Celebrating the Bassa School Garden and Solar Well

2019-12-31 (4)This morning these beautiful ladies came by with bananas for sale.  We had them with our breakfast.  Delicious!  The water here at the compound isn’t running, but Anounou had a good supply saved for us.  Hopefully this will get everyone through the week.

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Today we traveled to the village of Bassa where the Ouelsessebougou Alliance partnered with LDS Charities to help provide a school garden with a well and a solar pump.  Today the village was gathering to celebrate the completion of the project.

The drive to Bassa took about 40 minutes, much of it on dirt roads.  At one point we got stuck behind a donkey cart.  There wasn’t room to get around it, so we enjoyed the bumpy road and the scenery around us.  It’s dry here, and dusty.  The crops have been harvested.  Now we will wait for the rainy season.

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As we came into the village of Bassa, the first thing I noticed was the cotton harvest.  We hear they had a very good harvest this year.  It’s fun to see the white mounds waiting to be taken to the cotton gin in town.

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Here are some harvested corn fields.  Every bit of the work here is done by hand.

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Bassa is one of my favorite villages.  They are industrious here.  They have good farms and some gardens.  They make pottery and they have a sissel industry.  Because of the holiday, the women weren’t making pottery and the sissel harvest is over now.  Maybe next time I can show you how that’s done.

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Our friends here gave us a warm welcome.

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These are ovens where they roast the shea nuts.

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Here is a corn grinder used by the village.

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Beautiful children.

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A donkey corral with feed on top.

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When you go into a village, the first thing you do is pay a visit to the village chief and elders.  They welcomed us and thanked us for coming.  And they presented our Alliance leaders with a gift of 3 chickens.

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It’s always interesting and helpful to hear their main concerns and worries and we work together to try to find ways to help.  Today we were here to celebrate the completion of the garden.  They were grateful.

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The village chief, Anounou, our Ouelessebougou Alliance director, and John:

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I looked in on the kitchen as we left the chief’s compound (you can see some of the Bassa women’s pottery here:

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Mudbrick construction, woven grass mats:

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From the chief’s compound, we walked over by the Koranic school by the mosque for the celebration.

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The villagers were gathering to celebrate with us.  They brought chairs from everyone’s compounds and lined us up for the program of song and dance (and of course, speeches!).

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The dancing began!

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And we joined in!

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Then we all walked over to the garden by the public school.  The Ouelessebougou Alliance and LDS Charities partnered to provide this beautiful garden spot where children will learn farming and gardening skills.  Right now the land is fallow, after a corn crop here was harvested.  Now with water, they will be able to use the land more productively and teach the children.

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The garden gate:

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This is a large piece of land that is hard and dry now.  I can’t wait to see it after the rainy season when it’s planted and starts producing!  The entire garden is fenced in to keep the animals out.  Right now, the animals are enjoying the cornstalks.

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The solar panel for the well:

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The solar pump:

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Hoses will be hooked up to the pump to send the water to the furrows.  Today everyone important took a drink!

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These villagers and these children’s lives will change for good because of this well.

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Djiba Soumaoro (right) is one of our Alliance stars.  He is from Ouelessebougou and he recently graduated from Notre Dame.  He came with the expedition and will return to Ouelessebougou in July to work on site.

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Very happy village elders.

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Finally the children got at turn!

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The garden:

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Then the celebrations continued!

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There was more dancing and singing and drumming.  This is a grand day of celebrating for this wonderful village!

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This woman is the village matron.  I first met her in 2012.  I had a life-altering experience that day.  You can read about it here:  https://annlaemmlenlewis.com/2012/12/04/love-went-out-of-me/ .

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It neared lunch time.  The women had prepared food. We were given a huge headpan of white rice and a big pot of chicken in a peanut sauce with a few vegetables in one of the class rooms. First they brought in hand washing stations. These are colorful plastic buckets with a lid that has indentations for a plastic tea pot of water for washing and for the soap. There are holes in the lid to catch the water from the tea pot, when you soap your hands. This can be used again later. Everyone washed their hands, then the feasting began.

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Our staff–Anounou, Teningnini and Boubou ate the local food out of a common big platter tray–rice with the chicken in sauce spooned over it.

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Then the village elders came in and they took a large platter for themselves. What was left was loaded onto a platter and taken outside the classroom for a bunch of men out there who inhaled it. They eat every bit, bones and all.

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Then the celebrations continued.  All of the women (including all who had worked hard to prepare the food) were sitting under the mango trees over by the school waiting for the celebration to continue. They were not offered a bite. Only the men ate. I told the women we Loved their food and next time, when they come to Our place, we will feed THEM. They cackled at the thought of that.

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More speeches.  Elder Lewis thanked the village on behalf of LDS Charities, for their partnership with us and he encouraged them to use the garden to teach the children well.

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Grateful village elders:

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As part of the celebration, the Ouelessebougou Alliance brought a nice supply of corn–12 huge bags–to distribute among the “Internally Displaced Persons” who have found refuge in the village of Bassa.  These refugee families are fleeing from the unrest in northern Mali and many have been welcomed here in Bassa by these wonderful villagers.  They are sharing their land and their food.  The Alliance wanted to help with that effort.  We met with several of the refugee families and they are grateful to be here.

What a great day we had here in Bassa!  This is a progressive village, industrious and kind.  It’s always a joy to be here with them.  We look forward to visiting again when the garden is planted and producing.

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Corn –a Staple Food in Mali

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Corn, millet and rice are three of the staple foods in Mali.  The corn (maize) crops are planted in May and the harvest begins in September.   Here are a few pictures I took in November of another year that show the corn drying.

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The corn is either pounded into meal by hand (mortar and pestle) or taken to a village grinding machine.  This woman is drying her meal in the sun.

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Here is how the corn is cooked and made into porridge for eating.  If it’s served in the morning, it’s often sweetened.  If it’s served mid-day or evening it might be salted.

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These children are enjoying their corn porridge for lunch!

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Millet –A Staff of Life in Mali

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Millet is one of the staples of life here in Mali.  It grows in fields that look like corn stalks, but you can see in the picture below that it’s a grain.  Millet is harvested, dried, and then the seeds are separated from the plant.

Women pound the millet (like we would crack wheat) to be used in their porridges and hot cereal, which is often eaten three times a day.  It’s made into a stiff thick paste which is rolled in the hand and dipped in a sauce.

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Washing the millet:

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Mother and daughter pounding millet:

 

 

 

Making Shea Butter in Bassa

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In most villages in Mali, during most times of the year, you will hear the steady pounding of women who stand with mortar and pestle in hand, pounding shea nuts.  It’s a soothing sound that is steady and constant and sounds like a carpenter pounding with a soft, heavy mallet.  It’s soothing.  If you follow the sound, you will usually find several women in a compound, pounding and some bent over large tubs of hot emulsifying shea, mixing it like human Bosch machines.  They working together.  They help each other.  They are making shea butter, one of the finest products made in West Africa.  This is women’s work.  It’s hard work.  It’s hot work.  It’s soothing work.

The shea nuts are collected off the ground when they fall from the trees during harvest time.  They are dried or roasted and stored during the rest of the year.  Today in Bassa this group of women was making the shea butter from the roasted and ground nuts.

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In the villages you see many of these roasting ovens.  The nuts are roasted over slow-burning fires.  They have a peculiar smell.  Sometimes the nuts are spread on the ground to dry in the hot sun.

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Here are some photos I’ve taken in other villages.  These women are using stones to crack and shell the nuts.  The nut is taken from the shell and pounded or ground in a machine to make a paste.  Many villages have a grinding machine that the villagers share.

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After the nuts are ground, the paste looks like this:

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This is washed and mixed with water over and over until the oils separate and emulsify.  That’s what the women were doing today.   Here’s a little video clip:

Eventually the impurities are washed out and the shea butter is clean.

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This woman has made her finished product into a large heavy ball she’ll wrap in leaves and bind to take to the market to sell.

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Shea butter is an ingredient in many beauty products, creams and lotions.  It’s used here on the skin, in the hair, for wounds or burns, for bites or sunburns, and for general aches and pains.  It’s also used as their main cooking oil.  The shea nut is a gift to the women of West Africa.  It’s a perfect ingredient and a perfect remedy for most things that ail you.

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You can learn more about the process of making shea butter here:

https://www.smallstarter.com/get-inspired/shea-butter-in-mali-business-opportunity/

 

Days for Girls in Ouelessebougou

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My friends in our Yakima Washington Mission made these Days for Girls shields and liners and this week the Ouelessebougou Alliance team brought them to us here in Mali.   They will be distributed to the women in the Ouelessebougou main town on Friday as a part of a big training and awareness event we’ve been planning.  Teningnini, our Program Manager, has been working hard, inviting women to come and learn about women’s health and how to manage feminine hygiene more effectively.  She works with village health workers and matrons in 25 rural villages in the Ouelessebougou region.

We have a Days for Girls sewing Enterprise in Ouelessebougou.  It started in 2017, when Celeste Mergens, founder of Days for Girls International, visited and trained our women how to make the kits and how to teach the girls and women who receive them.

We hope this awareness will help more women know about our sewing center and where they can purchase additional kits or pods (half kits).

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The local women who come on Friday will each receive one shield and 3 liners.  They’ll also get a washcloth and some soap.  We’ll introduce them to our sewing team and let them know that they can purchase more shields or liners here.  We want them to tell their friends and family members about what we do and how they can support these local women’s enterprise as they care for their own hygiene needs.

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They work on treadle sewing machines.

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You can learn more about Days for Girls here:  https://www.daysforgirls.org/

Here are some photos that came from the Friday event in the compound.  Two hundred women came to learn!

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A Local Barber and some Women’s Hairstyles

2019-12-28 (119) This fine barber works across the street from the church.  He drops by from time to time.  He said, “I like the way it feels here.  I feel welcome and I feel peace here.”

I stopped by his shop to say hello.  Here are some of the styles he can help you with if you’d like to try a new style!

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The women also take great care with their hair styles.  Every day we see women plaiting or braiding each other’s hair.  Some women do it for pay, others trade with friends, doing each others’.  The styles are intricate.  Hair extensions are also very popular here.  Most women keep their hair fairly short, then braid patterns or extensions into it.  Many women also wear wigs, often for special occasions.

Here are some of our neighbor women, working on each other’s hair.  Notice the henna patterns on their hands and feet.

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A Ouelessebougou Hospital Visit

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We made a visit to the Ouelsesebougou Hospital this afternoon to show the expedition team around.  This hospital has been built since we started coming here 10 years go.  It was completed around 2013 or 2014.  It’s still mostly vacant.   Handwashing stations like the one above greet patients and visitors at every entrance.

We’ve made some good friends here over the years.  One is the Dentist, Dr. Coulibaly.  He is a kind and good man who makes do with what he has available.  Last month when our medical team was here, our Dentist, Dr. Johnston, worked with Dr. Coulibaly, doing mostly extractions.

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Here’s a look at the OBGYN wing of the hospital.  Our daughter, Claire is putting together an OBGYN expedition at the end of this year to come and do surgeries here.  They’ll focus on fistulas and prolapsed uteruses.  These pictures are for her, as they make plans for what they’ll need to bring.

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A local tailor

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Here is a local tailor.  Most people here have their clothing made to order.  You purchase your fabric, then take it to a tailor to fashion into a shirt or a dress or whatever you’d like.  There are usually posters like the one below with ideas of the possible styles.  To the right of these posters you’ll see pieces of tape with measurements on them.  Perhaps they are for different customers or for the different styles.  They do not use paper patterns here like we’re used to.

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This young man was helping the tailor by ironing the pieces he prepared.  The heavy cast iron is filled with hot coals.

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Sunday in the Bamako Branch with a Ouelessebougou Alliance Expedition

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This morning part of an expedition traveling to Ouelessebougou came to church with us.  We were so happy to see Judy Hut, the Ouelessebougou Alliance Director and her team.  Part of the group arriving this week was en route.  We’ve worked with the Alliance for many years–that’s why we first came to Mali.

We had wonderful Sunday meetings, then John and I joined this group and traveled south to Ouelessebougou for a few days.

 

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