Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hut class party!

As some of you know, we hosted a party here a few days ago for the women involved in our hut class project. I wasn’t sure how many were going to show up, how much food to make, etc. But in the end it all worked out even better than we had hoped! We had 17 women and 5 children show up.(Any some of their husbands hung out outside the gate with Paul talking, wishing they could join the “women’s only” party!

We began with a meal. We had big platters of rice with veggie and meat sauce, followed by gingersnap cookies, popcorn, nuts and oranges. The food was a hit!


All the shoes piled out outside the terrace, and baby gets a perfect seat – in a toy dumptruck!


Making tea for 17!

We also put on a picture show showing some shots of nature from Canada to show them where we live, pictures of our families and a bunch of animals from Canada. They had a good time trying to guess what some of the animals were, but they think they have a moose-like animal here in the desert too! We also listened to the Christmas story together in Tamasheq and shared a little bit about how and why that holiday was celebrated. They loved looking at our Christmas tree that I had pulled onto the terrace too!

  Good friends and forging closer bonds. That’s a big part of what this was all about!


Let the dancing begin! The Tuaregs love to dance, especially to their own music groups (of which there are a few with CDs out) and once we put on the music, they all were laughing and dancing, and holding hands and showing us some moves. We had such fun! Sadly, the rhythm I lack in dancing in Canada, continues to escape me here in Africa! haha!



  The hostesses of the night, tired out but we had a great time! Thanks to all of those who prayed for this evening to be a big success, we think your prayers were answered!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in Photojournalism

Since this last month leading up to the holidays has been very busy, I thought I would put together another pictorial of events to save you all the reading!

Merry Christmas to all of you and I hope you had a wonderful holidays with people you cherish!


Decorating the house!

We made mostly all homemade ornaments this year and had a blast doing it!



Visiting our Nigerien friends!


Paul pretending to ride a camel with his sabre…

Paul and Youssouf

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Some of the children who live under Youssouf’s roof (or patchwork fabric ceiling as the case may be)Dec29-2


Rebecca helping make the meal with Miriama and her family

This poor little girl Zainaboo had a cold and snotty nose and the flies were all over her face. Sadly, she didn’t even seem to care.


Gift buckets to our employees and language helpers



Making our own traditions and celebrating the season!!

Candlelight Christmas service

Visiting Santa (at the American Rec. Centre) and opening stockings Christmas morning

Team supper with our African Directors and special guests!




The gift that will last for years! (we hope!)

Over the past few months (and some pre-planned items we brought with us over 2 years ago!) Paul and I worked to build the kids a play kitchen area. The kids woke up Christmas morning and when we brought them into their playroom to see it all set up, they were speechless! That of course lasted a whole 10 seconds and then it was hours of non-stop talking and laughing while they made meals, cooked things and had a blast. Bennett even woke up the next morning early and told us he was dreaming all night of making us food and he got right back at it! (Thanks to Grandma Bonnie for many of the food items she packed up for us to make this a big hit!) This is the stove and cupboard/sink and table set. We hope to add a fridge to the mix for their birthdays in March!



Serving their first customers…


And just some current events, as I write this Paul is outside in our yard with a work crew! A bunch of guys are getting together for two days here (where the tools and welder are!) to build a piece of playground equipment for the expat Christian school here in Niamey. Paul is thrilled to be able to spend a few days with these guys, using his hands and doing some good ‘ole manual labour! This is a gift in itself!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Say Cheese! Picture of the Day

On Saturday night we had out team Christmas Party here in Niamey. We all gathered at the Cheung household to enjoy good food, good laughs and great people! We even had a few special guests join us – our friend Pierre from Quebec who is just returning home today from a one year stint here in Niger, as well we had the special treat of our Africa Regional Directors here with us! We were thrilled to have Richard and Merinda Enns and their daughter Jenissa, who will be with us for the next 10 days or so.

We had a fun gift exchange too, but the gift that got an outstanding cheer from everyone was- CHEESE!! The Enn’s brought a gift of fresh cheese from Quebec, all the way from Canada when they moved a week ago to Ghana, then they kept it in their fridge and brought it here!

For those of you who know me well, you know I am a huge cheese fan and was thrilled to get some fresh yummy cheese! I miss cheese! (You can only buy Emmental here that regularly tastes ok. Sometimes they bring in some other blocks of gouda or something else but if often tastes like mothballs and I can’t stand it!)

So for everyone out there- SAY CHEESE!!

(p.s- I did of course share this mother load of cheese with the team and only keep one block for our family!)



Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hut class update

I was asked to write an article about our hut class, so while I was editing the photos to submit to go with it I thought I would post some of them here and give you all an update!

This class of women continues to be one of the highlights of my week. I love going to the classes twice a week and to meeting with some of the women at other times as well for conversation, tea and good fun!

Here is Miriama, one of the teachers, writing on our little blackboard.

With the help of some of our supporters, Miriama also just recently completed an intensive beginners computer course and she hopes to continue classes soon so she can have marketable skills to work in an office and help support her family!

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The joy of working through a short story and realizing that reading is not out of your  reach!


Practicing writing the letter of the day, both on their mini-blackboards and in their notebooks.

Sounding out letters in class. Each girl takes a turn at the board and sounds out the letters and words. The class is so supportive, even with those who really struggle. I am so pleased it is a safe place where they are not afraid to try, but they all sound out what they can and the others clap and cheer them on through the hard parts.

Another teacher (Asku – pronounced Ash-koo) volunteers 3-4 times a week with both the women’s class and with the kid’s homework class.


Two of the cute little kids who live in the yard where the hut class is built. The boy on the right attends school and gets help with his homework at the kid’s class. Little Tahi on the left is no longer too shy to see us and comes and sits right next to Rebecca and I during class sometimes.

Some of the girls. (It says hutte classe because we are French based!)


The whole class!


Every week I look forward to my time teaching these ladies (and learning alongside them!) The class is also great help to learning Tamasheq! After Christmas we are cancelling “hut class” one Monday and having “hut party” at my place! We hope to make a meal, play some Tuareg music and have them show us their dance moves, and to share some photos of our own families (and learn more about theirs) and share what Christmas is all about!!


On another note, I have been thinking a lot lately about impact. I have gone to several meetings lately about the upcoming famine in the country and been sitting amongst representative from FAO, World Bank, Unicef and many other huge Aid Organizations. Sometimes I think “wow…i really don’t even deserve to be sitting at the table with this calibre and size of groups!” If they ask about projects and we say we have one canteen feeding program, we are miniscule in their scope of work. Or one literacy project, or one goat loaning program in one village. It is easy to feel small and insignificant, both in size of impact and ability to spread out programs and work with people. But then I also look at it that we may one have one canteen for example, but that one project means a whole lot to that village. And we are learning to speak their language, we camp out with them, share meals and share life. We don’t arrive to see project progress, discuss funds and then leave. We care. We stay. We love. Impact isn’t always in the numbers and it is good for me to always remind myself that God sees the heart. He knows that to this small group of women in the hut class, my “miniscule contribution” in the eyes of others, is very important for them. And they deserve everything I can muster to give them.

As Mother Teresa said “ what we are trying to do may be just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

We may be small, we may be inconsequential to the big players here, but I do believe we are loving these people the best we can. And that’s all God wants from us.