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Archive for January, 2016

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Prepared for the dusty roads.

Before summarizing the 2015 volunteer trip in Ghana, I’d like to offer gratitude to the donors to our charitable organization, Yakote Women Farmers (YWF). They make it possible to impact so many lives through feeding/lunch programs, college scholarship/loans, irrigation pumps for farmers, and soon a basket weaving cooperative. One of our primary donors, David Revell, recently asked about the cost per student for the lunch program. With the numbers fresh in my mind, he did the calculations – a very economical 11 cents per student for each nutrient packed meal. This year the brains and bodies of 400+ primary students and 25 malnourished toddlers are the beneficiaries.

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The consequences of undernutrition are more serious and long lasting for the rapidly growing brains and bodies of younger children.

And now the rest of the story from our sixth volunteer trip:

Upon arrival in Kongo, one of the first to greet us was Agnes Dinaa, a warm welcome in her smile as she stopped by while coming home from her job as a cook at the high school.

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Agnes Dinaa

To the shock and sadness of her children and the community, Agnes suddenly died that very night, probably of heart attack or stroke. Over the years, Agnes (herself a widow) gave motherly support and advice to so many of our scholarship students (most with at least one deceased parent). It was a frequent occurrence for students to eat with Agnes and her children during school breaks, when they had nowhere else to go. The photos are from her funeral, which began with the traditional “war dance”, and was followed by a Catholic funeral.

In accord with tradition, Nabdam men keep ceremonial bows and arrows, masks, even ancient guns in their homes for use at funerals. The weapons are used to enact a war dance, acting out a “fight,” on behalf of deceased relatives, vanquishing the foes that caused the unfortunate death.IMG_4780 (1)

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Drumming for the funeral procession.

David was nearly 100% occupied in meeting with currently enrolled scholarship students, as well as those who are repaying and/or should be repaying 1/3 of their total scholarship/loan. On top of that, there were many young adults hoping applying for scholarships. Annual interest rates for regular school loans are 37%! Students are definitely looking for reasonable alternatives. In the photo are two wonderful young women & terrific teaching students using the YWF scholarship/loan program, Sandra and Leticia.

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This is the Kongo Tribal Chief sitting with his grandchildren. The Chief expressed his sincere gratitude to the scholarship donors by writing a letter to each one. Educated young adults returning home to work in village schools and clinics have been a great boon to local families and to the Nabdam economy.

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The Kongo basket weavers cooperative demonstrates why YWF is helping to establish a new basket-weaving cooperative in another Nabdam village:  As compared to subsistence farming, the work is clean and not physically demanding, those of all ages can learn to weave, the work can be done whenever there is extra time – such as during the dry season, young children can come with a parent, the end product is beautiful and globally marketable, and importantly, cash generating opportunities in the rural north are few and far between.

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And these farmers received foot irrigation pumps. Some facts: A dry season farmer using the conventional watering can pours 100’s of canfuls per garden section, hauling each can from a well, and watering twice per day. The hours of physically grueling work limits garden size to ½ acre per young, healthy farmer. A foot pump makes it possible to water 2 acres per day with a relative ease that delights farmers of all ages. YWF donations have purchased four, foot pumps to date ($200 each); we sell them to farmers at ½ of our cost, with repayments used to buy more foot pumps.

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This elderly farmer seemed quiet to the point of disinterest when we visited the farm. Later that day his son came to say that the father could hardly wait to get a pump and rest his aching bones.

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This group of farmers had cleared several acres of land together and planted tomatoes. They will share the cost of the pump.

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Our last week in Ghana consisted of trips to and fro, buying over 3 tons of food and delivering it to Kongo-Logre Nutrition Center and Gunwarre and Agoruk primary schools. While negotiating the food purchases it was impossible to ignore the unending variety of photo opportunities. First of all, there are large cows with sharp horns wandering the market in search of a mouthful of corn:
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In the front of this Bolga market scene, you see a stick protruding near a full basin of corn – a stick for batting away the cows and goats:
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This elderly woman sweeps the occasional spilled grains of rice, millet, and corn from the dirt in hopes of having a meal at the end of the day:
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And there are the young men pushing the limits of their strength, loading 200 pound bags all day in and out of impossibly overloaded vehicles:
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This is one of the men who loaded our truck, a tough way to make $4-$5/day:

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The end of the day –  1,800 pounds of rice, 1,200 pounds of beans, 400 pounds of gari (cassava powder), herrings,  dried peppers, palm oil, Frytol, tinned tomatoes, dowa dowa (a seasoning) and salt. The man in the yellow shirt is sewing the bags closed before loading the truck:
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