Sunday, March 29, 2009
The Girls at Bassam Celebrate...and Get Some Great Gifts!
Since the beginning of this journey, we've wanted to do something for the girls, too. If you've kept up with the blog, you'll remember that the students in NJ had determined to send them gifts for the holidays, like they did the boys last year, and they'd actually sent them off. However, and unfortunately, the gifts had been delayed in customs until late February.
Well, after such a long wait, Mme. Danho, the Directrice of Orphelinat des Filles de Grand Bassam, myself, and Dr. Kamara of Filles d'Afrique determined to provide a special festival for the girls, in celebration of women and girls for Women's History Month -- and to donate these long awaited gifts. We'd hoped to do a webcam with the students in NJ, but, in a telling and typical example of the obstacles facing these schools, there were problems with electrical outtages and surges that prevented it all from happening.
But that didn't stop us from celebrating!
The students in New Jersey had selected gifts, one for each girl at Bassam, made a gift card, and signed their name to them. We were able to distribute these gifts to each girl, and it was really touching to watch them process the idea that there was another young girl or boy on the other side of the world who had thought enough about them to get them a gift.
But the great thing is, it did't stop there.
"Filles d'Afrique," an NGO in Cote d'Ivoire under the leadership of its president, Dr. Kamara, has the goal of educatig some 200 girls each year in Cote d'Ivoire. They took the reins on this event, providing a singer, inviting media -- and providng each girl with a bag of school supplies.
In addition, Dr. Aline OulaÏ Piot, my friend and sister in law, and owner and operator of Pharmacy Deux Plateux and her new supermarket, Kangaroo, donated about $600.00 worth of pharmaceuticals.
Aline, like each of those who contributed to this event is an example to girls seeking to achieve their dreams -- and an example of what "children of the diaspora, united" can do.
I met Aline when she was a student at the Rutgers University School of Pharmacy, in New Jersey. We learned a lot about each others cultures, and about the life of women in each place. Aline was always driven and inquisitive, and she took her time in the United States as an opportunity to absorb everything she could about the best we have to offer, living ad working in different parts of the United States, before returning to Cote d'Ivoire to help her own country, and establish her own businesses.
Drawing from her experiences in the United States, she's had great success, and her pharmacy is known everywhere as "the one with all the toys in the front for children to play on," This is an example of a simple but effective re-invention of the American playground and amusement park idea that she picked up in her travels.
But the biggest surprise came from Mme. Kone - the Directrice of the Orphelinat des Garçons de Bingerville
Ever since last year, the orphanage has been fortunate to receive tremendous support. After our gifts and the 10 computers, they received support for creating a chicken coop, to raise food for themselves, teach the children a valuable skill, and bring money to the institution by selling chickens to the local community.
Then last week, I had the great honor and opportunity to meet Mme. Grace Ouattera, the Founder of Children of Africa, an NGO in Cote d'Ivoire that provided the school with a wonderful donation of new beds, cabinets, and other goods. Read about it here.
And just a few days ago, in response to the ICSA InfoPros for Peace community service campaign for the sake of Bingerville - and thanks in earnest to the efforts of our club president in particular -- there was a large donation of computers to Bingerville Orphanage! (The details will be described in future posts as Bingerville has yet to make their own formal announcement of this wonderful donation.)
But here's the est part...
Knowing that our goal had been to provide Bassam with computers, too, Mme. Kone chose to "share her good fortune," perhaps in keeping with Obama's recent admonition and reference to the age old adage that "to those who much is given, much is expected."
This was, in short, exactly the kind of spirit I would hope to be a part of and contribute to. I believe we made a great impression on these young girls.
Finally, we have to acknowledge the support of all the men that were present, from RTI television staff,who followed our story and aired it on RTI TV2 this evening, to TPIOT Interactive Media, the company that has been donating assistance with networking of the computers at Bingerville, ans will be helping at Grand Bassam.
In particular, there was M. Yves Piot (yes, my hubby!) President of the Federal Association of the We of North America (FAWAN) and Coordinator of Ivorians Abroad in North America. He and his organizations have supported these endeavors in numerous ways, and on this day, they videotaped, photographed, and Yves made a very good translator!
And M. Sahly Calile Francois, president of l' AEFOCI - Association des Anciens Eleves du Foyer des Metis et de l'Orphelinat de Côte d'Ivoire.
As an alumni of Orphelinat des Garçons de Bingerville, he works closely with them for a number of programs.
Today, moved by the event at Bassam, he pledged to invite the girls to a festival at Bingerville, and talked about the need for more integration of the boys and girls in the future.
View all of the pictures on my MAC Mobile Me Gallery.