May 10, 2013
News from Monica
The month of April was a time for Joseph and myself to complete required protocols and paperwork to obtain official authorization for our work in the village of Vakpossito and in the parish – Mary Queen of the Apostles in Vakpossito. After a number of meetings with Chief EHLAN Komi Ahli we began working with the village women’s group in the village of Vakpossito. NOVISSI HABƆBƆ is the name of their group. This implies, Hand in Hand.
The group began 3 years ago after there were continual problems meeting daily needs after a death in the family or a medical problem. Traditions followed for funerals are costly. Family members will use savings to purchase clothing and accessories to be used exclusively for the funeral day. Afterwards there is always a financial shortage for the essentials. The group has built a strong sense of community. There is the hope of change, but the uncertainty of how to begin.
For us as an organization focused on engaging the people in own development we are meeting with the women in small groups to listen to each one express their primary concerns. We are explaining our approach to development and collaboration. Most of the women speak in the local dialect of Ewe, so I rely on Joseph for the communication aspect of our work. In time I hope to acquire a working knowledge of the local dialect.
As we met with small groups (5-7 women) I was profoundly struck by their willingness to verbally share. Even though I cannot understand the words they speak I certainly could understand the pain, suffering, frustration and desperation which were conveyed nonverbally.
We want to work as a group so we are compiling a list of all their concerns and will then present them to the large group and from there collectively decide on the three top priorities. Water and healthcare are the ones topping the list.
Education is fundamental to any of the work we do. We have begun to slowly point out factors influencing health which they are unaware of. As connects are made change will begin.
As I have walked around the ‘quartier’ of Vakpossito, it is impossible to overlook the presence of discarded waste everywhere. Black is the predominate color I see because the black plastic sacs are used by all local vendors. Once emptied they litter the area. During a recent storm I was struck by the amount of black plastic flying around in the air.
The lack of solid waste management has also endangered underground water sources. In the rainy season water will pool or with the gradation of the terrain, water runs around the well or water source. Water pools with all of the waste and sits for days. It’s a great breeding ground for all types of insects especially the mosquito which is the insect vector for malaria.
Solid waste disposal and management is a critical need we are addressing. There is no established system of collection and disposal locally or nationally. We are in the beginning phase of starting a local program for the quartier of Vakpossito. We are not only looking at clearing away what has already accumulated, but also decreasing the amount generated.
Multiply the H.A.R.V.E.S.T. is doing its small part by using only reusable cloth sacs to carry our produce and other items from the market. Often this is met with surprise. Recently when I refused a plastic sac, I was asked if I was an environmentalist. I guess I never really thought of that label, but have always respected the environment.
On a personal note, I am slowly getting to know my neighbors by name. The children are always so excited to yell – Yovo, bon soir (White, good afternoon!) – no matter what time of day! Recently I have been asking them to call me ‘Monica’. Since it is a different name for them, they are a little shy about saying it. I will hear it, but don’t see anyone when I look around. Often the kids will yell my name and then hid behind a tree or pole. In time a head pops out with a big smile.
Thank you for taking time to read our news from the field. I will be in touch again in a couple of weeks.