Sunday, January 13, 2013

Latrines and English!

Two months ago Appropriate Projects approved a $500 grant in support of the construction of nearly 20 latrines in and around my village in the Kolda Region. I have had a firm stance against free handouts, but the people came to me with health concerns and a willingness to help.  The effort spent digging ~3 meters into the stubborn earth followed by construction of latrine platforms seemed like a fair trade for cement and metal materials.
The project provides about 20 family compounds, nearly 800 people with essential means to sanitary latrines... or as a few of them have said, they wont have to run out to the snakey forest in the middle of the night to relieve themselves.
The project closed with 3 fewer latrines than projected due to miscalculations and material readjustments during construction. Doing math with a Senegalese man may be one of the most frustrating obstacles I faced, equally matched with trying to get receipts from everyone.
The project took on a slow start due to harvesting commitments of field crops, several funerals, and the ongoing difficulty gauging the truth in progress updates. The work pace increased (and by that I mean started) with my presence in most cases, so as the project progressed I oversaw more of the work. Another motivational tactic was taking before and after photos of the pits and the final product. With that I must admit to my new technologically challenged way. I have photos on my camera that I cant get out. Ill work it out (Inshallah) but no promises as to when.
In the next stage, the local health volunteers and prominent members of the 6 villages and I plan to have health trainings to first off commend the people for their community contribution and to discuss important benefits as they see fit. Im satisfied with the success of the project and look forward to the next wave of crazy requests theyll send my way.
During my tours of the villages, I offered to teach English to kids that have started studying it in school, help women with their upcoming dry season gardens and new ideas, and even look into a well-digging project pitched by a very convincing man in Sare Kallilou, a nearby village. I was blunt with people, saying that I am just sitting and waiting for them to share how I can help. With this I expected more odd requests than usual. People ask me to give them everything insight on my person, to take them or their baby to America, and to marry them/their son. Ive resolved to saying Ill give things to them upon my departure, Ill steal their (now crying) babies, and I only accept to marry toddlers and one very interesting old woman that insists I curtsy to show my respect.
Piles of kids show up and fill my floor mat when we both have free time to practice English. Once reminded of my rules, which are very different from the school house, they are so excited for the attention. The no-gos: They repeatedly snap their fingers instead of raining their hands. no. They whisper the answers and hit each other on the back of the head upon silence. no. They cannot just sit and insist on getting up (a kid thing). still no. As long as they're nice to each other, we chat until the cows come home (hehe, but literally) or we're all tired. I love it. (Again, I have photos, but my camera is not cooperating)

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