Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Update on the Women’s programs- sewing, growing and glowing!

We are almost at the end of this year’s program for the Girls at Risk school ( Our school year ends in June when the rainy/planting season begins here in Niger and some of our girls travel back to villages to be with their families. This is the first year of our second cycle of girls and it has been a great year to really get to know them well. Many of these girls and their families are already connected to our program as they have siblings or neighbours who were with us in the first cycle. I love that we can continue on with the same family and established trust to keep working. It is also evident that we have both a more serious group of girls and invested parents as our attrition rate for this year has been remarkably low, especially when compared with our first year attrition in 2010. I believe the community knows what we are all about and we have proven that and how much we want to partner with them and honour them. All of our staff are also back full time and we employ 6 local women vocational skills and who teach and who cook for the hot lunch program.


We have continued to tweak our curriculum as well although it’s core still remains the same. We have a strong vocational skills focus (sewing, knitting, embroidery and tailoring clothing) and also teach Math, French, health, hygiene, women’s health and childbearing, prenatal and postnatal and moral stories to become respected young women in their own community.

We break some classes into two different groups based on their prior education. We have some girls who are almost totally illiterate and others who have gone up to Grade 6. So for French and Math and business they are separated. But we all come together for the other half for what we call “life skills”.



We also hosted a 2 week batik making class in the end of March where we taught fabric dying and batik making from scratch. So much fun! We had a visiting team from Red Deer here to help with that as well. If you want to read more about the batik weeks you can check out the school blog at:

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This year we area also working with 8 of our graduated young ladies to start a next level group of advanced sewing skills, taking community tailoring orders (which will be the bread and butter of their own shops when they are ready to launch out on their own) and making lots of adorable bags, table runners, aprons and more for the expatriate community which we market internationally.

I honestly love this group of gals. We have been together since 2010 with them now and to see them go from teenagers to young adults, half of whom are married and having babies and transitioning in life, is so fantastic for me personally. I love to come into the room and sit with them and chat, work on projects together, hold their babies while they sew and just to talk and laugh and do life together. We go and visit them in their homes, celebrate their milestones, and have developed deep friendships with some of them. This relational side of the school has always been a huge goal for me.

Sitting and having lunch with our 8 apprentices.

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We also host “parties” from time to time when these young ladies come to our homes for events such as Easter and Christmas. We have a big meal and sit and laugh and share stories, etc. We are trusted people to their families so they allow their women to come out and spend time with us. Tuareg women are in general “protected” once they are married with kids and often are just at home in their courtyard. So they also love the chance to go out and get dressed up!


Visiting Miriama in her home. Her daughter comes to school often with her and is such a delight! I love that in this culture you can always bring your child to work Smile Her and Ella are buddies now.retreat-86

In this culture, you often purposefully will wear the same fabric as friends or family. It is done all the time for weddings especially or other special celebrations. It is something that shows “togetherness” and honours the person whose special event it is. I have often has these uniforms made for weddings of friends and we also have a custom made fabric for the girls school that we will all be wearing at the end of this year! (Check back in a month for the pictures!) My best Tuareg friend Miriama had a baby in July and I sewed us these outfits for the baby naming celebration day. In North America you don’t normally want to show up to big events all wearing the exact same thing (unless you are a bridesmaid I guess) but here it is a reason to smile, high five and cheer that you are together in life!uniform-1

I am so lucky to have made good friends here. To step into their culture and language is not always easy, but they are so gracious and I love the time we spend together each week. I bring Ella to many visits with me and the big kids when they are not in school. It makes me smile laugh when Ella is comfortable sitting with them and playing with the cooking dishes, chasing their goats and wrestling with their kids. Bennett plays soccer all the time with their kids and Arielle likes to help with the cooking I love the worldview and big picture we are able to share with our kids.




So that is what we have been up to on the women’s side of the program. A mix of running the school and teaching the girls and visiting them in their homes and mentoring and walking through life with them.

McIvers April 2015-1

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Men’s program update– teaching, building and gaining speed!

I have promised you an update on ministry. Thanks for your patience.

Paul- the Men’s apprentice program and his “fix it” ministry.

Paul’s work at the shop continues to grow each month. It has been almost a year now that we broke ground and were working on creating a shop space from scratch on an uneven, hot, rocky/sandy piece of ground. But in a prime location with big trees and shared space with a ministry partner organization.

The beginnings of land preparation in May 2014


Getting the trusses for the roof up after the land was even and the side containers were in place.


The space is finally covered and the guys are out of the hot sun! The machines are in and now they are building shelving and racks and looking to pour a cement part this summer 2015.

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Paul has four full time apprentices in his training program, with various other guys joining them depending on the size of the contract projects they get and his capacity to teach certain skills to larger groups. The 4 guys are all Tuaregs and we are thrilled to see how much determination they have and how they desire to learn and do good work.


After the hands on work part of the day, there are also theory classes taught later in the afternoon. You can see their blackboard in the foreground and their “class” space. They choose to stay at the shop area to learn rather than going to our actual classroom space at the NVOC school so they would not have to waste time moving around. So far it has really worked out great.

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Some of the projects they have been working on has to been to refurbish 40+ desks that were burned in a fire at a Christian school and to build approximately 60 new desks that had been stolen so that the school has all their desks again. This kind of practice with repetitive cutting and welding has been great for their learning and the school is thankful for the quality and oversight the shop provides.

shop-142608A burnt out classroom with bent and burned desks

shop-006New desks getting their coat of rust paint before the wooden tops were attached and they were delivered.


Happy kids with their new desks!

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Other projects they have been working on include a custom topper for the back of a truck, a custom drill bit for water drilling, shelving units and a truck hitch! They are just looking at upcoming projects of church benches, a new outdoor church building frame with a tin roof, water towers and maybe a whole contract to be the fabricator for a huge radio antenna tower! He has enough interest and clients that they can be picky and take only the jobs that will best benefit the learning of the guys!

So how does it work? The guys get a small daily stipend to be in our program through the normal day in and day out, even if there are no paying contracts. This allows them to stay in the program and yet still provide the necessities for their families. When we have paying clients, their daily rate increases and they sometimes add an extra day of work. So they love getting jobs. Plus they really do enjoy seeing a finished product delivered and the pride of knowing “We did that!!”

Please keep praying for these guys. During morning prayer time many of them are engaging and requesting prayer. Paul is navigating the next steps of starting some more formal storying or bible studies with them. One of them recently asked for an mp3 player with bible stories on it. Two of them are married and can use prayers as they desire to be good husbands and fathers to their children. We want to continue investing in their lives and visiting them in their homes as well. Chantelle loves to spend time with the two wives, both of whom are Tuareg young ladies.

That’s it for now- you are up to speed on the Men’s program! Coming soon- the Women’s side program update!