Monday, 13 February 2012

Each one of us has managed to have had a mini disaster now! Jemma has fallen into an open sewer in the dark. She has also acquired a very strange Togolese stalker who often turns up at our house un-invited! Poor Rachel has visited the hospital on 7 occasions now due to various illnesses. It seems the private clinic loves to invite her back for check-ups especially as they make a killing from our insurance on every visit! Two of the volunteers have been verrrrrrry sick now from a food-related catastrophe! So far so good for my stomach though– touch wood! I have had a memorable encounter with a cockroach! The daddy of all cockroaches landed on my bare skin somehow just as I walked into the bathroom for a shower! My immediate reaction to drop my towel, scream at the top of my voice while beating myself vigorously to get it off me. Still panicking and screaming I subsequently ran into the next room where I made Rachel check over my entire body whilst still jumping around and squirming. Rachel and I are now much closer after this experience!
Work is going well-ish. I feel like I am making progress on my Chalk project for the blind school and union, UMAV. The plan is to organise a marketing and sales event for the chalk and invite some ministers of education and NGO directors that deal with education and children. International service has some great contacts for me to exploit and corner. Some of the other projects don’t seem to be moving as fast as we thought they might. For example we want to build a playground and sensory garden for the blind children but there is so many hidden factors to think about such as goats! UMAV have a lot of goats wondering around the site that will probably end up making a lunch out of the garden so we need to think about getting around that!
Last week I visited the special education specialist at AMALDENE (a school for disabled children) on a few occasions. He takes children out of class to work one-to-one with them on developmental activities such as jigsaws, bead threading and sorting. He says they try to enable the child to catch-up with peers, and if they reach a level where they can study, they will go to class; otherwise they will attend vocational workshops such as textiles and woodwork. He would like more information on how we assess and support children with special educational needs in the UK which Jemma will be working on. Both this school and the blind school have no electricity. It’s crazy to see the schools running normally. They have no need for computers, lighting etc but when you desperately need the toilet you do witness the need for a small amount of electricity for them to have running water. The sanitation and toilet facilities are horrendous but with running water they wouldn’t be half as bad. They have had access to electricity in the past but can’t pay the bills anymore so we are going to try and organise some solar panel project with the help of the Chinese embassy.
A few of us have also been teaching English for the last few weeks. It’s nothing like the English I classes I have taught before – we were given no guidance because they don’t really have a curriculum. We decided the class of 70 children, some of which are blind was too difficult to face as one so we have split the class into 4 smaller groups for tutor-type sessions. Teaching blind children is really tricky though – we have appealed to their touch so in the food and drink lesson we brought in loads of fruit and foods for them to touch and taste. It’s so amazing to see them writing in brail and then reading it back to us in English!
I received a very shocked email from my mum the other day after she opened the Bournemouth Echo and found me in it! This also shocked me as I wasn’t exactly aware of it either! I wrote to the echo last week on the off chance they might want the story and for a bit of promotion. The news desk was interested and I sent some photos too but they never confirmed anything was being written so it was a pleasant surprise!
There have been some demonstrations in Bamako because of the on-going fighting in the North of the country where rebel groups dominate. The vast Sahel region is used as a highway for transporting weapons, people and the likes. The North wants to be a separate independent country from the South. These disturbances have lasted several years, and are the primary reason we can’t travel to the north of Mali where the tourist areas such as Dogon Country, Djenne and Timbuktu are, due to Foreign and Commonwealth Office restrictions. It’s a real shame because it’s these places we all really want to visit!
Last weekend we all went to Siby, a small village about an hour outside of Bamako that not in the red zone. It was the perfect place to go in order to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The accommodation was simple and traditional, small round mud huts with 3 beds and mosquito nets. The showers were outdoors with no roofs so you could look up and see the moon. There were some beautiful waterfalls in the area which was a lovely place to spend a few hours and cool off in the 30+ heat. We also had an African drumming lesson and walked up to some beautiful rock formations that had carved out a natural archway at the top of a cliff. The view was breath-taking- miles of flat, sparse landscape, dotted with trees, several rock formations, and an occasional mud-hut.
Yet another material-buying mission took place on Saturday. All us volunteers headed to the market and were greeted by many a seller including ‘Moosa Goodprice’ as one artisan called himself whilst trying to persuade us to buy his gift boxes. The choice of material on offer is so vast that the whole experience turns into a frenzy of panic buying and bartering! We all ended up spending about an hour at one material shop deliberating and stressing out about what material to get, how much to pay and how much of it to buy. It really is a girl’s worst nightmare! In the end we all came away with about 3 lots of material and didn’t really like any of them so swapped between ourselves!
Round and round the garden with one of the blind girls

kids at AMALDENE

our mud huts

waterfall lagoon from the top

Rachel, Hibak and Fatime

Cleaner at the school

the girls posing on rocks at waterfall

drumming lesson

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