YovoTogo Diary 2018 (Episode 4)

Tuesday October 23.

Two days of pure tourism in immersion within the KOUTAMMAKOU land, the Batammariba country, “the people who shape the land”. This is the border region with the Benin country, located at about 150 km from Bombouaka and the North-East of Kandé.

We have an appointment with Sami Nestor, a guide with a constant smile on his face, who was contacted beforehand from France, thanks to Facebook. On our way, we make a surprise visit to Théophile, who settled in shop of BARKOISSI where he is providing computer courses to the young people of the village. He is going to move in a much bigger workspace, ready to receive the 20 computers which were donated by the YovoTogo association in support of its new project of training in the neighboring high schools.

The KOUTAMMAKOU region is a living cultural landscape, which illustrates perfectly the cultural traits of the Sahel ethnic groups which, eager for freedom and independence, were never absorbed nor enslaved by the various kingdoms which burgeoned in this area until the 19th century. The KOUTAMMAKOU has a very particular feature : the Takienda, which is a basic family house looking like a small castle. Sami Nestor will lead us to meet Jacques, a true aboriginal who is the official guide of the local historical museum of this region, which was designated as UNESCO world heritage site in 2003.

While showing us objects, clothes, parade arms, one after another, Jacques talks to us with passion and conviction about his nation’s history, his ancestors, and about a community committed to fairness and to the autonomy of each person constantly seeking a life balance. He explains the social organization of the Batammariba people based on an animist belief system. With is language and attitude, Jacques displays a behavior tinged of mystic demeanor when he starts talking about the cultural roots of his people, based on a ceremonial system well preserved in Togo, and which shows up mainly during the funeral and initiation rites.

We all, together with Sami Nestor and Jacques, meet in a café around some cold drinks to extend this discovery moment of another culture, exchanging ideas with a lot of humor, specially when we cover the “couple concept”, a sensitive topic here where the tradition leads to have several wives and even a mistress. The sun is setting, and leaves its place to the moon while our bursts of laughter resonate in the savanna …

Wednesday October 24.

We spent the night in a lodge within an orphanage for girls, kept by a religious congregation. The room are comfortable and equipped with air-conditioning, and the cooking very good also. The air is very hot air because this area is surrounded by mountains and we are basically located in a depression without a breath of wind.

In the morning Sami Nestor takes us to the Nadoba market, where coexist clothes, vegetables or poultry merchants, together with palm-readers, healers etc. each of them installed on a square covered with a straw roof. But taking picture is problematic because the inhabitants really dislike being photographed. We follow the suggestions of our guide who kindly negotiates few pictures for us.

After lunch hit the road again toward the North, with a stop over Mango where we visit the orphanage kept by Kodjovi and his family. This is an institution offering sewing, bakery and hairdressing trainings, and where we provided with a computer room in 2017, adding this field to the list of provided courses.

We reach Bombouaka before dark, and a good shower will take care of the fatigue occurred on the road with sections in very bad shape, and of the dust accumulated on our body and in our hair.

Thanks to Richard who accompanied us with a second vehicle from the Center and makes available to us all his knowledge of the local practices.

On the picture below : young boy and girl ready for the passage to adulthood, and wearing ritual hats.

Thursday October 25.

Marie-Paule et Claude leave for Dapaong where they have meetings concerning the FabLab, and talk with Afo, who changed their Android phone setup to accept shared connections and enabled their the Internet connection of their computer via tethering. Then a little bit of shopping at the market in anticipation of Saturday evening with the teenagers.

As far as Françoise is concerned, her individual talks with the various professionals of the Center allowed her to present, during a new meeting with the board, some lines of thought for the different services, in order to improve the support provided to the persons arriving at the Center (work flow organization, setup of communication and monitoring tools). Fruitful exchanges will enable a questioning of the current practices, and give them a fresh meaning of their work.

In the mean time, Clémence gathered the teenagers in the school lodge to make a presentation about the AIDS virus and the condom use. Richard did volunteer to help during this presentation meeting. In a first step, we quickly explained what represents really the AIDS virus. Then we talked about the transmission modes, and how important it is to protect themselves. Finally we made a demonstration on how to put in place a male condom. The teens were receptive and at the end of the presentation we answered their questions. Richard eased the group by participating also to the discussion, by explaining things again with his own words, and, in turn, asking them questions. A batch of 200 condoms was given to the lodge delegate, who will dispatch them to all the teenagers.

Wednesday October 26.

Meeting in the morning with Cyril Douti BINGOLI, secretary of the ASPHATA association (Tandjouaré disabled people association) comprising 63 members, with its head office near the hospital of Bombouaka. We promised them the delivery of 2 computers to eqip their office. This association will help us to identify the people likely candidates to receive a prosthesis manufactured by the HP&O OrthoLab, as well as to create and maintain the waiting list file together with the picture files able to provide information to Roberto, our Belgium orthopedist partner.

A meeting will be organized soon between YovoTogo, ASPHATA and the associations APHMOTO (disabled people of Tône) located in Dapaong, KPAAL N’PAAK (peasants fulfillment in Moba language) located in Cinkassé and ASPHAK (disabled people of Kpenjal) located in Mondouri.

Since these four associations are covering the whole savanna region, it should be easy for us to select, as soon as yaer 2019, the most needy disabled persons who could be eligible to receive a prosthesis realized at low cost thanks to the additive technology of the 3D printers installed at the Dapaong CRETFP (Educational Center).

At 2PM we go to the pediatric hospital St Joseph of Bogou, for a simple friendly visit . We have a strong attachment for this children’s hospital which is doing a remarkable job, and managed by very energetic Italian Sisters. The construction works for the new maternity clinic just began. They are financed by the ” Manos Unidas” foundation. This pediatric hospital, located in the Tandjouaré prefecture, in Togo, receives patient coming from the whole savanna region (857 km2 or 328 square miles). It is also treating patients coming from the West of the Ghana country. The population served is about 200,000 habitants. The construction works are expected to take 6 months and the equipment of this maternity is funded by Rotary International in the frame of their “health of mothers and children” cooperation between the RC Québec 7790 and the RC TandjouaréDapaong 9102.

By the end of the day, the ladies took the habit of helping the young children making their home work in the lodge, called “the little Cottolengo”, needless to say that are very welcome …

Extracts from : Voyage de solidarité 2018 de nos amis de YovoTogo

Image Source : YovoTogo