DAY FOUR of our trip to Niger, Friday, February 5th, 2010

Today ORBIS staff under Perry’s guidance, went out to Liboré to train 17 health representatives, one from every village. From all reports, it went amazingly well. Thrilling for me to know how much ORBIS is accomplishing in Niger and in Liboré.

It was yet another great day….a touch less hectic for the first time since our arrival. Hamani came to pick us up and take us to the hospital as Ed wanted to spend time with the ORBIS doctors as they examined their post op patients from the day before. While Ed was there, Hamani and I talked business for the next hour – planning all the photos needed, the pen pal scrapbooks, the sights for the next day, and made a plan to meet later to discuss our accounting and review the books. For the next few hours, I remained in the room or at the outside terrace, working and preparing for the big meeting with the P4K committee at 5pm.

At 3pm I got a call from the Director of the Hospital, Ibrahim Sabou, whom I had spoken to two days earlier about the year-long wait for our NGO status. Not sure why I mentioned it to him, but at the time he said that he knew the Minister of the Interior. Today he said he was coming to pick me up to take me to see the Minister… Ed just arrived back and we both got ready to go. I asked the Director to contact Hamani to meet us there as I knew we would have need of translation and Hamani had been walking us through this whole process for NGO status for over a year.

As we waited at the Ministry offices for the Minister to arrive, we walked into another person’s office to ask where our P4K file was. Sure enough, as expected it was under a pile of other files that could easily have stayed there for another year… I gave out pins and pencil necklaces to Ibrahim and the Ministry staff while we waited for Hamani and also the Minister to arrive.

The Minister ushered us into his lovely office and began to explain in French why our application had taken so long to approve. Ibrahim told him all that we were doing in Niger with P4K and with ORBIS and the Minister apologized for the great delay, or at least I think that’s what he said in French. He assured me we would get our status next week. He couldn’t do it before I left on Sunday as it was already Friday afternoon. And he said not to expect it on Monday morning at 6am either. Ha Ha. ….. We gave him a pencil necklace too and Ed asked if we could take a photo with him, which we did. FINALLY after over a year of tremendous time and effort we will now get our official NGO STATUS in Niger which allows us to send things into the country duty free and hassle free, in addition to other benefits.

Then we came back to the hotel and Ed and I met the musician, Abdul Salam Mamoudou, who composed the music for us for the Pencils for Kids song. We had asked him for a recording of this new song he wrote so we could teach it to children here. He gave us a CD of him singing it without accompaniment.

At 5:30 pm, we had our anticipated meeting with Hamani, the Mayor, the Chef de Canton, Mary , Fatouma the Vice Mayor, Gaston, me and Ed. This was a very important meeting where we could finally all sit around a table and talk about what we had accomplished, what more was needed, what were our priorities going forward etc…

Gaston chaired the meeting and it was in French, except for Gaston’s translations to me of what everyone was saying. I noticed during this meeting how very wise the people on our committee were. Each one brings such different expertise and talent to the table. The Chef did not speak much, but when he did, he managed to bring everything together in a few choice and salient words.

It was a really really great meeting lasting 2 and ½ hours. But we covered so much and I was very pleased with the results. We received tons of wonderful feedback and information which I will put into meeting notes for our P4K meeting at home. Suffice it to say we are all of one mind on sustainability and we are all on the right track so far with our programs.

I did ask the Mayor at one point if there were any children in Liboré still not going to school at all. I wasn’t counting the children learning in a hangar or under a tree. He surprised me when he said yes. There were still many children without schools. When I asked why we had just built a school to replace a shade hangar when there were children who had no hangar at all, he explained the following. There are places where the government refuses to build schools because it doesn’t feel the population size or number of children warrants the expense of the teacher salary etc… There is apparently lots of red tape to get schools approved in these villages and hamlets. I told the Mayor to start up the paperwork because I didn’t want to leave any child in Liboré without access to education at all. Let the challenges with the government begin. Time was of the essence.

Afterwards Ed and I were picked up at the hotel by DOV PASTERNAK from Farmers of the Future and were driven to a nice restaurant specializing in fish, that he recommended. We had a fascinating discussion with him about the details of the FOF program and about what brought him to Niger for the past 8 years after living in Israel. He is an interesting man with a passion to make a difference and I now know more about agriculture than I ever dreamed I would.

I am absolutely hooked on the Farmers program and Liboré will be the first ever official pilot of the program. The other sample pilot that Dov had done, in Sadoré, was a smaller test case.

I learned about drip irrigation, Moringa vegetables (most nourishing veggie in the world and very popular in Niger), growing of Mango trees, Pomme de Sahel, (grown and nicknamed by Dov himself) and all the ways we can make this program work.

All in all it was another great day.

Comments are closed.