Monday, July 20, 2015

Rose's Update-July/August 2015

Dear Friends of Alaffia,

Alaffia Co-Founder, Rose Hyde
Schools are just getting out here in Togo. The season was long this year due to teacher strikes and other interruptions. Every time I come to West Africa, since I first came as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1995, I am struck by the conflicts surrounding western education. Western education methods condense cultures rich in oral history and traditions onto chalkboards and notebooks.  They confine children bursting with energy and hope in hot brick rooms day after day.  However, being a product of state sponsored education I realize the great benefit that education can bring to individuals and communities.  I also know the necessity of learning the global languages in navigating and succeeding in this shrinking world.

Everywhere I visit in Togo, I see communities that have very little, but still put resources together to build schools in hopes their children will have a better chance.  It is this hope and determination that encourage us to continue our education projects.  The motivation we provide with simple pens and pencils, bicycles and school buildings will someday help form the leaders needed to truly bring Togo out of poverty. Without the access to education, there will be no end to poverty and no possibility of communities coming together despite their differences.

Our daughter, Yemi, wrote the following summary of a conversation we recently had with a girl from Benin.  I am sharing it with you because I think it brings a child’s perspective to the importance of education to young people, especially girls, in West Africa.

“Hi. I am Yemi Tchala, and I am 11 years old.  My parents own one of the best fair trade businesses, and as one of the daughters of these people, I think it is my responsibility to tell the world what my parents do.
I have personally experienced the power of Alaffia. This year, I was at a drink bar with my parents, my sister Abi, and our new friend Rafira. Rafira is from Benin. She is in Togo to be a nanny for a 4 month old baby during her school vacation.  Rafira cares for the baby while her mom is at work.  Rafira’s language is very similar to my Dad’s language, Kaboli.  Since my sister and I are still learning Kaboli, my Dad translated for us so we could ask her questions about her life.
Rafira said her father has three wives and 11 children; 8 with her mom, 3 with the second wife, and one who died as a baby with the third wife. She is the third youngest for her mom, before her twin brothers. The oldest five children have already left home. The three girls live with their husbands. The boys left for the big city (Cotonou) and Nigeria to look for work as house servants. 
I asked Rafira if she went to school. She said, “Yes, that is why I came here; to work for pens and pencils and books for school.” She also wants to take a little money home so she can buy books for her twin brothers.  She is 15, but will be in the same grade as me, the sixth grade.  She is a farm kid, and started school late. She also repeated second grade. Rafira says she walks to school most days, and unless she gets a ride with a stranger, she gets to school by 9 am.  Her new school will be closer, but it is still far. Abi and I are going to give her a bike before she goes home. 
I know Rafira misses her family because she said, “If you made me the richest girl in Togo, I would still go back to Benin to work as a farmer with my family because if I didn’t see them that would hurt me.” I thought this was beautiful and should be written down. She started really missing her family after saying that, so we stopped asking questions and bought her a soda to cheer her up. After Rafira was happy again, we told her we would write letters to her from the USA and we would go to visit her next time we were in Togo.”

This brief note from Yemi illustrates the difficulty of life for students in West Africa. It also shows the great help that our simple pencils, bikes and buildings bring to communities and families.  As always, we thank you for your participation and support in continuing all our Alaffia efforts.


Rose Hyde


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