Update from Bess in Agadez

Greetings from Agadez!

With apologies to New England friends, the weather here has been pleasant, and Brian and I have been working 24/7 as I enter my third week here, enjoying the sense of progress. I wanted to share a bit of what we’ve been up to with you – our friends and supporters.

We’re grateful to Jack Teeters, Mrs. Johnson and the Hurlbut-Johnson Trusts for our new Agadez Learning Center kitchen (above). It will be completed in a few days and is a giant step up from the outdoor kitchen that made good hygiene practices a challenge. The windows have shutters with the cross of Agadez on them. Inside there is a long counter, where three meals a day will be provided to the students, who will come up to the open windows to serve themselves from family style platters of food. We’ve installed a septic system behind the kitchen, which separates the ground water to be diverted to the garden for irrigation.

In order to reach our goal to increase the number of female students at the center, and provide them with more privacy, The Rotary Club of Portsmouth has provided a grant of $5,000 to enlarge the existing girls’ dormitory space.  We’ve made a plan and budget with the local architect who built the kitchen. In addition to doubling the size of the space, the doorway will be relocated so that passers by will not have a view of the rooms. The door opens into a study space. The other ¾ of the building is sleeping space.  We’ve discovered the electrical wiring is not strong enough and is not grounded.  As we work on the buildings we are bringing it up to standards in several areas, postponing the porch construction to next year.

A supporter has offered support to provide solar power at the center.  We’ve chosen to construct a computer lab, as the students receive no computer training at school. Solar power is important, as electricity is unreliable, especially in the hot season – April, May and June.  We hope the new computer lab will be up and running for the next school year.

Presently, we have 25 girls and boys – Tuareg and Wodaabe from the Air Massif and Azawak areas. The new students have never been to Agadez, or any city, for that matter. They are shy but getting along well. One student expressed in her interview: “The city is so close, there’s no air to breathe.” Another student slips away often to spend time with camels at the local market. Brian has purchased a film projector for the well-loved documentary screenings he hosts nearly every evening for the students. He’s also been busy interviewing them about their lives, daily experiences and hopes for the future. Here, I’d like to once again express thanks to John and Lee Lamson and Friends of Niger for their continuing scholarship support for several students.

As I listen to an ice cream truck amble down the road outside of the RAIN office playing “Jingle Bells,” I’m reminded that my time here is running short and I’ll soon be back in my winter coat and scarf – desert sand traded for sky high snow banks.

A bientot,