Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Week nine, and we're working overtime

We have all had our heads down working harder than ever, before the time comes to leave Djigui in just under two weeks. We’ve been putting in late nights at the office trying to finish our various ‘to do’ lists, and starting to think about wrapping things up and preparing the handover documents for the next cohort. It’s been exhilarating to be so busy, but it’s also been a week of mixed emotions.

As we move ever closer towards the end of the project we are coming to terms with the fact that many of the things we initially hoped to achieve in our time here will not be completed before we leave. Admittedly, we did make very ambitious plans! For instance, the café kiosk (and the grand opening we’d planned to hold) remains to be started, as Djigui is still researching costs and making plans. We have had to shake ourselves out of our selfish disappointment and remind ourselves that the kiosk, and the project as a whole, is not ours to decide (obvious, I know, but it‘s been easy to get wrapped up in the work we‘ve been involved with). We are part of a much wider scheme, and are only able to witness a very small portion of the life of the project. The aims of the project extend far beyond the progress that any one cohort can feasibly achieve during their nine weeks of work, and learning to manage our expectations accordingly has been an important aspect of the project. Nine weeks really isn’t very much time at all, and I think we’re all wishing that we could stay for a few months longer. Maybe if we ask Mme Toe very nicely..?

Being aware of the bigger picture has motivated us to create the ‘perfect’ handover document; ensuring that the transition of work to the next cohort will be as smooth as possible. In compiling our handover documents (of which there are already countless files and folders - apologies in advance to those who will have to trawl through it!) and preparing for the end of project presentation, we have been reminded of all of the things we have achieved. We’ve all got stuck in, faced new challenges and learnt new skills, and I’m sure we’ll be able to get on the plane home feeling proud of the work we’ve done during our time here.
This week we have held plenty more English, French and IT lessons, making the most of the different skills we can exchange. We’ve also continued with our themed group discussions - although we could probably more accurately describe them as ‘debates’ as they tend to get quite heated! These discussions have served to broaden our perspective on a variety of issues.

Debating the link between gender and poverty

On Monday, Ives, Seraphine, Evelyn, Valerie and Kadiatou met to discuss future building projects using the funds donated by the USADF. They short-listed possible building companies we could use for building a washing and drying area for the soya beans in the courtyard at Djigui.

After work we all headed over to Lycee Prive Les Leaders De Demain, a local high school, to hold a meeting with the students and teachers with a view to forming a relationship with International Service. They are planning on setting up regular after school sessions for the students and ICS volunteers. These could include language exchanges and music, dance or art classes. It was great to be surrounded by so many enthusiastic smiling faces, and we all tried our hands at delivering impromptu English lessons, even though the lessons quickly morphed into extended photo shoots and the excited exchange of contact details. We hope to be able to arrange a few sessions with the students before we leave Burkina. It seems like a great partnership with lots of potential, and it will be something that the next cohort can get properly involved with.

Lewis and Ailsa with some students from the high school

On Wednesday night we invited Val, Ives and Béa, along with HSB team leader Souad, over for dinner. We planned to re-create Rowan’s delicious tokan curry, but all of this week’s tokan got snapped up before we could buy any! So, we improvised with a chickpea, aubergine and potato curry, which thankfully received compliments from our guests. There was a lot of discussion about the football match against Algeria and whether or not Burkina had qualified for the World Cup. We lost the match, but it was later announced on the radio that Algeria had been disqualified. A celebratory atmosphere immediately erupted in the streets, with flags waving, smiling people clutching radios, and men doing donuts on their motorbikes in the dust. Unfortunately, it later transpired that the rumour was false… Hopefully Burkina will have better luck next time.

Towards the end of the week Rowan, Val and Béa held a meeting to discuss the Child Sponsorship scheme with all the Djigui members who wish to partake in the scheme. The meeting covered the entire sponsorship process and emphasised the importance of maintaining up to date paperwork to ensure the efficiency of the scheme. In order to join the sponsorship scheme, we are requesting official signed and stamped invoices from each child’s school to verify enrolment and school fees. Madame Toé and all of the members were thrilled with the layout of the website and the individual profile pages. We’re pretty happy with them too, and think it’s all looking rather professional, even if we do say so ourselves!

A few examples of the sponsorship profiles

Having everyone together in one place to discuss the scheme was really constructive, and allowed us to iron out any issues. The meeting brought to light some aspects that have been overlooked; the most problematic of which was deciding whether or not to include APE (school tax) in the overall school fee. Some schools automatically include the fee in their invoices, but some don’t. This has meant that we will have to gather further information for each child, and then update the sponsorship excel sheet and the individual profiles, before re-uploading them to the website. This may seem relatively straightforward but given the snail-pace of the internet here, we are anticipating a few frustrations during a process which should take a few hours, but may take a few days.

All of the women have now signed the terms and conditions form ensuring they are happy for their names and photos to be used on the website, and have also agreed to complete a quarterly child progress form which will be used to send regular progress updates to the sponsors.

Rowan has also been creating a Child Sponsorship handover package for Valerie Zingué, the newly appointed Child Sponsorship Scheme Coordinator who will be responsible for the running of the scheme. The handover includes documents on how to update the excel sheet and website, as well as letter templates in both English and French. We now have a total of 30 children enrolled on to the scheme and our fingers are crossed that the handover goes smoothly and we will be able to launch next week. We’ve already got a few keen potential sponsors lined up, so we’re hopeful that the scheme will be a big success.

Happy after a successful meeting!

Béa has been preparing for workshop 6 of the HIV awareness sessions she is delivering to the members. The next session will focus on STIs, and she has been doing lots of online research to back up the knowledge she already has.

Laura and Ailsa have been concentrating on making changes and improvements to the Djigui website, with more still to come; adding comprehensive information, refining the ethos and messages we want to portray, and tweaking the appearance of the website to ensure it meets our branding guidelines. We have started work on ‘Meet Our Members’ pages, which will introduce each member and give more information and insight into how and why many of the women became members of Djigui, and the impact it has had on their lives. Lewis has been continuing with the Djigui recipe book, adding more soy-ilicious recipes. This will be added to the website when it’s finished, and can also be used as promotional material at the café kiosk.
We’ve also made a small but significant achievement with the creation of a brand new Djigui Espoir logo! We have struggled to effectively utilise the current Djigui logo due to it’s pixelated poor quality, so with the help of hand model Ailsa and a Djigui calabash, Rowan painstakingly created an improved replica logo on Photoshop, which, after receiving the Mme Toe seal of approving, can be used for all of our future branding.

Old logo and new logo... what a transformation, eh?

Production has been significantly amped up this week ready for JAAL which starts on 22nd November. JAAL (Journees Agro-Alimentaires, which means Agricultural Food Days) is a 10-day food expo at the Maison Du Peuple. Djigui are not only selling the grilled tokan brochettes and fresh soya milk, but are showcasing their whole range other products, including degue, cous cous and bissap. It will be a great opportunity to promote the association, network with others working in the food industry, and hopefully sell lots of products.

Béa and Seraphine working hard at JAAL

We finished off the week by attending Tigoung Nonma’s wonderful open day. It was a chance to learn more about their association and also sample their tasty food and purchase more than a couple of crafty souvenirs made by the disabled artisans. Many of us also walked away with henna tattoos and questionable hair braids; happily re-living the 90's style of our childhoods in support of a good cause. 

Henna tattooing at Tigoung Nonma's open day event

We are looking forward to properly launching the Child Sponsorship and Corporate Supports schemes. We also have big plans to paint a Djigui Espoir mural and are looking forward to attending HSB's disability awareness events next week.

Until next time!


  1. Thanks for writing this, having volunteered at Djigui in summer 2012 it's great being able to follow the work of volunteers and how things are developing at Djigui. It sounds like you're all having a great time and working really hard! Enjoy your last couple of weeks in Burkina!



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