Projects for 2002
January 18, 2002
Now that trash collection is underway, I am turning my attention to a couple other projects in 2002. Take a look to see what consumes my days here in Cote d'Ivoire.
I started working with this group last year. You might remember my posting called "Just Another Day in the Village" about my first meeting with them. We have written cooperative bylaws and have applied to the local government for official status as a cooperative. When the official paperwork is done, I will put the word out to find a buyer for the cooperative's products. We'd like someone to come down from the north (where the Sahara desert keeps them from growing a variety of food) and buy our products by the truckload.
The cooperative also would like me to find a truck for them so they can drive their own products to a larger market. The population in Taabo is not large enough to buy everything the cooperative has to sell. I am not convinced that I want someone to donate a truck to the cooperative; I would rather see them save some of the money themselves. I'm still thinking on that one. The truck also will be used to take kids to school (over 10km away) and take sick people to the hospital.
Once the cooperative gets its sales going, we will move onto a literacy program for the cooperative members, and we will start planning a school to build in the village. I believe these women can do anything they put their minds to doing, and I look forward to seeing how we do in 2002.
I did have to laugh when I finally translated the cooperative's name. They
call themselves "Cooperative Eyo Enian Kate" which is Baoule, the
local language. In English it means "Kate's Let's Try It and See"
cooperative. Hmmm... perhaps when we are successful we will change the name?
We are going to have a library in Taabo! There are four elementary schools and a junior high / high school in Taabo, but no school or public library. Can you imagine?
The junior high / high school is two years old; before that, everyone sent the older kids away to school, or they had to drop out. Right now the school has 7th and 8th grades; they will add one grade each year until the school has 7th through 12th. With the new high school this seems like a perfect time to build a library.
I have lots of plans for the library! We will have three computers with internet access. We will have a place for literacy classes and a VCR for playing educational tapes. We will have a public copier and fax machine (for a fee...). We will have books and maps and magazines in French, English, Baoule (the local language), Spanish, and German. We will have an entire section on black heroes... not only black American heroes, but black African heroes. Can you believe many kids here don't know that people of color have written books or invented things? They think the white people have done it all. They need to have heroes!!
We will hold essay and art contests for the outside walls of the library building. For younger kids, the subject will be "The Importance of Education." For older kids, the subject will be "Black African Heroes." For the junior high kids, the subject will be "AIDS Prevention." The winner of each contest will be able to see his or her drawing painted on the side of the library, and of course, the each entry will be posted in the library for all to see.
Can you tell I'm excited?
Funding will come piecemeal. AOL has a program with the Peace Corps called "Peace Pack" to donate three computers and internet service to projects such as this. The sous prefet (country government) has donated a building. I believe the mayor's office will pick up the electricity and water costs. We plan to get lots of book donations from embassies of French speaking countries.
There will be a library committee to take care of local contributions. This will be in the form of work - cleaning and repairs on the building for example - or financial contributions. There are some wealthy people in Taabo who can and will support the library with donations. The committee will work with the local carpenters to give us a good price on tables, chairs, and bookshelves.
I hope the rest of the money will come from you, my friends and family.
program is called Peace Corps Partnership (PCP) which makes your donations tax
deductible. There is also the opportunity for a cultural exchange through PCP.
If your church, school, or community group would like to know more about Cote
d'Ivoire, you and I can work together to plan a cultural exchange. We can
exchange photos, recipes, letters, music, clothing... I'm sure you have other
ideas too! When my PCP proposal is finished (March), I will put a link to the
information on this website. Until then, please give some thought to a donation
and cultural exchange. Libraries are important!!
The poor neighborhood (cite ouvriere - literally translates to worker's city) in Taabo is made up of 70 apartment buildings with 14 apartments each. The buildings are arranged in four (one story) columns of approximately 20 buildings each. Some space in the middle of the neighborhood makes up the market area. The neighborhood is approximately 1/2 km by 1/2 km, and is crowded and very densely populated.
The cite ouvriere does not have indoor plumbing. Three apartments are assigned to share one shower and one toilet. The latrines are located between the apartment buildings. Because they are old, many of the latrines are full or the pipes are broken. Sewage leaks out of the latrines and meanders downhill through the neighborhood. It's gross. It stinks. You step in it when you walk. Animals drink out of it.
The right thing to do is to bulldoze the latrines and rebuild new ones. But, the mayor has plans to rebuild 25% of the neighborhood every year for the next four years in a large field nearby. The new neighborhood will be duplexes, not apartments, with indoor plumbing. So, it doesn't make sense to build new latrines that will be used for only one to four years.
On the other hand, this is Africa, and I have little confidence that such a large building project will be completed on time. So I want to do something to get the sewage out of the neighborhood!
A fellow Peace Corps Volunteer (Mark Fabian) helped me design a sewage runoff system that will be cost effective yet will get the sewage below street level. We will dig trenches about 1 meter deep about 1/2 meter wide, then fill the trenches with gravel. The sewage will run along the bottom of the trenches. The residents of the cite ouvriere also will be able to dump their "gray water" - water from dishes, laundry or bathing - into the trenches to help keep the sludge running downhill.
The trenches will run into large pits at the bottom of the hill. The pits will also be filled with gravel, and will be covered with water permeable fabric, then dirt. This will make them safe for driving, biking, and walking over. The pits will hold the sewage until the ground has a chance to absorb the liquid.
The Peace Corps will fund this project (I hope!). It will cost about $4,000. The community will do all the digging and gravel placement as its contribution to the project.
I hope the results are immediate - better health for the kids, reduced odor in the neighborhood, and perhaps even cleaner shoes for me!