon with the dwellings of the Tellum and Dogon people. Insane!

Happy Birthday Leslie! Substituting a cake for a plate of fries...and a candle for a simple match. You make do with what you have!

Every night, we slept on top of rooftops. But boy, was it chilly! Look at us all bundled up with the hats that Leslie knit for us. You'd never guess we're in West Africa!

New Year's Eve...we made it to the top. We met some Americans along the way and they let us borrow their "Happy New Year's" hats for this picture. So nice! haha


About to descend.

Initially very scary to climb down these but overall, very awe-inspiring! We don't have anything like this in Burkina!

Such a happy picture amongst the cliffs. Seriously, the best descent ever!

The group amongst the sand dunes.

Hiking amongst the sand dunes. This picture screams Africa, si?

Doesn't this picture look insane?!

Colette and I. You were missed, Devin!

...we needed this (a map of Mali) during our whole trip but only got a hold of it at the last day of our trip. Haha!

More pictures can be found on my Facebook album since it takes forever to upload pictures here in Burkina Faso