Thursday, 28 April 2011

Togo: The Last 2011 Distribution

Destination: Attitongon, 134 kilometres from Lomé

From Togo 2011
Hurray, hurray our last distribution went without a hitch.

The trip was long, hot, and bumpy but the children's cheers upon seeing us arrive made it all worthwhile.

As we passed village after village, with the roads getting narrower and narrower, we wondered how the OVO's had found such remote villages.

Including the 5,000 bedkits delivered
in Togo this year, our total is
now 1,156,130 bedkits since
Sleeping Children began in 1970.
We are all well and in good spirits with lots of stories to share with everyone at home.

Team Togo 2011 signing off.

Post comments here.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Togo: A Phone Call

We received a brief phone call from Togo this afternoon.
"We have no Internet at the moment but we'd like everyone to know that we are all well."

"We are coming to the end of the distribution in Togo."

"We enjoyed a great dinner evening with our overseas partners last night and hopefully will have Internet tomorrow and be able to send you more."
Team Togo 2011

Post comments here.

Togo: Gboto

Day 9

Our drive today took us along roads that were difficult to manoeuvre, very bumpy, and at times full of rocks with deep craters.

The Gboto area and villages seemed extremely isolated and poor. Again the bedkits recipients came from many kilometres away. The distribution was smooth.

From Togo 2011
On the way home Dosseh, one of our local volunteers, pointed out some villagers building a traditional clay house and he explained the process:
  • Day 1: They dig into the the red clay, loosen up the earth, add water, then cover the mixture with palm leaves for five days.
  • Day 5: The wet mixture is carried in small “blobs” to the house location where they are molded into larger “blobs.”
  • They are cut with a machete-like knife into large “bricks” (about 50x20x20 cm). These “bricks” are laid to form the first wall layer. The layer is covered with palm leaves.
  • Three days later the process starts over with a new Day 1 mixture.
  • Therefore each layer dries for 8 days before the next wall layer is made. This clay house will last for 25 years or more.
  • The roofing is usually made of palm leaves, which must be replaced every couple of years.

We invited our AED-Togo volunteer partners to dinner and it was enjoyed by all.
Team Togo 2011

Post comments here.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Togo: Kala Kala

Day 8

We left at 7am for the long drive of almost three hours to Kala Kala. As we left , a billboard indicated it was 31 degrees (already).

The Tam Tams started up at our arrival, but this time it was dancing women who greeted us, several of whom had a baby snuggling on their back (one baby was even sound asleep).

From Togo 2011
The distribution included children from ten surrounding schools. This school appeared very poor as most of the classrooms consisted of a blackboard at the front, with a palm leaf roof and palm leaf walls (branches tied together).

Everything went smoothly. Unfortunately we all had to work in direct sunlight today so it was difficult to exchange a shady position with each other during the day, as we often do.

At the end, the Kala Kala Village chief and the President of the County presented us with a hand-written letter in which they warmly and sincerely expressed their gratitude for our work and support. They hoped that, by seeing the very poor conditions of the school rooms, we would continue to help them.

We had our usual snacks on the way home, but today we needed even more salt repletion, so the Pringles, pretzels, nuts, and sweets were very welcome.

Team Togo 2011

Post comments here.

Later in the day at 6pm, we visited the Canadian Consul’s home. We spent a very informative and pleasant hour with Marc Antoine and his wife.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Togo: Day 7

Today our journey took us to a remote village in the northern part of south Togo.

We were greeted by the king of the village in the traditional costume of his office. The site was ideal for an efficient distribution and we successfully completed our mission by noon.
From Togo 2011

Following the distribution, the king and the elders treated us to a tour of the village.

The village was very traditional and untouched by the modernization of Lome and other cities that we have seen in our travels.

Homes were constructed from mud walls and thatched roofs.

The village was well-organized and the residents were friendly and hospitable.

From Togo 2011
A first impression of this bucolic setting could lead one to the romantic conclusion that this was an idyllic unspoiled oasis -- but closer inspection revealed water, hygiene, and malaria-exposure issues that put residents at high risk of the kind of troubles SCAW attempts to alleviate.

Following our tour and visit we returned to our base in Lome grateful for the experience this village provided us.

Team Togo 2011

Post comments here.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Togo: Tabligbo & Kovie

Fifth Day

Today was another hot and humid day. We arrived in Tabligbo and were again welcomed by colourfully dressed adults and children dancing in the shade surrounded by a large number of fellow villagers. We joined them after a few minutes. Not only is this daily dancing fun but it helps burning the extra calories from the superb meals that Bill cooks for us every day!
From Togo 2011

The distribution went well despite some difficulties in getting all the bedkits to the site. But, as always, Laurent and his team, assisted by our team leader Bob Barclay, figured out how to manage this difficulty.

All’s well that ends well.
Sixth Day
Today we just had time to finish our distribution in Kovie before it started raining goats and chickens (cats and dogs!).
From Togo 2011

We really felt bad for the many families who had left the site and had a long walk home. This afternoon we went to Mercy Children’s Home, an orphanage close to where we stay in Lome and which supports 93 orphans.

It was a moving experience for us all.

Team Togo 2011

Post comments here.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Togo: Day 4

Day Four: a long drive of 178 kilometers one way past goat markets, mountains, and small rural villages. We were again greeted enthusiastically by dancers. We joined in after a while with parents showing appreciation more by laughing than applause proving us white guys really can't dance!
From Togo 2011

We also got to know the community a bit better as we were introduced to the village chief and queen. Bob signed the guest book and they expressed their appreciation for our efforts in the blazing heat (at least 36 degrees Celsius).

We didn't set a record, but we did photograph one group of fifty children! (Click on photo above.)
From Togo 2011

Chris interviewed three families which confirmed why we are here. "My children have only slept on palm leaves until today."
Before getting too far home, we stopped in Tove to visit three families who had received bedkits last year.

They were very much intact and in use. Exercise books were full. Khaki was turned into dresses. Mattresses and mosquito nets were in use.

Team Togo 2011

Post comments here.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Togo: Agbelouve

We travelled a shorter distance of 80 kilometers to Agbelouve today.

As we drove into a narrow laneway, it opened into a school yard where an amazing experience awaited us!

From Togo 2011
As soon as we got out of the car, the tam tam drum music started and a group of children who were dressed in traditional African dresses -- with painted skin as well -- performed a very animated dance ensemble. There were even solo dances.

Soon the teachers came to get us to join in the dancing, as the crowd clapped and cheered. It was such an enthousiastic, genuine, warm welcome!

The teachers then introduced themselves, thanked us, and told us what a difference the provision of bedkits makes to these families.

The children showed great enthusiam during the whole time despite the intense heat.
From Togo 2011

Afterwards, the principal invited us on a tour of the nine-room school. Three of the classrooms were open-air, with leaky thatched roofing. She explained that during the six-month rainy season, many parents will not send their children to school because they must all crowd into the other protected classrooms -- for a student population of 380!

This principal's passion for teaching and for her students really impressed us and also marked our day.

Team Togo 2011

Post comments here.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Togo: Avetonou, 500 Happy Children

We arrived today in Avetonou to four classrooms of smiling happy children all dressed and ready for pictures.

The cheers were deafening to our ears. The distributions went like clockwork due to the organized help the of the AED-Togo (Action Enfance et Développement - Togo) team.
From Togo 2011

The first-timers caught on fast. The children flowed through the pictures with ease in 30°C temperature. We were able to finish in good time so we could watch the bedkits float off on the children's heads and into their cars -- fifteen in one car.

Five hundred happy children will have many good nights' sleeps ahead of them.

We are off to a great start.

Team Togo 2011

Post comments here.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Togo: The team is arriving

Four of the six-member Togo Team arrived Friday night safe and sound.

We were greeted by our AED support team with lots of hugs and hand shakes to welcome Sleeping Children back to Togo. Everyone is healthy, rested, and well fed.
From Togo 2011

This morning we went to site where the bedkits are stored. Everything looks organized and ready to go. Bedkits are great. The clothing is colourful and the matresses are a good size, thick, clean, and comfortable.

We are ready to go for Monday.

Signing off until then.

Team Togo 2011

Post comments here.

Togo: Leave your comments here

As a courtesy, please add your name at the end of your post.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Philippines: Farewell to the Philippines

It is hard to believe that we have distributed 6,000 bedkits at 19 different sites over the last 11 days. Each distribution went smoothly thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Dr. Ito Torres and his SCAW Philippines team as well as the local overseas volunteers at each site.
Including the 6,000 bedkits delivered
in the Philippines this year, our total is
now 1,151,130 bedkits since
Sleeping Children began in 1970.

After our last distribution at Tatalon, a Barangay near Quezon City, we met with Dr. Ito Torres and his team to discuss this year's distributions and to pass on our thanks for their dedication and support to SCAW and the children that it helps. (Picture below.)
From Philippines 2011

Most of the SCAW Philippines team have been involved with the charity for decades and look forward to continuing their association in the future. Even when the distributions were finished, their hospitality and support continued, confirming the strong bonds that have developed between this year's SCAW travelling team and our SCAW Philippines counterparts.

They are a real blessing and cannot be thanked enough.

The SCAW Team - Philippines 2011

Post your comments here.

Philippines: Flip flops

One of the treasured items in the bedkits is the flip flops. We take footwear for granted but not here in the Philippines.

From Philippines 2011
Children  who come to the distribution sites generally have on flip flops, but often they appear to belong to someone else.  They can look oversized or undersized on little feet.  When we looked at the children closely, we saw broken sandals on feet with oozing sores, sandals worn by children who had swollen feet in which "something" was embedded, sandals on feet that were so scabbed it was hard to imagine they didn't hurt.  Those who came barefoot, tried to hide their feet as though ashamed of not having what the other children had.

Is it possible, flip flops give them pride, self-esteem and a sense of belonging?  Flip flops protect them from hard, sharp stones, and litter on the streets and also serve as a cushion when seated to buffer them from the hard ground.

I brought a pair of my daughter's flip flops and gave them to a child who arrived without any footwear. They were too large for her but I knew they would be useful for someone else in the family since the child had new ones in her bedkit. As she left the site, the child kept looking over her shoulder as if expecting someone to stop her to take them back.

Hopefully those flip flops will give someone in the family comfort.

Donna Chantler
for Team Philippines 2011

Post your comments here.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Kenya: Our Good-Byes

Our Goodbyes to Kenya, 2011

Last night and today were opportunities for us to thank the amazing folks from Rotary and beyond, who helped us each day to be more successful. First we have to thank Brian and Pat Tuddenham in Canada who set up this trip and did so much of the preplanning before being unable to come.
Including the 5,000 bedkits delivered
in Kenya this year, our total is
now 1,145,130 bedkits since
Sleeping Children began in 1970.

Here in Kenya our fearless Rotarian leader was Larry Donahoo and his wonderful wife, Donna. With them were an amazing troupe of volunteers from Rotary, church groups, and the communities in which we worked. To mention names means leaving out someone and so we just pass on our most sincere thanks to all who helped in any way possible.

We are exhausted but thrilled to have been part of the Kenyan SCAW team for 2011.

The Kenyan team members are Dave Dryden, Marnie Nelles , Marianne Tomlinson, Karen Bridgman-Acker, Cathy Gregory, and Bill Baker.

Team Kenya 2011

Post your comments here.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Kenya: Gilgil distribution

No one was untouched by our time in Gilgil. The distribution was at a girls' high school, but the children came from neighbouring slum areas in Gilgil, at least three local orphanages, and an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp. As usual the children were delightful and colourful in their Kenyan SCAW outfits -- and they smiled and giggled for our cameras as we mingled and talked before the official photos were taken.

The real impact for us came with the stories we were told by Mary and her colleagues who run the Restart Centre (an orphanage). Abused, drug-addicted, and prostituted children head for, or are led to, Mary’s Restart Centre. The key ingredient here is love and the children do learn to trust and care again ... so much so, in fact, that they don’t want to leave when they are older. They stay on, some working at the Centre and others working in the community but returning at night to sleep.
From Kenya 2011

We had the incredible opportunity to visit an IDP camp where children from the distribution had walked about ten miles each way to receive the SCAW bedkits. (Photo at right) By the time we had relaxed over a wonderful luncheon given by Mary and her husband, Terry, in their home, the IDP children had walked home to greet us when we went to see the camp outside of Gilgil.

We were told that there are 107 families -- averaging about six people each -- crammed onto half an acre of land, living in tiny -- and we mean t-i-n-y -- huts made of sticks, grasses, and some plastic.
From Kenya 2011

The camp includes an outdoor firepit/kitchen, a small outdoor church, a goat shelter, and a small enclosure for their cherished cow. (Photo at left.)

We were greeted with joy by the whole community and were proudly shown into homes and around the site by the delighted children. With tears in our eyes we were warmly thanked for our gifts by one of the parents, as everyone stood around in a group.

We, who have so much, were humbled by these people who have so little ... by their pride in their community and their positive outlook on the future.
From Kenya 2011

As if that wasn’t enough, we were taken back to the Restart Orphanage and treated to a “show” of singing, dancing, and modeling put on by the gorgeous children there. (Photo at right.) With music blaring, they sang and danced with passion and rhythm. Their voices and body movements were melodic and fluid. Once again there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

What a day!

Team Kenya 2011

Post your comments here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Philippines: The Joy of Opening a Bedkit

We had a unique experience during the afternoon of April 3rd when we distributed another 300 bedkits in the village of Arayat near the dormant volcano of the same name.

After the distribution, there were three children who were waiting to be taken home to the next village and were sitting near us in the open air gym. One had opened his bedkit, so we took the opportunity to share his excitement as he delved into his newly received treasure.
From Philippines 2011
Could there possibly have been a time when he received three pairs of brand new shorts and five new t-shirts along with 52 other items at the same time? We learned from the supervisor of the local volunteers that he had recently lost his father, so the timing of our distribution was perfect. His friends joined him in exploring the contents of their bedkits as well. For us this was a new experience during a distribution because the children normally depart with a parent with their bedkit intact.

As we watched them dig deeper into each of their ‘own’ bedkits, their smiles broadened as they realized that all the items belonged to them.

We shared their joy and anticipation as they checked out all of the items in the bedkits. Their reaction was a validation of everything that SCAW works towards and is the best evidence that the $35 donation in is a worthy investment in the children's lives.

Faith Clark
for Team Philippines 2011

Post your comments here.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Kenya: Blog 4

After four days of being out of Internet range, we are happy to update on our most recent two distributions. On Thursday afternoon, we travelled for three hours to Makindu, Kenya, where we prepared for distributions on Friday and Monday of 750 bedkits each day.

Makindu is a small village approximately 170 kilometers southeast of Nairobi and is on the main trucking route between Nairobi and Mombassa. Hundreds of trucks drive along this highway every day and many stop overnight at one of the rooming houses on the road in Makindu. Congested traffic can be a nightmare.

From Kenya 2011
At certain points along the way, there are speed bumps in the road. As the traffic slows the locals have set up stands to sell fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, onions, tomatoes, and handmade baskets. Farming is evident. We noted the red-dirt fields being tilled with oxen-led farm equipment and cattle and goats being herded along the shoulder of the busy highway.

Makindu is a poor, rural area with a hot dry climate. The lack of rainfall affects the quality of the crops and the health of the livestock and the people. We were told that food and water shortages are one of the biggest threats in this community. Diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and parasites are common.

These bedkit distributions were held on the grounds of the Makindu Sikh Temple and hospital where there was ample space for 750 children, their teachers, volunteers, and the SCAW team to organize the activities of the day. The children came from the surrounding rural areas. They were either bussed in with their teachers, rode bicycles, or walked. Apparently several of the children walked long distances of between four and eight kilometres.

From Kenya 2011
Upon our arrival, the horde of people waiting for us was exciting. Hundreds of parents -- mostly women -- gathered outside the gates, many with an infant in their arms, to await their children with their new bedkits. We were struck by the array of colourful traditional African dresses and head wraps worn by many of the mothers. They were anxious to talk to us and have candid photos taken. Like the children, they were delighted to see themselves in the digital camera screens. A few of the mothers were asked and agreed to be interviewed later in the day about their impressions of the bedkit contents. They told us how much they appreciate these gifts for their children and how the mosquito nets, especially, will make a difference in their lives. Many of the children currently sleep on the floor or, if they have a bed, they share it with other siblings.

We were told that the children, aged 6-12 years had begun to arrive at 7:30 a.m. We found them all dressed in their new brightly coloured shorts and t-shirts, being led in song by their teachers, hands clapping. On occasion we noticed some children who appeared older than twelve; however it was explained to us that if they miss years of school they may not leave primary school until age 16 or older. Parents told us that the cost of the mandatory school uniform can be a barrier to them sending a child to school.

In addition to some of the members of the Sikh community, volunteers included Rotarians, teachers, principals, and other members of the broader community. One young Rotarian, Nixon, came to assist us for the third time and was very helpful in organizing and communicating with the children. Because of these people who gave so generously of their time, both distributions ran smoothly and quickly.

Many of the children did not speak English or were shy in talking to us, so the volunteers who spoke their mother tongue or Swahili were instrumental in explaining things and encouraging smiles for the camera.

At the end of the two days, 1500 children in this rural community went home with a smile and a new bedkit and hopefully will “lala salama” (loosely translated, “sleep well”) tonight.

Team Kenya 2011

Post your comments here.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Philippines: More Stories

From Philippines 2011
The stories of the under-privileged in the Philippines continue to touch my heart. One soft-spoken young woman I interviewed shared her family struggles. She has four children, two of whom have heart problems. The children have low heart rates, are susceptible to fevers and disease, and lack the energy to run and play. Mom worries constantly about them. The hospital, which they used frequently when the children were small is thirty minutes away by motorized tricycle and any free medical clinic is inconsistent in its availability.

Her husband is a fisherman. The woman walks one and a half hours daily to sell the fish door to door in the local town. The price is 35 - 54 pesos per kilo, depending on the kind of fish being sold. One dollar is 41 pesos. When the rainy season comes, polluted water floods their home and the incidence of sickness rises. Times get even tougher! Food becomes scarcer and eking out a living becomes a huge challenge.
From Philippines 2011

And yet the woman sits with dignity and grace, telling her story, wanting life to be easier, but accepting and working with the daily challenges of living. The sincerity with which she speaks, and her fleeting smile, is mirrored in the sadness of her eyes -- eyes that have seen a million disappointments but today have hope. Today there is a bedkit sent by the generous people of Canada. Today her need has been understood and responded to. She expresses gratitude for the blessings her son and family have received and I am humbled by the depth of her feelings.

Donna Chantler
for Team Philippines 2011

Post your comments here.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Philippines: Interviewing Parents

At each SCAW distribution one of our tasks is to interview several of the parents of children who are receiving a bedkit.
From Philippines 2011
The purpose of the interview is to help SCAW with ongoing assessment of the needs of the families and how the bedkit meets those needs. The parents volunteer to sit and speak with us and give input on the contents of the bedkit. With the help of an interpreter we have a set of questions to ask relating to living conditions, health of the family, the contents of the bedkit, and the parent's general impressions of the SCAW distribution.

I really appreciate having the opportunity to interact on a one to one basis with the parents. As we begin the interview, I hear them express the same hopes and dreams for their children that parents everywhere have. They wish for healthy, happy children who are able to get as much education as possible. They want their children to grow up and be successful in the world.

When I listen to their stories of cramped living conditions, poor health, and lack of basic living essentials it is very clear how helpful the SCAW bedkit is.

From Philippines 2011
One of the interview questions is, "What item in the bedkit is the least useful to your family?" Most parents have a difficult time answering that one. Their response is that everything in the bedkit is useful.

The message comes through loud and clear in every interview that the SCAW bedkit not only helps the recipient child it also benefits the entire family. Money that would have been spent on items in the bedkit is available for much needed food for the family.

Even though the parents and I speak different languages, I don't need an interpreter to hear the appreciation in the tone of their voices and see the thankfulness in their eyes.

Pat Innes
for Team Philippines 2011

Post your comments here.

Philippines: Amazing Local Support for SCAW Team

Local organizations in the Philippines truly value the presence of SCAW and do what they can to enhance the bedkit distributions to make them into a celebration -- with students performing dances or singing.

From Philippines 2011
The organizers of the Plaridel distribution went as far as to provide us with a motorcycle escort from our hotel through the chaotic traffic to their site where we delivered 330 bedkits, The seven motorcyclists were members of Patrol Assistance Rescue and Community Services (PARACS).

We had three out-riders in front of us waving the traffic over to the sides of the road -- both in our lane and in the on-coming lane. There were times when the on-coming traffic did not budge so they rode in their lane and forced them onto the shoulder. It was nerve-wracking for us; so it must have been even more so for them. Needless to say, we thanked them profusely for their assistance and nerves of steel. Afterward they helped the Knights of Columbus with the SCAW distribution which went like clockwork.

From Philippines 2011
During the Paranaque distribution, the nuns arranged for local students to perform a traditional southern Filipino dance for the bedkit recipients and the SCAW volunteers at their site -- which was enjoyed by all. At the San Antonio site, a young girl about seven or eight years old did the welcoming speech and another sang their national anthem. Normally, everyone, especially the recipients sings the Filipino national anthem with enthusiasm and gusto in a proud display of patriotism. In Bustos, the school that hosted the distribution had taught 50 girls to sing the Canadian national anthem. It was nothing short of amazing the way that they sang it.

We were welcomed to our first site, Pulilan, this morning by a parade of uniformed marching musicians and a majorette corps made up of Grade Four and Five students from our hosts, the Pulilan Central School, who had given up their Saturday to be part of the distribution. The Canadians, OVOs, local volunteers, and bedkit recipients watched in wonder as these talented young people performed musical numbers and beautifully choreographed majorette maneouvers. This was followed by an outstanding cheerleading display by the young students, who had tailored their athletic cheers to honour Canada and the SCAW donors.

From Philippines 2011
This delight was repeated in the afternoon prior to the Paombong distribution at the Bridge Crossing School with traditional dances performed by Grade Six students from the host school dressed in elaborate national costumes. These graceful and elegant entertainers had also given up their day off to show off their award-winning dance routines and participate in our worthwhile cause.

In summary, SCAW is a highly respected and valued program in the Philippines. The recipients, their parents, and the SCAW volunteers pass on a heartfelt "Salamat Po" or 'Thank You Very Much' to all of the donors.

Team Philippines 2011

Post your comments here.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Philippines: What a Great Organization

From Philippines 2011
SCAWphilippines is an identifying moniker used by five key families in Manila to highlight the SCAW program to people in the Philippines.

Originally started in 1990 by the Kiwanis, this is still one of their favorite projects. This small group includes the Torres, Navarro, Lucero, Lazatin, and Gonzales families. It soon became much larger and it seems like a 'rite of passage' that, not only sons and daughters help out, but cousins, aunts and other relatives by marriage generously contribute their time and effort as well.

From Philippines 2011
That, however, is only the core group. Various organizations (service clubs, church groups, religious organizations, colleges) may indicate an interest in hosting a Sleeping Children distribution. To do this and be recognized by SCAWphilippines they have an inspection list that must be met which includes  more than twenty qualifiers. These are: a local volunteer base, a securable facility, children's dressing rooms, numbering systems, children's arrival procedures and leaving procedures, security, suitability of the site for sun, rain, heat, fans, and accessibility, as well as the presence of previous year's recipients in the area that can help that day. When these qualifiers are met, the organization moves  up the list. So we, as Canadian volunteers, are pleased to see that the most eager groups are granted the distribution rather than the ''same groups as last year.''

From Philippines 2011
Another reason for this great success story is the fact that SCAWphilippines does not leave the chosen group on their own on the day of distribution but are on site early to oversee the procedures. Imagine one of the most overwhelming jobs to a new group is to efficiently accept the child, change them into their new Sleeping Children outfits, store the arrival clothes, and then get them all back to the child as he/she leaves with their new bedkit within a short time period. The child is very attached to the arrival clothes and tears occur if their favorites are not returned.

So to a Canadian volunteer travelling seventeen hours through twelve time zones -- jet-lagged and adjusting -- it seems like easy work compared to the organizational efforts of our valued SCAW overseas partners, SCAWphilippines.

Tom Chudleigh
for Team Philippines 2011

Post your comments here.