Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Togo: Our Last Day

C’et fini!
4,000 bedkits in six days and then three days off to experience the presidential election (announced after we had booked our trip) and Independence Day.  We visited Mercy Children’s Orphanage this morning bringing lots of stuff including of course bubbles and soccer balls. It was a fitting way to end our trip and the pictures say it all.

Au revoir Togo,

Team Togo 2015  
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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Togo: Day 8

This is supposed to be the day for the Beach, but it is pouring rain, really, pouring buckets.

Eventually it stopped, and we ventured out driving toward the Ghana border. 

All we intend to do was cross and spend a little time there.  Passports in hand we attempt to persuade the guards of our adventure, but they are not swayed and flatly refuse. We do not have the necessary visas for the return back into Togo for one.

Next stop the Beach.  The Ocean is rough today but we get a beautiful pedicure from the coarse reddish sand and it felt great.

In the evening we are invited ,by our trusted AED friends Messenh and Seygnor, who have been our constant companions, to the church, Eglise Evangelique Presbyterienne du Togo.  Both are members of the Band there and play the Trumpet.  The music and the singing were a real treat and the experience was a fitting end to another day in Lomé.

Hilda for Team Togo 2015      
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Togo: Day 7

After a well appreciated sleep-in and an atypical leisurely breakfast we set out for our first of three days of R&R.  How great is that!  With our trusted driver Mensah and our two indispensible sidekicks (translators, tour guides, enablers and all around helpers) Segnon and Messenh in tow, we headed toward the beach.  As it was Election Day and a national holiday, it was a pleasure to be able to navigate our route with a lot fewer vehicles on the road making our passage unusually swift and stress free.  When we reached the Atlantic, we headed along ‘Ocean Drive’ in the direction of the Benin border.

Our first stop was the Hotel Le Lac on Lake Togo just a short drive from Lome.  There we spent a very relaxing four hours sipping drinks, lounging on chaises, dipping our feet in the pool, enjoying the beautiful vista of the lake all the while recounting the many memorable moments, events and highlights of the previous six days of distribution.

After a delicious lunch of local fare, we hopped back in the van and continued our trek east for about another fifteen minutes until we reached the Benin border where we watched lake Togo flow into the Atlantic Ocean.  Here we all disembarked, passports in hand, hoping to be able to cross the border and add a new stamp to our passports and Benin to our growing list of visited countries.  Despite our valiant attempts to convince the Togolese border guards to let us cross the border, which included a heart-warming account of our recently completed distribution of 4,000 bedkits to the poor children of Togo and decorating the border guards with Canadian flag pins, we were told that the border was closed for election day, they couldn't allow an exception for us and, if we wished, we could perhaps try again tomorrow.

Once back in the van, we headed to Lome where we were treated to a grand tour of the city including such highlights as the University of Lome, the Independence Monument, not one but two very large homes of Emmanuel Adebayor (a very famous football player whose jersey Mike had been wearing all day) the photocopy shop of Dosseh (our third helper who had to leave a few days ago to work near the Burkina Faso border) and last but not least the border of Ghana.  In a relatively short period of time this afternoon we traversed the entire 50 kms. or so southern expanse of Togo from the border of Benin to the border of Ghana.

Shortly after our arrival back at our home away from home, a team of 26 A.E.D. volunteers descended upon us for a scheduled end of distribution party.  After we shared a meal together, we opened the doors to the back patio, danced, sang and clapped hands together all the while sharing recent photos and videos while taking new ones.  After a warmly received speech from Doug, in French no less, and a singing of our respective national anthems, we exchanged hugs with our Togo family and friends and bid them all a fond au revoir. 

We had come to the end of yet another great day on the Togo Trail.

Greg for Team Togo 2015
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Monday, 27 April 2015

Togo: Culture Shock

The biggest cause for culture shock for me here in Togo is the sense of scale.  At only 5’6” tall, this is nothing new for me, but I’m not referring solely to height.  A North American ‘big box’ mentality has no place here.  Cottage industries run by individuals or small family collectives are the norm.  Stalls are rarely larger than 8’x12’.  It is not uncommon to see a street stall selling a strange combination of items; a new suit with your bicycle, gasoline with your mangos, some edible chalk with a new pair of sandals perhaps? 

Farming is a surprisingly small-scale activity as well.  There are no tractors dragging implements.  All furrowing, seeding and cultivating is done by hand.  Any tree seedling in the midst of a field is not uprooted, but left to mature and produce its own yield. 

One of the greatest benefits of international travel is to discover how multi-faceted the world and its peoples are, and the beautiful country of Togo provides ample opportunity for that.

Michael Compeau for Team Togo 2015

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Togo: Day 5

We were up again with the hot African sun this morning to depart at 7:00am for our two-hour journey to a remote village northwest of Lomé.

A sea of eager parents and children greeted us.  We were treated to the joyous sound of 500 children singing and clapping. “C’est magnifique” has become a favourite. We’re learning the words and moves, some of us faster than others.

Over the course of the next three hours, a parade of the children in their colourful new clothes had their photos taken and then rushed over to receive their bedkits.  Wearing their backpacks and carrying their mattresses on top of their heads, they headed off to find their moms and dads. 

As a glorious culmination of the day’s distribution, immersed in the vibrant Togolese culture and amidst the verdant landscape, some of the kids and parents gathered with the six of us white guys for a team photo.

One the way home, we visited one of last year’s bedkit recipients where we learned that all items have been well used and lovingly cared for.  In football-mad Togo, where there is a shortage of balls, we brought a number of balls with us and bought more here.  We had the pleasure of leaving one of them for this village. 

Five days of distributions successfully completed! 3,000 more children are now enjoying the comfort of a good night’s sleep, thanks to the generosity of our donors!

Karen Scott for Team Togo 2015

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Togo: Day 4

Huge accomplishment again today!  We succeeded in bringing together 319 children for 1 photo. The students thanked us with several songs of appreciation. 

On our way home we stopped at a SET (Support Education Togo) school.  It was a beautifully coloured 3-classroom building complete with a principle’s office.  There were 2 outdoor classrooms, light and breezy, but, as school was over for the day, these classrooms were taken over by an extended family of goats.

On our route back to Lome on the ‘farm track’ our hearts were warmed as we passed several dozen children and their families with their bed kits and mattresses, slowly making their way home, on foot, waving with – to a child - HUGE smiles, relieved that the promise of a Canadian ‘cadeau’ was actually fulfilled, and in hand.

Team Togo 2015
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Friday, 24 April 2015

Togo: Special Day!!

My team of Hilda Stark, Karen Scott, Greg O’Neill, Mike and Helene Compeau is great and they hit a home run today on a very special 500 bedkit distribution at Bodze. Togo.

My parents Walter and Marian as well as two colleagues (the kids of Togo thank you Bill and Walter) donated enough bedkits to have the first 399 kids in 3 group photos.

Putting together a large is group is a logistical challenge especially in a small rural village but it worked great from the planning session in the van to the last bedkit handed out. We used the bedkit transport truck cab to shoot the large group from, triple checked the count and had the kids laughing, clapping and giving thumbs up with the families and teachers cheering them – and us on.

Thank you Team Togo for a great day.

Doug MacDougald for Team Togo 2015
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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Togo: Day 2!

Well we have had a big day 2 – 500 bedkit distributions.  The first was in close confines of the village school with families of the community able to be near all the action.  They became very engaged in the kids photos.  Cheers of ‘yipee’ ringing out with every photo eliciting great smiles from the children. 

We arrived at the second distribution with the children just getting changed.  So we had lots of time to play with the children and their families.  It doesn’t get better than playing with bubbles with hundreds of kids and adults. 

Team Togo 2015
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Friday, 17 April 2015

Togo: The Team is Off!!

Four thousand Togolese kids here we come. The team is waiting impatiently at Pearson to start the Togo distribution.

L to R: Hilda Stark, Helene Compeau, Karen Scott, Greg O'Neill, Mike Compeau and Doug MacDougald

Team Togo 2015
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Philippines: Neatan's Story

Neatan visited us near the end of our distribution in Naga yesterday. She reminded us of the lasting benefits of receiving a bed kit. Hers was given three years ago and she brought the remnants. Some were lost when a tornado destroyed her home in 2013. She is on the honour roll at her school and will begin high school in June. She is a lovely child whose family will live with loving relatives until they can rebuild their hut.
She is determined to graduate some day and will become a chef or a teacher. She feels gratitude and is inspired to succeed.

Janet, Team Philippines 2015
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Philippines: April 15 - A Special Day!

April 15th marked a special day for the SCAW team from Canada as well as our partners SCAW Philippines. There had been many emails and phone calls back and forth between Ontario and the Philippines regarding the extraordinary contribution that had been donated by the students, staff, and families at the Marshall McLuhan Catholic Seconday School. 

Between them they had generously donated 443 bed kits!

We all wanted to make an extra effort to recognize the efforts of MMCSS. The official photographs were taken and will eventually be delivered to the donors at the school.

How about photographing all 443 bed kit recipients?

With their usual efficiency and organization, SCAW Philippines started setting up the shot. Children were sorted by height and assembled in a large open area of the school in Polangui.

The children were given numbered lanyards that would identify them and allow them to receive their bed kit.

And here is the result! 443 Filipino children waving thank you to MCSS, with a loud, resounding Mabuhay!​
Salamat po from the children of Polangui, the Canadian team, and SCAW Philippines.

Team Philippines 2015 

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Philippines: Mission Accomplished!

Yesterday was our last day of distribution, we travelled to Polangui 2 from the hotel about 1hr drive. The distribution site was in a beautiful country church and as always the children were so colorful in their new clothes and all smiles.

After a quick lunch we got back on the road for another hour heading North to Naga where we did our last distribution. This was a new site for SCAW, the local Kiwanis club did a wonderful job organizing so our work went very smoothly.

Again we were fed a beautiful lunch,  I have to say we didn't go hungry these past 2 weeks.
Back on the road again for a 2 hr drive to Legaspi,  where we got together with our SCAW Philippines partners for a post distribution meeting followed again by a nice dinner, that included music.

We were amazed at the energy and talent our Philippinos partners have, so many beautiful voices.
We feel very good this morning, a job well done...

A big thank you to all of you our supporters who have made this possible, you can be assured that your gifts are well received and well used.

Jacynthe for Team Philippines 2015
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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Philippines: Day 9!!

Today we left Manilla for the South flying Philippine Airlines to go to the next 2 days of distributions,. We have 1,400 bedkits left to deliver.

Once we landed we were met by the local Kiwanians who took us to meet one of the board members of the province of Albay. We then visited Cagsawa ruins destructed by the eruption of the Mayon  volcano in 1814, all that remains is the bell tower.

We were treated to a dinner of local specialities. We are now getting ready for an early start for tomorrow's distribution.

Gary for Team Philippines 2015
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Monday, 13 April 2015

Philippines: Reflections from the Last Ten Days in Pictures!

With a free day in Manila, here are a few scenes of the Philippines from the past ten days.

Team Philippines 2015
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