Friday, May 4, 2012

Better late than never... 8 Mars 2012

Last year I wrote a post about International Women's Day. As a Girls Empowerment volunteer (and a female), I felt I had extra stake in the holiday, and needed to celebrate it to the best of my abilities. Well, I left the regional festivities feeling disappointed, disheartened, and un-celebrated. Hayley had dubbed the day 8 Mens, and we wanted to change that.

During the summer, a friend of ours started working with us to organized a soccer tournament that would include only females this time (last year two boys teams played), and take place on the 8th of March. Hayley and I already had a team of eager girls ready for a rematch with the neighboring Tiankoura team (the last game was tied), and wanted to include our other volunteer friends' villages as well. The final format ended up as a one day, 4 team, 3 match, single elimination tournament to be held in a stadium at the site of this year's regional celebration.

Despite a few transportation snafus, we managed to get all of the girls (coming from as far as 40 kilometers away) to the stadium by about 9 in the morning. The referees we hired were raring to go before it got too hot, and our girls were up first. Even though they lost to Diebougou, they were excited to play in the stadium with an audience bigger than they'd ever seen. We managed to feed lunch to all 100 participants, refs, and coaches for less than 50 bucks, and, thanks to donations from a team in the states, every girl received a t-shirt, the winning team, a set of jerseys.

The afternoon's final match was scheduled on top of another game, which ended up meaning even more spectators to cheer on the teams that were left standing. After my neighbor Austin's team defeated Diebougou's in a shoot out, it was time to watch what we thought was women “teachers vs. nurses” match. Hayley and I, working in these two fields, got to play in the second half – barefoot, in all our 8 Mars pagne glory, and in front of several hundred attendees. My team (which it turns out were actually housewives), lost, but it was a great way to end the day.

I am often frustrated by my villagers, male teachers, and even community leaders who make offhand sexist remarks about female's inability to do certain things- 'girls can't/don't want to play sports,' 'they've got to go to chores anyway.' I've tried through my work (specifically with girls), everyday conversations, and my actions in general to do what I can to chip away at such stereotypes. Do I sound like I know anything about soccer? Because I seem to remember being the only person on my 8th grade team NOT to score a goal – clearly I'm no expert. And yet, my team and this tournament certainly feel like one of my biggest accomplishments to date. If anything, there are a few more people that now recognize that boys aren't the only ones who can and want to play sports. In fact, their sisters, teachers, and moms definitely could (and did) kick my ass.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Let There Be Light

I think I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm working on a project to bring electricity to a community center in my village. Well my friends, the time has come: I have been approved for the project, my community has raised funds totaling 25% of the costs, and now it's your turn. Here is the link to donate. The web page will display a detailed description of the project, along with instructions on how to make your contribution. As soon as the funds are raised, we will begin implementing the project, and I'll be well on my way to completing my service here in Burkina. I would really appreciate it if you could forward the link to friends, family, and colleagues who you think might be interested in donating to the cause. Thanks for all your support over the last year and a half!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oh, oh, oh laver les mains!

A lack of running water makes hygiene practices in a village like mine, shall we say, inadequate. Along with AIDS awareness, hygiene is among the 5 topics volunteers are encouraged to promote. In order to address this, I applied for a grant to implement hand-washing stations in each of the classrooms at my primary school.

What's a hand-washing station you ask? Well, in place of sinks, the traditional method of washing your hands here is to pass around a bucket of water that everyone sticks their hands in. As you can imagine, by the time the last person in the group has received the bucket, the water is pretty filthy. Then, everyone proceeds to eat out of a communal bowl with their hands. At school, kids have their own plats of food at lunch (furnished by the World Food Program) but they forgo even the bucket of water method. I'll also mention that all of this takes place outside, not some nice sterile cafeteria. By now you can probably see where my concern for the livelihood of the 600 some students at my school stems from.

Now the hand-washing stations. NI worked with my school to get 45 liter barrels for each class to which we fixed a simple faucet. Voila, a hand-washing station. Included in my grant, were the materials to make sap, so now each class has the means to wash their hands before lunch each day. Hayley and I worked with my staff to give hygiene talks in each class. It was a little rough with the younger kids (since they're just starting to learn French), but the upper classes were good audiences and now understand the connection between gems, eating, and getting sick. We even incorporated written by another volunteer to the tune of Feist's "1,2,3,4." Here are the lyrics in French and English:

un, deux, trois, quatre : je me repose sur la natte
cinq, six, sept, huit : je me lave avant la nuit
et cette soiree, ma mere a preparé
tô avec bonne sauce, mais avant de manger,
ooooh, je me lave les mains,
ooooh, je me lave les mains

un, deux, trois, quatre : brosse les dents avec la pâte
cinq, six, sept, huit : je fait bouillir mon eau de puits
et mon ami, kando jacqueline,
elle fait quelque chose après la latrine
ooooh, elle se lave les mains
ooooh, elle se lave les mains

on lave les mains, c'est pour eviter
les maux de ventre et la diarrhee
ooooh, nous lavons les mains
ooooh, nous lavons les mains

1,2,3,4 I lay on the mat
5,6,7,8 I shower before bed
and this evening, my mom made
tô with good sauce, but before eating
ooooh, i wash my hands
ooooh, i wash my hands

1,2,3,4 Brush your teeth with toothpaste I boil my well water
and my friend, Jacqueline,
she does something after using the bathroom
ooooh, she washes her hands
ooooh, she washes her hands

we wash our hands to avoid
stomach aches and diarrhea
ooooh, we wash our hands
ooooh, we wash our hands