Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Ambassador Trip Day Two

“Okay,” you are saying, “but what happened to Day One?”

I was far too tired to write anything, that's what happened. I arrived safely in Dakar on Sunday, as I said, and yesterday we visited with World Vision Senegal Head Office in Dakar, an easy five minute walk from where we are staying. We were invited to join with the staff for their weekly devotions and then informed about the work of WV Senegal: how it is organised, what projects they are running, and so on. It was fascinating and you could see us all gradually starting to realise the difference child sponsorship makes. We were all buzzing with excitement at the end of the various talks and eager to get started. After a quick site-seeing trip around Dakar, followed by lunch, we began the long and hot trip south to nearer the Area Development Project (ADP) where most of us sponsor our children. I must confess that I slept most of the way having not slept much the night before!

 We arrived up a bumpy track to the most amazing hotel – more like a resort. We each have separate rooms arranged to look like an African compound complete with thatched roof. There is a swimming pool and access to a beach. I must admit that my first thought was, “Oh my goodness, this is totally out of my budget. I need to stay somewhere else,” until I was informed that as a WV group they have slashed our rates. Phew. Check out the web site for the Saly Princess

Today we began the visit in earnest and I think we have all returned to the hotel emotionally on a high and physically exhausted. We left at 7.30 this morning for an hour's drive to the ADP where we were met by every dignitary in the area I think, including the village chief, Regional Council President and the MP. They all joined in a discussion with us explaining how they all work together with World Vision setting targets and implementing them. We were all particularly impressed with the sophistication of the area report produced by the council showing their development targets for the next year. The village chief explained how WV had made an impact on his village (“I like World Vision because when they say they will do something they always do. We can rely on them and we trust them.”) and the local Head Teacher who explained that as the school now has a roof and refurbished rooms he has a much greater pupil number of pupils staying on at school.
The Guard of Honour
The two boys on the right of the picture are the Prime Minister and President of the school council
Lots of bottom wiggling and drums. The ladies playing the drums get their noise by having empty bullet cases over their fingers. Yes, really.
 After this we were taken to a local preschool. To be honest, this is where it all hit home for us. Before we even got out of the bus we could hear drums and singing and there was a guard of honour of pupils at the school gate wearing Senegal colour sashes. We were paraded in and the singing reached an almost deafening crescendo. There was a large marquee full of women with the musicians; we stopped to watch the dancing for a while. Inside the preschool all the small children were sitting perfectly in rows. They sang for us, their teacher taught them a new song, we saw sketches and dances. The children do mostly rote learning and that was evident, but so was their joy at having us there although some seemed overwhelmed. The whole community had come out to honour us and the work that WV do. It was so humbling to realise that a small amount of my time to fill out a direct debit form leading to a figure on my bank statement each month helped to create this, life changing chances at education for so many small children.
Some of the children were a bit overwhelmed and bored by the lengthy displays of learning, but they didn't move from their places even a little bit. Impressive.
Sharon the Ambassador coordinator from World Vision being honoured by the mothers in the village and she hadn't even made her speech yet!
A lot of the children wanted to come and have their photos taken so that they could see them on your camera screen. As soon as they look at the camera they stop smiling and look serious.
Some children from the Secondary school proudly showing their school text books and exercise books to Jane, one of the sponsors and ambassadors on the trip.
After many, many speeches interspersed with more dancing, more singing, speeches about speeches and the presentation of a new ambulance to the area, we had lunch: a moment of calm. Afterwards we were taken to a health clinic where children are assessed and treated for malnutrition. There isn't a lot of that within the area, it is mostly due to early weaning and inappropriate food being given to small children. Nevertheless, they still need support and the mums still need educating. The programme works well and the health of the children improves.
A peer support worker demonstrating how to measure a child for malnutrition. The baby on her back has just breastfed and is now fast asleep, even upside down.
Naturally, the community had to come out and thank and honour us: more speeches (short), lots of singing and lots of drums and lots of dancing only this was different:

there was a man in the crowd orchestrating the whole thing.

His plan was quickly discovered by the women who co-operated enthusiastically. One by one a lady was pointed at and one of us was indicated. The lady stood up, the drumming increased, the lady danced over (dancing here involves leaning over, sticking out your bottom, rhythmical foot stamping and wiggling of arms and shoulders), then she made her way across the dance area, stood in front of one of us, danced for us and then we were grabbed and pulled onto the dance floor! Clapping, shouting, that strange tongue waggling cry, hands and arms waving and we were cheered. It was amazing fun and every body loved it.

First you are danced at and grabbed then..

You dance, much to everyone's delight!.
As I said, a busy day and emotionally charging. Two of our group visited their sponsored children today and both had tears in their eyes recounting their tales. Tomorrow I will visit Aloyse, the ten year old boy I sponsor, and I am a little teary just thinking about it. I will tell you what happens tomorrow night. Undoubtedly it will be even more emotional than today. Sleep well.

Sometimes the speeches go on a bit too long... but could you imagine this much colour walking down a British High Street?

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