Monday, July 07, 2008

Lessons from the hearts of children....

There is big news to report! I want to send out a special huge THANK YOU to the kids at Aspen Heights Elementary in Red Deer, Alberta! I (Chantelle) spoke to their classes in early May all about Niger and the lives of the children there and you really took the message to heart! The class of 16 grade three's made posters, wrote announcements, and wrote little speeches to give to individual classrooms. Your love for the people here that you never even met moved me to tears! The money you raised is being funnelled to a water project here in Niger!

An excerpt from their teacher: "One of the little girls after a big rain storm, was out bike riding. She noticed the puddles forming and thought about the kids you had talked about and the pictures I had shown them off the internet of kids getting water from what looked like dirty puddles. She collected a jar of the puddle water, brought it to school and asked me if she could make a presentation. She showed the rest of the kids in my class the jar of really dirty water and said "We have to do something!" Over the next few days, we watched the mud settle to the bottom and the water become a little clearer but still far from acceptable for drinking in their opinion! Then they had a lunch hour freezie sale after our whole school swim and hot dog lunch. It was very successful, we had some freezies left over so we had another recess sale. They raised $145.00!! It is amazing to watch the power of children, the magnitude of their caring, and the empowerment they gain from helping others."

The needs of all the people here are palpatable. Our guard told us that last sunday, before it was noon, we had seven different people come to our gate looking for money or aid or jobs. 7 people before noon! We are humbled by the amount of poverty and need around us, but are also really seeking wisdom in how to meet those needs. We only have so much time and money and can't help everyone obviously, nor do we believe in free money handouts. So how do we put together a strategy to maximize what we do have to give and target people who will use it wisely? I guess that's a big part of what our mission here in development work will be. Finding the right projects and intercessions that really help people, but also let them keep the dignity, learn skills, and make a better lives for themselves. Handouts only help for a short period of time, so we are envisioning working alongside people in a way that gives them a chance to make it on their own. What a huge job but also a huge priviledge. Pray for us as we work through our responses to neighbors, beggars at every intersection, the young kids who bang on our vehicle doors, the amputees, the shop vendors who rip us off because we are white, etc.

This is Ismaguil (our night guardian) and his wife and two of his four children.

This past Thursday, Paul and I threw a party meal for our guards and helper and their children and spouses. We made a big meal of rice, meat and sauce, with cake for dessert and we all sat on mats on our patio. We enjoyed getting to meet the families of the people who work for us. Our benefits extend to their family and we pay for all their health care, vaccinations, school fees,etc. What a joy to smile and share a meal with them and welcome them into our extended family here. I can't wait for the day when I speak Tamasheq and can communicate with these precious women and share our life stories and joy together.

The rains have begun here. Meaning that every few days some clouds roll in, the temperature stays mild in the mid to high 30s and we may get a shower. Just before it rains comes huge wind storms where the sky turns orange with all the dust that is picked up. We rush to close the windows, but even then we get a fine layer of duct that you can write your name in on every surface of the house! Some nights the thunderstorms are huge! The lightning hits with an intensity I have never seen! It hit so hard it blew our electrical breaker panel one night! Now thats power! The heat difference from the ground to the rolling in clouds and air creates such electricty that its pretty amazing (and scary for the kids!)We hope it rains more often and gives enough moisture for a good crop for the people. They are in serious risk of increased famine and crop failure and many are suffering from malnutrition and starvation in this country.

And talking about famine and food security, did you know that Chantelle is flying to Rome tomorrow (tuesday) night? Well, as many of you know, I am just finishing a Master's degree in International Development work. This will be my final class. I have taken the entire masters over 6 years now and done it all distance based classes from my home in Calgary (the school is in New Orleans). Every summer they have intenstive summer institute classes, but for many reasons i could never attend one. So to celebrate my final class and finishing, and the great topic of the class, I am taking a class in Rome from July 12 to July 25. The topic is Famine and Food Security and is held an hour north of Rome in a city called Bolsena, Italy. This puts us in the area of headquarters for the World Food Bank, United Nations Food Programme, Food for the Hungary and others. We have a tight schedule of assignments, seminars, presentations, guest speakers and papers to write in this two week period, all dealing with famine, the ways to provide food aid in poor countries, and how it all works and why it often doesn't. As you can tell, this is so applicable to Niger that I am really excited to learn it all and put it into action in our development work here! Due to flights I am in Rome a few days before the class starts, and am looking forward to seeing all the greenery and parks, exploring the monuments, eating good pizza and of course taking lots of pictures! Maybe I'll even find a can or two of Dr. Pepper!

Next post- From Italy!


NIGER1.COM said...


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful reminder of Jesus' words to us from Matthew 18. We are never too old to learn from others - particularly the innocent. What a lovely example the kids from Aspen have given us. I too was brought to tears. Look forward to your next report from Rome Chantelle. Love, prayer and hugs to all. heather