Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Weeks 1 and 2 - Getting Djigui with it!

So it’s day three of work at our project Djigui Espoir and we thought it the perfect opportunity to tell you all about our first week here in Burkina Faso.
Let’s start from the beginning (missing out the boring Heathrow Airport bit). Just over a week ago, 22 young Brits stepped off the plane in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso – “the land of upright people”. After several hours of chaotic baggage claiming and panic that our luggage had been lost, we could finally make our way into arrivals. We were greeted by the beaming faces of the International Service Team Leaders along with some of our national volunteers, who quickly led us through to the car park where we boarded our (slightly battered looking) bus; this week’s transport around Ouaga.
Home - sweet - home for the next three months!
The next morning, (earlier than a lot of us may have hoped given the sleepless night before!) we found ourselves back on the same bus. We were all eager to dive head-first into our placements, but first, the induction week. This was a fascinating period of lessons in French and Mooré, cultural sensitivity sessions and learning about all the worthwhile projects that International Service supports in Burkina; all coupled with the chance to be thoroughly overwhelmed by our new surroundings. We met all of the national volunteers including William and Serge, who will be working with us at Djigui and our lovely team leader Valeria.
Over a couple of days, we were all given the opportunity to visit the six different partner organisations that International Service will be working with over the next three months. These include a Paralympic research and coaching team, a cooperative for handicapped artisans and an association of disabled people who build wheelchairs. This was when we saw our first glimpse of Djigui Espoir, the place we would be spending the next three months (and our first taste of the delicious tokan Brochettes that they produce here! Yum!).
The wonderful women of Kabeela greeted us with a song!
We also visited Ziniaré, a small town situated outside Ouagadougou where the Keebela team will be based. It was great to visit a more rural area and in true Burkinabe style, we were greeted with smiling faces and a traditional drink called Bissap and a shared bowl of millet beer (c’etait bon!).
By the end of the week our Mooré was (sort of) good enough to take a tentative step into the local market. Dazzled by the heat, smells and colours of the fruit, vegetable and fabric stalls, I’m sure some of us were taken for something of a ride, but a fantastic experience was had by all!
It has been an incredible first week and we all feel very lucky to be here. Everybody we meet is so friendly and pleased to meet us. Shouts of “Nasara” (the Mooré word for “white people”) from the local children follow us wherever we go. People are eager to stop us in the street and ask how we are, how our families, wives, children and jobs are and what are we doing here. Even a simple trip to the local shop includes shaking many hands and meeting the local community.
Over the past couple of days we have been working closely with William, Serge and Valeria hoping that their French will rub off on us and our English vice versa. Our French is a little rusty but with their help and a few hours of French lessons a week we are all hoping to improve.
So what’s next? For the last few days we have been in planning meetings, setting ourselves aims and objectives for the next three months. These include setting up the kiosk here at Djigui, where we can sell tokan brochettes to the local community, organising an open day to promote the kiosk, fundraising and developing the child sponsorship scheme. We also hope to work closely with the women here to help them make their products and teach them some English. There’s a lot to do, so watch this space! Until next time.

Now a word from the nationals.
It‘s an exciting experience to be a volunteer with ICS. During our training, we have had the pleasure of meeting not only the national volunteers but also the international. We began to get acquainted and it was so interesting because sometimes it was amusing with the language barrier. Day in day out, we learnt from the others and attended English courses with the team leader. Just to note that the team leaders are so patient and kind to us. We visited the partners and it was interesting to go by car together.
We have met the partner Djigui Espoir and its members and discussed their activities and financial needs. Serge Bambara.

Hello!! I’m Kabore William Thomas, a national volunteer of ICS. It’s my first experience in voluntary service and I’m so glad to be here.
It’s a pleasure to know that I can contribute to help others who need it and I think that everybody must give a little part of his time for that.

Those who receive a small income are not necessarily responsible of that so I think that we can and must contribute to ameliorate people’s living conditions. I’m very thankful to national and international NGOs as IS which contribute to make this a better world.

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