Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Our first blog entry - By Michael Charles

The wait was finally over our first working day at Djigui Espoir had arrived, and we the Djigui team was excited to finally start our journey with the amazing association that is provided for disabled women at Djigui Espoir.

The Djigui team consisted of 7 people, there is myself Michael Charles, 19 from Nottingham and I've just finished a BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Sports Coaching, Fitness & Sports Development. Then we have Emily Rek, 20 from Lincolnshire who is about to enter her 3rd and final year at the University of York where she is studying Psychology, then there is Hannah Freeney, 22 from Whitby who has just finished her 3 year degree in Media, Culture and Society with Politics. Finally there's Clara Thierry, 21 who's just finished her 1st year at Sheffield Hallam where she's studying Human Geography. Then there is our team leader who is Valeria Puig, 25 from Uruguay who has a Masters in Screen-writing and Producing for Film and Television. We also have 2 in-country volunteers who are from Burkina Faso, they are Ives Ouedraogo and Beatrice Bére. Ives studied at the University of Ouagadougou for 4 years. He studied general economics for 2 years and then Social and Solidarity Economics for another 2 years. Béatrice also studied for 4 years at the University of Ouagadougou in her first 2 years she studied French language and then in her second 2 years she studied Administration Cultural Management. She is now currently doing her Masters in Communication which will last a further 2 years.

That's enough about us now about what Djigui. Djigui Espoir is an association for disabled women created in 1995 by Madame TOE Marie Dominique. Djigui's main and ultimate role is to work for the self promotion of disabled women. Their mission is to fight extreme poverty amongst disabled people, and disabled women in particular. This presents Djigui as a solidarity for disabled women, presenting income generating activities. These involve the transformation of cereals and soya.

On our first day, we had a meeting with our team leader and the main topic was on how patient we should be. This was because the African lifestyle is so laid back, this meant if we wanted to organise a meeting and state a certain time for that meeting, people could turn up an hour or two late for it and that would be normal. Also answering your phone in the middle of the meeting and having banter down the phone was also a very normal thing to do in the middle of a meeting. We also thought of ideas on what we could do to make the profile of Djigui bigger.

On Tuesday we were trying to find ways on how we could advertise the products with beneficial factors being the key tactic for this for example how the products are good for your health. We hit a brick wall with this because we found out that they use pesticides on the soy beans so we couldn't advertise it as being organic. We then found very good statics on the products and how it could be good for your health.

On Wednesday I looked at wedding, christening and catering companies that we could contact to see if we could sell our products to them. I also looked for printing businesses too to see if we could get business cards and a printed newsletter made for Djigui Espoir. Emily looked for radio and TV channels that we can organise interviews about raising the profile of Djigui and along with Hannah they wrote a letter in French to Djigui on the benefits of fairtrade and why they should consider applying for it. Clara started on creating a newsletter for Djigui, which would have in it the products they sell here and any up and coming events and classes they were going the have here for example language and I.T classes. The promotion of these on the newsletter will allow us to reach more women who are members of Djigui but do not physically work here.

Then on Thursday we got suited and booted with Wellies, cloaks and hats and helped with the soy production. This was very interesting to see and experience ourselves. It was quite surprising how much work they do and how much effort they put in making sure everything is hygienic and done properly.

On Friday our final day of the week we had a famous African meeting lasting from 11am-4pm. One of the main topics was about if they should have French or English lessons. The arguments were that French is the language they speak here so it would be beneficial but then a lot of them speak mooré and don't feel the need to learn French, also with English it's not the main language so it would be more novel and than beneficial. They also didn't want to let go of the English lessons as its a great way for them to all bond together while learning a new skill. Also in the meeting we mentioned fairtrade and how beneficial it would be but we need to find more solid information and facts about the standards and conditions they want from us. We also found out that we need  to fundraise £3,500. This is because at the moment the raw material for cereal production is 27,000 CFA due to the lack of rain during the current rainy season. Around November instead, the bag of cereal would normally cost 17,000 CFA. £3,500 is the value of one year's worth of cereal bags. If we raise the £3,500 it will ensure that they don’t have to buy it throughout the summer when it reaches its peak of expense which they can't afford to do.

We also learnt that they need a one way entry and exit system for production and then packaging for hygiene, health and safety purposes so they will need to rebuild certain areas in the production area. They need funds to build two houses to store the packaging and also the cereal for the cereal production.

With all that said you can see its been a very exciting and productive week for us all here! Bring on the rest of weeks we have ahead and I look forward to writing to you all and telling the progress we are having here,

                                                            Michael Charles

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