Monday, March 29, 2010

A Successful Weekend

The First Annual Girls Leadership Weekend is over. It was a huge success and we are tired here in Tamba. We invited 12 middle school girls who previously won scholarships through the Peace Corps for the academic year 2009-2010. These girls came from different villages in the region. We began working on this camp about four months ago, brainstorming ideas for how to best encourage the future academic pursuits of young women in senegal! On a whim we decided to invite the Ambassador of the United States who accepted the invitation and said she wanted to spend the entire weekend with us! We had a peace corps employee who is passionate about furthering girls education come and facilitate the entire weekend. She was fabulous and able to really connect with the girls and their parents.

The weekends events consisted of a film showcasing women throughout Senegal discussing their lives and accomplishments/obstacles. It was made by a previous PC volunteer in Senegal and gives voice to many issues facing women growing up in an ever-changing country. Our facilitator led discussions bridging the topics of sexual education, what it means to be a woman, the role of women in the house and how to balance it at school, setting goals and creating action plans for the future, etc. We also put together a panel of women who are professionals in the community. We tried to line up their profession with the different professions girls were interested in. They described their professional pursuits, how they got there, obstacles they have had to overcome, and advice for the girls attending the camp. PC Volunteers led a small group session with the girls in which they talked about who they are today and who they hope to be ten years from now and how they can go from one to the other. We brought all twelve girls to a cyber cafe to learn about computers, the internet, and to set up an email account. All but one of the girls had never used a computer before. They were amazed and excited about all the information they could access and what it meant to have a personal email account. Finally our facilitator discussed and led action plan activities with the girls and their parents.

The entire weekend went better than we could have ever hoped! It was wonderful seeing the girls excited about their future plans and hopes. It felt great to be able to open their eyes to women throughout the region who have gone through and continue to go through discrimination. The networking that was going on was helpful to the girls and also the women who needed the encouragement for what they do on a daily basis! We felt honored to be a part of this experience and really happy with the outcome. We hope this will become an annual camp encouraging young girls throughout the region to stay in school, further their education, and also encourage their parents to understand the importance of education for women throughout senegal.

I will keep you updated on any news stories that come of this. Local radio stations and the bbc were both present as well as Peace Corps employees in charge of writing best practice guides, creating videos, and posting images for events like this. When these things are available I will attach links to this blog so you can see some of the activities we were a part of.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Future for Girls inTamba

Well ladies and gents, I just got back from an Ag-fo conference in Kolda (south) where all the PC Agfo Volunteers met up to talk about trees..riveting :). It was important though and fun to see people you only see about once a year. Now I'm in Tamba and today begins our Girls Leadership Camp. The Tamba volunteers have organized a weekend camp for the twelve girls who won scholarships for the 2009-2010 academic year. They were selected after a long interview and application process. The scholarships are given to help with the cost of education including books and materials, entrance fees, and fees for exams etc. Without help like this it can often be hard for families to send their children to school, especially girls who do a majority of the household labor.
This camp will include a team of panelists selected to match up with future hopes of the 12 scholarship winners, small group activities, an internet tutorial, and more. We are excited and a little overwhelmed because it has become much bigger than we ever thought it would be. On a whim we thought why not invite people like the ambassador of the US, governor, mayor, local tv an radio stations (you know just to get the word out) not thinking they would actually accept! Yikes!
And it all begins tonight at 5pm. So wish us luck. It will be a fun but full weekend and hopefully a memorable experience that might encourage the future learning and dreams of 12 girls throughout our region!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Giving Sight to the Blind

The hot season is here. You know how I know? When I drink a glass of water i immediately start sweating. Your body sweats continuously so that you don't know you are dehydrated until you drink something and water immediately comes out of your pores. How else do I know? While sitting in a room around 10 am I can feel beads of sweat drip down my back, even my legs...thats gross. How about at 10 pm its still topping 95 degrees Farenheidt. Thats hott my friends. But with the hot season, the bugs die, the mosquitos disappear, you sleep under the stars at night, and enjoy the breeze produced from your plastic woven flag you continuously beat against your face hoping for a miraculous breath of cool air instead of just pushing around the already hot o2 molecules. But I'm in Africa (where most people think its pretty hot) and thats the way it is.

This last week I went down to Kedougou (SE corner of Senegal about 230km from Tambacounda) to help with an Eye Clinic. A team of doctors from the Jersey Shore (no not in the TV show I hear so much about over here) have come the past three years to do cataract surgeries, (giving back people their site after taking out the cataract and replacing the spot with a lens) other random procedures like turning eyelashes righside out, and giving out prescription glasses. I helped last year, absolutely loved it, and wanted to return again. The reason PC volunteers are needed is because the team of doctors speak english, a wee bit of french, but no local village language. On the flip side, villagers speak only their local language and maybe un peu de francais quoi. So we PC Volunteers come, get thrown into the chaos of it all, and try to make ourselves understood. It is a bit stressful (stress induced cold sore on mouth for proof) but its so rewarding and really wonderful when you meet a person go through their history, walk with them through a pre-operating talk, go into surgery and watch the doctor perform the procedure, talk with them and their family post-operation, and see that they have gone from being blind to seeing.

Now thats a best case scenario and there were times it didn't turn out as happily. Many people came with diseases or trauma to the eye the doctor couldn't help and we had to relay that to them in a language where you have to be creative trying to explain complicated medical terms. It's scary going in telling someone they will never see again. The people here, however, readily accept reality and move on with their lives. If that is what God has willed for them so be it, they have lived with it for many years and can live with it for many more. They have this ability to be ok despite the hope they might have had for sight.

A huge thanks to the doctors who paid to come over here and are giving their time and their work for no cost for these people. Its a wonderful thing to be a part of and a highly stressful environment they willingly inflict upon themselves! I am really glad i had the opportunity to be a part of it. It is something that has made a lasting impact on the peoples lives as well as the PC volunteers who have helped.

Finally please please keep your sights set on building this school for my family and friends in maleme Niani. We have raised $2,000 so far with about $8,500 left to go!!! Its quite a bit but with your help we can do it. Please tell your church, friends, family, business, work associates, people you meet on the street, club members, work out partners, everyone you can think of about this! A big shout out to the students and faculty who are at the school my mom works in! They have decided to take on this effort with a fundraising adtivity - selling bracelets made in Senegal! Thank you guys so much and please keep up the good work! I appreciate your time and efforts but more importantly this school will exist inchallah (God Willing) only if the money comes in! Let me know if you have any ideas or questions to get these funds here!

Happy Spring!!