All of us hope that you and your families are having a wonderful summer.
I am writing this newsletter amid the bustle of holiday time at the orphanages where the happy children are a source of joy every day. When I arrive at 7 o’clock in the morning I am met by 20 boys, we hug and start to make plans for the day. The peal of children’s laughter in our ears throughout the day is consolation to the Directors who are still busy doing the more boring tasks of writing reports and meticulously checking the budgets to keep our bookkeepers happy. These jobs have to be done so we can continue to show our donors in Europe that we are working by the book.
That reminds me: various friends keep telling me that I am much too reticent in asking for support. I should start every newsletter saying: Help! Our children need this (like we desperately need a new car), our clinic needs that (money for vaccination campaigns), our counselling centre for women needs something else. It’s all about money. But that is not my style. I always assume you are all aware how much it costs to maintain all our facilities and I am sure you are all doing your best. Maybe you could ask your friends if they would like to join us on the voyage of the good ship AMPO bringing help to thousands of people very year in many different ways. Perhaps it will bring them as much pleasure as you to provide support for a place where the world is still intact. Many people are looking for such a place where their donations are well invested. You know the place – AMPO offering assistance of many kinds to children, women, the needy and the elderly.
Back in our everyday lives, without having to worry about school, we romp through the weeks dancing, drumming, taking part in various workshops and going on trips. We paint, do jigsaws for hours on end, some of the older ones work in the fields on our farm and of course swimming is scheduled once a week. And we have a circus! Twice a week under expert supervision we learn to juggle and turn cartwheels. The last thing I need now is for the children to take up fire-eating – that’s how keen they all are! Our thanks for this carefree time once a year are due to our friends who provide the financial support, for all too soon our lives will be governed once more by the rigorous schedule of school.
All of the children deserve the break because this year once again the school results were very good. Children who came to us only a year ago from sad backgrounds are caught up in the group dynamics, see how we support each other and enjoy a life of safety and protection at AMPO and suddenly they become top of the class at school. This I find particularly gratifying because it shows how important and healing it is to have the calm, loving home we can offer them.
We still have the highlight of our holidays ahead of us. This year we’re off to summer camp in Po close to the border with Ghana. It is thanks to you and your donations to Sahel e.V. and the Berlin Association that we can enjoy this special gift. There is so much to see there. We will visit the historic sites of the old slave market and the picturesque hut villages. This is being financed by Berolina in Berlin and it is quite an expensive undertaking to transport about 150 people by bus. For 2 weeks we’ll do nothing but sleep, sing, fish, dance, learn to ride a bike or a moped, or how to cook beans … We are all really looking forward to it. We just have to organise transport in 3 busses, including cooks with cooking utensils, all the tutors and of course a nurse. This means days of frantic planning and writing packing lists. Thank goodness our staff have nerves of steel.
The entire MIA-ALMA group is coming too, all the girls, young mothers with their babies and infants. This is one facility I’m very proud of, because it is managed by a very special man, Nana Souleymane, fondly referred to by everyone as “Tonton Chouchou” (Uncle Darling). Up to 50 girls and their children are devoted to him, a real grass-roots street worker. And in his “spare time” he is studying hard for his diploma as a specialist educator. His girls have had a 2-week introductory workshop on yoga. This is something we’d like to continue owing to the benefit it brings, given the difficult and often desperate background of the girls.
And now for another item of news from AMPO. Thanks to the “RedCHAIRity” foundation in Southern Germany we are starting a new one-year pilot project to build our own wheelchairs for the handicapped. We already have premises that were unused and which have now been remodelled within a mere 14 days. The project is known as “Tond Nao” (our legs), or metaphorically speaking, “that which carries us”. And the thing that carries us is of course love. The opening was at the end of June, attended by the Burkina national Paralympic team on their crazy racing bikes. What an honour! The Director of the handicapped projects is often on the road and knows many groups for the disabled, who then joined together in gratitude and solidarity. At the time of the opening ceremony of Tond Nao at 8.30 a.m. disabled people in 50 villages throughout Burkina Faso joined together in prayer for AMPO, irrespective of their religious affiliation, to ask for a blessing for us, our progress and the success of the workshop. I am deeply moved and I’m sure you are too by this gesture so typical of this poor country. Love indeed is that which carries us.
We are now going to design new wheelchairs as something different. Many of them will be tailor-made for children. So please donate! For every wheelchair given by AMPO we also provide school fees. Give the handicapped children in this country a chance!
With all our success it is sometimes easy to forget that we are still in Africa, with all due respect. Only yesterday we discovered a very poisonous snake 1.5 metres long in the car of our Director of Administration right here in our AMPO car park in the middle of town. The same day one of our boys was stung by a scorpion in the field – not lethal but very painful. And we are still suffering from constant power cuts lasting hours on end, in some neighbourhoods lasting for days, resulting in the loss of internet connection (just when an urgent report has to be sent). For days our cellphones have little or no reception – that’s life in Africa!
Andrea Reikat, my intrepid co-worker, has been with AMPO for just over a year and is slowly getting used to our working methods, some of which are rather unusual. It is not always easy with a well-established team making every decision concerning AMPO themselves and refusing to rise from the table until consensus is reached (you may recall my principle of Africa for the Africans?). The discussions at Directors’ Meetings are often loud, sometimes it’s like a kindergarten where we have to let off steam. For an outsider it may appear a bit unruly, but it is important because there are often emergencies or direct and close contact to people in dire need and we are all very sensitive and have to rely on each other. In Europe people who bear such responsibility are often supported by psychologists, the AMPO Directors are not. It is astounding how many lives we can affect and how often we come up with good solutions and achieve major success with very little means. Yet the opposite is also true and that is something that saddens our hearts. We are often alone, confronted with people with unsurmountable problems, illness and death.
We battle on – with you by our side, thank God. Please accept our thanks for your good deeds, your donations and your kind thoughts.
Katrin Rohde in Ouagadougou
Tears of sorrow and tears of joy …. the passing out ceremony at AMPO on 9th July 2016
On Saturday 9th July we said goodbye to 42 youngsters participating in our various programmes: 7 girls and 7 boys from the orphanages, 10 girls from MIA-ALMA and 18 young adults who completed their training.
This time we celebrated en famille – not quite if you count the jugglers and artistes among us, jugglers and artistes who spent the past few weeks with the kids from the orphanages and the girls from MIA-ALMA making giant puppets and practising juggling and acrobatics.
There were a few tears, especially when one of our graduates from the training programme called on her young “sisters and brothers” to work hard to live up to AMPO’s reputation in the outside world. But we also laughed and danced … and marvelled.
And – as we say in an African family: “Let’s stick together.”. AMPO continues to be there for the “older ones”, for those who are still supported by our training programme, whether at school or during apprenticeship, and for those who have completed their training and are setting out on a career.
They will make their way as teachers, bookkeepers, nurses, dressmakers, hairdressers, logistics specialists – or pursuing many other careers of their choice. AMPO is very proud of them and we are also a little bit proud of ourselves.
We rely on your support to enable us to continue to accompany these young people and give them an opportunity for vocational training.
A few weeks ago we wrote asking for donations for wheelchairs. Many of you responded with donations small and large to support us in providing even more disabled people with a tricycle. We are now able to do so and this year the additional wheelchairs will be manufactured and distributed. Our thanks go to all the donors.
In May the DZI, German Central Institute for Social Issues, invited us to their annual donation seal of approval forum. We took the opportunity once again to find out about the latest developments in charitable activities and current regulations concerning DZI Guidelines. The emphasis of the meeting was on the further development of the DZI accounting proposal for advertising and administrative expenditure. These costs are often seen in a negative light, yet a charity organisation cannot function successfully without administration or advertising:
- Advertising and administrative expenses are in principle necessary and useful expenditure. They result in donations. They organise the use of funds. They enable accountability.
- Not only excessive administration, but also an administration that is too narrowly defined is problematic. The determining factor is the objective appropriateness of the administration.
- Organisations receiving donations should not encourage the illusion that they manage without advertising and administration. Irrespective of its financing, each charity organisation solicits donations. Each organisation must administer resources.
- The amount of advertising and administration expenditure is one of several assessment criteria. Moreover, in particular the efficacy of the work of an organisation is significant (usefulness, effectivity and sustainability of project expenditure).
The DZI assesses charity organisations on their ratio of advertising and administrative costs to their overall annual expenditure. A proportion of 10 – 30% is acceptable. Sahel e.V. is subject to an annual audit by the DZI and scores very well with its proportion of advertising and administrative costs of 16%.
For further information regarding the effectiveness of our operation please consult the annual reports of each AMPO facility and project available to read or download from our website.