Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Literacy hut class project launch

For many months we have been working to help a local Tuareg group launch its vision of a hut class. This group consists of a lot of our workers and their families and other Tuaregs living in the community around us. Our input thus far has been to fund the building of the straw and grass hut for the classes, install solar panels for 4 lights, build a latrine on site and supply learning/education materials. We are also working alongside them to design teaching content and support them in whatever way possible. The teachers are all volunteers from the community who got educated and want to give back now, and their board is all working together to learn how to manage the project, be accountable for and keep track of project funds, and to plan what they can do for their community.

This is their "governing board".

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The purpose of this project was to benefit the men, women and children, all with different classes, to reach a higher level of literacy and education. Here is a picture of Paul at the grand opening handing out notebooks, pencils, pens and other school supplies to be distributed. Tim and Paul also gave a great little speech about how thrilled we are to partner with them. Paul drove home the idea that they don't have to live in ignorance and give up having an education. Their children CAN be doctors, lawyers, shop owners, ministers or whatever else their hearts desire, and we are here to help them make their education count. Even as adults there are many things they can learn to improve their lives.

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This is Sidimou and Kutana explaining to the group of men what the classes are about. The men's class is twice a week and will focus on speaking, reading and writing (based on the french system which is what they need for government and jobs here). They will learn how to count money, make transactions, talk to their bosses with common french phrases and how to write their names. We will also teach on subjects such as building latrines, handwashing, and how to build,repair or make things (Paul's input will be awesome!)

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This is a large part of the group of children that will be receiving free classes twice a week at the hut class. The purpose is to give them a place to bring their homework from school and meet with teachers to go over the concepts they didn't understand, be re-taught things and practice the things they did learn. The public school system is notoriously bad for going on strike for months and it is always the kids who suffer. By working with the kids several times a week we hope to enhance their education and success at school. Our staff members get their children's schooling paid for as part of their benefits for working with us, so this is one other way to make sure that investment is making it's maximum impact.

Who wants to learn? ME ME!!

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Teachers and students. I can't wait to get in there and have fun teaching these kids and doing homework with them!

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The women's class is also held for 2 hours twice a week on Fridays and Sundays. Starting in September, Chantelle will be co-teaching the Friday afternoon class with Miriama. As their own initiative, these 18 women who are registered so far have already started to donate 50 CFA (about 13 cents Canadian) every week into a communal pot. This fund will slowly grow and they are thinking together how to make their money work for them and how they can use it to help each other. We are listening carefully to their ideas!

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Topics for the women will include how to count, how to write numbers and how to write their names. Almost all of these women are completely illiterate. We will also focus on health topics such as handwashing, breastfeeding, nutrition, family planning, ways to avoid their children getting sick, overall hygiene, etc. The list is long! I can't wait to get started in September to meet weekly with these ladies, speak Tamasheq and hopefully have a positive impact as they learn and improve their lives.

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The opening party day itself was a lot of fun. Tim and Kristi came from our team along with our family. We got there at 10:00 am and went into the hut for some of the opening speeches. Once that was done they felt they had to feed the white people. The "real lunch" was still about 2 hours away...but maybe we looked frail? This is quite a common custom at gatherings we have been to. They pull us aside and practically force feed us to show us hospitality!

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And when they are honoring you and even went out and bought more meat, how do you politely decline intestine and stomach all mixed in with meat chunks and sauce? For me the rule is I eat very slowly, mostly eating bread or pasta and try to be polite while avoiding too much meat, only having a few pieces of it. I know...some people delve right in and I admire them...but I am not quite up to that yet! Arielle on the other hand...she goes to town on it!

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After our "pre-meal" we spent a few hours talking with the women, playing with the kids and animals, and then the real meal was ready! They had slaughtered a sheep and had a huge sack of rice and one of macaroni elbows prepared to feed the 50 or so people who were there

The cooking team with their two HUGE cooking pots on the open fire. It takes about 4-5 hours for these to cook before the meal is ready.

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Platters of food being doled out and then the sauce and meat is added by the ladle-full over top.

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And of course what day would be complete without the kids having a blast too! They love eating with their hands, playing with the kids and of course animals too.

Arielle holding baby Soufian (the baby of our main day guard)

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I know it looks like Bennett is throttling the baby goat here, but please believe me when I tell you he was just trying to get it to look at the camera!

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And that is it for the day! We are so excited that the hut is built and the classes have begun. I am sure there will be many more stories over time about how this class is a part of our lives and work here in Niger!

 

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This will likely be our last blog from Niger before we head to Canada for a 7 week stop, so see you on the other side!!

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

This was soooo exciting to read - it stirred my spirit. Look forward to seeing you soon. Love, hugs and prayers. heather