Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whoa it's hot!

Well, it is officially hot season in Niger. It has been hot season for some time now, and it certainly shows. Midday until four o’clock in the afternoon, no one can do a thing. I went out a little before two the other week and saw next to no one. Those I did see were sleeping or barely moving in the shade. For me, I can barely go past eleven in the morning before I feel the signs of heat exhaustion. I did not actually register that what I was feeling was heat exhaustion until I read the symptoms in this month’s country newsletter. Now I am trying to rest even more than before and drink more (deliciously hot) water, just in case. The idea of fainting in front of my villagers does not sound appealing. Even the nights are hot, and you wake up drenched in sweat. While this experience has certainly helped me overcome my fear of heat, my distaste for it still remains. I am not planning to move to Alaska when I go home, but the deep south or south west are certainly not on my list of places to live. I miss cold wet rains, chilly winds and snow.

Of course, when I have these thoughts, part of me yells profusely at myself because I am only here for two years. In the meantime, my villagers have to live here their entire lives. Even when I am here, I am not living like my villagers do. While I am guaranteed water no matter what (it’s in my village agreement), I am sure there are some people in my villager who are certainly not getting enough water, particularly when considering this heat. When ice or cold water is available, usually a couple times a week, I buy as much as I can. My villagers can’t do that. I also do not do half the amount of physical labor that the people in my village do. I spent one day sitting in the shade with friends in my market, watching five guys build a four-room, mud brick building to house small shops. They were still working by the time I headed home for lunch, and it was probably 105 degrees out or more.

More importantly, I am not starving and suffering from malnutrition. Many, if not most, of my villagers are malnourished all year around. Now, during hunger season, conditions are ten times worse. The last rainy season was not very good, and not nearly enough crops were harvested. Even with subsidized food from the government and humanitarian aid from the UN and other countries, people are not getting what they need. This is the first time in my villager when I have been regularly asked for food by ten or more villagers a day; that estimate does not include everyday beggars or the koranic school kids who beg for food as part of their, for lack of a better term, studies. With the starvation and the heat, it seems as if the death toll in this country has jumped significantly. I literally hear of at least one death a day somewhere in or near my village. These are certainly arduous conditions. And yet, my villagers just go about their days, heads held high and proud. Sure they complain about their wahala (hardship and tireness), but who doesn’t complain in the U.S.?

Now for something completely different…

I am doing a relatively large project and, depending on the success of my proposal, I may need help from all you wonderful people in the states! Yes, I am begging for help and for that, I apologize.

The project is pretty much your basic income generating goat project. Here’s the official project description:

Niger is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, ranked least developed out of 182 countries according to the 2009 UN Human Development Index. Among other things, Niger suffers from lack of human capacity, few natural resources and increasing desertification. This project will provide resources by giving goats to fifty women, who will then work together to breed and sell the offspring. Through workshops, the project will increase participants’ ability to breed and manage livestock as well as improve their knowledge of financial planning. While the community can provide the training, it does not have the means to buy the goats. Twenty-five pregnant, healthy female goats will be bought and given to fifty women, one goat for every two women to ensure initial cooperation and teamwork mentality. These women will work together, and once the goats give birth, each woman will then have at least one female goat to breed and sell the offspring. A portion of the money gained from this venture will go to the women and their families for food and living. The remaining profits will be saved in a group account to be used for other development projects. Within eight months, participating women will gain the knowledge and confidence needed to make good business decisions. They will have the means and know-how to continue their goat breeding business as well as pursue other income generating activities.

So here’s where I need help: fundraising. I have to raise a little under $1200. The fundraising for this project is run through a program called Peace Corps Partnerships, one of the most commonly used funding sources in Peace Corps. The community contributes at least twenty-five percent of all project costs (in this case, it’s 27% not including the cost of caring for the animals). The Peace Corps volunteer writes a proposal, which then goes through the country office and then the National Peace Corps office in Washington D.C. If they accept the proposal, they will put the project up on a website (I will give you the address when I can), where people can then contribute money online. Peace Corps Partnerships is funded through Peace Corps, so all proceeds raised for this project will go to the project and not elsewhere. You are also able to get a tax deduction from this contribution.

I feel fairly awkward asking all my friends, family and possible other random people for this. But I also figure you may feel more comfortable giving to charity when you know (100%) where that money will go (to my village via me!). Of course, my proposal is still waiting for approval from Peace Corps, so this whole project may blow up in my face even before it’s begun. However, I wanted to give you all time to think it over and ask me any questions that you might have. As soon as my project is approved and put on the website (knock of wood), I will be sure to advertise it anywhere and everywhere I see fit.

I would really like this project to be successful. My women in my village are so incredibly excited. They’ve even started raising their own funds to care for the goats. Originally I said they each had to contribute 1000cfa (about $2) each by the time we buy the goats. That is 100cfa a week for ten weeks. Of course they decided to start now. So by the time the project starts, they will certainly have more than the 50,000cfa that I specified as part of the community contribution on the proposal. Having heard from other volunteers about their villages’ lack of motivation, this demonstration of dedication has really inspired me. I love my villagers!

So there it is: another blog entry. I will try to make the next one more interesting. For now, sai anjima!

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