Monday, November 30, 2009

The Sand dunes

One of our favourite places to go is just outside of Niamey (20 minute drive?) and there is a giant sand dune. We go there with teams, friends, and just by ourselves sometimes!

Here are some pictures taken a few weeks ago when we went with the Edmonton short term team. My one lens is broken so some of these photos are being shared with permission from Jon Ng (who was on the short term team and has awesome camera equipment too!) thanks for sharing Jon!

Coming up to sunset. I love the silhouettes and especially this one where you can see Bennett chugging water in the middle!


Arielle playing in the sand for hours. She loves the dunes!

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Bennett rolled for hours and came home with sand in every crack and crevice. His best line of the night – “Mom, why is there even sand in my bum now??”



The Cheung girls got in on the fun too


And don’t kid yourself, the adults had a blast too! All the guys spent a good half hour launching themselves off the sand dunes at the steepest point and trying to capture action shots on film. I took the plunge once and launched myself off at full speed and landed on my head and ate lots of sand. I am soooo coordinated :P Paul was much more graceful!


Me and Rebecca

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Our team and the SEAC team enjoying one of our last nights together!



Can you see the letters? Here is the team spelling out their name. SEAC (with an exclamation point at the end)





All about the love

The Dunes is a romantic place :)

Jon and Alicia walking into the sunset. I crazy love this photo!


Paul and I enjoying a sunset moment !



Hope you are enjoying a wonderful day wherever you are and enjoy a little view of the amazing Dunes!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Short term dental team

This past few weeks we had the pleasure of hosting a short term team from South Edmonton Chinese Alliance (SEAC). At least I think that is their proper name…

We had 5 of them come for two whole week and they brought us a ministry of dental clinics! Tooth pain, rotted teeth and other dental issues plague many of our friends, especially in the village. And a trip to the dentist is completely out of their reach when the only dentists are in the capital city and very expensive. Those who have teeth problems can suffer for years with pain, sensitive teeth, even painful infected abscesses, until the pain reaches the point where they have to go to the hospital. What a tremendous gift this team was able to deliver by offering free dental care (mostly just extractions and minor surgeries) in their own village setting. We worked closely with the local health agent and we estimate we saw approximately 150 in the village of Tagentassou. What a huge difference in quality of life for those 150 people. The team also went to the village of Makalondi as well.

Thank you so much to Damien, Shane, Jon, Alicia and Sheldon for coming all this way to work side by side with us!!


Our two dentists : Sheldon (l) and Jon (r)



Fear was the main reason that people would not come, or were very hesitant to. Many of them had never seen a dentist before or even heard of them. When word got out that the dentists were there the brave ones slowly trickled in, and once word got out that it wasn’t a horrible, painful experience, more and more came. We are so thankful that we were able to use this team to “open the door” in this village. We know that next time we return with another medically related team even more people will come as they have heard good reports of our work and they begin to trust.

Rebecca and Damien sterilizing and putting together trays of equipment.


Shane making a new frienddentalclinic06

When Mom’s were in the dentist chair, I became not only one of the main translators, but also chief baby holder :) I am pleased to report I made it the whole time without being peed on!


A night shot of the men’s sleeping area (us women were in the small tent you see in the background. What a beautiful site to watch the stars and moon cross the sky from inside our mosquito nets!


One of the best perks of working out in Tuareg villages- the tea! Rebecca and I both love this Arabic tea and enjoyed it multiple times each day when they brought it in. It is strong and sweet and sooo yummy!


And who could forget the children. As always, we were the wandering sideshow for all the children, who loved to hang around the clinic. All of our team spent some time playing with the kids and having a blast getting to know them.


Peter had all the kids roaring with laughter as he chased them around the yard pretending to be different animals.


Some of the kids were also patients! Here they are holding up their numbers and waiting their turns to come in to see the dentist. Such brave kids!


The ever popular latex glove hand balloon!


One of our favourite sweet little boys. He was the only son of the health agent for the village and his mom is one of the teachers at the school where we have our feeding program. This boy is named Michael. They said they named him after Michael Jackson, and we all took to calling him MJ!

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Still to come- a blog about our trip to the sand dunes and other tidbits of village life! But for now we are on our way out of town for the weekend to go camping by the river under the mango trees!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

School feeding program

One of the big projects that I have been involved in over the past year has been the creation of a school feeding program in the village of Tagentassou. This is a village of mostly settled Touregs with approx 1000 people in it, surrounded by fields of another 1000 or so people who live in huts and follow their animals and the crop cycle, making the area population about 2000 people.

This program consists of giving 2 hot meals per day to every child attending school. It also has other hygiene and education components.

National education and nutrition figures show clear needs that can be addressed by a school linked intervention such as a school feeding program.  Our own baseline survey last year showed that only 40% of school aged children attended the local primary school in Tagentassou. Of this 40% who are attending (68 out of a possible 150 of school aged children). Very few of these students were girls, especially in the higher levels of primary school where there were only 2 girls and 14 boys. School attendance is sporadic by many of the children. Our baseline survey also showed that less than 30% of the respondents in this area felt they had enough to eat during the week.

So now that the paperwork and funds and everything is in place, we are so excited that the program has begun! We are still putting together some of the pieces, but feeding has begun! Woohoo! For those of you who are interested, we have applied for (and received) funding through the Canadian Food Grains Bank ( that funds the cost of the food and all the bowls, dishes, cooks salaries, storage facility,etc. Other portions of the programs are out of the work specials of the Marineaus and McIvers.

So here is some pictures and thoughts from my visit there last week.

I went to help with the morning meal preparation for the the students one morning. That meant arriving at the school yard at 6:15 am. And I was greeted by the most beautiful sunrise glistening over the water of the nearby rain fed lake.


The kitchen so far. A storage facility for all the tools, utensils, containers and grain is being built right now in the school grounds a hundred feet away.


One of the cooks. Her name is Maimouna and she is one of the first women that we really connected with and started a friendship with when we first starting visiting the village over a year ago.


This is Halimatou (another one of the cooks) and her young Daughter Zoowera. This little girl is 15 months old, but she is skin and bone and looks like she is only 6 months old.


Stirring the fine millet powder with water to prep it for porridge.feedingprogram13web

Stirring the huge pot of millet porridge for the morning meal. This consists of finely ground up millet flour and grain, sugar, oil and water which forms a porridge like consistency when cooked for half an hour. feedingprogram03web

For those of you who don’t know what millet looks like, here is some pictures of some of the  millet in the school storage area. Millet is the main staple crop of Niger and makes up a large majority of the diet. It grows in stalks much like corn does.



Setting out the bowls to be filled. There is one bowl full shared between two children.


Filling it up and ready to serve!


It was strangely emotional for me while I was there to see all our time and hard work translate into all these bowls of porridge and these kids getting food. So awesome to see a long term project start and be so successful already! Knowing that there is a feeding program at the school has already seen school inscription almost double, from 68 last year up to 120 currently! And many families have decided to send their girls this year as well as just their sons! We are so excited!feedingprogram02web

The kids pair up and sit down to enjoy their breakfast. There is usually enough for every child to eat their fill and even some left over so that at recess some kids who want to will come and grab another bowl full.



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I left before the lunch meal that day since we had the dental clinic in the village, but this whole process is repeated every day at lunch when the children get to share huge platters of rice and veggie sauces! I will post pictures of that one day too!


Thank you for your support of our work here, and the various funds that allow us to work here. You are making a difference for these children!!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Statistically speaking…

I am back from the village! It will be a few days until I get the time to grab my pictures and write something about that amazing week, but I thought I would send you a few statistics. I hadn’t had the time to look them up recently, but my team-mate Lisa nicely summarized them a few weeks ago, so thanks for the research on the numbers Lisa!


A few weeks ago the United Nations released the 2009 human development report. Canada ranks #4, meaning it is the fourth best country in the world in which to live (of 182 countries listed). Niger ranks in last place at #182.  For interest sake for my American readers, the USA ranked #13.

So how exactly do they come up with these numbers? Well let me tell you! The HDI combines normalized measures of life expectancy, educational attainment, and GDP per capita for countries worldwide. It is claimed as a standard means of measuring human development—a concept that, according to the United Nations Development Program, refers to the process of widening the options of persons, giving them greater opportunities for education, health care, income, employment, etc.
The HDI combines three dimensions:...

* Life expectancy at birth, as an index of population health and longevity
* Knowledge and education, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrolment ratio (with one-third weighting).
* Standard of living, as measured by the natural logarithm of gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity.

And if all of that  sounds a little bit like gibberish to you- here are some cold hard figures:

Gross domestic product per capita: Canada - $35,812; Niger - $627

Adult literacy: Canada - 99%; Niger - 28.7%

Government expenditures on health per capita: Canada - $2,585; Niger - $14

Percentage of population living on less than $2/day: Canada - 0%; Niger - 85.6%

Life expectancy at birth: Canada - 80.6 years; Niger 50.6 years

So that is why the HDI is so low for Niger and it is true based on how it is ranked for their development. But for those of us who love Niger, we know it is more than just numbers and stats, it is awesome people and great work and all the sand you could ever want. And for that we are NUMBER ONE :) WOOHOO!


Statistically  speaking, the future isn't too bright for these little boys in the picture. That's why we're doing development work along with telling the story of salvation, because "faith without deeds is useless" (James 2:20).


Sunday, November 01, 2009

The baseball tournament in Photojournalism

Hi there! Well I promised I would put up some pictures taken from the weekend of the NUTS baseball tournament here in Niger. It is always a great weekend to spend lots of time with family and friends and cheer everyone on!


Watching the games


The action

Notice the turtle crossing the field again and yet the game continues and everyone ignores him! George getting in on the action too!


Fun stuff



The final

(Paul’s team lost by only 1 point in the finals! Good job everyone!)



Team Nomads