Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Like Herding Cats

Hello all,

At long last, a school project update! First, thank you to everyone who generously gave to our village's primary school. With you, we raised $3,300! Add in the USAID Water & Sanitation grant to build five latrines (two for girls, two for boys, and one for the teachers), we were closer to our $10,000 goal. This past January my school and I applied for Fonds d'Auto-Assistance de l'Ambassade Americaine (U.S. Embassy Self-Help grant) for the remaining amount needed, and after a roller coaster of ups, downs, and long waits, we are officially funded!! 

Over the past month, the APE (Association des Parents des Élèves) opened a bank account, sent the secretary to Ouaga to sign the Self-Help grant agreement (written in English??), reviewed the estimates received from the masons and chose one to hire. The past week has been spent finalizing the estimate, and I'm currently organizing the paperwork to send off to the Embassy in Ouaga. If all goes well, the money will be deposited by the end of November and construction will start immediately. 

The parents and teachers are ecstatic to finish the school building! With it, the CP1 (kindergarten) children will have a real classroom and can move out from underneath the mango tree. Though a nice, shady spot, the tree isn't a very good learning environment since it lacks a blackboard and desks and the kids are easily distracted by sheep and other passers-by. The CE2 (3rd grade) class will also move into a new room leaving one of the leaky classrooms empty. 

And now on to my favorite project. I've shared my plan with the community to build a work/study space for the teachers and older students. They're amazed at the idea of having a room of their own with books, tables, chairs, and a solar-powered light to study at night or on rainy days. Screened windows will keep the hoards of mosquitoes out, and paint will make it a bright learning environment with  murals on health and education. 

I want to go from this....
... to this!  The Boni library is a model for the work/study space I want to create for the students and teachers of Karfiguela. I spent a week there in August helping at a literacy camp.  

Example of hand-washing station for school.

I'm also very excited to finish the latrine sub-project by adding hand-washing stations (currently none), a mural on the importance of soap, hole covers, and locks. If there's time, James and I would like to paint a world map on the side of the building, which is a common PCV project and highly beneficial to students who can typically draw Burkina Faso perfectly but still think that France and the United States are on the same continent.

Already, the latrines are making a huge impact on the school. Children no longer walk 20 feet out the door to use the surrounding fields as a toilet -- the smell during a warm afternoon is like sitting in a urinal instead of a classroom -- and teachers have a real restroom. The staff and I are planning formal sensibilizations (awareness campaigns) with each class on why using a latrine is important and how one should wash his or her hands afterwards and before eating lunch at the canteen.
Lining the hole with bricks.
Testing the toilet.
Yep, lookin' good.

Finished latrine!
Five new latrines benefiting 200 students and six teachers.

I've been working on the detailed budget for the building, study space, and latrines, and don't be surprised if we ask for more of your generosity this holiday season. Any books/reference materials in French or funding is greatly appreciated. A little goes a long way here -- $6 buys a textbook, $13 a bag of cement, $30 pays for a hand-washing station, $65 gets you a quality table and four chairs, $150 covers the cost of bookshelves, and to install lights, $240 purchases the battery and $300 provides the large solar panel. Let us know if you'd like to help! Email us at ryanjul@gmail.com or james.megivern@gmail.com.

Little pooping terror
In other news, we're herding cats in our very own house. Most of the six kittens will be heading to their new homes after we get back from our fabulous trip to MINNEAPOLIS and IOWA! We're excited to see friends and family and all that, but above all, we're excited to EAT! Look forward to our next post with a play-by-play on every scoop of ice cream and hamburger we indulge in as well as an in-depth look at reverse culture shock in America.

We're heading to the homeland to celebrate my sister's marriage -- I'm finally getting a little brother :) -- so if you're not one of the lucky ones invited to the wedding and you're in the area, let's make sure we get a chance to catch up! We're planning happy hours in Minneapolis on October 31st and in Ankeny on November 5th (see Facebook for more details).

Christina & Jeremy

Get the chicken pot pie and hamballs ready!

See you soon,

Julie & James