achatfromchad

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Archive for March, 2013

In Search of Brigitte Aboudam

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Just before we left France an Australian friend of mine (we shared a flat in London back in the 1990s) sent a very exciting and interesting e-mail.  Through a charity called WorldVision she and her husband are sponsoring a little girl in Chad. Maybe we would like to try and find her?

She lives in the Loumia Valley Development Area. Her name is Brigitte Aboudam and her World Vision ID Number is  TCD 173020 -1038. Brigitte is in grade 8. The Loumia Program Manager name is Ndjelaou Ngolyeo. If Carlo is anywhere near this area in his work , we would love him to say a special hello from us in OZ.’

So how could we resist such a lovely challenge?

As luck would have it, Loumia is on the road between N’Djmena and Moundou, about 2 hours south of the capital so on our latest trip down south we persuaded our driver to take us to the WorldVision base in that village.  Thankfully we had a 4 x 4 as it was at the end of a deep sandy trail in the countryside outside the village.  As with all the humanitarian sites we have seen in Chad, it was behind high wire fences with security guards at the main gates.  We talked our way into the centre where we met three delightful WorldVision officials.  ‘Sorry but for security reasons you cannot visit a child unless you organise it ahead of time with the chief of WorldVision Chad.  He is based in Moundou.  This is for your security and for that of the child.’  So that seemed fine as we would find Brigitte on our way back to N’Djamena in 3 week’s time as conveniently we were now heading for Moundou where we would find Simon-Pierre, the new man in charge at WorldVision.

Simon-Pierre with his driver.  He is in red shirt.

Simon-Pierre with his driver. He is in red shirt.

Two weeks later, and after several visits to WorldVision in Moundou, I had still not been successful in tracking down Simon-Pierre.  ‘Il etait en mission’ somewhere in the country!  Eventually he returned and I was invited to come and meet him. In fact I was lucky enough to meet Simon-Pierre Mbaindiguim (now we knew why everyone just referred to him by his christian name!) the Sponsorship Manager plus Edouard Ngoy, the Regional Programme Manager for West Africa.

I put my case to them and was given a foolscap sized form which had to be completed before I could visit a sponsored child.  This form would then have to be processed and then it would take a minimum of two weeks before a visit could be organised.   Again all to do with security issues.   We were running out of time so sadly I realised Brigitte would not be seeing us on this visit to Chad.  However Simon-Pierre was very happy to take my present (some pens etc) that I had brought for her from France.  He looked quite wistful and said ‘I am very sad because sponsor visits are a time of much happiness and celebration and I am sorry for this girl who will miss this’.  ‘I will arrange for her to receive the present so that she can write to thank her sponsors in Australia.’

Secondary school class wearing school uniforms

Secondary school class wearing school uniforms

Their teacher.  Very beautiful woman.

Their teacher. Very beautiful woman.

Since arriving in Chad, while Carlo has been busy working,  I have been trying to visit schools and clinics but it has not been easy.  Could I do some voluntary work?  I sensed this might be my chance. Simon-Pierre jumped at the opportunity and offered to take me around Moundou the next day.  So at 9am pronto we began visits to two schools, one a secondary and the other a primary school, followed by a long visit around a local clinic which used to be sponsored by WorldVision and is now self-funding.  The latter was quite hard on the senses as I saw small children stricken with malaria, many adults suffering from AIDS and all manner of other ailments the most common of which appears to be diarrhoea due to drinking impure water.   On a positive side there was a maternity unit for mothers and babies and that was a cheerful place until one toddler took a look at my white face and burst into tears.  She was still screaming when we left the clinic.  The mothers were all laughing but I felt quite daunted to have appeared so scary to one so young and innocent.

Pathologist in the clinic.  Wonderful microscope.  Note the samples in front of him on the table.

Pathologist in the clinic. Wonderful microscope. Note the samples in front of him on the table.

 

Urine samples in bottles.  Poo samples (locally referred to as 'excrement') samples in mango leaves!!

Urine samples in bottles. Poo samples (locally referred to as ‘excrement’) samples in mango leaves!!

 

Mother with child sick from malaria.

Mother with child sick from malaria.

 

The level of children in education in Chad varies from about 40% in towns, to 20% in rural areas.  Up north in the desert areas, where the people are nomadic, it is much lower than 20%.  I was heartened to hear that WorldVision give more educational sponsorship to girls than boys (60% girls, 40%boys) as traditionally girls get left behind in families as it is deemed they are more valuable at home cooking, looking after children, collecting water and so on.  WorldVision has been operating in Chad for 25 years and sponsors over 40,000 children with Canada leading the way, followed by the USA, Australia, Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan.

Primary school.  Childrens' seats are two layers of bricks concreted together.  No uniforms at this school.

Primary school. Childrens’ seats are two layers of bricks concreted together. No uniforms at this school.

'What happens when it rains?' I asked.  'The children go home' was the answer!!

‘What happens when it rains?’ I asked. ‘The children go home’ was the answer!!

108 children in this class.  38 boys and 64 girls!!  It should be 102 children.

108 children in this class. 38 boys and 64 girls!! It should be 102 children.  Hope it wasn’t done by the maths teacher or else we are dealing with 6 ghosts.

 

A teacher sitting in the cooler doorway of her classroom.

A teacher sitting in the cooler doorway of her classroom.

Simon-Pierre is himself the father of four children and clearly a very family orientated man.  His warmth when among children was evident as he took me from classroom to classroom where he either encouraged the younger ones to sing or the older ones to speak a few words of English.  Talking to him later in the day he said thoughtfully ‘for me I believe to invest in the child is to invest in the man’.

 

School children came out of the classroom wondering who was this white visitor.

School children came out of the classroom wondering who was this white visitor.

 

Children getting somewhat out of control after I showed them photos on the camera.  Simon-Pierre immediately told me to be careful as they would end up breaking the camera.  This was during a mid-morning break.

Children getting somewhat out of control after I showed them photos on the camera. Simon-Pierre immediately told me to be careful as they would end up breaking the camera. This was during a mid-morning break.

 

children running amuck after I took their photos.  Simon-Pierre hurried took us back to the car for safety!

children running amuck after I took their photos. Simon-Pierre took my hand and hurriedly ushered me back to the car for safety!  I wasn’t afraid but perhaps he was concerned about my camera?  There  are 4000 children in this school and we were rapidly being engulfed by them!!

 

Excited children waving goodbye.

Excited children waving goodbye.  The noise level of their screaming was deafening.

 

An e-mail has just arrived from Annie and Tom in Australia.  ‘We had to laugh today as we received a Xmas card from Chad from our World Vision sponsored girl, Brigitte Adoudam. Looks like the post In Chad is snail mail. It was posted in N’DJAMENA where the World Vision Chad Office is.’  The card arrived mid March!  Things do happen in Chad but we have long learnt that patience here is a virtue.

On our next visit to Chad, Brigitte and WorldVision will be on our list of priorities.  By then we hope we will also be able to visit a child who we may have sponsored.

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Road Accidents ….. how do they do it?

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

We recently came across this lorry on its side in the middle of a village on a perfectly straight road. It was towing a long trailer loaded with barrels of tar. How it simply toppled over is anyone’s guess. We supposed the load on the trailer de-stabilized:

I hope no-one got hurt!

I hope no-one was hurt!

A few days earlier Carlo came across this concrete mixer on its side. It was full with concrete mix. What a mess this would be. Again the accident happened on a straight country road. Speeding we imagined and again the concrete slopping around inside knocked it off balance??

Stricken concrete mixer full of unset concrete

Stricken concrete mixer full of unset concrete

This lorry is an accident looking for a place to happen:

Lookat the bulge on the right hand side and how off balance the lorry is!

Look at the bulge on the right hand side and how off balance the lorry is!

 

A mixed load

A mixed load!

Lorries being heavily loaded with cotton and rice

Lorries being heavily loaded with cotton and rice

Perhaps they should stick to this safer form of transport?

Perhaps they should stick to this safer form of transport!

On our recent drive back to the capital from Moundou Carlo counted 58 vehicle wrecks!  Somewhere en route we passed a friend of our driver Mohammed who waved and gave a big smile.  Apparently 5 minutes later that friend rolled his car and ended up in hospital. He tried ringing Mohammed to tell him he was in trouble but this was the day when most people, Mohammed included, had agreed to switch off their mobile phones in protest at the rising costs from the telephone companies Tigo and Airtel.  So the friend in need …….. alas his call for help wasn’t heard.  We chastised Mohammed.

Now I know why Annabelle stands in front of  her company drivers before each trip and says very firmly ‘remember, safety first!’.   This logo is also posted in large letters at the entrance of all Geyser sites in Chad.

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45 Degrees and Rising …..

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

We’ve been back in the southern reaches of Chad, in its second largest town, Moundou, which is close to the various oil excavation sites where the bulk of Carlo’s surveying work is taking place. Though the mainly unpaved streets of this town are an orange dustbowl it somehow feels a more pleasant place to be than the crowded streets of N’Djamena. Moundou is more akin to a provincial market town than a large faceless city and with that comes a friendly atmosphere and a better sense of community. We love it here in a sort of dusty, rustic way, if that makes sense. Everything is so down to earth and what is achieved on a day to day basis, both at work and otherwise, is often extraordinary considering the lack of equipment, facilities and supplies.

Dusty streets of Moundou on a good day!

Dusty streets of Moundou on a good day!

After rain these streets can look rather lovely

After rain these streets can look rather lovely

The mango season has arrived in Moundou

The mango season has arrived in Moundou

An interesting roundabout in Moundou called 'Place de L'Amite'

An interesting roundabout in Moundou called ‘Place de L’Amite’.  Not sure why the white chap is wearing army uniform?

A good example of how things work against all odds would be Carlo’s Moundou office of 40 staff (35 out on site, 5 in the office) which is producing complex engineering designs with virtually no electricity from the town. It has its own petrol generator which chugs along noisily all day powering 6 laptop computers and two printers and unable to power even one air-conditioning unit. A fulltime cleaner tries and keep the dust under control which is a losing battle. Theodolites and computers somehow survive. Carlo doesn’t, as he regularly comes back to the hotel to finish his work due to the generator and computer batteries having failed. But the work gets done.

After Carlo complained to his surveyors that their equipment was not kept clean he found them outside washing the tripods with soap and water

After Carlo complained to his surveyors that their equipment was not kept clean he found them outside washing the tripods with soap and water

Daily the temperatures are rising as we head for the rainy season which starts towards the end of May. We’ve become accustomed to 45C in the shade and that’s on a cool day. We walk bare foot around  rooms where the stone tiles are as warm as those in Europe when the underfloor heating is turned on. The air is so hot and dry that as we inhale it we feel our mouth go dry and our eyes sear and smart. The heat feels solid and cloaks us like a thick blanket, one we would gladly cast off in exchange for just a few moments of European coolness. BUT, and there is always a positive BUT, the dryness and heat are keeping the worst of the malarial mosquitoes at bay so the evenings are balmy and mainly insect free ……. at least until those storm clouds roll in.

waterholes are precious and shared by animals and humans alike

waterholes are precious and shared by animals and humans alike

The most interesting part about this photo is that there is a man in the water and he is washing his white goat

The most interesting part about this photo is that there is a man in the water and he is washing his white goat.  It’s not uncommon to see a motorbike or car being washed in a waterhole such as this.

We’ve had one recent night storm which cleared the dust for a day and it was bliss. Recently Annabelle and family were out of town so she offered us her pool if we felt like a swim. In this heat it didn’t take us long to accept. We drove to her house, were grilled by her over-zealous guard, and eventually dove into clear, cold blue water, refreshing after the warm, bottle green pool we were used to at the Club Coton Chad hotel! Wow, how good it felt to be cool. In fact the difference between the air temperature and the water was such that it almost took our breath away as the pool had only recently been filled. Annabelle has just told us that her guard left her a note to say that during her absence ‘some people called Carlo and Rosie came over to wash themselves in her pool!!!’ Next time we will take soap and a sponge with us!

Annabell's pool. For those who know Carlo well 'plus ca change!'. He is still cleaning pools.

Annabelle’s pool. For those who know Carlo well ‘plus ca change!’. See he is still cleaning pools.

 Carlo is taking the brunt of the heat here in Chad by the nature of his work which entails hours out in the bush with surveying teams, often far from Moundou. There the air is still and blisteringly hot with mirages rippling over parched landscapes. Nothing moves and nothing is heard except the occasional chirrup of some distant insect or bleat of an animal …… OR muffled music coming from the pocket radio of a surveyor. Goats and cattle hug the trunks of any tree they find, desperate for shade. Random trees give some protection but their leaves are sparse and thin and anything up to ‘standing-goat height’ has long been eaten! Sometimes also by camels. These trees will cling to life until the day the thunderstorms bring torrential rain and respite. By then we will be long gone from Chad and this will seem a very distant world.

What the goats can't reach and don't eat  the camels do!

What the goats can’t reach and don’t eat the camels do!

Dry countryside near Moundou

Dry countryside near Moundou

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