2019 Day 2

Day 2: Thursday 10 January 2019

Ursula, Hélène, Roberte, Madeleine, Françoise, Adjarata

Anne, being the good journalist that she is, scoured the local newspapers over breakfast. “Oh, look,” she said. “The US Embassy is advertising Fulbrights.”

I quickly sent Ursula an e-mail with the information. The deadline is the end of this month. Last night we talked with her about Plan A, the University of Ouagadougou, and a possible Plan B, the University of Geneva. There was now a potential Plan C—a Fulbright. Last night she gave me her graduation photo from New Dawn University, where she got her Licence.

Our first stop this morning was Thomas Aquinas University. One of our first graduates (2010-2015), Hélène, was chief accountant.

We had a favor to ask her. We wanted to change the Excel program that we used in our own accounting to more easily follow the expenditures of each beneficiary. It required a modification of the Excel format we were now using and Christine wasn’t sure how to do it.Hélène knew how and said she would work on it on the weekend.

She announced her marriage on 3 March; her husband-to-be has a job and a house. They will now be a two-salary family with no children yet. We were so happy for her.

We wanted to meet with Roberte, who is in second year of medical school here. Most Master’s programs start in January, so she had no results to report yet. But she had good grades last year and we expect to be supporting her through 2022.

We had helped her sister Natacha get a certificate in agriculture. Natacha is now working in the east in a Red Zone threatened by terrorists. Roberte said, “They’ve started attacking civilians; she’s scared.”

Hélène’s sister Madeleine lives near this university. We’ve supported her for five years for a Master’s in law. She married and had a baby right at the end of her studies.

She asked me if I wanted to hold her daughter, Océane. Why not?

She assured us that despite her pregnancy she finished all her course work for the Master’s; she just has a few exams to make up. Her husband works in purchasing for a private construction company in the east in a terror-threatened zone. He too is scared. They have hired a full-time babysitter and she will look for work. They have a comfortable home.

Christian Geosits works for the Austrian development agency in Ouagadougou. He found us on the internet and offered to help. Christiane, Christine and Anne joined us for lunch.

He said he was committed to women’s education and could help us pay for scholarships in the next school year. Great.

After lunch, Anne and I went to the Air France building. Anne had read in their magazine that their foundation supports women’s education in Africa. They said we would have to ask Paris.

From Air France, it’s a short hop to the handicrafts center where our friend Kalifa, a sculptor in bronze, works. We paid him a visit.

I sensed he is getting old and frail, like I am.

He said he had put aside some statues for me. He pulled out a carton with 18 statues in it. “I’ll take all 18,” I said. They’re beautiful.

We dashed back to the hotel to meet with Françoise. We paid for her to do a two-year program in agriculture. She finished last year and has been doing unpaid internships for government agencies since.

She was in Ouaga to apply for a paying job with an NGO. This would be in a Red Zone. We advised her not to take it. She had applied for another job with a Catholic charity in Bobo Dioulasso, where she did her studies; she would hear from them on 15 January. That would be the best option. We wished her luck. She thanked us profoundly for having changed her life.

Our last appointment of the day was with Haoua’s half-sister, Adjarata. Haoua showed up right on time; Adjarata was late.

Their common father was there, I suspect as an honor to us. Two or three years ago, he was elected chief of his village. He has four wives in four different locations.

His third wife, Adjarata’s mother, but not Haoua’s, was there.

Finally, Adjarata arrived. She has six brothers, who don’t seem to amount to much. They are counting on Adjarata to make it. With our help, she is in the first of a two-year program to become an assistant nurse.

She showed me the bedroom that she shares with her grandmother. It was exceptionally tidy. Haoua must have insisted on that.

We said good-bye to all, including the ram tethered in the courtyard.

A last farewell to Adjarata out on the street. I don’t quite know what to make of her.

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