Friday, November 18, 2011

The straw that broke the camel’s back

I have always heard the joke about the straw that broke the camel’s back. What small little added weight is eventually enough to tip over the whole load? Well a week ago we got to see first hand!

The background reason behind this small program is that the refugee crisis of Libya has had a subtle affect on the city of Niamey. We have not seen busloads of people come or huge protests or crowds of people. They have been absorbed mostly into bush villages. We have talked to a lot of people and have come to see the indirect impact that this refugee crisis is having on our close people here in Niamey even. Many families are housing refugees who came back across the border from Libya. So their daily food requirements have gone up, there are more people to clothe, shelter and provide for in many ways. And one tough reality is that these people used to be the ones supporting THEM here in Niamey through remittances (when family work out of country and send percentages of their income to their home to support their family members). The "rich" relatives in Libya are now no longer able to support their poor Nigerien relatives and now the burden of care actually has reversed to be the Niger family supporting them on their very limited incomes and with little capacity to change that. Their money is being stretched to include more people and now they need to send money the other way to support family caught in the war or in the bush who now have no livelihoods.

One reality of Niger and the seasons is that rainy seasons destroys the huts of the people who live in these makeshift straw/cardboard/wood shelters. The Tuaregs would try to save up money to rebuild the roofs at this time each year, which meant buying new straw mats and replacing termite eaten posts, so that their "homes" would last another year. Now their money is being spent supporting extended families and refugees both in their homes and the bush villages, and the money to repair their shelters just isn't there. Plus, the cost of straw has gone up due to a poor harvest.

So, all this said (a long windy explanation i know!) - With a donation from a church we wanted to help the people in our community.

So we purchased 749 straw mats and gave 7 mats (enough to redo their roof) to 107 families in the community around us. $5000 to help 107 families is pretty good I think!

First, the mats started to arrive by camel. Always a fun sight. But I kid you not, we were the straw that broke the camel’s back! Actually it was only his saddle that busted from the load, but after this, the mats started to come on a huge truck. Seems more effective to us, but apparently camel loads are cheaper Smile





We rolled 7 mats together so that they were all ready for pickup Saturday morning. The people were notified, and they showed up from 8am- noon. Although we were almost all finished by 10am! These families include all the families of the girls in our Girls at Risk school, as well as 60 families from the community who are poor and affected by these conditions.


They came with their I.D and met with Patricia and Miriama to cross them off our list and get their ticket for pickup.


Then they grabbed their heavy load by whatever manner possible, and dragged it outside to whatever form of transport they were using! We are thankful we have such a great facility at our Girls School where we can easily run small distributions like this.


This guy was strong! He must have helped a dozen families and carried their load outside all by himself!



This is little Miriama! She is sooo tiny! She only has two mats rolled up here, but still it is heavy! This same tiny young girl sells fish in the marketplace in the morning for her family and attends our school in the afternoon class.


The crowd outside the gates getting their mats home by truck, donkey, camel or whatever means possible!


Paul helping one man carry his load outside. The donkey carts made their owners some good money that day!


And here is me, just checking out the scene during a quiet moment. It was great to see so many faces and so many people joyful!


Monday, November 07, 2011

The container arrives!

Last week, just as our team was in the middle of a conference, we got the great news that the 40 foot container that was sent from Alberta to Niger had arrived and cleared customs! YAY!


Paul and Roger left to go take delivery of this container in front of the Chen’s house. One little hiccup is that the container hauling truck had arrived with no crane or anything to get the container OFF the truck. It seems the didn’t quite read their paperwork to know we owned the container, and they expected it to be rented and for us to empty it in a few hours and they would drive away with it. So after a little 24 hour delay we finally got it off the truck, onto the ground and open!

Then came the hard work of unloading! The majority of the container contained the Chen and Cheung household items as well as donated medical supplies.

An organization called IMED had a large stock of donated medical supplies which we emptied into the Chen’s yard to be sorted before we distributed it amongst two regional health units in Niger.




There were dental chairs, hospital beds and delivery tables as well! This is our poor man's forklift – 5 guys carrying a hospital bed!


An autoclave


This is a CATSCAN machine. There is only one machine in Niger, in the National Hospital in Niamey. With this addition, which I believe our Dr. is donating to a regional hospital, we will double their CATSCANS to 2. There are trained operators, but no machines. This will be a fantastic addition to the country’s medical infrastructure.


Here I am doing my part to be a true African and moving boxes on my head!


It was like Christmas Day for the Chen family. They have been living out of suitcases for 3 months and finally all of their stuff arrived, just in time to move into their house, which also finished up work this week. God’s timing is perfect!


Paul was very excited to get a box of equipment he ordered for the shop. Another container arrived in the country last week that also carried some welding machines for us, so we are ready to go now with the apprentices!


There were also some mattresses that came to use in our guest house. We stacked them onto the flat roof rack of our Land Cruiser. We didn’t have any straps with us, and since we only had to go 5 blocks on a dirt road, this is yet another “African” solution! haha! Fred stood on the window and kept them from shifting while I SLOWLY drove the 5 blocks. It worked!



And finally – our own boxes! My sister Leanne had packed 2 boxes with some goodies for us. We got some great stuff like Peanut Butter, salad dressing, raisins, bacon bits, coffee, fruit bars, Splenda sugar, Shake ‘n Bake chicken mix, and some craft supplies. Thanks Leanne!


See how well you know us. Each one of us picked our favorite item we received and put it on a table. Can you guess which person goes with which item? Let me know in the comments! There is:

a) Kicking Horse coffee beans

b) canned Salmon

c) A kids toothbrush

d) chocolate/caramel candies


And Paul’s other favourite item? This AWESOME Canadian welding helmet! He needed a new helmet, so why not go in style!!!