DAY FIVE of our trip to Niger, Saturday, February 6th, 2010

I met the Mayor at 7:30 this morning for my trip to Liboré. Alioun his son was driving and it was great to finally meet him. Ed was planning to leave with the ORBIS bus to go to Liboré at 8:30am for the day of outreach.

We arrived in Liboré shortly before 8am and already saw many men and women and children lining up to see the doctors. There was anticipation in the air. They were unfailingly polite and sweet and kind and ended up waiting in the hot sun all day until it was their turn to be seen. Before the ORBIS bus arrived, I gave my video camera to Alioun since he loves taking videos and we both filmed some of the people and interviewed the Mayor and Chef as they were not part of the Elder interviews on Thursday.

Finally the ORBIS bus arrived and the work began in earnest. Ed was in a makeshift examination room with Noor from Tunisia and from the moment the “clinic” opened at 9:30 until about 5:00 they worked with no break, and only some water and a power bar.. The Mayor brought lunch in but Ed and Noor, just worked straight through. They hit it off and enjoyed each other’s skill and humour. There were many translators there from both the Rotary and Peace Corps and they were incredible.

While the “eyes” were being seen, I asked the Mayor if we could go visit the wells that Carl Vahl’s Rotary team had recently drilled, the ones with the new Rotary design. The Mayor, Vice Mayor, Alioun, Mary, Hamani, Gambi, Ramatou and I all went to see them in two vehicles. The Mayor’s jeep had the two armed guards and I was in the car behind with Ramatou and Alioun and Gambi. I was told it was about 7 kilometres away, but it took us 30 -40 minutes over desert, rocky terrain to get to the first of two villages, Galbel. It was a tiny village and the first thing we saw was the shiny, new, blue and yellow colours of the Rotary well. It was gorgeous and the new rotary wheel, designed by Gaston, was an integral part of the well itself. It pumped beautifully fresh and clear water and was so easy to turn. On the way to the village, Gambi explained to me that the wells have made a huge difference in the lives of the villagers. They are faster and easier to use, take less time for women and children to manipulate and create therefore much more time for attending school. We took many photos in Galbel. The Mayor pointed out that this was one of the Villages that was not yet permitted to have a school.

We said goodbye and we drove a very short way, perhaps another 3-4 minutes, to our second stop, the village of Gouruberi. Again in the middle of the village we see the brand new Rotary well. After some photos and pumping water, once again the Mayor taps me on the shoulder and tells me that there is no school here either.

It was one of those moments in life that needed to be seized…even though I had no idea where we would raise the money.

I told the Mayor that he should begin to get the paperwork ready for us to get whatever permissions were required to put a school in this village. Then I said that while the paperwork was being done, and the fight was commencing, which could take upwards of a year, why couldn’t we send in a teacher or anyone who could at least begin educating the children in some way, even if it was under a tree..

All of us began talking while the Chief of the Village stood beside us. We decided there was no reason that we could not at least start a Kindergarten right away in the village because it required no government sanction and that way there would be a beginning. Then and there I promised the Chief of the Village on behalf of P4K, that we commit to putting in a Kindergarten. At this point Ramatou came up to me and whispered that I should mention to the community what their obligations would be. Great point, I said as we always expect the community to participate. I told all the villagers that this was not charity but a partnership and that we expected them to help build the Kindergarten, to support the teacher in his/her efforts, and to send their children to school. The Mayor then tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear “Les filles” (the “Girls”.) OF course, I said. So I looked at all the villagers and said it is not only the boys that you must send to school but also the GIRLS, the GIRLS, the GIRLS…Everyone was cheering. Then the Chief wanted to show me where the new school would be built – we walked over to a barren area near the Mosque and the Chief said here is where it will be. When I asked if we should have one kindergarten for both villages as Galbel was very close by and it worried me that we would help one and not the other, the villagers said they preferred if they could have their own as they worried about sending their little children too far. They did not assume that it would be in “their” village but in the other one. I responded, “no problem”, we will have one in each village. It just seemed the right thing to do. They continued cheering and clapping. I didn’t worry for one moment about where the money would come from to support the kindergartens or the schools. That worry will be for later. I just have complete faith that we can do this as a team.

It was so interesting to me that this time the schools we will build have followed the construction of the wells, as opposed to the opposite. Normally Carl and his Rotary team have drilled wells near schools to make the lives of the students and mothers easier and allow kids to stay in school longer because they won’t have to walk for miles to fetch water. This time, the wells have brought the schools.

After these amazing moments, we all drove back to the CSE school area, where the ORBIS outreach was still in full swing. Then the real fun began. While Perry and the entire ORBIS team worked non-stop organizing first the women, then the children and finally the men, Hamani and I spent two hours going over the books, receipts, and all that wonderful number stuff I hate………but we finally managed to do it all and make Louise, our Treasurer, proud….

I also spent a few minutes with the Directors of some of the schools because we had over $650 to donate to them from the Associated Hebrew Day School in Toronto (Posluns branch). They were excited to use this money for professional development of their teachers and were already discussing when to plan these days. We took some photos in the courtyard.

Then Hamani and I crossed the road and went to the storage area for the sports and school equipment and spoke to some of the headmasters there as well. Hamani said that these are the leaders who are being groomed for Libore’s future.

I wanted to take some photos for our sponsors to thank them for all the goods that had been donated. So we took photos with the soccer balls for AVANTI Sports, the school supplies from MEADWEST Vaco, the volleyballs from Garry and Lee, the Bananagrams from Bananagrams, the books from the Toronto French School and the Computers from HIVE Strategic Marketing Inc.

In the field near where the outreach was taking place, there was a great Soccer Tournament taking place, the annual Pencils for Kids cup. Hamani said that before this time, two years ago, most kids never had the opportunity to play soccer because there were no balls. But now since P4K’s arrival, they play every day and have a tournament once a year with school supplies as the prizes…. It was heartwarming to hear and see and I know a huge thank you is due to Project Play for donating the first 100 balls and to Avanti for donating the next 500.

All day, Alioun took photos and videos and helped out also with ORBIS. ORBIS had a very worthwhile day, screening around 400 people and promising to give surgical and follow up treatment to 95 of those in the following months. It was a huge success and the people of Liboré were very grateful for this unbelievable opportunity. ORBIS will ensure that these people receive their treatments free of charge and get the follow up they need. What a truly amazing organization. Everyone was given a pair of non-prescription sunglasses as a gift.

We finally left Liboré and that night Ed and I returned to the Grand Hotel for dinner, happy but exhausted.

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