Sunday, December 26, 2010

In the land of ham....

Greetings from the Andulcian region of Spain! That's the southern tip on the Med. sea that faces Africa.
We have installed ourselves into a little gorgeous house in this little village called Almachar. Want to check it out? Open up your google earth or similar program and fly to:

N 36 48'29.10" W 4 12'58.49"

This little village has tight windy cobblestone streets, an old church, grows most of its own produce, figs, olives and local wine. A great place to relax, play games, eat yummy food, go for long walks and take pictures, and late nights sitting up talking in front of a fire. It is cold here! It has been overcast and cooler weather (15 degrees!) has all of us in sweaters- but loving it!

Here are some pictures of our fun thus far. For more pictures, check out my facebook.

















As always, language study seems to follow us wherever we go! Here it is Spanish obviously. I took Spanish many years ago and am happy to see how much of it is coming back to me. It is irritating and amusing how often the Tamasheq comes to mind first when I am trying to think of the Spanish! What a mess of languages we are! But we are laughing and making ourselves understood when needed. That is half the adventure right!

So what is the title of this post about? Well....we can certainly tell we aren't in a strong Muslim context anymore. There is ham everywhere! I kid you not when we walk down the street we can smell mouthwatering roasting ham in the streets. Check out this supermarket aisle...all hams!




Even ham Pringles! I guess you can't go wrong with ham!



Tomorrow we are off to a village called Ronda and then another day to relax in the village before we head to Sevilla.

Merry Christmas to you all! May this year be filled with joy, grace and many blessings!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last moments in Niger

SO…we are off on vacation!! Well, shortly at least and probably by the time you read this blog. We will be out of Niger for 3 weeks travelling with my parents and the kids. I am sure I will update you from the road!

Here are a few pictures from one of our last days- visiting our good friends Aminata and Miriama at their hut! Grandpa taught all the kids to play x’s and o’s in the sand and they were still playing even after we left!

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Mom drawing with Arielle and Fatima.

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In their grass hut on a mat on dirt floors, watching a Brazilian soap opera on their TV. Oh the irony! We don’t even have a tv!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

My parents come to Niger!

Sorry it has been a while between posts. We have been super busy here! Year end, vacation looming and no shortage of people and projects throwing last minute deadlines at us have kept us hopping! But on to the good news!
We are thrilled that last Sunday Chantelle’s parents arrived in Niger! This is their first ever trip to Africa and has already been quite the adventure! We have lots of pictures loaded on Facebook (Chantelle’s profile) if you want to see more, but here are just a few!

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We are thrilled to have them near to us and are cherishing every moment. We leave late Wednesday night from Niger to go on vacation all together for a few weeks where we got a cheap flight to Southern Spain. We will try to keep you updated! Please pray for good transportation connections, flights that don’t get cancelled, no one to get sick and all our luggage to stay with us. But most of all, we are just SO thankful for this wonderful time together! Family is the best Christmas gift!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Girl Effect

Why do we do what we do here in Niger? Our newest program is running the Girls at Risk School that I’ve previously talked about. Child marriage is out of control here in Niger and we have seen first hand it’s devastating effects. Young girls forced into prostitution to make ends meet and bring money home, often told to not come home (by their parents!) until they make a certain quota.

Many people have written on this topic. In my words and some of theirs as well, here is a summary of the problem. Want to join forces with us and pray for one of these girls in our school? Let me know. We can use all the prayer warriors we can get!

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Child marriage is the manifestation of a girl’s powerlessness. No girl under 18, but especially as young as 11 should be allowed to marry. Girls need national laws that will prevent child marriage and viable alternatives.  I know the most powerful alternative to powerlessness for young girls.

Education.

So here is what we KNOW to be true- When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. Education is the route to power. An educated girl is more likely to earn greater income, raise a smaller family, have healthier children, participate in political processes, and send her own children to school. An educated girl also is less likely to become infected with HIVInvesting in girls makes economic sense. When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for a man.

There are millions of young girls all around the world that cannot attend school and its heartbreaking when you think of all of that untapped energy and potential. A conservative estimate shows 75 million children who should be in primary school are not, and at least 55 percent of those – nearly 41 million children – are girls. We have seen this statistic at work here in Niger in our village school program as well as the National schools around us in the community.

 

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41 million girls who should be in school are not. 41 million girls who should be getting a chance to learn, to grow, to gain valuable knowledge to lead a healthier life are not getting that chance. But why?

There are many reasons why girls  do not attend school:

  • Families in developing countries often rely on their daughters to be caregivers, homemakers and labourers. When an 8 year old is needed to bring in income then her learning to read becomes a luxury. She cleans the house, cares for siblings and cooks most all the meals.
  • Girls may not be safe or secure at school, and families fear for their welfare. How often do we hear in third world countries where little girls are attacked on their way to school?
  • Poor families struggle to prioritize their meager resources to pay for books, uniforms, supplies and school fees. We can all understand how food takes the priority right?
  • Civil conflicts, natural disasters and chronic diseases like HIV & AIDS force families to shift their focus from learning to more urgent, basic needs like food and shelter.
  • Young mothers stay home and care for their children instead of going to school.

*Source: Center for Global Development

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This is not a whim, something that happens by chance. Girls around the world face a systematic denial of their right to education. In addition to the loss of opportunity for each individual child, denying education to girls corresponds to lower family incomes, higher maternal and child mortality. Girls truly have the power to change the world, and girls’ education provides perhaps the single highest return on investment in the developing world.

Girls are strong and powerful.

I am not the only one who believes in the power of girls.  This post is one of many happening in honor of the bold and beautiful spirit which is birthed in every girl on earth.  Go here to learn more about the campaign and read many other posts about this issue.

http://wiselivingblog.com/the-girl-effect-blogging-campaign

Start with a girl and transform a community.

  

Want to join our endeavour? Our school has 60 girls. There are other projects out there, other ways to get involved, even in your own community. The important thing is to do something!

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Bike and Run

This Sunday for the second year Paul competed in a “Bike and Run”. It is teams of two who must race a course of 16km. One man will be on a bike while the other one rides. They can change off as often as they like and take turns riding/running. However every bike exchange must happen hand to hand, so no one can ride ahead, ditch the bike then run ahead while the other guy catches up to the bike.

Paul went with our friend Niell again this year. Niell (pronounced Nile like the river) is an Irish guy who is the Director of Concern International here in Niger. Paul, Niell and another friend do epic across the sand and brush and through villages rides every Saturday morning.

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For more pictures of the event you can check out this link:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/asvolcans/sets/72157625411033493/with/5235923978/

Good job Paul and Niell! In a country where there isn’t much to do, you make the best of all opportunities!