Board visit report February 2016
Heribert Prockl & Peter Mathar
Day 1: After a perfect flight we land on time in Ouagadougou, full of expectation of what we are about to experience in the coming week. A message from the airline appears on my cellphone. Our luggage has not been loaded and is still in Paris. Great! We fill in several forms and finally set off for AMPO. No luggage, but not discouraged.
Day 2: Early in the morning I suddenly wake up: “Has a lorry just driven through my room?” The noise of the traffic in the nearby street is almost tangible. After a hearty breakfast we are greeted with a warm and voluble welcome by the AMPO Directors, although Peter and I hardly speak French. However the fundamental cheerfulness of our Directors is beyond words and it is also infectious. Andrea Reikat joins us and starts to interpret. We begin with a visit and inspect the premises on the AMPO site that were renovated or newly built last year. We visit the shop selling products from the AMPO workshops, articles made by the girls from MIA-ALMA and things made by former AMPO pupils.
Finally we are shown round the Clinic by Denis Yameogo. We are impressed by the fact that many patients, mainly women with children, are helped every day with such rudimentary equipment. Most patients cannot afford treatment through the official health system. At AMPO they only pay a small nominal fee and receive the medicines they need which they would otherwise have to pay for in hospital. In the afternoon a visit to the new Benga Zaka project is on the agenda. My impression is that this new project has got off to a good start and we will soon set up a home for girls along the same lines.
We are then treated to a traditional Burkina welcome with drumming, music and dancing at the orphanages. 170 children and young people celebrate our arrival and infect us with their joie de vivre. A courtyard full of happy, cheerful children. It soon gets dark and our first day leaves us with a very pleasant feeling.
Day 3: We go to visit the Tondtenga Agricultural College together with our friends from the Dr. Elvire Engel Foundation in Luxemburg which finances this project. This is where around 80 boys from surrounding villages spend 2 years learning about organic farming methods. The journey along asphalt roads and rough tracks is very impressive.
We are welcomed at the farm by applauding agricultural students standing in lines that we pass along one by one. After a short welcome speech we set off to look at the various animal stalls for ducks, hens, turkeys, pigs, cattle and rabbits. We also inspect the cultivated areas and confirm that the financial means are being spent as we would wish.
Day 4: Today is a long day of meetings. We start at 9 o’clock with a round of discussion with the Directors of the AMPO institutions. We have enough topics for discussion: what are the tasks and the targets of the Board of the Sahel Association, what do we have in terms of specific, collective plans and how is the financial situation looking? We agree on a new common goal: by September we wish to set up a home for girls along the lines of the home for boys. Everyone agrees that this is a very sensible development of our training concept and it will help some girls a great deal in coping with their vocational training, making them better equipped for their next stage in life.
After four hours of intensive exchange most of us are exhausted and need to break for lunch. In the afternoon we reconvene with other participants to discuss the matter of the restaurant. We are able to come up with a good approach towards finding promising solutions because we all basically agree on the goals. Seven hours of intensive discussion in French and German take their toll and we are very happy to accept an invitation to dinner at Andrea Reikat’s.
Day 5: The MIA-ALMA project cares for female minors with HIV who have been rejected by their families. In some cases the girls have babies of their own. Together they welcome the guests from Germany with singing and dancing. On the whole the project gives the impression of being very well looked after and well organised, although the young women who live there are certainly not easy to care for.
We move on to P.P.Filles, the AMPO Counselling Centre for Women. In a nutshell, the work concentrates on the following: educating women and creating awareness, allocating microcredits to groups of women, social assistance for the needy with food aid and other kinds of support. In comparison to the bright eyed children at ALMA-MIA this is plain fare indeed, but it serves to illustrate the diversity of the work done by AMPO.
Day 6: Today we are accompanying Edouard, the Director of Handicap Mobile, the mobile wheelchair workshop, on one of his away assignments. Edouard and his team travel around neighbouring villages, repairing wheelchairs and tricycles for the poorest of the poor. Some of the people we meet talk to us about the suffering they have had. A young girl tells us that she had been unable to go outside the yard for seven years. She was given a tricycle a few years ago and now she is able to mix with other people and can even take on a small job. We hear similar tales of hardship and witness the profound gratitude of these people for the work done by AMPO. The faces and the stories really get under the skin.
Day 7: Madame Adamou is responsible for the training and education of the AMPO children and today she takes us to visit several training centres, one of which is a centre for training midwives, nurses and primary school teachers. To round off our tour of training facilities we go to visit a private university with around 3,000 students, 3 of whom are former AMPO children who have now been given the opportunity through our education promotion programme to complete a very good course of study.
Day 8: We start the day with a very nice ceremony. Edouard is handing over two tricycle wheelchairs to physically handicapped children. Connie, Peter and I confer briefly and decide to set a new target to finance 50 wheelchairs over the next 12 months. We are counting on the support of all of our AMPO friends reading this travel journal. All contributions welcome! A tailor-made wheelchair costs up to €300 and can make all the difference in the life of a person with handicap.
Back at AMPO the Directors are already waiting for us for concluding discussions. This final exchange is not only to draw a summary of our trip in professional terms, we could not conclude such an occasion without the customary exchange of pleasantries and mutual expressions of thanks. We laugh a lot, we joke a lot and all of us regret that Katrin was unable to be with us this week. Yet we still have the feeling that she is always omnipresent at AMPO.
I think the most significant result of our journey is that we got to know and appreciate each other better. This week certainly helped us to understand each other’s standpoints, problems and opinions. We came closer together, for there is nothing better than personal contact to improve cooperation. For my part I can draw a very positive conclusion to our trip and of course I will try to actively incorporate the many impressions, new information and new findings into my work on the Board.
Managré nooma, the good is never lost!
(Chairman of the Board of Sahel e.V.)