I came back from vacation ready to start the new school year off and really get a lot done in my last year here. I've definitely made progress but have encountered a few bumps in the road along the way.
One of the projects that I've started in Navielgane is a concept that one of our staff members brought from her service as a volunteer in Benin called a 'Care Group.' The concept is that the volunteer (me) gets a group of ten or so members of the community meeting to participate in monthly meetings. During each meeting the group discusses some topic, (malaria, education, nutrition etc.) and then the group goes out to their neighborhoods to share the same information with no less than ten families in the community. The idea is that by holding one meeting a month, the volunteer has the ability empower the group members to touch one hundred families with information relevant to their lives and well being.
In August, before I headed off to vacation, I worked with my counterpart to start this concept in my village. Luckily my community selected counterpart is a member of our village council, so once I wrote a letter explaining the idea, he was able to present it to the rest of the council and they found ten people who were willing to participate. Although the first meeting was a littler rough (not everyone showed up and it didn't seem like everyone completely understood), the second two were more successful. I gave the group a list of questions and the assignment to find the 10 families that they would be responsible. At the next meeting, I was able to look through their notebooks and see that they all found families and asked the appropriate questions, things like “what illnesses does your family catch?” “what do you do if your family members are sick?” and “how many mosquito nets does your household have?” I was able to tell them all of the services that the clinic/ CSPS (Centre de Sante et Promotion Sociale) has to offer. Luckily Hayley works there, and I help out once a week so I know the nurses and all the staff.
Of course I jinxed myself by telling people how easily this was all coming together. The last meeting I had was a talk on malaria. Fortunately, I've given this talk several times, so I knew the information wouldn't be difficult to get across. Unfortunately, only three people decided to make an appearance and what turned out to be the last rainstorm of the season decided to roll through. I ended up having to give the talk (or sensibilization as we call them) three different times. All volunteers know that not everything works out the first time. In fact, no project works out quite the way we intend. Now I am faced with a few questions about the members of my group, including my original counterpart. This group has the potential to be a really great way to spread relevant information to my community Hopefully I'll be able to get some more support from my counterpart and make it all work.
On a happier more productive note, my girls team is up an running again. Hayley and I have had a few practices in the past couple of weeks and its starting to look like we might have a pretty legitimate team this year. We're in talks with some people in the area to organize a region-wide soccer tournament this year for international women's day, and I really hope it all pans out. I've had to bee away from village more than I'd like lately, but luckily Hayley is the real expert so I can trust her with the team in my absence. More on that and my trip to Senegal next time!