Setting the First Stone for LeapingStone Pt. I
The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity. The electricity continues to be a daily problem, so I am hoping to get this post done before we loose it again.
Wednesday April 21st was a remarkable day. We arrived in Dédékè at 9:00AM sharp to start the ceremony to bless the project and the land, and to set the first stone as a symbol of the start of the building.
Many of the villagers were in attendance. Some were unable to be there as there is work to do in the fields preparing for the coming planting season. Those who could attend were dressed in their best clothes. The children that attended were already seated in one of the existing “classrooms” that has been converted into a church.
As we took our seats, Father d’Almeida prepared for the ceremony, and the singing started. A lovely hymn that was sung with enthusiasm.
Father d’Almeida gave a sermon and performed a Catholic service. Paul acted as my interpreter for both the words being said, but also the significance of the various parts of the service. Then Father d’Almeida started speaking rapidly to the crowd. Paul explained to me that he was telling everyone that I had traveled very far to help them. That we had worked hard to get the money to start the school. At that point I had to ask Paul to stop translating because it was making me cry. Some of the children looked at me with worried faces, so I smiled as I wiped my eyes.
Father d’Almeida prepared the Holy Water to bless the ground and keystone. We then filed out to the cleared area that is where the school will stand. Some of the men dug a hole and mixed some mud. They then placed three cement blocks in a triangular shape, securing them with more mud and rocks. Then they set a large stone on its end within the three blocks. This is their “keystone”.
Father d’Almeida said a prayer as Paul and I held the stone. He then sprinkled the area with Holy Water and it was done!
Next we went to see the first batch of soap that the women of the village had made. Before leaving for Togo, Kim Logsdon, one our board of directors, came to my house to show me how to make soap. I felt it would be important for me to understand the process before coming to Togo. I was glad to see the process is almost the same.
I was so happy to see the women excited and proud to have made their first batch. The soap has a lemon fragrance and they demonstrated how well it lathered. They then proceeded to make a second batch while we watched. I have some ideas to discuss that might make the process easier for them. I plan on speaking with Liqua (who is part of Floraison the Togolese NGO that is helping us and the villagers) about these ideas and see if we can implement them.
Before leaving for Lomé, the women sang us a song and then we all danced. Togolese love to sing and dance. There is always music wherever you go. Two of the women presented me with a cadeux of a beaded necklace and bracelet. So sweet!
As we drove out of the village we passed the keystone planted in the ground. Paul said “The first stone for LeapingStone”.
Memorandum of Understanding Signed ~ It is Official! Pt. II
Friday April 21nd at 6:30 PM Togo Time, Natalie sent this post with great enthusiasm. To all of you that contributed to this first phase of the building of the school, Natalie sends her deepest gratitude. If you have been waiting for an opportunity to contribute, now would be a great time to move forward on funding for phases II & III. Either way, LeapingStone continues to make significant strides in this project, and, after several months of hard work, this project is truly leaping forward!
A monumental day yesterday [April 20th]. We had the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding amoung the three parties involved: The Catholic Church, the village of Dédékè, and LeapingStone. Not only were we signing our agreement, but the village elders and Chief were coming to Lomé to do it.
Greetings all around as we sat down to read the MoU. Paul translated it into Ewe, their native language. There was much discussion about the income-generating activities and what was expected from the village. They expressed their willingness to work hard and to establish a plan to use part of the income for school supplies for the children. This is a new concept for them and will take time and planning on their part.
After the document was read, all parties signed! For me, this was one of the most important steps in the project. Each party now knows and agrees as to their responsibilities regarding the building of the school.
A Quick Word About Traveling in Togo
I have to tell you, that up until a day ago I had always had Paul to drive me to Tsévié or Dédékè. However, on Tuesday, I had accompanied Liqua to Tsévié using the system that most Togolese must use. This requires a number of steps, first, you hire a moto (motorcycle) to drive you from point A to point B.
Of course you must negotiate a price first. I asked the driver to go slowly, which he did, but the other motos are darting in and out and cars are coming at you from every direction. They pass so closely I found myself holding my breath to try to make myself smaller. This was one of the scariest experiences I have had!
After reaching point B, we take a minibus taxi. Here the price is fixed The bus is designed to hold 7 passengers, but by the time we got going we had ten people on board. The drive takes an hour. The back to my seat was broken so I couldn’t put any pressure on it or it would fall backward. Finally, the minibus dropped us at point C (slightly cramped and very hot) and we walked to our final destination.
I tell you this so that you have some idea of what it takes for the villagers to come to Lomé. I am now off for a meeting with the contractor.