Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Urban Grain Aid begins!

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Wednesday morning was the launch of the Urban Grain Aid program for our team here in Niger. With partnerships from CFGB, Alliance Women and Alliance churches, and work specials we have put together a program that links food aid with education on health, hygiene and other pertinent topics, as well as a strong focus on building relationships with the recipients as we spend time with them. Holistic teaching and Food Aid- hand in hand!

We were a little unsure what to expect this morning. Would we get tons of angry people from the surrounding area who wanted as well? Was the communication (done by our local partners) well done and people would arrive with their money and oil containers in hand, or would there still be confusion? Overall we were so thrilled with how well it went and how many opportunities we had to talk with people. God is good – all the time!

Paul and Youssouf Al-Farouk. Youssouf is an old man who helps guard the facility with his family who live in a hut across the street. Paul and him spend a good chunk of time together getting the facility ready, etc and they always have fun. He is hilarious and we love his whole family. Maybe they will adopt us!

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Just to recap quickly- we are targeting 60 poor households in our community. Their families will receive 100kg of millet and 4 packs of milk at well below market rates. They will also receive 10L of free oil. This program lasts 7 months and each month they can pick up their food.

Men start to arrive to pick up their food.

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There is something that really struck me today. We were able to help 60 families get access to food today. It is not a huge number, but we are so thankful for each and every one of these families. Every family received 100kg (220 pounds) of millet. Some of the sacks would leak out small kernels of millet. In this case below, maybe 1/4 cup of millet spilled onto the ground. The man put down the sack and carefully scraped up the millet- sand and all- into a little baggie. Every single kernel was precious. His 220 pounds was not enough to make him forget the value of a handful of kernels. I saw this happen 3 times this morning and each time they carefully gathered the handful that fell. Nothing is taken for granted. It was truly humbling.

Scraping the spilled millet carefully onto a bag to be used.GrainAidMar31websized049

Zeinaboo- volunteering with us the whole day to distribute the oil into containers.

And of course- how many hands does it take to open up a spout and pour out oil?

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The donkey carts begin to show up to take all the millet and oil and milk home.

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This donkey cart was loaded down with about 1200 pounds of food.

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Poor donkeys!

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The education portion

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Our April education sessions talk about hygiene, germs and hand washing. Many of them don’t understand WHY they get sick so often. Diarrhoea runs rampant and many children are seriously ill. Much of this could be improved if they would wash their hands and keep the flies off their food that just landed on their latrine! We also link biblical teaching on water and cleanliness. Many of the men invited us to come to their homes to teach their families the same thing! Praise God for open doors and open hearts!!

Below is Paul’s improved design for a tippi-tap hand washing stations. We talked about them to all the recipients today and starting next Wednesday we are giving one out to every family! Many thanks to those of you partnering with us to make these hand washing stations and soap a reality to give for free!

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We went through almost 600L of oil today. Since there is not a lot of nutrition in the diet of the poor, oil becomes very important. It is fortified and full of nutrients and amino acids to help make them stronger and healthier. GrainAidMar31websized055

Rebecca and I working. SO much fun to be able to work almost daily with Rebecca!

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Our pastor Shawn and his family are currently visiting in Niger (blog later about all that!) and it was a joy to show them the launch of this program. Shawn thought it would be fun to lift some of the sacks. Each sack weighs 220 pounds!GrainAidMar31websized052

We got grain!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Arielle turns 4!

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Yesterday was sweet Arielle’s 4th Birthday (the 28th of March!)! Well not actually yesterday now- but my internet has been almost completely non-existent for a few days! While we had the kid’s joint party a week ago, we still celebrated and sang to her yesterday! We even have friend’s visiting who she is really enjoying playing with.

In this past year, Arielle has blossomed in so many ways.

For those of you who don’t know her story, you can check out this blog:

http://chroniclesofourjourney.blogspot.com/2007/07/introducing-arielle-mciver.html

Those of you who know us and follow our blog know many of the hard times we have had in the past 3 years with this beautiful little girl. We are so thrilled that this last year has been one of major emotional healing for Arielle and we are seeing her personality sparkle like never before!

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Arielle’s two best friend’s here in Niger : Ophelia and Lily

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Her forever best friend however is her big brother Bennett. The two of them are often inseparable and get into so much trouble (and fun) together! They snuggle, read stories, make inventions, chase each other and create wonderful sand art. They also take care of each other. Bennett has such a soft spot for Arielle and is very protective of her.

 

Arielle loves to read books. She especially loves the “Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch. She also likes to comb the hair of her new doll and put clothes on her soft doll Piper. She loves playing games like “Uno” and anything with dice or cards. Here she is trying the egg race at the birthday party.

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She likes pretending to me a mom and to make food in their play kitchen too!

 

I think Arielle has strengths in language. She listens for a long time without saying much, and then comes to us using full sentences in French! While she is still shy talking to adults, she is doing so well rattling along in French with her little friends!

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Arielle is also a great snuggler. Often in the mornings when my alarm goes off she crawls up into our bed (most months while it is hot the kids sleep on mattresses on the floor next to us so we only use one air conditioning unit). She snuggles in right next to me and takes my face in her hands and nuzzles my face. She doesn’t say much, but her actions speak volumes about her love.

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Happy Birthday Arielle! We are so pleased with how well you have grown up this year and how happy and content you seem everyday. You are a joy to be around and you love people genuinely. We can’t wait to see what next year holds for you!

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kongu Grain Aid begins

A few weeks ago we started the small grain distribution program in the village of Kongu. We started this one early since their granaries are already empty and they are relying more and more on tree leaves and whatever they can scrape together.

Kristi will be the one delivering the grain out here every other week, so I have attached below some of her comments and pictures. Thanks Kristi!

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Kongu is a community 10 km North of Niamey that has been affected by the famine. In a normal harvest year, each field will produce 80 bundles of millet - last year, the fields produced an average of 10-30 bundles of millet. The food these subsistence farmers yield will last until July or August in a normal year - still months before the next harvest; but this year already, their granaries are empty.

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After unloading the grain, we then headed into the chief's hut to count the money - myself and the three committee members - challenging my skills of counting money in Fulfulde! I then met with the recipients to ask them a few questions: How many families are sharing the grain? I gave up on trying to determine how many people were benefiting from each sack of grain - it was hard for the representatives to remember how many wives and children each head of the household had under his roof(s). This may be follow-up question when we interview each family later! I also brought out a sketched map of their village area (approximately 20 square kilometres - the huts are scattered over the terrain, each person living in their field) to determine and mark where each of the recipients are living.

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For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat . . . The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Dust

These last 3 days the dust here in Niger has been horrific. Smaller airplanes can’t fly, you look at the streets and see all the people driving motorcycles with their mouths and noses covered (usually with those travel eye sleep covers- funny!) and you can’t see more than 300m away. I have been in some quick and bad sand storms here, but this is hanging on for days. Bennett and Daddy are coughing lots and being bothered in their noses and throats. The burning smell is awful too as their is no garbage disposal really here except to let it burn! The sun is gone, the sky is all orange/grey and the temperatures is down 4-5 degrees (yay for that!) and only 34 outside this afternoon.

We are expecting Visitors on the Air France flight this afternoon, so I hope it can land!

I noticed a few other Niger bloggers also commenting on the same thing. I haven’t taken any photos so I thought I would borrow a few of theirs, and send you a link to read!

Our next two weeks look to be very VERY busy with visitors, teaching hygiene lessons in Tamasheq and the beginning of our Urban Food Distribution program. Please hold us up in your prayers and pray for the health of our visitors too!

Another Niger blog about the dust:

http://lifeinniger.blogspot.com/2010/03/harmattan.html

Pics from friends in Niger this week:

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And just to make the air quality worse- burning garbage everywhere!

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Welcoming Harriet

While I am busy planning for our aid distribution to begin and a short term team to arrive, I thought I would show you more of Harriet!

We have a new addition to our family – this is Harriet the turtle! She is an African Spurred thigh Sulcata tortoise. She fits nicely in the palm of our hand now, but she will live many years and will grow to be 2-3 feet across!

She loves lettuce and hanging out in the plants and the sun next to our house during the day. We have planted some different kinds of plants behind the house and as they get big and she gets a little bigger, she can roam free there and eat and dig in the sand and stay cool.

She weighs just 300 grams so far!

Writing an email home to her family to let them know she arrived safely

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One of her new best friends! The kids love the turtle. They are really good about feeding her everyday and always go out to see if they can find which plant she is hiding under.

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So there you have it, our newest member of the family, already fitting in!

 

Chantelle

Monday, March 15, 2010

Meat Delivery!

And you wonder why I have become more of a vegetarian here. And this is not the exception to the rule, this is the every day occurrence. I see meat packed in the trunks of taxis, laying on the side of the road and crammed into trucks like this almost every day...



Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Cockroach, A Carnival and Contraptions!

A Cockroach-

I am not afraid of bugs. I kill large biting ants, termites, mosquitoes and spiders with frightening regularity. But cockroaches…..something about those guys just makes me run the other direction! Thankfully here in our house we have had very few. With last nights cockroach that makes 4 that I have seen in the house in just under 2 years. Not bad!

Bennett was headed to bed and went to the bathroom and came running out yelling about a big bug. I went to investigate and this is what I found…

We had left the drain cap off the shower and I think that is where he crawled up. He was about 1.5 inches long. *shudder* He ran around the bathroom and I tried to just keep him there until Paul came to “deal with it!”. However, he ran under the door and into our bedroom and headed towards the kids sleeping mats. So i grabbed this large leather stick that is used for driving camels (an ugly gift that hangs on the back of our door for some unknown reason) and started wacking away!  And the score is Chantelle 1 – Cockroach 0.

Gah- still hate cockroaches though!

A Carnival-

This morning the French school that Bennett attends had it’s annual Carnival. It is called a “Kermesse”.

As soon as we got there the kids went and got their faces printed. Arielle wanted a mask.Bennett didn’t want a lion or tiger or anything since he said they were too scary and instead pointed to the picture of a Christmas tree and said he wanted that!

Here are a bunch of photos from the activities. As you can see there was fishing for ducks, throwing wet sponges at Daddy, can bowling, sack races and a lot of other activities. And of course the snack table!

Arielle and two of the kid’s best friends- Ophelia and Callista   

 

Surprisingly, both kids enjoyed taking a turn or two riding the horses. Arielle had a moment of panic when she first got up, but was a real good rider after that. Bennett took to it like a natural too!

 

Contraptions:

Two quick things to show you.

Paul is making headway on our tippi-tap design. This low-tech hand-washing station will be delivered to 60 families at the end of the month to coincide with the beginning of our urban food aid distribution.

And the second contraption to show- our outdoor trusty thermometer. I had it sitting in the sun, and this is what it said. 52 degrees (125 F)!! Yikes! And it is only just the beginning of hot season- it is going to get hotter!!