Happy Mother's Day

Trip Start Dec 01, 2007
Trip End Mar 27, 2010

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Flag of Guinea  ,
Sunday, May 11, 2008

Since I can't send you a present or even get you a card in any reasonable time, this blog is dedicated to you mom. So even though it's just a regular blog consider it written specifically to you.
So today we have been in Mamou for training for one week. One week of constant American company. It's amazing, really. But also overwhelming. Everyone went to Dalaba today to visit a forest or some such thing but I stayed here. I need to decompress and be alone. I honestly haven't been alone for a week and pretty soon I was going to become unfriendly if I didn't get a little me time. Everyone seems to understand and wished me luck in my effort at decompression.
So all of last week was local language training. I did Malinke and two classes of Pulaar. There are a couple families in my village that insist on speaking Pulaar to me, and expect me to speak it back to them even though Pulaar is spoken in the Fouta region, not the Forest where I am. So I thought I would humor them and at least learn greetings and how to introduce myself. Training lasted from 8-5:30. Try learning an African language for 8 hours a day. It gets overwhelming quickly so I'm glad that's over. The coming week is technical training to help us at the Health Center and with our secondary projects.
They hold this training after three months at site mostly for our sanity. After three months I was definitely ready to see everyone and just be American. We are set up dorm style with a hallway and three people to a room. Katie and Amy are in my room. And we've had two birthdays while we've been here, Liz and Alison. So for that we went dancing on Friday night. There were about 25 of us and we were the only ones at the club and they played American music which we could actually dance to. It was so much fun. What was not fun was waking up at 7:00 for class on Saturday. I'm also allergic to Mamou so I've been doped up on benedryl. Getting three hours of sleep and then taking benedryl is not conductive to paying attention. After nodding off several times I had to leave the session for bed. The next session I had to go to though. Steve, our country director, needed to talk to us about a lot of important changes that are happening in Peace Corps Guinea. Basically everyone is leaving, senior staff wise. Each sector of our training group, Health, Agroforestry and Small Entreprise Development has an APCD, our bosses essentially. Then their boss is the country director. From June to August all four of these people will be leaving. This could change our lives as volunteers dramatically depending on whether the new management is strict or lenient, organized or unorganized, empathetic or not. Currently Health's APCD, my boss, is a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer). She knows what we are going through because she has been there before. When I went to her with some problems I'm having with harassment she was able to tell me how she dealt with the exact same thing in her village in Cote d'Ivoire. Our new APCD is not an RPCV, she's not even American. But she has worked with Peace Corps for many years in another position and she has a lot of experience with the Guinean Health Care Structure. There will definitely be a noticeable difference but I don't think it will be bad; just different. But we're also really going to miss everyone that is leaving. When you're in such a stressful situation already, change is just that much harder. Fortunately, we're getting another 22 people in the education training group that arrives in July. We aren't allowed to meet them until their site visit in September but I've found out that I will be getting another volunteer about 60 km north of me. Yes it is pretty far away, especially since I have to 15 km in the opposite direction to get a taxi there but just knowing that I have someone closer than 170 km north of me is comforting. I can bike that in about 6 hours and with practice it will be shorter.
Ok I want to wrap up with a little blurb on the Girl's Conference we're doing at the end of June. 
Peace Corps Guinea is currently planning our annual Girls' Conferences in Mamou and Kankan.  The Girls Conferences will be three-day conferences June 22-26, 2008. The participants are approximately 40 school-aged Guinean girls' volunteers' towns and villages.
Why a Girls Conference?
 In Guinea, as in all of West Africa, the challenges that young women face each day are abundant and all too common.
 Limited resources, social mores, and cultural expectations all play a part. Many families are too poor to send all of their children to school and will often send sons before daughters. A Guinean girl can be married off as young as 13 or 14, increasing her domestic responsibilities and affecting her scholastic career. Exhaustion from domestic work, little to no free time to study or complete school work, sexual harassment by teachers and other school officials, unequal treatment in the classroom, and ridicule in the school and community settings (for either doing too well or too poorly) all create barriers to girls' education.  The social status of a girl or young woman in Guinean society means that she has very little say, and very little experience making her own decisions. 
 In addition to education, Guinean faces several other crises for women. The rate of female genital mutilation still tops 95 percent, resulting in health risks and suffering each new generation of young women. Malnutrition results in death, blindness, and countless other health problems for Guineans nationwide. Educating young Guinean women on the benefits of foods to which they already have access is essential to improving overall health. In its impoverished state, Guinea's youth also face the spread of HIV: "Out of every nine [Guineans], five are children or young people...Because of poverty, they are made vulnerable to epidemics like HIV/AIDS," according to UNICEF country representative Marcel Rudasingwa (UN News Services 2006).
These topics form the foundation of education that takes place at Girls Conferences each year.
Your contribution today can help us fund the 2008 Girls Conference.
What is Girls Conference?
Local contributors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteers work together to direct the Conferences, planning interactive sessions on topics crucial to the success and well-being of the girls. The girls learn techniques for success in school, educational and professional possibilities, and personal health (including preventing HIV transmission and family planning), among other topics. At the same time, they develop skills such as critical reasoning and public speaking so that, by the end of the Conferences, they will be able to confidently present the information they've learned.
A group of professional Guinean women will lead the girls through a typical day at their places of work and converse with them in a panel discussion on personal and career success. For many participants, this is their first such encounter with accomplished professional women. The schedule always includes a day spent on women's health issues with presentations about HIV/AIDS, family planning and nutrition. Recent conferences also included: basic computer skills, educational films (including women's rights, HIV/AIDS, and genital mutilation), invited speakers on women's role in Islam, guided discussions about polygamy and the effects on women, workshops on communication skills and public speaking and participation in sports and extracurricular activities encouraging teamwork, leadership, and critical thinking skills.
 This year's conference is particularly important because it is occurring at a critical time in Peace Corps Guinea.  After nine years of consecutive conferences, the strikes and civil unrest in January 2007 and suspension of the Peace Corps program prevented the conferences from taking place last year.  With the successful completion of this year's conference, we will be protecting our institutional memory and the tradition of Girls' Conferences for future generations of Volunteers and the communities they serve across Guinea.
How Can You Help?
We are now raising money for the conferences taking place in Mamou and Kankan from June 22-26, 2008.  Per Peace Corps regulations, the communities of the participating girls will be contributing 25% of the Conferences' costs.  We hope to raise the remaining cost via donations through the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP).
The total cost of the conferences will be $7,690.  Towns and villages throughout Guinea, the female participants and their families, and local NGOs and government officials will be providing $1,940. 
Therefore, our fundraising goal for the 2008 Girls Conferences is $5,748. 
 If you are able to help educate these girls and their communities to give these girls the tools and knowledge to build a better future for themselves, please contribute now. Our deadline is May 20th, so contribute soon!
To donate, just click on the link below or copy and paste the URL into your web browser. 
Thank you in advance,
Peace Corps Guinea Girls' Conference 2008
Project Donation Page URL :
The project number is 675-132 and Volunteer Coordinator is C. Forero
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