Thursday, December 24, 2009
World AIDS Day in my village on December 1st was a smashing success. Lots of volunteers came up to participate in the program. Male and female condoms were given out as well as HIV/AIDS awarness magazines and World AIDS Day t-shirts. They learned a lot and enjoyed the event. Also 200 people got free HIV testing in village that day. Also the US Ambassador was really impressed with my village and how organized things were. So things are looking good on this end. Apparently, the embassy here was so happy about it, they invited a girl from the states who works at the US state department to my post also. She came with the US embassy consulate. They were really impressed with my work in village and the consulate gave me the rundown on working for the foreign service. He was soooo helpful. I really want to do it. I really think the foreign service is my destiny. We'll see.
Yesterday, I treated myself to a holiday dinner and a silver ring. I made garlic pepper steak cooked in red wine with melted goat cheese on top. Served with a side of spinach and baked pototes. I had a split bottle of bordeaux wine from France and a big juicy mango for dessert. It was absolutely amazing. To top it off, the mother of a volunteer who I was very close to sent me a Christmas package!!! I got italian pasta sauces, scented candles (which I was always secretly envious of Steffi for getting often in her packages), cosmopolitan and trash mags (which i LOVE), tons of crystal lights and other cool stuff. That was soooooo nice of her. I needed the love. That's pretty much my update for now. Happy holidays everyone!!!!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
This is an added image to the health mural.
World AIDS Day is coming up on December 1st and I am planning a big event on awareness. It will be a complete and comprehensive day on HIV/AIDS education that will include films, a presentation from a person living with HIV/AIDS, a discussion on HIV/AIDS stigmas myths and facts, condom demonstrations, songs, HIV/AIDS testing and counseling for people with positive results, and a question and answer dialouge. Soooooo, it will be a big day. And guess who will be in my village during the event?? The US Ambassator of Benin!!! WOW RIGHT!!?? I will be sure to put up pics later on. So right now, I'm in Cotonou working on a grant to fund my event. I'll be heading back tomorrow because I have to bring back mosquito nets for my village. They came up with the money upfront to purchase them and I'm soooo encouraged about that. They are taking charge of their health and are not depending on someone to give them something for free. The sad part is there are no mosquito nets in the region for people to buy at subsidized prices. At least not his time of year. So I feel fortunate to know of an organization where I can purchase them to bring back to my village. I can't buy enough for the whole village at the same time but this is my third trip so far with purchasing them.
School started again and I have spoken to the teachers in a nearby town about having health talks in their classrooms. They are on board and i start my first one in this village on Wednesday. The topic will be on handwashing. They will learn the proper way to do it (with soap and or ash, and washing BOTH hands, not just the right hand that they eat with.) They will learn about microbes and worms and it's relation to improper handwashing and the lack of. They will demonstrate handwashing in the classroom and learn a song. I am very excited about it. The children really enjoy this lesson and I look forward to working with a new school.
Soooo, things are going great! Busy but great! Sorry I haven't been online lately to update my blog. Hope people are not discouraged by the absence and are still gaining from my online journal. I could still really use your encouragement and prayers. Keep in touch and thank you for all the support.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
So one of my friends went through my trash and found this Peace Corps article. And he speaks minor French so he wanted to keep it to remember me and my role as a volunteer. Next to Tom Kat. Isn't that cute?!
Yes it is what you think it is. Good thing they weren't used. This is what happens when people go through your trash. I have a latrine to put the others but I totally forgot to get rid of the broken ones I had. One woman's trash is another man's treasure. Should I tell him what they are??
Me and Nia. The pic was taken in my house. I use a sheet as a door to seperate my two rooms because it gets hot. People respect the barrier so it's all good.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Oh yeah, so when I got back from Benin, I found out that my weight dropped from 146 to 137 lbs. Everybody was talking about how thin I looked. I do not understand how that happened. Now I think I'm back to 146 lbs. It was ridiculous how much food I ate. I'm bringing back sunflower seeds, peanut chews, gummy hotdogs, and beef jerky for the kids. I also have a few baby clothes for my boss and some other stuff to give out. Hope everybody likes them. A toute a l'heure Amerique! (See you soon America!)
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Now here's the good news
I have been selected to be a volunteer trainer for the next group coming in July! I'm really excited about it. I will be helping out with child nutrition training and will be taking volunteers to my village during their technical visit. I can't wait to meet them. Not too long ago, I was one of the new volunteers confused, frustrated, excited and curious at the same time. It's nice to be one giving out advice and counseling when they come in with many of the same questions we've once had. It's all a cycle. Before I know it, my service will be over and a new chapter in my life will have started. I'm really thinking about grad school. I was so sure before I joined Peace Corps, then I started changing my mind so I could go straight to work, and once again, I am thinking about it. I spoke with the country director today and she really gave me some good pointers about paths after Peace Corps. We'll see what happens. What I need to do is crack open that GRE study guide again. I'll be taking the exam in Accura, Ghana either at the end of the year or early next year. I always get my work done so don't worry about me.
I also have been selected as the Volunteer Advisory Committee representative for my region! VAC reps are responsible for getting the volunteers together in each region to discuss new ideas, problems, and changes in Peace Corps policy. VAC really gives volunteers a voice and I will be with 5 other VAC representatives dicussing with the country director and administration what fellow volunteers in my region need. So it's good to have an impact.
I completed the PD Hearth Nutrition Recuperation program in my village! It was the first one done in my village and it was a huge success! We had 45 children and 28 mothers participate. Out of the 45 children who were underweight and malnurished, 43 of them gained weight. There are four color phases in PD hearth which determines your weight based on age. If you are in the blue, you are overweight and green if you are a healthy weight. Yellow is slightly malnurished, and red is severe. Half of the children who were in the yellow moved to green, and all children in the red moved to yellow. And this was over the course of 12 days!! So work is going VERY well. We have added moringa powder as a nutritional supplement to their porridge and the kids can't taste a difference. Although there is a slight color change. We also have added other foods to the porridge such as soy, fish, eggs to help pick up the weight. Each day the porridge was made with a different key ingredient. I think for the next Hearth program I will show them how to make mango porridge. I think they'll like that one. Why porridge so much? Because it's an EASY, LOW COST, and FAMILIAR food to make in Benin and it's easy to add key ingredients such as moringa powder. I had some great pics of the program but they were lost. I'll take more at the next Hearth.
We are starting a moringa tree garden in the village. We will begin planting by the beginning of next month. If you didn't know what moringa is, I will explain this miracle plant.
It filters water
High in protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, Iron
Great for diabetes
Great for people with high blood pressure
It grows in parts of the world most affected by malnutrition
It grows in harsh weather environments
It grows VERY fast
So people are excited. Hopefully, in the next 5 years, they will be able to make revenue by growing the plant and selling the powder in the market. That's my update for now. A la prochaine (till next time).
Monday, March 30, 2009
Burkina Faso was great. I met up with a volunteer I went to college with. It's good to see she's doing well. She plans on extending her service too! What else is new. I am a little homesick. I miss my friends and family. I spoke to my mother last week and I miss her a lot now. I haven't been gone this long from her. But I think it's normal to miss mommy every now and then. You only get one. I am still upset with my folks though. They should make more effort to try and keep in touch. I can probably count on one hand how many times I have spoken to my folks since I have been here. It's kinda pitiful. Also if you wanted to know I am also still single and me and my ex finance never worked it out. Oh well. Sh*t happens. Also, I dyed my hair. It's a good look. I will put a picture up when I can. I also was selected to be a trainer for the next group of volunteers coming in July. Exciting right?! I can't wait to meet them. That's all for now.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
SOOOOOOOO what do I do?? I drop the ring off and made the decision that it would just get worse later on down the road. As fast as I got engaed, it ended just as rapid. Life in Benin....What a ride indeed!
On a good note, I am in Burkina Faso for the African film festival. It is awesome!! The bus ride was 22 hours long. And my body wants to sweat but the air here is so dry I can't. But other than that the country is gorgeous and I am having a great time with the other volunteers!!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I get to Cotonou, hopped out the bush taxi, put on my helmet, then jumped on a Zemijan taxi moto (get me there fast in Fon) to head to the bank. It's 4:52pm approximately. About a block from the bank, as the Zemijan slowed down to turn onto the street of the bank, BAAM!!!! Me and the taxi guy were knocked off the bike, I hit the ground on my left side, messed up my foot, my elbow, but my head was okay (I wore my helmet). It all happened so fast. A man in a gray shirt snatches my purse off my arm while I was under the bike and ran off quickly. I scramble up screaming voleur (thief in French) not even looking at how messed up my foot is yet, and run towards the crowd of people running in the direction of the thief. A man hands me back my purse, I say thank you, I check on the Zemijan, he's alright and does not want payment. I think the thief was getting beat up by the people. There was an awful lot of shouting. But I didn't have time to see what happened. I hear it's normal. Felt a little sorry for the guy. Then, I glanced at my watch in panic. It's 4:57!!!!! I BOOK IT to the bank, limping at the same time praying that the bank isn't closed yet. I get there just at the guard shuts the door in my face. I frown, gave a look of pain, showed him my bloody foot through the glass and he let me in. All I had on me was enough money to get to the bank and a cheap meal. I had about 800 CFA in my pocket $1.75 USD.
I stand in line, sit my helmet down happy that I made it regardless of the accident because I would've been screwed for yet another night in expensive Cotonou. I just wanted to get back to my village with money to get by. I look in my purse to pull out my check so I can start filling it out....but my wallet wasn't there. Wait...neither was my passport. NOOOOOO!!!!! I got outta line and immediately started freaking out. I didn't cry because that's a weak thing to do here in public. But I really needed to. I had no money, no identification, no way home, nothing, but luckily my cellphone was in the small pocket of my purse. Glad he didn't see that. I think the person who gave me my bag might have went through my things because although I got my purse back, things were missing. Who was I to call? I only had enough phone credit to make one call. I would've put more credit on it after I got my money. But sh*t happens. I wanted to call Peace Corps but the building was closed, and my foot wasn't so bad that it needed urgent attention to call in the doctor. It could wait till tomorrow. And it wasn't like the thief could write a check and get it cashed tonight with the banks closed. I tried calling my fiance, but he was in Porto Novo because of work and I knew he couldn't get to the phone or to me at that very moment. He didn't answer the phone. That's another drama....So I called my friend T. He's dating one of my fellow volunteers here. I knew he would help me out. He picked me up three minutes later on his moto and took me to a restaurant where I was to meet up with three of our other friends. I guess they were all hanging out before I called. Thank God they spoke English. I REALLY needed to vent. They were Nigerian and could understand me. My dear 6'5 big-footed friend K. greeted me at the restaurant door and hugged me without noticing that he was STEPPING ON MY FOOT!! He apologized in shock probably 20 times and helped me to the table. A COLD beer was waiting for me. Along with a cigarette. Yeah, a cigarette. I needed one. I drank the beer and smoked while spilling out what happened to me. They were shocked and very sympathetic.
Once we finished our drinks, I was escorted to the car and taken to a supermarket. I was told to pick out whatever I needed to help me feel comfortable. I picked out a towel, soap, razor, and a bottle of South African red wine and they picked out ice cream, snacks, champagne and hard liquor. Those guys can drink. They payed for everything then took me to the pharmacy and bought me pain killers, antibiotic ointment, and gauze and bandaids. I have no idea how many times I said thank you. Then we went over C's house and relaxed and listened to some tunes. The pain killers really helped. The next morning (today), they cooked me breakfast and I was handed money since they knew I couldn't access any from the bank. It was way more than enough. They took me to Peace Corps so I could sort out all my information about my stolen items. I went to the police station to file a loss of ID form so I can get my account number changed at the bank. Then, I saw the doctor, got my foot and elbow treated, and she had me stay in the medical unit tonight. It is now 12:42am and I'm finished telling you about my story because I am tired and I'm now on my limping way to bed.
I was so happy and thankful that I had friends to look out for me. Of all my time here, on that particular day, I've had one of my worst experiences and also one of the best ones here in Benin. Moral of the story...It's good to have real friends.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
On another note, I am planning an HIV/AIDS Awareness Kickoff in my village on March 25th. Former President Bush allocated money set aside for programs in Africa relating to the epidemic. Say what you want about the man, but the money will be put to good use. All the funds through this program needs to be used by March 30th. So of course, I wrote a grant to get some of that money for my village. The program will first consist of a two day crash training course about the virus to the nurses at the health center I work at. The nurses there told me they have not received training about the virus. They do not use gloves during injections. Only during births. They told me that blood is not touched during the injections. Yet I have seen blood touched a few times. I asked them what would they do if a women or a man comes in the health center WITH the virus and they KNOW they have the virus. They said they would wear gloves. Then I asked them, how would they know WHO has the virus if there is not testing in our village. They were silent.
After the two day crash course training the nurses will help me run the program, a film about the virus in the Fon language will be shown to the village, a person who lives with the virus will come to speak to people. Then there will be lunch. Afterwards with the help of the nurses, there will be two seperate health sessions, one for people 15 and older (how to put on a condom, fidelity ect.) and another for the children under 15 (don't touch blood, seperate razors for scarification, basic modes of transmission) so the messages will be understood according to age and experience. At the end of the program will be a game of soccer played by the children of the village.
I also will be doing a four day bike tour riding to different villages talking about HIV/AIDS with 10 other volunteers at the end of this month. All together we will be biking around 30 miles. I'm very excited about it. Also the first week in March I will be traveling to Burkina Faso for the African International film festival. I'm VERY excited about that too. I hear there are strawberries grown there. Like I said before, it's the little things that make me happy. Also in March I will be in a two day training up north to learn about moringa. Google it!! It is a MIRACLE plant for malnutrition. It's grown in the poorest conditions in the parts of the world most affected by malnutrition yet few know about the plant. Can't wait to start a moringa field in my village. Then following that, I'll be going to a Gender and Development fundraiser dinner. A married couple is coming to Benin in July for service and the wife went to my small 2500 student populated college!!! It's really a small world! I'm very excited about it.
So in conclusion, my folks suck, work is going well, and I'm doing pretty good.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Bon appetite! My mom would be proud. Somebody even asked what restaurant I got this from...Satin's kichen : )
Very beautiful coastlines. Chilly though.