Archive for November, 2007

work update

Monday, November 26th, 2007

 Friday morning I participated in a exposition on solar energy at Lycee Techniaue, organized by the proviseur and supported by the Goethe Institute. Solar energy is definitely under utilized here.  Not only would it be great to see solar cells bringing energy to villages but also replacing the expensive diesel generators that power entire villages or larger businesses.  Even solar ovens instead of wood based coal would be great.  As one of the 5 presenters, I talked about global warming and what is going on in the States in terms of renewable energy.  I got enthusiastic applause for greeting everyone in the local language.  More interesting were the talks on how solar energy is currently being used in Togo and its benefit.  There was a demonstration of several solar products such as solar ovens and my solar battery charger.  There was a lot of discussion about why solar hasn’t been adopted yet here, even in cases where it would be affordable.  I think the biggest reason is that it is hard to change what people know and introduce new ways of doing things.  (Not so different from why don’t we use it more in the States).  The issue of only being able to collect solar during the day was also hinted at.
 I had my second meeting of the “Club des Amis d’Ordinateur” at LycŽe La Gr‰ce.  The 25 high school students decided to build a web site.  They are a great, smart bunch and I am privileged that the director of the Lycee is letting me work with them and giving us the freedom to work on fun projects. 
 I also led the second class of 5 professors at Lycee Technique. They have volunteered to take 3 hours a week of computer training with the goal of teaching IT to students and the community next year.  That has been fun: they are interested in the pedagogical approach as well as the subject matter.  This week we introduced the mouse and keyboard.  There is so much more to the keyboard than just the letters – such as the shift, enter, and delete keys.  They have decided to write a manual/lesson plan in French on how to teach IT in Togo which they can use or distribute in the future.  Typing and formatting it gives them an immediate application for their new knowledge. 

Thanks and Thanksgiving

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I am so grateful I have so many friends, whether Togolese, American or European and either here in Togo or spread across the globe.
First of all thanks to everyone for supporting the Girls Scholarship Ride. I rode Monday and started to ride Tuesday when a persistent and seemingly unfixable chain problem left me stranded on the side of the road about 20 minutes after starting. I hailed a passing 16 seat taxi after about an hour and got to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery jammed in the front seat with 2 others and the driver. The load of 20 odd passengers in the van (not counting the 3 on the roof with my bike) found it immensely amusing when we passed the other volunteer riders and I shouted encouragement to them from the car. In any case, the fact that so many of you are so generous is really going to make a difference in girls’ lives.
Thursday was an amazing Thanksgiving with one little hitch. I taught English in the morning; I was across town and my PCV friends were at my place preparing to cook when my water was shut off. Luckily my friends are great and we took shifts carrying water buckets from the neighborhood well for cooking. A kind Togolese friend took care of the problem (I missed a bill) and the water was reinstated before dark. In any case, the meal was incredible. One volunteer brought a live turkey in a taxi from her town and killed and prepared it. I made salad with lettuce from my garden. Others provided dishes based on local ingredients such as mashed potatoes or prepared things sent from home such as mac and cheese. It was all delicious and especially great to see so many friends.

AIDS Ride 2007

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

We toured our Region on bike; speaking about AIDS to smaller villages. Here is a girl answering a question about AIDS. See more pics on Flickr.

Togolese girls deserve an education too

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Girls in Togo do not have an easy time.  They are often expected to rise before dawn to sweep the house and courtyard, fetch the water from the well, and help with cooking and caring for younger siblings.  This is often completed before walking several miles to school.  But here, girls who even get to go to school are lucky.  With limited means, parents often choose to pay the school fees for their boys and not girls.  Girls who do continue with school are often responsible for buying their own school notebooks and pencils, which might require them to work outside the home in addition to their housework, leaving little time for the studying required to succeed.  In the Lycees (high schools) I work with, it is obvious that the boys outnumber the girls by huge ratios. 
      And yet girls’ education is crucial.  Many of you are parents and I ask you to imagine your (or your wives) pregnancy without reading a book of advice, or raising children without being able to turn to Dr Spock or What to Expect or the internet to learn about how to feed or care for your child.  Imagine not being able to read a prescription for yourself or a sick child.  Imagine not reading to your children or being able to help them with schoolwork.  Imagine being totally reliant on a husband for help with counting and money (and then imagine that you share your husband with 3 other wives).  Of course, being literate helps girls and women throughout their lives, not just in their roles as mothers.
      Several years ago a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo died in a car accident.  A scholarship has been set up in her name to pay the school fees of promising girls so that they can continue schooling.   This scholarship is called the Karren Waid Scholarhsip Fund.  Next week I will join a group of volunteers who are biking from the most northern point of Togo to the south to raise awareness and money for the Karren Waid Scholarship.  I will only be joining them for a small part of the ride – 2 days for 120 kilometers.  I am asking you to pledge your financial support for my portion of the ride.  The cost of supporting one elementary age girl for a year is $15; for a high school girl it can be up to $100.  Average annual income here is less than $300.  I understand that you receive many requests for aid (and will probably receive more from me in the next 2 years); please feel free to give the amount appropriate to your budget or not at all.
      Thank you in advance.       You may send me an email with the amount of your pledge or comment on this blog.  Please note that comments need to be approved by my before they appear on the site to avoid spam and insensitive comments.

NOTE Karren Waid is not a nonprofit in the United States; just in Togo. they are working on setting up a nonprofit in the States but in the meantime it means that contributions are not Tax Deuductable. I understand if this affects your willingness to donate. I will send you information if you pledge on who to make a check out too.