Sunday, April 3, 2011

Health Hut Progress, and other Tidbits

For some reason, starting projects here seems like even more of a daunting task than I remember it being back home.  Especially with a heavy duty ambition like a multi-facted wall/latrine/water tap construction process, it seems hard to believe that all the right steps will actually occur, in the right order and under the right circumstances and with the right people, such that the desired outcome will actually be achieved.  The village is a slow place, and inertia often prevails . . . not to mention the fact that my own inexperience with all different aspects of building stuff in a small village in Africa seemed liable to lead to certain SNAFUs along the way. (Of course, all this is NOT to say that I or we were in any way unprepared or lacking in energy when I wrote the funding request -- I was truthful in all that I said about the driving forces behind this project and I by no means wish to introduce any sort of skepticism regarding either the willingness of my community toward the implementation of the project nor the care with which I approached every single step of the process.) I'm just a naturally timorous and under-confident person-- suffice it to say that the project, when it began, seemed a bit intimidating.  

Then, things started happening.  And now, only three and a half months after I came out asking for money, the wall is all but completed and we're honing in on the home stretch!  Following another village meeting in which we announced the arrival of funding and reminded the villagers of the monetary and in-kind contribution that they had pledged to contribute, we got things started. We hired a nearby expert to install the water tap -- the first step since water would be critical during the construction phase -- and it was done in a morning! (It still just amazes me when things happen quickly here . . . because they so rarely do.)  I traveled to Dahra, the local big town, with the health committee treasurer and the head mason, to purchase the supplies for the wall: 110 sacks of cement, three different kinds of rebar, two tailor-made doors, and loads of nails, planks, and other essential knick-knacks.  The next day, I walked up to the Health Hut and found a team of masons knee-deep in cement and sand, forming bricks one-by-one in an impressively fast molding system.  For several days straight, they cranked out bricks like nobody's business, and meanwhile other masons started shaping the rebar and laying the foundation for the actual build-up process. 

Then, I left town for one week - I went to Thies to help train the new group of Health/EE volunteers who just got to country, then to Dakar to celebrate April's birthday.  After this extended absence, I rolled up to Ngaraff on a hot and dusty Sunday afternoon and there it was, just like that.  A fully constructed wall, shimmering in the blazing hot sun.  By George, they'd done it!

We're waiting for a few finishing touches, and we still have to dig and build the latrine, but the progress is plain.  As I've made clear in previous post, this is when the real work starts.  Accustoming the villagers to using the health clinic regularly and appropriately after so many years of inactivity has already proven to be a difficult task.  Ndanka, ndanka rekk - slowly, slowly - this is a goal we can now work toward in earnest with the hope of seeing real progress.  I hope.  :)

The Health Hut, before. . .

Installing the water pipe extension.

Ladies and gentlemen, running water! 

Molding bricks.

Completed bricks.

Workin' the rebar.

And more and more and more bricks!

And more and more and more rebar!

What else is going on? 

The women's community garden is up and running!

Eggplant and tomatoes.

Little Fatou helps harvest lettuce.

Usually, the women get the millet off its stalks by hand - a slow process of pounding and sifting.  This year a millet machine, transported and powered by a tractor, came to town.  It cruised through the fields from one mound of millet stalks to another, and it felt like - all of sudden, in a cloud of millet chaff and tractor fumes - little Ngaraff was swept into the Age of the Industrial Revolution. 
Loading millet stalks into the grinder.

A small team comes annually from the Linguere hospital to offer HIV/AIDS testing for a day.  As it turns out,  the people of my village are quite scared of getting tested -- a combination of the stigmatism surrounding a potentially positive result and a fear of needles.  Despite my repeated tours of the village, exhorting/begging people to participate, only 10 people showed up -- and that includes myself and two of the health workers. 

I look way more excited about the needle going into my arm than I actually was. 
The big boss man, Senegal Country Director Chris Hedrick, came toNgaraff!

Luckily, construction on the Health Hut had started just in time.

We got an Environmental Education club started at the school , with about 20 of the mid-aged kids.  They're super fun!

For some reason, clubs here love to elect officers, even if they have no real role.  Here, the kids are voting.

Painting a mural with 20 kids was kinda a nightmare . . . but also a lot of fun!  

To celebrate April's birthday, we had a beautiful day in Dakar . . .

A terrific picnic at the park . . .

Drinks at sunset at a hotel on the water . . .

And - duh! - ice cream cake.  A very successful day.

More babies . . .
For some reason, I get such a hoot out of these baby potties.

Another new baby girl in the village!

And just last night, we celebrated Ann Marie's birthday here in Linguere.

Justin and Kim hired a camel and had it brought straight to 

Ann Marie was beside herself with excited over her "Birthday Camel."