2016 Burkina Day 3: Sonya and Natacha

Morning of Day 4—Sonya and Natacha

10 January 2016


It’s Sunday, and at the Karité Bleu Hotel that means a croissant as well as plain bread and papaya instead of a banana. Love it.


I hadn’t seen the crested crane that has inhabited the hotel for years and, frankly, I hoped he was dead. He’s aggressive and unpleasant. He once pecked at my camera, knocking it to the ground, after I took a photo of him. But, no. He’s still here.


Our big annual meeting of beneficiaries in Ouaga will take place this afternoon, but I had made a few appointments for this morning, starting with Sonya. On the way, I spotted a billboard showing the new President, Roch Mark Kaboré. (Everyone calls him Roch, pronounced in French a little like “Rock”.) The elections were free and fair and everyone seems to like him. He was born rich, so they think he’ll have no reason to rob the country. “Burkina is proud,” the sign read.


We helped Sonya with her last year of Master’s study in accounting and corporate management. She finished her courses in 2014 and expects to finish her thesis this year. She seemed relaxed and confident.


But the big news about Sonya is that she got married last month. We spent a lot of time looking at wedding photos.


Her husband Innocent is an economics professor at a private institute. He has a house, a car, and now Sonya.


So she has made the big leap from poverty to middle class. Next stop for her—diploma and a job.


Our second appointment of the morning was with Sonya’s half-sister, Natacha. This neighborhood was less fancy.


Natacha met us on the main road on her scooter and guided us to her home.


She invited us in; the house was modest.


We went right to work. She received her two-year diploma in agriculture last year from an important institute, Matourkou, outside of Bobo Dioulasso. She took a national qualifying exam for government service and is waiting for the results. If she passes, she will stop her education and take a government job. If not, she will continue the five-year program to become an agricultural engineer. She proudly showed us her diploma.


Meanwhile, she is continuing her third year of study as if she were going to continue. The third year is a full year internship. She is doing hers with a Taiwan company studying rice production. She goes out into the bush on short hops—one day, three days at the time. This is rough on her because since small she has been an asthmatic.


Our Health Fund, financed by the UN Women’s Guild of Geneva, has been paying for her medication the past two years.


The asthma isn’t all. She had a serious motorbike accident last year, damaging her toes and her knee. The knee is still painful and a doctor has advised her to have a scan. That will cost $80; I’ll see if our Fund can cover it.


Her mother sat with us. She is strong woman; she works for the Ministry of health.

She’s had two husbands and four children—Sonya, who just got married; Christophe, 24, who is finishing architectural training in Lomé, Togo, on a government scholarship; Natacha and Roberte, 16, who is in a public secondary school.

Neither of the husbands lives with her, but one was present with us, probably Sonya’s father. They explained that he was in town for Sonya’s wedding.


Christophe was home from Lomé on vacation.


Roberte was helping Mom prepare a meal.


Christophe took our photo before we left. On the right is Wensceslas, a cousin of Natacha’s whom her mother also feeds. At his age, he probably eats a lot.




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