Mar 22, 2010

COS is in the air...yikes!

Last month, foreigners throwing money around everywhere in Pobe had me questioning my work as a Peace Corps volunteer and my impact in village. This month, incidents in Pobe reminded me that money is not always the answer. Without getting into specific details, a school official asked one group for help at the primary school. The World Food Program would cease delivering food for the school’s free lunch program next year. The poor, helpless, hungry students would have nothing to eat, could the group give money to help? Of course they could, and they did, handing more than 1,000,000cfa to the person. Unfortunately they gave the money with no witnesses or people around, placing the money directly into the man’s hands. Instead of investing in sacs of rice/supplies for the students food he secretly opened a private bank account where the money could be hidden and spent as wanted. Luckily someone found out and notified Pobe’s authority figures. They demanded he return the money and chastised him, though that was the extent of the punishment.

Literally a couple days after, another incident happened at the school. A teacher called in a young female student (in 5e) to his home in the evening, harassed her and demanded sexual favors. She refused. He threatened to fail her. She still refused. So, he hit her. Her father found out and reported the incident to the school authorities. I witnessed the school officials “chastise” the teacher, though again no real punishment was given.

There are 2 things that realy frustrated me about this. 1) In both situations, asides from a slap on the wrist, neither was punished. I can’t help but think that if this happened in the States both men would have probably been arrested. 2) That both situations weren’t exactly shocking, even to me. Sadly these are situations that happen pretty frequently here. Both incidents just caused several days of exciting village gossip.

Women's Day exposition in the marchee. Women's group selling their handmade purses; Peuhl women selling milk

March 8 was International Women’s Day though in Pobe, the death of our mayor delayed activities until the 20th. The day included a woman's bike race, sensibilizations on maternal health, and lots of other women related activities. My part of the day included organizing an exposition showcasing all the talents/artisinal items that women make in Pobe. All day we had women set up under the hangars of the marchee, with little signs that I had made showing what they are selling. Women came with handmade soaps, traditional pagnes, clay pots, purses, and plenty of food items to sell. It was a lot of fun and the women appreciated being able to showcase their talents in front of everyone.
This past week I was in Ouaga for our Close of Service (COS) conference. Even though its early (service doesnt end until end of August) they hold it now to help wrap up our projects, and aid us in the transition back home (resume writing, job hunting, grad schools, career planning, reverse culture shock, etc). To be honest the conference really freaked me out, making me realize how close I am to the end. I am nearly 25, still no clue about what I want to do, or even where I want to do it!

Thomas and I "destressing"

Luckily, post conference there was the COS party, which was a great stress reliever. It was nice to see a lot of volunteers that I rarely see, talk with others, simply relax and enjoy the night.

Now back in village we're in preparation for the Library's big opening day on April 6th! We've been busy fixing up any last minute items and the library committee is in charge of organizing the ceremony. Should be a lot of fun!