Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's done!

I know I owe you guys a blog post. I have just been so busy lately, I haven’t had any time in front of a computer. But finally, I am happy to report that my maternity house is DONE! 

check out this beauty!

Behind schedule I know, but making a schedule and keeping to it is not a strong suit of the Togolese. So, recap of the work:

building the ceiling

building the latrines

making the terrace

cementing over everything

floors done, ceiling up and all cemented!

After all my sitting around watching people, I finally got off my butt and got to help with something. I spent almost 2 weeks getting up and working morning to night with my fellow villagers, painting, putting on doors and windows, assembling beds and putting on all the finishing touches. Just like we started, we finished with a lot of help from the village; we had a crowd turn up every day just to see what was going on and if they could help. 

Then comes the painting

There I am

and finishing touches

latrines done

  my own little project

The last day of work was amazing though. Literally half of my village of around 1000 people showed up. Nearly everyone I knew in the village was there to clear out the land in front of the buildings and to make sure everything was finished. 

people starting to show up...

...and then they came in masses

The village drummers showed up and played for a good part of the morning. I wasn’t sure if they were there to motivate the people working or to get the whole village out there to help, but I’m pretty sure they did both. 

And if I thought I was being over-thanked and over-blessed when I was doing nothing but watching, I had no idea. When I picked up a paintbrush it was like I had grown angel wings in the eyes of my village. I learned some new Kotokoli words to the tune of, “We all pray that when you go back to America everyone will know what you did for us and they will make you a minister (like in the government, not in the church),” and “We pray that you will have many healthy children and a husband who will understand when you tell him you have to move your family back to Kpassouade to live with us again.” Uhhh…and “God knows what you have done for us and there will be a good job waiting for you when you arrive home, we all pray for it.” Oh, so do I. I was literally just “Amen”ing all day as I painted. 

And THEN, this group of women from my Care group who were washing the floors made up this song with my name in it and sang it to me for a good 30 minutes. I didn’t know what it meant but I just imagined it being something ridiculous like, “Rouki is a saint, she is the best person in the world, God is going to rein bounty on her.” HA. It was good though, if I ever needed a pick-me-up or a confidence boost, I know where to go. 

There was a huge inaugural party we had planned just after for the finishing of the house, and we got done just in time. The party was amazing, and I will tell all about it, but for that I have to make another blog post.

"Let us protect our mothers and our children"

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What's new?

Things have been really busy around here! We had two fetes recently: Apr. 27 which is Togolese Independence day then May 1, which is Labor Day. Work stopped for massive parades and parties.

Tchamba also had going on a 3 day animal husbandry fair which brought people in from all over my region.

Finally, Peace Corps Togo has a huge project going on right now called "More than just a game," which is a volunteer tour of all the regions of Togo teaching students about Malaria and prevention through soccer. That was really great to see.

So, I've been in and out of village, but (aside from the time off to fete) my village has been continuing work on the maternity house pretty steadily. They've been putting in the doors and windows and they built up all the floors which now need to be smoothed and covered in cement.

They dug the pit for the latrines.
And they're making more bricks to build the latrines with.

So, whats left? The house needs to be cemented over, walls and floors, and the latrine needs to be put together. The report from the carpenter was that they have been cutting all the boards needed for the ceiling and they are just waiting for the walls to finish to put it up. We're still on track! A lot of the work they're doing now is not as massive as the building of the walls and roof, but a lot of here and there kinda stuff that can end up being a little bit of a process. The workers are out there every day still. AND we do now have an ETA for the completion of the house: June 1. That's what were working towards.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

And up goes the roof!

The rains are slowly coming upon us. We've had 2 big rains (short delay in work), and it's only a few more weeks until rainy season actually starts.

But, now that we have the roof up, we're in the clear. Next comes the flooring, which will be next week. The menusier is furiously working on doors and windows so we can get the frames in before we cement over everything. It's supposed to be Wednesday, but we will see. After that it's just the paint and the beds.

relaxing under their newly built shade

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Here we go!

When I started writing this blog post, I was planning on covering the beginnings of work on my maternity house, but in the 2 weeks since we’ve started, the buildings are more than 50% done already. The amount of work and dedication I have seen from my village surprised even me.

So, here’s how it went. The CVD and I went to Sokode to buy materials. I dropped 1,000,000 CFA at one time, which made me feel like a baller, because here people talk about millionaires like we talk about millionaires in the US, but here a million is actually $2000 US. Back down to earth. Then we hired a truck and brought the stuff in to village.

In 2 days, they built the foundations for the buildings. They brought in all the bricks they made from the riverside and in the first week built half of the first building.

1st building - rooms for the pregnant women

2nd building - midwife's lodging

you can see on the left side where the maternity rooms will go and on the right there is the health clinic

halfway up already!

Week 2 they worked sun up to sun down and finished putting up the walls of the 2 buildings. There were masses of people that showed up to help, even those who were “helping,” standing around, watching and directing others (me included). The students at the middle school brought the bricks in from the riverside. The women brought in water from wells about 150 to 200m away, one bowl at a time. You can just imagine how much water is needed to mix cement for 2 buildings (a lot). They brought it all in themselves, first pulling the water from the wells by bucket and rope, then transporting it on their heads to the construction site.

the work force

the directors
(starting from the left: president CVD, Imam, Treasurer CVD, Plan Togo Volunteer)
But, wait a second, let's get a better look at that Imam's t-shirt

ha ha. i guarrantee he has no idea what that means

notice that the middle woman is pregnant and the 1st woman has a baby on her back, and they are still carring water, now that is dedication

The men were out there mixing cement and building the walls for about 30 minutes before I noticed that their wheelbarrow didn’t have any wheels. They would fill it up then have to carry the whole thing over to the side of the house. They told me they didn’t have any working wheelbarrows, the other one had no handles, and they’d been doing it like that for a while (these are masons by profession). It just looked like so much extra work, I gave them money to get their wheelbarrows fixed.

Seeing these people work so hard and long to get this done (and they were getting a lot done) made me feel really good about this project. I was expecting hitches. I was expecting the people who signed up for community contribution to have to be coaxed from their houses every morning to work. This is normally how projects go. But, I have been so far pleasantly surprised to see how committed my village is to doing this.

probably the most precarious scaffolding system I've ever seen, but no one fell

Not that there haven’t been hitches. So, before they got started on the foundation, they had planned 2 days before to start and the days came and went without any work being done. The CVD and I went to the village chief, who was in charge of rallying the workers, and talked to him. He said he would have a meeting with the workers and find out the problem. The chief comes back to me and says that the workers are sorry, because they want to do the work, but they can’t leave the work in their fields to start on this because they won’t have any food for their families, and since they are not getting paid, they wont have a way to support themselves if they leave their fields now... “What? Wait a second. What do you mean they’re not getting paid?” And the chief is like, “I know, but they said, if you can wait like 2-3 weeks til the tilling of the land should be done, they will start the construction then.” So, to back up a little bit, the way planning/organizing the work has gone for this project, after my counterparts and I flesh out a plan, we go to the chief. I talk and the CVD translates into Kotokoli for the chief, he approves our plan then communicates this to the head masons and carpenters, and they communicate this to their work teams. It’s kinda like playing telephone apparently. So, it got lost somewhere down the line, what was to be community contribution and what would be paid by the grant money. The masons, who are being paid for skilled labor, thought that all their work was going to be unpaid as community contribution, and still agreed to do the job. I correct the chief, who was very excited that I am “so generous,” and said he would meet with the masons again. They started the foundations 2 days later. 

This is the kind of hitches I’m dealing with and I’m glad personally because this might be the easiest project I’ve done in Togo. As all these people work hard on the house, I sit in the shade, yelling out words of encouragement to them and taking photos. Meanwhile, people from my village, including those working, are praising me left and right. They come up to me to thank me or bless me and tell me things like “Have courage. I know the work is hard, but God will help you” (actually said). I kinda feel like an imposter, but I do have a newfound appreciation for my village people. Now that they have completed the walls, what’s left is putting up the roofing, floors, doors and windows, then paint. It might be a lot, but at the pace they’re going at, it might only be a couple of weeks to finish. I just hope that by going on about how great my village and the work is that I didn’t jinx myself. (Knock on wood)