Sunday, 27 April 2014

Togo: Day 14

Under the Shade of the Mango Tree

Bonjour mes amis.

Today is the Togo’s Independence Day and a fitting way to end our 5,000 bedkit distribution.
Under the shade of a fabulous mango tree we did our last setup for the photo shoot and ended with a group photo of the entire AED and SCAW team.
Before we started, the three musketeers, Dosseh, Messanh and Segnon had taught us the Togolese national anthem in French and we were able to sing this with pride with 500 children. We then sang the Canadian national anthem in French and both countries represented by our national flags.
C’est tout de Team Togo.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Togo: Day 13

Bonjour mes amis!

Today was the hottest and most humid so far. After 2 long detours because of preparations for the Togo Independence Day celebrations on Sunday, April 27, we arrived in Djamakondji for our 8th delivery.
We were swarmed by extremely enthusiastic throngs of children. Hijabs were prevalent indicating that we were in a predominantly Muslim area. While we were busy, so was a team of construction workers building 4 new classrooms.

We are very grateful for the members of Team Togo, who have worked consistently to have the kids organized. Energetic volunteer, Affi, always leads the rousing songs and chants. Koffi showed the bedkits items and 500 young people cheered spontaneously, especially when the mosquito net was held up.
We recorded video of different aspects of the distribution, but regrettably have been unable to post them because of internet challenges.

Stay tuned…

Bon soir de Team Togo.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Togo: Day 12

Bonjour mes amis:

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” in Adjakpa.
If we had thought it was hot yesterday, it was hotter today. Torrential rains yesterday upped the humidity level without reducing the temperature and we all felt it. But it was great for the children as we were able to distribute another 500 bedkits in this village in the western region of Togo. There was major highway construction (which added to the dust/mud on the road). The Chinese have won the contract for doing this work and it has offered increased employment for the Togolese.

As part of the fun we had with the children, Doug did his famous “bubble-blowing act.” You have to see the picture of one of the most spectacular ”catches” of the day!
Our team of eleven was on the way home and had just passed the toll booth when our van was side-swiped by a car. A spectacular “BANG” had us all with our hearts in our mouths! Fortunately, we were not hurt at all and when Team Togo checked the van, the damage was not as bad as we had thought. The other driver did not stop, so OUR drive, Mensah, turned the van around and chased after the other car. We caught up with him at the toll booth and the local gendarmes were called over to investigate. The next two hours were spent with the team visiting the local Gendarmerie and giving our report. We departed with the local chief of police wearing a Canadian pin saluting us on our way!

Sadly, tomorrow is our final distribution, and we head home to Canada at 11 o’clock tomorrow night.

Bon soir, Team Togo

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Togo: Day 11

Bonjour mes amis!

Team Togo will go to any extreme for the perfect picture for the distribution photo.  Last night, Wayne spent hours planning and drafting the blueprints for our large group photos.  For the first time, we have the Canadian flag and the Togolese flag represented by the children wearing colourful T-shirts.  In order to get these panoramic shots, Doug, the photographer, had to perch precariously on a bamboo ladder.  Wayne made sure that the operation was done with military precision and efficiency.

To start off the distribution, both teams sang O Canada en francais because French is the national language.  This was challenging for the Anglophones so we rehearsed in the van en route to the distribution. (Tomorrow we will be singing the Togolese national anthem).

Creativity was also evident today when Peggy and Dosseh noticed a group of children preparing to leave the site.  They were in awe that 25 kids and three adults were packed into a small Toyota. 

We visited a cottage industry with 8 seamstresses who made the 5,000 skirts and shorts that were included in the bedkit.  Murray Dryden would have been delighted as he really believed in local job creation.

All in all, today was a wonderful day for creating memories. 

Bon soir, Team Togo.
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Togo: Day 9

On The Road Again

Bonjour mes amis:

After spending many hours traveling the roads of Togo, hereare some of our sights, sounds, smells and pictures: the succulent aroma of fresh pineapple, bags of charcoal by the side of the road, overloaded conveyances of every type including a bicycle laden with a coffin, palm wine for sale, horse tail whisks (for keeping flies off everything…including the butcher’s best cuts!), little kids at every market and village excited to have their picture taken, pungent smells of spices, red soil everywhere, yam and corn plots, termite hills, a fuss ball table, trees - banana, cassava, mango, avocado, kapok, baobob and palm, Castel beer signs and trucks, the cacophony of busy markets, women carrying “everything” on their heat potholes and last but not least the smell of 'HOT'!

Bon soir de Team Togo
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Togo: Day 8!

Bonjour mes amis!

The Teams travel to the distribution sites in an air-conditioned van with our driver, Mensah, over the fissured roads, receiving a free “African massage” all the way.  However, most of the families receiving bedkit, arrive by foot, often barefoot, or pseudo-moto (motorcycle taxi) from the remote villages. 

Once again, at this jungle distribution site, some of the children had walked at least 4 hours to get to us and then had a 4 hour return walk home, carrying their bedkit on their shoulder and their mattress on their head.  This is clearly not a hardship as we passed children on our way out with large waves and dazzling smiles.

As promised, the men from both Teams, danced to the music provided by the Village band and the ladies collected their bet.  We all loved the one-legged “shiver” move.  When we tried it we wondered if they were they laughing at us or with us?

 Bon soir de Team Togo 
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Monday, 21 April 2014

Togo: Day 7 - Easter Celebrations!!

Bonjour mes amis!

Yesterday, as it was Easter Sunday, the team was invited to attend, not only an Easter service, but a baptismal service for three children.  The church was large to accommodate a choirs of 80, a brass band and and djembe drums of 30 and about 700 people in the congregation.  We were so warmly welcomed and the fact that the service was held in Ewe (pronounced, Evey - the local African dialect) was an added bonus.  BUT - the music was what made it SO spectacular.  The African rhythms for the hymns, choir solos and the procession that led to the giving of the collection, had everyone, including us, "dancing in the aisles".  So wonderful to be accepted as a part of the Togolese culture...

Afterwards we went down to the Atlantic Ocean; Ghana to the west, us in Togo in the middle and Benin to the east.  We had thunderous breakers on the beach and shrieks of laughter as we got soaked with the incoming waves.  We then went back up to the main road and saw a bicycle race sponsored by the local beer company, Castel.  10 ks.  per lap and 10 laps for the course.  It was hot ( "It's always hot in Africa!") and to see these young men working so hard was exhausting!

National Independence Day is coming and all of downtown Lome is preparing for this very important day.  The republic of Togo was formed in 1960 when they gained independence from France.  A special treat for us was to be invited into the House of Parliament and were able to see the history of Togo through displays of photos, artifacts, costumes and jewelry. We finished up by actually sitting where President Faure Gnassingbe will be sitting at the celebrations!

Bon Soirée, Team Togo
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Togo: Hot!

Bonjour mes amis:

IT WAS HOT; 31 degrees with a real feel of 39 degrees!  We went to the east side of Togo but the roads were a bit more challenging as it was more pothole than road. The distribution was at a school in Kpeteto (pronounced Pe-tet-o), and the site was close to the Benin border.

We were greeted with exuberant Togo music and energetic dancers. The African rhythms were infectious and the team joined in joyfully. The crowd roared with enthusiasm at our feeble attempt to follow the steps.

The team’s challenge today was to do a group photo shoot of 430 children.  Thanks to Sherway Gardens Christmas Experience and our intrepid leader who climbed up a rickety ladder with a wide angle lens to take the photo, we were successful. The children were sooooo… patient as we tried to organize them for SCAW’s largest-to-date group photo. Make sure to check out this remarkable, colorful event.

We ended the day with a wonderful stop alongside Lake Togo. We were able to relax with a beautiful view and a cooling walk along the beach.

Bonsoir de Team Togo.
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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Togo: Day 6 (2014)

Our Team

Bonjour mes amis.

Halfway done and it has been a blur of bedkits, travel, dust, heat and most importantly 2,500 happy kids. We have a great Sleeping Children team that is after an intensive week together meshing into the daily rhythm of distributions.

Lynette Jenkins is busy every day talking to the kids (in French) as she prepares them for the photo and always at hand is her sidekick, Wally the puppet, who ensures there are always peals of laughter from the children.

Wayne Cooper is clearly enjoying every moment with the kids, the crowds, the Togo experience and the good-natured kidding from the group.

Alice Buchanan and Peggy Morrison are the crowd entertainers and have the kids all joining in on the “warm up” songs.

Sue Orr is enjoying the range of experiences and tasks in a distribution including her first full day taking the photos of the kids with the bedkit.

Tomorrow, Sunday is our day off and the team is looking forward to an Easter Sunday church service, a walk on the beach looking out on the Atlantic and a little time to catch our breath. Whew!

Bon soir de Team Togo et Doug MacDougald

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Friday, 18 April 2014

Togo: Day 5 (2014)

Bonjour mes amis.

Today we were in Wutegble, about an hour and a half from Lome. We were greeted again with beautiful drumming and dancing. Members of the team couldn’t resist joining in. Tomorrow we have a promise from all of the men on the Togolese and Canadian teams that they will be part of the dancing circle.
Many of the children started to walk to the site before dawn in order to receive their bedkits. Some did not have shoes and that shows how important the flip flops are to these families. As well, all of the parents who were interviewed today really appreciated the mosquito net for malaria prevention. Another important item is the school supplies because the parents feel it frees up their money for other household expenses.

We finished the distribution just in time as a torrential storm began and many families faced another walk home carrying the mattresses on their heads in the rain.
A wonderful day with the children from this area!

Bon soir de Team Togo.

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