Saturday, April 25, 2009

Moving along in Benin

Things are really picking up in village. I also have a slight addiction to Cotonou, the big city. I always have a great time there and I have really cool friends. One volunteer is being transfered to Botswana and she will be missed very much. I've been really sad about it. She is one of my best friends in the Peace Corps. I could tell her anything and she always understood me. *tear* But life goes on. She is very happy about her new placement and I sincerely wish her the best. I also lost all my pictures in my camera so I'm really pissed about that.

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).