Sorry for the long delay in posting a new blog message, but I am happy to announce that I have safely arrived in Niger! It was not an easy journey to get here. There were many points were I sat in airports thousands of miles away from home feeling sick, tired, and unsure if I was strong enough to finish my trip to Africa. Somehow I mustered the courage to keep going and to persevere through sickness and every potential delay known to man (snow, airplanes sliding off runways, airplane brakes not working, firefighters on the runway, etc.), and 55 hours after I left California, I arrived in Niger.
I wish I had more time to write and share about what I am doing as it's happening, but I have never had a more exhausting, time intensive travel schedule in my life. We are in different villages each day talking to women, playing with children, pumping water, and learning more about our micro-finance and savings programs for women. I have been so touched by the success many women have had because of the surplus cereal grain the World Bank was able to donate, the savings program that Word Vision and Wells Bring Hope made possible, and the gorgeous gardens that are flourishing due to local clean water wells.
Today I dedicated a well on behalf of Chadwick School. It was incredibly moving to speak to the people of Makalondi. They were welcoming, warm, and kind. I talked about the efforts of the students at Chadwick to help give their children a chance at an education. I was able to touch on my grandparents' dream of high school and higher education for their children and grandchildren. The villagers responded positively to my speech. The district mayor and village chief made a commitment to send their girls to school and maintain the well for years to come. I was able to pump water from the well and drink it. It was delicious, clean, and refreshing.
Other highlights of my time here have included getting to know our Nigerien soldier guards. I felt so special when the soldiers took the time to learn my name and practiced their English so that they could ask me questions. I have loved hearing the women talk about how their children are healthier, how wives are more independent and financially secure from their husbands, and how savings loans have helped turned small goats and little pastry cakes into profits large enough to send 6 children to school. I have also fallen in love with the sweet, bubbly children I have met. They are all so perfect and bright.
Please continue to wish me luck for the rest of my trip! I hope to post better quality images and video from my camera soon.
Fofo!! (Fofo means thank you in Zarma, a local dialect)