Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Finished!

The school is finished. The roof is secure, the walls are strong, and it is covered with a beautiful coat of paint. I want to thank everyone who donated money to the project. Your generosity has changed the village of Killaloum. With better facilities the children will get a better education and the entire community will move towards a healthier future. All of us here in Niger want to say thank you. MUN GODE!

The 5th grade class at the Barmari Primary School thanking you all for the two new classrooms.

The builder and I posing in front of the new classrooms.

A picture of Madam Rikia teaching the 2nd level class in one of the new classrooms. Yakouba glances back at just the right time!

This is the first level class in their new classroom. They will be studying french and math all year!

The new school yard. Instead of just the one classroom, now there are three. It is hard to express how great this is. Friends and family from America coming together to improve the lives of my friends in Niger.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Fast has begun

A picture of the classrooms and the big acacia tree.

They work quickly and on narrow scaffolding. The masons are up while the gofers hand them cement and blocks. They are doing excellent work.

This is a picture of the building supplies we are using. The water and sand are carried from the garden by my villagers, (Their contribution) and the cement and all the tools are stored in the existing school building.

Ramadan has begun, but the classrooms are not finished. At this point all of the doors and windows are in. The roof has been put on and all of the plastering inside and out has been finished. All that remains to be finished is cementing the floors, painting the inside, and putting in the false ceiling. The construction will not be stopping because the workers have decided to continue during the fast. I do not have any pictures past the completion of the walls, but hope to take some soon. I am heading back out to Kilalloum today and will be working hard to get the building finished. Wish us luck. I have also posted more pictures on my facebook page of the construction project as well as other work that I am doing over here. If you are interested take a look.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The struggle

For about two weeks the internet all over town has been down and I am not sure when it will be fixed. I am engaged in a very frustrating battle to write this message, but a short cease fire has been signed and it appears I am able to post an update on the building project.

The second phase is underway.
The ground floor cement has been laid and the metal roof is scheduled to be put on next week. We are shooting to be finished before the Ramadan fast that begins in 24 days (on the next new moon)and that is also about the time I will be able to update this site again. I will take pictures during the final phases of construction and I will post them all as soon as I am able too.
The builder has kept the project running smoothly even through the very good farming season. The community has also put forth a ton of effort carrying sand and water before going out to the fields to put in a full days work farming. I hope all is well with you in America. I will be in touch.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Up to our ears in cement

This is my neighbor Omaru. The supervisor gave him a job as one of the builders. He is making 1250 cfa a day including lunch, about $3.50, which is a decent wage considering this is one of those countries where people live on a dollar a day. He is feeling good no doubt and that comes through in the way he is standing I think, he says "I look nice holding this shovel."

This is a picture of the builders. Nasiru is in the red cap and he is bringing the two masons, Maman Sani and Malam Moussa, cement as they lay another layer of bricks. Maman Ado looks on to make sure its all going to plan.

This is a photo of the two classrooms from a distance. They are each 35 feet by 20 feet, which is an excellent amount of space for the kids and the teacher and a vast improvement over the grass huts.


Construction is progressing smoothly. The city is carrying big drums of water on ox carts every morning and afternoon up to the construction site. The builders are showing up every morning to mix cement and carry bricks for the two masons as they plumb a line and bring the walls higher. The supervisor comes to check on progress and he orders more supplies from Zinder as they are needed. At this pace the school should be completed before the Ramadan fast begins around August 22nd.

The weather is much more comfortable because it began raining about two weeks ago. The heat is managable now and the farmers are happy. They are going out to the fields everyday to tend to their millet and bean plants. If things continue like they are there will be two new classrooms and a good harvest, which means momentum in a good direction. I will post more pictures and updates soon. I hope you are all well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Let's Build!

Thank you everyone for donating to the school construction project. I have received the funding and construction has already begun. We have mixed cement, sand, and water and made 2,200 cement blocks for our two brand new classrooms. The mason arrived today to lay out the site so we can begin digging the foundation. A dump truck of gravel roared through our small village a week ago, one of the two cars that were spotted in town this month, and on its way back got stuck 3 times. The village pulled together dug it out and got it back to the asphalt road after a couple of hours of mayhem. I am currently working on getting a camera so that I can begin posting pictures of the work and I promise to have some soon. I hope you are all well and want to let you know that your money is being put to good and efficient use over here in Niger. Take Care

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thank you

I wanted to take this time to thank everybody for donating to build two classrooms in Killaloum, Niger. The builder, the school director, and the community are very excited to begin construction. To all those people who have already donated, we all thank you very much. I will definitely be sending pictures of the school as the school goes up. If you know of anyone else that would donate to this project please direct them to the donation website. Again I thank you and will continue to stay in touch.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Estimate

Me in a grass classroom good thing the kids are smaller than me! Five kids squeeze into these desks for six hours of class.

It is nice to know where your money is going. Here is the building cost and materials for the two classrooms.

Rebar for the cement floor: $421.05
Gravel for the foundation: $770.02
Metal facia for ground floor: $505.26
Rebar for the cement walls: $1,1178.95
Cement: $6,315.79
Metal Corner posts: $505.26
Metal door and window frame supports: $212.63
Metal fasica for ceiling: $292.63
Outside coating of water sealant: $1,052.63
Rain gutters: $257.91
Wood drop ceiling: $757.89
Interior coating: $303.16
Stucco coating for outside: $682.10
Chalkboard area coating: $88.43
Coating for interior concrete floor: $663.15
Metal door: $210.53
Metal Windows: $526.31
Metal aeration vents: $75.79
Paint for interior walls: $669.47
Paint for doors and windows: $94.48
Chalkboard paint: $117.91
Fourteen new school desks: $795.79

Total contribution from America is: $16,497.14

My community will provide sand, water, and hard work. There cost is calculated below.

Labor: 11 people x 90 days = 990 laborers/work days.
$3.37 per day x 990 = $3,334.74. The total labor cost.

It is shocking to realize that $3.37 per day for work is a very good wage. Hired farm workers make $1.58 per day and it is considered good money. Most families live on about a dollar a day here.

Sand: 300 carts of sand x $4.21 per cart= $1,263.16.

The sand meeds to be very fine in order to make the cement strong. They will carry it from about 4 miles away on ox carts.

1000 carts x $0.63 per cart = $631.57

The community will contribute all of these things for free. There work hours, the sand, and the water. They are putting out a lot of effort for the school because they realize the importance of education and many of my older friends wished they had had the oppertunity to graduate from primary school.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Primary School

This is the existing primary school, just imagine three cement classrooms and only one grass hut. A better learning environment no doubt. I live with these students, they are my friends. I teach them English, how to protect the environment, we play soccer after school, and on Earth Day they helped me plant 150 trees. I help their fathers get access to better seeds, and every night I drink tea with the school director. America and Niger are half a world away, but right now there is an oppertunity to pull them closer together.

The main reason for publishing this blog is to raise awareness about a school construction project we have started here. The community asked me to add onto the school, so that the younger children had a better place to learn. This is a picture of the primary school in my village. The cement school was built only six years ago because the other primary school, west of town, ran out of room. There are now 150 students and four teachers at this primary school. The highest grade learns in the cement school while the three lower grades are taught in the millet stalk shacks. (just like corn stalk). They make due with the conditions, but cement classrooms are cooler during the hot season, cleaner, and there is more space for the students and teachers. There are 3,000 people in my village and about half of them are under the age of 15. That means about 1500 kids live in my village and only 400 of them attend the two primary schools. Only one fourth of them learn to read and write, but the primary school also teach about health, AIDS, geography, math, science, and the environment.
It is very important to build these additional classrooms, but Peace Corps does not provide direct funding for our work. We have to look to our family, friends, and community for help. In return I can share my pictures, my stories, and my communities appreciation. Every penny goes directly to building these two classrooms and I am going to document the progress on this blog every step of the way, so that even though Niger and America are an ocean away, we all can be involved.

My village

Guidimouni is a three hour bush taxi ride east of Zinder. It is famous throughout the region for its beautiful gardens and year round water that bubbles up from a spring west of town. An old man in the village told me that the city itself was founded a thousand years ago. People in my community are subsistence farmers and they never have a lot of extra money. Only a few families have enough money to see a doctor and women mostly give birth alone in their homes. Children here are at constant risk from treatable diseases, but health care does not reach out to Guidimouni. I have attended the funerals of two young children in the last two months, dead because of illness. This would be a tragedy in the developed world, but it is common in Niger.
The hardships of raising a family in Niger are mixed with a lot of joy. People have strong friendships and close bonds with their reletives. The children who attend school show up even if class is canceled, because of there desire to learn. When the sun goes down and the heat follows it, kids play and dance, women get dressed up and visit friends, and people crowd around a TV and DVD player hooked up to a generator to watch movies.
The victories of my work are small, but important, and during it all I am sharing with them my life as an American and learning about life in Niger.

My first days in Niger

Journal entry from March 20th 2008

I am now beginning to realize the gravity of my choice. It is my third day Guidimouni and it is passing mostly in silence. A radically different landscape, culture, and language is in the air I breath here. I am exploring ways of staying less hot and avoiding the flies. Two good days of work have organized my house a bit, but there are still many kinks to be fixed and small additions to be added. All together it is much tidier than it was, which brings me a lot of comfort. It is my house now and it is very private. After two days I am feeling somewhat comfortable around town. Being an instant celebrity is a large responsibility, even if my status is completely unfounded. I wish I could say that in Hausa. Lots of practice, effort, walks, and laughing will get me more comfortable outside my mud walls. My mind is racing with work ideas, but I just learned how to say, “I want to start a tree nursery”, but I can’t understand or answer any of the difficult questions that will inevitably follow. I would be a fool to begin something large right now. If I practice my language, greet people, shake off the oddity of my skin, and make my house and body more comfortable, that will be a good start. These are my goals for at least the first two months. It's spring tomorrow and its hot, the sun gets higher and higher in the sky everyday. Soon it will be directly overhead I was going to cut my hair, but I think I will wait. I do need a shave. I’ll call home tomorrow.