Sunday, May 24, 2009

Details of the community classroom project

A future student of the proposed classroom

A big THANK YOU to those of you who have brought the donations for the Community Classroom Project up over $5,000! We are getting close now: only a little over $2,000 left to go, and then the village will get a new classroom to house those 72 kids currently attending school outdoors. If you haven't yet donated, please consider it: 100% of your tax deductible contribution goes directly to the classroom project. All donations are very much appreciated!

The total cost of the project will actually be $11,478.12, but the community has agreed to contribute 33% of this cost, which will include the land on which the classroom will be built, all sand, gravel, and water for cement mixing, transportation of all raw materials to the work site, food and lodging for all skilled construction workers, organizational labor by the Classroom Association, desks to furnish the new classroom, and a full-time teacher (on government contract). This community contribution amounts to $3,805.21, leaving another $7,672.91 to be raised thanks to the donations of folks like you.

Some of you haven't seen the budgetary details associated with this project, so I thought you might find it interesting to see what the actual costs will be to undertake the building. We got two different bids from contractors, and we also considered trying to do the project without a contractor; we ended up settling on a contractor who has worked with Peace Corps in this region successfully and reliably for years. Here is how it breaks down:

Channel and embankment of compacted dirt

Reinforced concrete for interior, columns & crossbeams
Masonry of full mixture

Lower floor:
Reinforced concrete
Concrete for staircase

Masonry of walls:
Masonry of hollow walls
Reinforced concrete for window bays, crossbeams,
columns, high crossbeams, channels

Coating & Surfacing:
Interior coating
Exterior coating
Chape Bouchardee
Coating of cement for blackboard

Ceiling ('scuze my lack of ability in translating the French):
Panne IPN 100
Tube carre 50
Fentre bitumineaux
Bac alu zinc
Plafonnage en contre plaque
Buses de ventilation des combles

Metal work:
Metal door & fixtures
Metal windows & fixtures

Interior walls

Total: $7,672.91

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back in Niger

May 15
Okay, news from Niger: had a greatgreatgreat time on vacation, and loved Ghana through and through. Kumasi and Cape Coast were especially awesome, so much to see, so much good food, and friendly people. On Tuesday we got a car from Cape coast to Accra, and then one from Accrato Lome, Togo- a long day in the car. Lome was cool- only spent one night there, but it had a nice vibe to it. Wednesday, we took a car to Cotonou, Benin, and went straight to the bus station. And here is where our vacation was not fun, but at least it was almost over....see, our bus was supposed to leave at 9:30 in the evening and take 15 hours to get to Niamey. Instead, it left at 3am and took THIRTYHOURS. Oh. my. god. So, we just got in (Friday morning). Jen and John were ideal travel partners-- relaxed and funny, but also safe and organized. So, I guess 30 hours with them was way better than 30 hours alone or with any one else. Thank god we are all healthy! No diarrhea the whole trip! knock on wood...

Me and Jen

I am pulling a crazy move and getting BACK on a bus in 2 hours for Konni. My legs already hate me, annd now I'm going to sit even longer! Ugh. But I really want to get back, and tomorrow there's a shuttle to Foloa so I'm going to bite the bullet and just go. Willtry not to think about it anymore so the next 2 hours can be semi-enjoyable.

Oh one more thing- I went to the market this morning after getting in from Benin and bought presents for everybody. Including eighty-that's right 80- cardboard cellphones that have candy inside. I was so embarrassed, carrying that around! But the kids will LOVE it. And I got earrings for Narba and Fachi, and pretty scarves for my girlfriends, and baby clothes for the bazillion babies that were born while i was gone. and a prayer hat for Ibrahim. Oh and Zuera-Rahman's mother- had her baby last Sunday! I didn't have great reception when I called Ayouba and heard the news, so I'm not sure if it's a boy or girl, but he said everyone is healthy and fine. Thank goodness!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cape Coast, Ghana

And now, on to other things... like... GHANA!!! I love Ghana! I LOVE
Ghana. Ghana is soooo nice. I loved Kumasi (most beautiful batique
fabric EVER and I went crazy buying it), and now we're in Cape Coast
and I LOVELOVE Cape Coast. It's only been a few hours, but so far so
good... And Green Turtle Lodge, well... I can totally see why one
would love Green Turtle, but I for one was not smitten. I love the
ocean, so of course that was a good fit, but the unfortunate truth is
that the whole place is infested with, try to guess---- rats. Yep.
Rats all over, everywhere. At night, in the afternoon...I was on a
towel in the shade reading with John, and suddenly John yelled OH MY GOD
THAT IS DISGUSTING, which of course made me leap up in fright- turns
out there was a giant rat (dead) stuck headfirst in the sand with its
legs sticking straight up in the air, right next to me. Didn't see

But other than that- the food there was absolutely mouthwatering
(papaya/peanut/cabbage/green bean salad!?!?!) and the staff was superbly
nice and helpful. The British owners were home- she's having a baby-
so the Ghanians were rocking the place. Very fun! It rained the whole
time, so no sunburn, not even a tan. But it was still a good time. I
was glad to get out of there this morning and head east to Cape Coast,
where we'll spend a couple of days before heading home.

We decided to stay a few extra nights in Cape Coast, so the grand
total will be 4 by the time we leave. It's a cool city-
bustling and full of life, but not too big. Ghanians are SO friendly
and outgoing- everybody tries to show you around, ask you your name,
sit down and talk with you. It's fun. Gets to be alot if you're out
by yourself (like I was yesterday afternoon for a couple of hours),
but mostly it's just great. Yesterday we spent almost all day at the
Cape Coast Castle, which was used for holding people as slaves until
they were shipped to Brasil, Jamaica, and the US. There's a good
museum there, where we spent all morning, and we got a tour in the
afternoon. I had a lot to think about, and felt a lot of different
things being there- anger, disgust, shame, guilt, grief. I am pretty
sure the public school system didn't teach me what I should've known
about all of this.

Cape Coast Castle: where slaves were held before being sent to the New World

Dungeon at Cape Coast Castle

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Congratulations, Hadizatou Mani

The US Department of State has a blog called Dipnote. Dipnote? Well, anyway, if you check it out you can read about Hadizatou Mani, a Nigerien woman from the Tahoua area of Niger, not far from Konni. Hadizatou, the daughter of a slave, was sold into slavery in 1996 at the age of 12 for $500. She was named a "Woman of Courage" in March of this year, and more recently she made Time's list of "The World's 100 Most Influential People." In this article, author Zainob Salbi says:
It is not easy to know you are worth more than what you are being told, to know you have the right to stand up against injustice, to know the world is still beautiful and safe despite its horrors. Not too many of us have the constitution to stand against power as Mani did when she took her country to a West African court for failing to enforce its own laws and denying her right to freedom. "I knew that this was the only way to protect my child from suffering the same fate as myself. Nobody deserves to be enslaved," she said. And she proved it when she won her case in 2008.

Congratulations, Hadizatou Mani.

Photo: Win Mcnamee/Getty

Friday, May 1, 2009

Video about Fistula

This video shows some of the same women who still live in the courtyard by the hospital. It is a good description of the fistula project for which Peace Corps volunteers donate their time to translate Hausa and Zarma for the American medical staff doing surgery.