Thursday, September 10, 2009

My new hair, and site announcements

So, I think I am technically disallowed from revealing the actual name of my site. So I won't tell you what it is. Barring that, though, I'm going to type in my COS report, which was written by a Health PCV who left in 2007. So, things will be different in some ways, but here is pretty much all the information I have.

"I served as a Health volunteer in ____, a small village about 25-30 km south of Kedougou. ____ is located on a mountain ridge within view of Guinea and is home to about 300 people. Though not terribly far from Kedougou, _____'s mountaintop location makes it a bit remote. This is both a plus and a minus. The area is beautiful and peaceful but travel to and from the village involves pushing a bicycle up and down the rocky mountain paths. Also up on the mountain ridge is teh village/town of Fongolimbi, about 9 km away. There you will find teh Poste de Sante, lumo (weekly market), Sous-prefet, a large school, Eaux et Forets, telecenter and a handful of boutiques.

"The best parts of my service have been my location and my family. The Kedougou region is unique with its greenery and mountains. And ____, especially, is beautiful with its scenic vistas of the hills in Guinea, foggy mornings during the rainy season, regular breezes when it's hot and still elsewhere, many biking trails, nearby waterfalls and varied wildlife (beware the snakes!). The village is small but spread out. My family's compound is surrounded by corn and peanut fields. They have truly been like a family to me. They're playful, funny, sincere, generous, and are always looking after my best interests. I've had no troubles with them at all and completely trust each and every one of them.

"The people of the village are also very friendly My original village counterpart was always welcoming and often asked if everythign was goign well with me and my family He has since been replaced by another villager who has been a friend and is eager to do good work...

"There's no public transport anywhere near ____ other than the once-a-week lumo truck that struggles up the mountain "road" to Fongolimbi from Kedougou. The road is about 5 km away from ____ and can be very treacherous during ascent or descent. Most of us volunteers in the Kedougou region bike everywhere. It takes me less than two hours to bike into Kedougou and about half an hour longer to get back up onto the mountain to ____. During the rainy season some of teh trails can get very muddy and the creeks and rivers become swollen with rainwater. Biking to and from town you WILL get wet. Accept it.

"Most of my work has been in ____ and in the surrounding villages. I've done malaria prevention and AIDS awareness. It's been difficult convincing villagers to show up for meetings and presentations, but once there they've been receptive. Prevention and awareness are long-term ideas that aren't always considered by poor village people living hand-to-mouth. It's best to propose projects in a way that shows an immediate benefit to the people. Children in the classroom are easy since they're essentially a captive audience. Conducting presentatiosn on lumo days is a good idea since everyone is likely to show up anyway. Women's groups or health committees might need some incentive to show up (i.e. tea, lunch, snazzy take-home visual aids).

"Possible projects for a new volunteer might include improvements at the health hut, more malaria prevention and AIDS awareness (always), working with kids and the school (English classes, painting murals, educational games), supplemental gardening, improved water sanitation (fix the forage, deepen the well). I think most of the villagers would be willing to support any project started by a new volunteer.

"I would have liked to have accomplished more during my time here in Senegal but overall my experience here has been good. There is so much to be done, especially here in the south. I'm sure that the next volunteer will find their service in ____ to be very rewarding. I wish them the best of luck."

So, what will I be doing? I'll be working with farmers to try to improve seed varieties, selection, and storage techniques. I'll be trying to get people to garden and eat vegetables, and to teach them how to organize as a community (!?!????). What I personally am really interested in is drying produce, beekeeping, live mulch, composting, gardening, and tree propagation.

I am super excited about this site, and really think I got the best assignment in Senegal. Breeze, no water issues, a back yard in which I can have a garden, a place that makes me exercise...couldn't be happier. Plus, I will be as close as humanly possible to where Sarah and Jacob are, and not all that far from Katie. And, since my site is really awesome, it means I will get plenty of visitors. I'm also within a day of travel from a National Park, where there are chimpanzees and (allegedly) lions. There are, sorry Paul, also snakes, though. And since some of them are Elapidae, I will be carrying an Ace bandage everywhere I go.

I have a lot to write about, but I think I'm going to leave you with this for now, even though most of it is just my ripping off my site assignment. Other news is that we cut my hair today so that my head can fit into my bike helmet, and some more stats about my site. Tomorrow, inshallah, we will have a mammoth update and some more videos.

Site Stats:
Population: 400
Language: 98% Pulaar, 2% Bambarra
Groups: Men's, Women's, Young People's
Projects: Fornio cultivation and processing, peanut field for school canteen
Site description: Compounds are distributed in two or more distinct quartiers that are separated by a short distance (less than 0.5 km), 3 km from a paved road, access road is clay with gravel, town is mostly Muslim (as in, practically unanimous)
Schools: French (5 classrooms), Koranic, Literacy Class
Cash crops: peanuts, millet, cassava, rice, gardening, animal husbandry
Main source of income for women: peanuts, cassava, rice, gardening, animal husbandry
Some men leave the village to work elsewhere to supplement income, but this is seasonal.
Weekly market during dry season, all sorts of goods
Boutiques in ____ sell tea, batteries, onions, sugar, rice, etc
Public buildings: Health Post, Mosque

Three greatest problems villagers identify:
No cash to buy peanut seeds, fertilizer
Lack of assistance from outside agencies
Lack of training (literacy, numeracy, management)

There is sufficient water year-round, and no salinification issues, which, I admit, really is something I am glad to escape.

Concrete-lined wells in village: 1


Sarah said...

Yayyyyy we're famous!!!! (sort of)


canyon wren said...

who is that hiding behind you in the haircut picture

C.W. said...

I like the haircut :) You are super cute.