Yesterday I arrived in Goudévé, where I will be living for the next two years. I will be here for two weeks to meet the Chief of the village, the elders (yeah, that’s right), the people that work at the CMS (Medical Center in Goudévé), and to get to know my homologues. It is also a time where I can talk to people in the community about health in the village and start thinking about potential projects. Thus far I have seen that there aren’t any latrines at the hospital, which is horrible for all the people sick from parasites that have to go to the hospital and are using the bathroom in the bush. The CMS is also next to the river that is the water source for the whole community and would be a terrible place to contaminate. The previous volunteer rebuilt part of the hospital which is great and there is running water, but currently no beds so patients sleep on mats on the floor and don’t have mosquito nets so that is something that can be looked into as well. The biggest concern that I will be working on is getting more people to come to the CMS when they are sick. So many people think that when they are sick it is too expensive to go to the hospital, or that you can only go if it is an emergency, or that it isn’t possible to go there for giving birth. There are also so many people with misconceptions about malaria, people think you get it from the sun or eating too many mangos. They think that being sick with a cold is the same thing as malaria and don’t fully understand that it is a parasite that has to be treated. Or when someone is sick they will go to the market and buy the medications for malaria even when they don’t have malaria, which has led to problems of medications no longer being effective for treating malaria because of drug resistance. This is something that I can work on while I am here.
I have two homologues right now, which are just work partners. Emmanuel is technically who I was assigned by the Peace Corps. He works at the CMS with Pregnant Moms and newborns and also works for an NGO that works with families that have HIV by providing financial assistance, counseling, and health access. My other Homologue, Karim is also my host family for the next two weeks. I will be living with him and his family, which is across the street from where I will be living when I swear in because the Volunteer I am replacing hasn’t left yet. Karim works at the Pharmacy and is the President of an NGO that works in all the neighboring villages that don’t have a health center and works on vaccination and hygiene campaigns. So these are the people I will be working with for the next two years, but as I integrate into community I will have other work partners that I can start other projects with.
It can be challenging to find work partners and keep projects going sometimes in the community because of funding issues, but also because all government employees, which is anyone working at the CMS is subject to being moved to another community at any time if the government decides they are needed elsewhere and this can make it very challenging to get projects going when people may leave in the middle of the project. My homologues however shouldn’t move since both of them work for NGO’s primarily and not the government.
Yesterday I arrived and met my host family and Molly the volunteer I am replacing. She has been such a huge help in showing me around the community and introducing me to important people. Tomorrow she is going to take me to Adeta to meet up with other volunteers and to go to the bigger market since there are not a lot of options here. Goudévé is very small; it is on a major highway that runs from Kpalimé to Atapame, which isn’t even as busy as the road outside my house in Seattle or my Mom’s house in Chapel Hill. There is a market on Thursday, but there are no a lot of options at it. There is a tailor, a dressmaker, a hard wear shop, a few boutiques that sell cans of tomatoes, pasta, rice, and a few other basic necessities. There is a gendarmerie, essentially a security office, a small pharmacy, and a mechanic. There is a primary school near my house and a combined middle school and high school. There is also an NGO that works on getting books to kids and raising bush rats for nutrition… However, for most things I will have to bike to Adeta, where another Volunteer lives, Natalie, or I will have to take a moto taxi an hour away to Kpalimé, which will have almost anything.
The Village is very beautiful, there are mountains all around and everything is lush and green. There are beautiful hikes and waterfalls that I can go to nearby. The people here are all very friendly and excited to have me here. Molly was the first Volunteer ever in this community so most people think all white people are named Molly and find it a little confusing when I tell them my name is actually Aimee. However, since my name is French it is pretty easy for people to learn.
Last night after exploring the village I took my bucket bath and got ready for bed. I went into my room and went to lock the door and the key broke in half in my hand. This is a door that needs the key to open it from the inside and outside. There are metal bars on my window too so I wasn’t going to be able to get out the window. Fortunately, all Volunteers are given chamber pots for use at night as a security measure to not have to go outside to the latrine in the middle of the night so I decided I would worry about it in the morning. When I woke up at 6am I called the volunteer and Karim, but I apparently don’t get reception in my room. So I sat and waited for someone to realize that I wasn’t up yet. I had bananas and peanut butter in my room so I ate them and read in bed for a while. I eventually was able to call to someone out the window that the key was broken and I couldn’t get out. They went to get Karim and he broke the door down so I could get out. It was a rather exciting first night to spend with my host family and they replaced the lock on the door this afternoon.
My new house is a cute little place with yellow walls. The previous volunteer furnished it and I am going to just pay her for everything so I don’t have to worry about buying all new furniture. There is a small living room with a desk, couch, chairs, and coffee table. Then there is a bedroom with another small couch, a bookshelf, a dresser, and a bed. There is electricity!!!!! I am spoiled and will be taking full advantage of Internet access and I’d even like to buy a fridge because I am fancy like that. Then there is a small fenced in yard that I want to build a little compost in, a raised bed, and maybe add some plants to make it a little happier. There is a latrine with a raised concrete pad for sitting on and a small shower area that drains outside. There is however a roof on my latrine and shower, which is nice for privacy, but I did enjoy my moon lit bucket baths. There isn’t electricity in the latrine though. Then there is another room that isn’t connected to the rest of the house. It is where my kitchen will be and also doesn’t have electricity, but I think I will hook it up so that I can cook in the light and get a refrigerator. The kitchen has a table with the filter on it and cooking supplies, a gas stove, and a enclosed pantry for storing food away from pests. I would like to also get a little basin area made for washing dishes so I don’t have to wash them on the floor. I love to cook so I am willing to spend extra money to make my kitchen a place I want to spend time. It is currently bare concrete walls so maybe I will paint, but painting here can be a real pain so we shall see. There is a water pump outside my fence where I get brown water that I have to boil and filter before drinking, but I bathe in brown water, which feels counter productive. The previous volunteer also had a dog that she got named Whit. He is very sweet and I will be taking him after Molly leaves. I didn’t plan on having a dog here because I don’t know what I will do when I leave, but hopefully I will be replaced and he will always have a volunteer to live with. He is a good boy and follows us around everywhere in Village and will definitely help me feel safer. He is nervous by men and growls at them when they come into the house and people here generally fear dogs so it will be nice to have him in my house for safety and companionship. Just outside my fence is where my landlord, Vivien, lives in a house with her 4 year old daughter, Gladis, who is adorable.
Well this is already a very long blog post so I will stop here and update you all again soon!