Day two, February 14th, 2011

It is 10pm Niger time and I am reflecting on our long but very productive day in Libore! Up early to visit the Scholarship girls in the CES school, the girls who are in the seconde, premiere and terminal level of school, just prior to going to university if they make it. What a lovely group of girls. We talked about what they hoped to be in their future and each one still talked of being a doctor. Inside the library, which has now been reconfigured and looks great, we met the librarian , Fati, and some other teachers. The headmaster spoke at length to me, Judy and John about the conditions. He said that with the new policy of the government, passing children from one level to the next whether in fact they are qualified to pass has not worked well. As a result there are now children in middle school, or college as they call it, who still cannot read or write. Part of the problem remains the lack of training for many of the teachers. There are now 11 students this year in the final year of high school, 9 boys and two girls and next year will be the very first year that some might do well enough to get into university.Never before has any student reached this level from Libore. Our fingers are crossed. The girls still are having problems with physics and math and they have no option to take other courses as there aren’t enough students to open up a “literature” stream. so for now everyone must take science and math. After this short visit it was off to visit the sewing centre and the sewing girls. On the way we met the Chef du Canton and he was his usual elegant and gracious self dressed immaculately in a gorgeous white silk like fabric. He looks majestic. Always. When we arrived at the sewing centre near Ecole Centre, we were greeted by the Drummer who almost burst my eardrum as he hit his drum right beside my ear with an enthusiasm to match! The sewing centre now occupies the mud hut as well as a shade hangar and we sat down inside and listened as the head teacher, Amina and her assistant, showed us the magnificent work the girls have been doing. The first year they do everything by hand, not using the machines. By year two they are learning to master the stictches on the machine. We saw intricate knitting, embroidery, applications and dresses. Very very impressive. In fact the scholarhip girls were all wearing th uniforms made by the sewing girls. There were nine machines that were separtely purchased that were going to be given today to the graduating girls, four of them who completed three years, and five to girls in second year. All of the girls get the machines on credit and must repay within one year from the proceeds they make by selling the clothing they make. Even the second year girls are given the opportunity to purchase while still at the sewing centre so that they can make money at home and begin businesses. Very very exciting. I purchased a lovely knit baby outfit!! But I still don’t know what baby to give this to at home.  Afterwards, we went outside for the official opening of the centre, where I was given the honour of tearing off the cloth over the sign, Cooper’s Clothing, Chance for Girls sewing centre. The girls did a dance, sang thank you, and were then called up to receive their certificates and their sewing machines. The machines would then be loaded up onto a donkey cart and taken home!!!

Then it was time to meet with the women leaders in Libore, assembled by Hamnai at our request.  Judy chaired a meeting for about three hours or more, talking about the needs of the community and girls in particular. She posed the idea of having the sewing girls make reusable sanitary napkins at the centre as a business if there was in fact demand for such a product. They will be testing this in the coming months. A few new machines will be purchased by Eliminate Poverty Now that are zig zag and surger sewing machines. The women emphasized that their greatest problem is food, education and then women empowerment. They are really hoping to have some feeding programs in the schools as many children go hungry all the time. Other issues were also raised. Everyone seemed very keen  on the Farmers of the Future program once it was explained, as a way to combat hunger within a business model.

Then it was off to visit the well in Ecole Centre which so far has yielded no water. I think it may be time to go to plan B for this Farmers site or connect to a public well as they did in Gueriguinde. Then we drove to Gueriguinde for the visit to the first Farmers’ pilot program to see the progress. We  were in a word, amazed and delighted. The children were out in the garden working, the teacher, Lamin and expert Yacouba explained how everything was going, and the drip irrigation worked like a charm. Lettuce leaves flourished, tomatoes were growing and mango trees were being grafted successfully and were already for sale. The community already had plans to use the money for mills that grind grain. The teacher had been teaching theory and practice all year and the kids sounded and looked enthusiastic about the garden. It truly brought tears to my eyes to witness the progress and more importantly the possibilities for the future growth of the program.

All in all it was a truly wonderful day, topped off by a late night coffee with Bachir who is the Director of Foreign Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He had been in Canada for eight years as Consul and now is in a top position in the Ministry. He is totally supportive of our efforts with the Farmers program. It was terrific to reconnect.  It is now time for bed……exhausted but happy, knowing that the programs we have started are starting to show results.

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