Here at last is another long, detailed letter from the dusty capital of Burkina Faso. You are probably fighting off coughs and colds at the moment, because I’ve been hearing that the warm winter has given a boost to those types of illness, so I hope your resistance is high and that you are taking plenty of herbal tea. We are coughing as well, but that has more to do with the dusty winds blowing in from the Sahara, which unfortunately are responsible for the spread of serious meningitis. All of the AMPO children have been vaccinated in our clinic, including our 150 members of staff and their children too. That makes a total of 650 vaccinations, some of which cost about USD10. You can well imagine how many people die in this poor country simply because there is no money for vaccine. So we also vaccinate people in the neighbourhood, but every year there are many deaths when meningitis spreads to epidemic proportions.
My past few months with the children were wonderful. When I arrived I was immersed in a wave of love. Sponsors often ask how I cope. And I reply: so much love from the children cures any illness. I immediately started to feel better. Never before have I had so much time for the children – we made things, we cooked, we baked Christmas biscuits, made music, learned German Christmas carols and visited the various AMPO institutions together. There is so much going on. At the MIA/ALMA project we built a new kitchen, set up a new kindergarden for 25 children and we are currently working on a small house to accommodate trainees. This was partly financed by our association in Switzerland, the Roth District, our Danish association and the Katrin Rohde Foundation in Germany (which also welcomes contributions and is the right address to contact in matters concerning the sustainability of AMPO). The overall project is being financed by our association in Berlin. We have just had a visit from 3 of their members who were delighted at the progress the girls are making.
Our Agricultural College Tondtenga and its donors in Luxemburg are struggling with the new applications to the relevant ministry. The plan is to provide the newly established farms throughout the country with more start-up capital to lighten the burden on the young eco-farmers. The P.P.Filles Counselling Centre was pleased to move into larger premises where they have more room for their ongoing work with groups of women. Our older boys are also happy, especially those who are now able to study or move on to higher education. Officially they have now left AMPO, but I was able to set up a small boarding house for them in the former MIA premises. They now live there and have the necessary peace and quiet to study.They cook their beans every day (the only dish a young man can cook here), which is why this project is known as Bega Zaka, the bean house. We are currently trying to set up a similar small house for girls as well.
A difficult challenge, albeit a success, is our brand new restaurant. This is the only project run on a profit-making basis. It is not subsidised. It has now grown in size and popularity, catering for 1000 guests in the second month. The guests come back again because the food is excellent. All of our restaurant staff have a hygiene certificate, our salads are washed in potassium permanganate and in any case most of the vegetables are purely organic, sourced from our own farm. All of the serving staff are former AMPO children. They are still struggling with the learning curve, but they learn something new every day. We wouldn’t have managed without the help of our two specialists from the island of Amrum in Germany, spending days sorting out table linen, buying new glassware and everything a kitchen needs to operate, all with the benefit of years of experience in the hotel trade.
One great source of joy for me was Abdoulaye Kaboré, a former AMPO orphan. He has been living in Germany for many years and is now employed as a chef in a large restaurant in Kiel. He was just visiting his family in Africa (AMPO and his very elderly grandfather) and took time to organise a cooking seminar at AMPO, thanks to his German trainer certificate. It was of great help. He invented a tropical salad with tuna and egg, so why not drop by and try it? The restaurant is closed on Mondays, but apart from that you can eat any time Tuesday to Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
This year of course we took in a large number of new children and naturally enough none of them had ever seen Father Christmas, nor and advent calendar (complete with small presents to cut off every day, donated by one of my neighbours) and they knew nothing of the preparatory run-up to Christmas. Everyone was very excited, decorating the yard and putting up the plastic Christmas tree and when Christmas Eve finally came around, they sat wide-eyed in front of me with candles in hand – 120 candles in all. The story of Christmas from the Bible was read out in Moré by two of the older children, we all sang „Oh Christmas tree“ in German (having practised for ages, but still a few problems with pronunciation!) and then at last the large gate was thrown open, the tension mounts and there he is – Father Christmas!
He is standing on a donkey cart, coal black with a long white beard and hooded cape. There is a battery hidden under the presents on the cart and the donkey itself is completely wrapped in fairy lights, glittering tinsel and gold stars (crafted by our tutors). – each year I admire the infinite patience and tranquillity of the donkey. Sadly we don’t have a photograph because it was so dusty that evening, but I will never forget the astonished faces of the children. The scene was also enjoyed by the many guests from Germany and elsewhere abroad.
I am especially pleased with the team of Directors, because during my long absence they really took matters relating to the various institutions into their own hands and together they took many significant decisions. Last year we had many important discussions about new structures, the budget, accounting procedures and organisational issues in general. Thanks to the good services of my colleague, Andrea Reikat, who works closely with the very precise and demanding Board of the German Association, we were able to make many improvements. I’d like to express my sincere thanks to everyone involved.
The discussions are over, the budgets under control and at last the Directors can concentrate once more on the most important matter, in other words the children themselves. At AMPO the children are our highest priority. From now on administrative work will be limited to two mornings a week and by lunchtime annual reports, thoughts on the budget and accounting will be concluded. For such matters we have our efficient bookkeeping department and our wonderful administration that never loses sight of the big picture, not to mention our Coordinator, Andrea Reikat who keeps a watchful eye on everything, leaving time for me to play with the children, thank goodness. We have divided up our tasks more or less equally according to our talents, a good thing for both of us. This also gives me the opportunity to take time to ponder on many issues and especially to review my basic ideas. Have I been true to myself? Was I correct in my concept of an orphanage 20 years ago and more? Has AMPO moved with the times in Burkina Faso? Time has passed so quickly and a great deal has changed in the country. Influences from abroad have increased from Al-Qaida to American television series, from wrongly applied development aid to corruption. The number of children (66% of our population are younger than 25 and there are 600,000 applicants for approximately 10,00 vacant jobs in the capital), the number of cars and air pollution (our roads are inadequate) and the lack of schools and training opportunities are blatantly obvious. On the other hand we have an entire nation, irrespective of religion and ethnicity, standing together. Together they got rid of the old president after 27 years, together they are dismantling his old networks, together they stand even after the brutal attack by Al-Qaida a few weeks ago (the day before I was sitting eating in the same place with five of our former boys and my husband, only 100 yards away at the same time of day – we were lucky to survive). The people here love their country and have developed an unforeseen inherent strength. For me this is an indication of a continuing bond to custom and tradition, in which positive values persist, developing in an African way with as little influence as possible from Europe. That is my opinion and I’m sticking to it.
Are my founding principles still relevant today? Yes, they are. This is confirmed by our success with many children and in many of our institutions.
So what do we really need, not only in Burkina Faso but all over the world? We need confidence, solidarity, care and friendliness. Everyone in the world is afraid of violence and brutality and for that very reason the family and its cohesion, including all our friends, must play a major role once more. This has always been the AMPO philosophy, providing a home for lost children, growing up together, living together to make us strong. What do we need in our lives here and now? We need courage and strength, consistency, care and a love of life. This is all we have to combat increasing violence. And we find all of this in our community, the world in which we live. I see this every day at AMPO, in fact our children never have actually serious quarrels. If there is a difference of opinion, others come along immediately to mediate.
Solidarity and care are values that are part of our daily lives in this poor country of Burkina Faso. Without them living in poverty is not at all possible. But why should this only apply to the poor? It can also aplly to us in Europe. We only have to open our eyes, be attentive and remain alert. This is something I learned in Africa and it helped me to lead a life of fulfilment – that is all we have in the world and I would wish it for everyone. I rest my case. So please pass on these thoughts to your children and grandchildren. AMPO has so many long-standing, faithful donors. It is now up to the younger generation to become more involved. This is already the case with many of our faithful donor families. It is not difficult to understand: to stop the flow of refugees we have to work together to provide education and job opportunities in Africa, something I have been preaching and practising for more than 20 years. I am sure you will agree, which is why you are part of the crew of our large AMPO ship sailing on course. This is the right way to proceed and thank goodness I’ve seen this confirmed after such a long time.
I think with fondness of you and your families, of the carefully packed Christmas parcels for the children, of those who show interest when attending my presentations, of the donations given with love and generosity to enable us to go on making plans – and not least of the considerable contributions you make for our school fees. Please accept my heartfelt thanks.
Katrin Rohde (at present in the lovely city of Hamburg, but soon to be back again in Burkina Faso)
Is it the same for you? Scarcely have we said goodbye to the old year with fireworks on New Year’s Eve when it’s time to start clearing up on the first day of the new year. The same goes for our Association. Scarcely has the old year finished and we have to start work on concluding accounts for 2015. We are working at the moment on analysing and coordinating the accounts and preparing our annual report. We are also looking forward to the annual reports from AMPO to inform you of the far-reaching outcome of the projects we have been able to promote thanks to your support.
However, right at the beginning of the year we received the news of terrorist attacks in Ouagadougou. Over the next few hours and days we anxiously kept abreast of developments and we were very relieved to receive every email from Katrin or Andrea – no matter how brief. Thankfully no one from AMPO was affected.
A few days later two of the Board Members of Sahel e.V. were due to set off for Ouagadougou and it was impossible to know at the time if the journey could actually take place. Heribert Prockl and Peter Mathar had already scheduled the trip, intending to visit projects, observe procedures and their outcome, conduct rounds of discussion and look for new products to sell in Germany. When the situation in the capital soon calmed down and remained calm, the two decided to set off as planned. And so on the 5th of February it was „Off to Africa!“ We are enclosing extracts from their travel report in this newsletter. You will find a detailed report on their experiences on our website: http://en.sahel.org/2016/02/16/off-to-africa/
“I saw with my own eyes the results of the many donations and I was able to witness for myself the fruit of the work of Sahel / AMPO. It is impressive to be able to experience this on behalf of all those who support Sahel.” Heribert Prockl
“The experience and the impressions of this trip will stay with us in our work over the coming months. During our stay at AMPO we decided to allocate considerably more wheelchairs in 2016:
Edouard hands over two tricycles to physically handicapped children. This will change their lives because until now they have been unable to leave their own yard. Now they will be able to participate in community life again. Like the scenes we witnessed two days ago in Manga, these are moments that touch the heart. Connie, Peter and I soon agreed on a new target to finance 50 wheelchairs in the next 12 months.“
With a one-off donation of €250 you can seriously improve someone’s life. These sturdy hand-operated wheelchairs are individually tailored to the needs of the user, so there could be for instance additional seats for children. The cost of a tricycle wheelchair is between €250 and €300.
This proposal is a good start in terms of our current targets for 2016, a year in which we have no building projects. Instead we wish to concentrate on the social aspects of our projects. By setting up a home for young women in training or further education we want to continue improving learning conditions and thus ensure better prospects for their future working life. This support is a long-term investment in the future of these young women – are you on board?
Updated brochures with the latest information on each institution are available in English and in German. If you are interested we can send copies you free of charge for you to distribute and pass around, or you can download them from our website.
This year once again the staff of Sahel e.V. and Katrin Rohde invite all friends and supporters old and new and anyone who is interested to come and meet us at our premises in Plön.