I know that it has been a while since BCB’s last post. After a one year and a half of repose to regroup, focus on individual team member’s personal growth and reorganize, BCB has returned back to the stage of change-making in the lives of rural communities, in West Africa.
BCB has spent the last 6 months recruiting outstanding volunteers and members to continue its development work in West Africa. BCB now has an outstanding board of directors from various backgrounds, with dedication and commitment to BCB’s mission, who are passionate about impacting change in the lives of villagers in Togo. We are excited about our progress. So much more to come….
SOOO much to come with BCB.
First, Happy New Year to all in the land of blog and beyond. This new year 2012 is going to be one of the rising…. 🙂 the rising of the Bcb’s Phoenix! Stay tuned for more.
The third day was the most saturated day of the training. The team had decided the day before to begin a little earlier for this day, so we would be able to have morning review time. At 6:30 am, the participants arrived and we began with one hour of recap and revision before breakfast. I really do believe returning the participants into their own village during the training, incorporated the whole village into the training and emphasized the urgent task of returning and putting plans into action. This seems to have had added a small amount of pressure on the women to really know what they are talking about. Every day since the beginning of the training we have allotted an hour and a half for recap and revision where trainers, become trainees and two sets of participants go in front of the group to recap the lessons of the day. Asking the ladies to present everyday allows them practice time to build their confidence to speaking in front of a group. The reality was also fitting in that we (the trainers and I and two representatives from the Ministry of Health, the chief of development Mr. Ohonou, and a few others) were unfamiliar and so these women had to really summon their courage to stand up and speak. We had breakfast and then returned to our lessons. Djoumai and Amen both continued with sanitation and hygiene, toilets, Econ-San and VIP and then a general review to further tie in all loose ends. Our goal is for our participants to assimilate this information given to them formally, into their own realities and connect the dots and embraced new behavioral changes that will benefit them. I must say that the women are proud of what they have learned and of themselves. There is a new feeling in the group of familiarity and real comradery. Now, I am seeing, the participants helping each other in their lessons. Afi Abalo is a star; she is going to help bring about some amazing changes in her group. I am also very confident about Amina Adoh: the woman has a grace and simplicity with a readiness to laugh that is both disarming and effective. Ms. Adoh is able to relate to everyone easily because she is this way. By the end of the third day, it was apparent that our participants were coming into their own, they were now feeling comfortable with our initiative and the subject matters of our training and were excited about the coming days.
The second day of the training again I woke up early. There is no hot water in the village, so with cold water we prepare ourselves for our day. Djoumai Badamassi, the trainer from Crepa is wearing a beautiful outfit with a head wrap. By the time I come out, around 6:15 am, the breakfast table is being set for about 10 people. Around 7:30 onwards, the ladies start to file in. Afi Abalo, one of our participants is very funny and keeping the group in good cheer with stories and jokes. I am also delighted and humbled when I look at the three babies that came with their mothers. Afi Abalo had a two year old son, Mahasse Awomba had a 15 month old, and Afi Agbokli had a 3 year old daughter. I am inspired by these ladies, without a whole lot of fuss, these women lead numerous responsibilities at home to come here and even when they do this, they still have active duties which require that they multitask. They just don’t claim the acknowledgment of doing so. We begin our day with Djoumai going into sanitation and hygiene in depth. The trainers and I came to the realization that in order to be more effective, if would need to do the training in the vernacular, which is local language of Ewe. This choice would mean more work for the training organizers and team. This required also that we adapt the method we were going to use to conduct our surveys and changed it from written to verbal documentation. Our target population is rural, if we were to require that the women work with speak, French, it would reduce the pool of potential women leaders. Many of these women may not have formal education, but they are the backbone of many of these communities and have intrinsic knowledge of them and of what to do to survive and live and have been doing so for many generations. One of the unique aspects of our approach is that we are flexible and embrace adaptation when necessary to realize the maximum effectiveness of our project. Today was also the day that we learned about the hand washing stand that CREPA provided. It was amazing, basically a natural sink where you have two poles and a connecting third pole on top. You take two plastic 8 ounce cups and put small hole at the bottom. You have a pail of water and wires connected to the cups to use as handles. You take the cup with the handles and put it in the pail of water, hook the cup onto the stand and put your hands underneath the cup; water comes out to wash your hands. And imagine that the participants were further delighted to be able to use ash to clean ones hands. As the day went on and concluded, I would say the second day is when the reality of the training sunk in for everyone. Trainers are aiming to teach their best, and trainees are focused and concentrated on learning. Today was also the day that the group starts to let their guards down a little and interact with more easily than the first day. Today we all realized, “okay we are in this together”. After dinner, Djoumai and I and our assistant, were pleasantly surprised when the women started to sing and dance. Everyone started clapping and I joined in with my heart full of joy! And the women sang traditional songs, the call and response, and it was so moving. Afi Abalo would sing a phrase and the rest of the women would respond and back and forth. To me, the moment when all the women started to sing, is when the village divide become less relevant. In that women we were just women, African women at that. Afi Agbokli's little girl also danced, in her little dress, with her 3 year old arms, looking like a little angel. Today was a great day!
“The first day of the training, I woke up very early, around 5 o’clock in the morning. I prayed for a great day and that the universe blesses and touches the work that we would be doing. Actually I should start with the night before! Around 10:00 am, was wrapping up the last activities of printing before my team and I headed for the villages. BCB is in the process of partnering with an organization called CREPA! CREPA stands for Regional Center for Water and Sanitation. Created in Burkina Faso back in the 80s, CREPA has been in the sanitation and hygiene training business for quite a while. This is the main organization used by UNICEF TOGO, the European Union, and Plan Togo, to train and educate villages after project implementation.
The Head of CREPA Madame Tepe, and I met earlier during the week and she in a sense agreed to take BCB under their and her wings. She admitted that there were few women in the domain that we were both working in, so she was encouraged that BCB had arrived and would be doing this work. She then agreed to send one of CREPA’s trainers to our workshop. Djoumai Badamasi was the selected trainer and she was simply amazing at the training. BCB had also located a second trainer whose name is Amen Atike. Her first name is Amen, and her last name translated from Ewe language means medicine, so as a joke during the training, we would say, if you get sick, you take medicine say a prayer and add Amen at the end and you’re done! Lol, she is truly a wonderful teacher!
So to resume, with our rented taxi after the printing was finished, we went to CREPA headquarters to pick our second trainer and then the cab began the three hour drive to our village hub Glei. The ride was pebbled with some conversation amongst the four of us, and Djoumai and I were talking about the work ahead. She shared stories of how she started the type of work, which was not common for women. She stated that with a shortage of jobs in the country, one would not refuse a company that offered to train you in a certain domain. We stopped at a gas station with a store so I could get batteries for our flip camera. Although we are
told they were the originals they end up dying out in 5 minutes. Lol. If you don’t laugh, you would have to cry right? Finally we arrive in Glei and are greeted by Mr. Ohonou our village development chief and our service folks for the week. We are guided to our lodging arrangements and we put our bags down, and prepare to settle in. While the group does this, I go ahead and pay the driver and have him sign our receipt book and wish him a
save journey back home. When I am done, I come back in and sit down with Mr. Ohonou and pay him the majority of the money for the training. Remember this included lodging for 6 trainees plus one trainer and myself and an assistant. This week period also included three meals a day for our group and provision of water and assisting with little requests.
I must say I was so impressed and happy with Mr. Ohonou again, not only coming out with full support but doing so with so much enthusiasm is what moves me. I am thankful for him.
My aunt had cooked food from home which I brought and which was our dinner for that Sunday. Once we finished we took a few minutes to ourselves to freshen up and about two hours later, came back out to prepare our conference zone and area for the next day training. I have video clips of EVERY DAY including the day before, but with the internet connection here, almost impossible to upload! I will keep trying though until we can share our videos with you.
So anyways, the eve before our training was humbling, magical haunting all at once for me. I, Cheri Afolabi and Djoumai Badamasi were present. For me, after SOOOOO many years of work, after going though the fire….I finally would receive the opportunity to sit before 6 women and help them discover their own power, share and transfer knowledge and inspire these women to keep the chain alive by education and empowering others! Cried with thanksgiving before I went to bed that day. Haunted because I was now facing the moment for which I had toiled so many years, now here was this moment sitting right there before my eyes! The beginning of a dream realized is an incredible space to find oneself! I was overwhelmed with gratitude! Thank you to all of you who have supported BCB all these years.
Please continue to support our work. SOOOOO much more to come. Every day, I will blog from my diary entries. Happy Holidays to you all and blessings abundant!”
This is Liz reporting on behalf of Enyo who just finished conducting the WASH training where 6 elected women were trained in water, sanitation and hygiene practices. It was a week long training that culminated in the women then going to their respective villages and educating their fellow villagers on what they had learned. This is what happened:
BCB’s Women Leader Amina Adoh conducting the WALK OF SHAME in her village to help raise awareness of the dangers of open defecation and the need to use dug pits or latrines and adopting sanitary practices! She was impressive, and passionate as she had understood during BCB training that she and all her fellow villagers were eating each other’s feces, since flies land on their food after landing on uncovered human waste! And she shared this fact with her fellow villagers; they were all disgusted by the old practice and looking forward to changing it! Educate one woman and she will change her entire village.
Amina conducting the WALK OF SHAME in Madjamakou (three pictures above).
After BCB’s WASH training, the three newly elected Women Leaders return to their community with BCB’s support to encourage them, and began educating their community on the simple technologies that they learned. Our women leaders here are speaking to their village about the importance of sanitation and hygiene and what it is and means since most of them had never before heard those terms or had been taught the technologies. The next steps were inviting the village to create strategies of how they will implement sanitary and hygienic practices in their village as an entire village and together! Earlier during the day, these same women leaders also conducted the Walk of Shame in their villages. It was a beautiful and motivating sight to behold. The power of education is one of the greatest gifts that one human being can give or share with another!
After a week of trekking through the villages, all the dust has exacerbated Enyo’s asthma so she’s in the capital city, Lome, visiting with the well company and hoping to set up a start date for Phase 2 of the water project which is the building of a solar powered well in Koussougba. No rest for the weary.
Enyo: Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, nothing has changed here in Togo. The majority of the people are still living below the poverty level and it shows very visibly in the mannerisms and behavior of the people. Now, of course, the children are still pretty happy despite their circumstance. Most of the younger generation is pretty degenerate and miserable, and the elders look as if they have lost hope. Walking in the streets is a bit sad because the general mood of the people is very, very somber. Nevertheless, I remind myself that I did not come here to pity or wallow in sadness about the state of the people.
Actions completed to date:
1. Established communication, restored my cell, and got my visa.
2. Secured a vehicle for transportation.
3. Traveled to Atakpame, to Madjamakou and Koussougba.
4. Met with Mr. Ohonou and the Chief and Chief’s council of Koussougba, and the School Director in Madjamakou.
5. Delivered the Education Project Letter. The teachers were very happy and they will all write a response to Francoise!!! She should be getting 4-5 letters soon!
6. Met with Mr. Ohonou to plan the logistics of the workshop. We discussed the workshop timeline and program outline, lodging for 6 trainees and one workshop trainer including myself. Discussed: cost of food, transportation for the different parts of the workshop, because two days of the workshops will be conducted in their respective villages, and Celebration and Certification and Graduation Day (Saturday).
7. Came back to Togo and worked on Voss Foundation Grant.
8. Met with WASH Trainer and secured her for the training.
A very exciting discovery that I am simply elated to share is that the villagers have found a solution for repairing their own water pump that they innovated right there in their own villages! Most unbelievable! The innovation and their improvements to the water system design has saved them 5 reparations this year alone! I am so proud of their innovation!
Our project is unfolding very well.