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.