12 December 2008

Desert Sun: Iron Clad Redemption

Monday, my entire region celebrated the holiday of Tabaski. Ramadan is known as the small holiday, and Tabaski is referred to as the big holiday. During this time, many families will purchase goats or sheep, have them butchered, and then give half of the meat to their families and the other half to those in need and less fortunate. This was an amazing show of the hospitality that I experience daily, living here in Niger. All of my neighbors invited me over to their homes, and we overindulged in grilled sheep meat, goat meat, couscous, sauce, and counou! This is also gave me an opportunity to bring out my camera, and photograph some of these families in their finest Tabaski boubous and complets. This was an amazing holiday, and everyone was telling me that it was the equivalent to our Christmas. It was an amazing day, and I am so grateful for all of my neighbors and friends that made sure I was well fed that day! We've been given a few days off from work, because different regions in Niger celebrate Tabaski at different times. The day that a village will celebrate is determined by when they first see the moon appear. In Maradi, the holiday was celebrated on Monday, but other other regions celebrated on Tuesday. The last month, my counterpart and I have been busy working with the COGES groups. For those of you that aren't familiar, in an attempt by the Nigerien government to decentralize, each school has a committee made of parents, students, school administrators, and local/traditional authorities which are responsible for finding funding for each school, and managing each school.

This is a great idea in principle, but still very new, and we're trying to help each COGES work out their respective glitches. My counterpart and I visited each of the seven public schools in our city, to introduce the groups to the program that we have planned for them this academic year. We will teach them about running a meeting, about taking a fair and democratic vote, record keeping, school equipment preservation, and how to promote girls education via radio broadcasts and skits. At the end of the month, my counterart and I are going to attend a training with a local NGO to learn how to talk about HIV/AIDS (VIH/SIDA in French) over radio broadcast in local languages. This will be amazing, because it will give us the opportunity to reach a larger portion of the population. Many of the "glitches" that I observed in each COGES were almost identical to the problems you would find in the States. Some of the leaders were disorganized; many of the members (student's parents) were absent from the meetings; and many of the positions that were supposed to be occupied by women, were occupied by men. For the most part, the COGES members that were in attendance seemed to be very motivated about getting their schools in order, and finding more funding to provide their students with school supplies and books! Next month, I leave my post to go to the training site for three weeks! It will be very nice to see all of my stage-mates, but also to learn more about fundraising and being a better volunteer. Life is good here in Maradi, and the evenings and mornings are still very cool! Hausa is still coming along slowly, but sai hankuri (have patience) right!? By the way, helping two other volunteers every saturday with a radio show. It's been great for my hausa, and really fun to reach so many people!

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