We are happy to be able to report that our project devoted to providing healthcare in southeastern Senegal is going strong! Neighbor Ape is working in conjunction with OBARAR, a Senegalese organization, to build a dormitory for rural Senegalese children (check out our project on ‘Conserving Chimpanzees through Education’ – last installment is almost completed!), and our healthcare project provides much-needed medicine and medical care to students living in the dorm.
This year, 28 children are residing in the OBARAR dormitory, which is specifically for Bedik children but also welcomes other children in difficult circumstances. For example, we were recently able to fund a student from the Bassari village of Petit Oubadji so that she could move into the dormitory, as she was unable to reliably attend the nearest school, which is about two miles (one way!) from her home village. This is a lengthy walk for a young student 10 times a week, especially when parents are unable to walk their children to school every day because of work-related tasks. Petit Oubadji is a village on the edge of the Fongoli chimpanzees’ home range, and a young man of that village also works for the Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project.
The Bedik group is a minority in Senegal, comprising only five villages in this country, which is the only place they reside. They are traditionally horticulturalists but remain closely tied to the land where they grew up and emphasize knowledge of the environment. Young people still participate in month-long camping trips that immerse them in the natural environment and teach them valuable lessons about the wildlife and vegetation in this area of Senegal. The Sudano-Guinean habitat is relatively unique in terms of housing wild chimpanzees, and it is the reason Neighbor Ape was established in Senegal. We know very little about savanna chimpanzees, and probably less than 500 live in Senegal. It is vital to work with local stakeholders, such as the Bedik people, in order to conserve this endangered species. Neighbor Ape was incorporated to work with local people and to help provide for their wellbeing as well as the chimpanzees that live alongside them.
Our healthcare project has become specifically geared to providing funds for children in need that are residents of the OBARAR dormitory. Often times these children live far from their home villages, as the dormitory is located in the regional town of Kedougou, where children can have access to better schools. We provide funds for children in immediate need of medical attention, especially in cases where it may take days to contact their parents. We also provide for more than 50% of the healthcare costs of children whose parents are unable to take care of all their healthcare costs. Many people living in rural Senegal have little access to cash, as they are traditionally horticulturalists that grow most of their yearly food supply and plant little in the way of cash crops (to sell). We also plan on funding the building of a small pharmacy on site at the dormitory. The healthcare project is one of the most significant endeavors that Neighbor Ape takes on, as medical care is relatively expensive for people in the Kedougou area, not always reliable and crucial to the health and wellbeing of any person. Without the help of people like you we couldn't provide assistance to those in Senegal less fortunate than ourselves - thank you!
Great news from Kedougou, Senegal is that we are very close to completing the dormitory project that Neighbor Ape is helping fund in conjunction with the Bedik organization OBARAR. In addition to helping fund the dormitory - which also includes fencing the compound, building a kitchen and dining hall, building latrines, a well and housing for the house mother and house father - we are helping provide access to healthcare for Bedik children living in the dorm.
Bedik children living in rural areas are being given the opportunity to attend better schools in the regional town of Kedougou through the establishment of the OBARAR dormitory. Neighbor Ape has also been able to provide assistance to these schoolchildren via our healthcare project. We currently provide up to 75% of the costs of medical care for children whose parents are unable to assist them or in emergency cases where immediate care is necessary. We also hope to help fund the construction of a small dispensary within the dormitory's compound.
The very generous donations of Dr. Harold Marder and Dr. Jewel Slesnick have made the dormitory project possible. Above is a photo of the dormitory site, and you can find a brief video clip of the dormitory site and the various buildings that have so far been constructed there. In the video you can also see women pulling water from the dormitory well.
Everyone involved with Neighbor Ape and OBARAR is thrilled to see the project completed in time for the new schoolyear begin in October - look for photos and updates coming soon!
Neighbor Ape is happy to report that one of our first accomplishments in terms of giving villages in Senegal access to healthcare has been to help schoolchildren from the dormitory project we support in Kedougou. Our organizations is working in conjunction with the Beudik organization, registered in Senegal, to build a dormitory in Kedougou for rural village children who live outside the main population center of Kedougou, in the Kedougou region.
In addition to providing lodging in Kedougou so village children can attend better schools in this regional town, we have also been able to provide assistance with these children's healthcare needs. Although being in the town of Kedougou means the Neighbor Ape/OBRAR dormitory residents have better access to education and healthcare facilities, they are also somewhat removed from their parents who remain in the village, and access to healthcare in Senegal is relatively expensive for most people. Therefore, Neighbor Ape has been able to help defray some of the greater expenses for the schoolchildren, especially in emergency situations.
Additionally, our organization assisted in providing medical care in one case of a severely ill patient in Kedougou whose family and friends were unable to collect enough funds to cover all his medical bills. The medical reforms of past decades in Senegal have resulted in greater discrepancies in the ability to pay for those in rural areas especially where barter systems have been used traditionally. We are happy that we can provide some assistance in the most dire circumstances, especially, and in helping provide seed money to fledgling community healthcare insurance systems (see our project description).
In rural Senegal, healthcare is difficult to access as well as expensive for people who may survive on a subsistence economy, growing the food they need but usually having little access to cash. The OBRAR organization in Senegal is composed mainly of people of the Beudick ethnic group, a minority in this country, with only about 5 Beudick villages remaining. Given the problems of obtaining good healthcare in a timely manner for villagers without access to health insurance, this Senegalese organization moved to organize a lending system. This system provides loans for those in need in medical emergency situations and functions as a result of individuals putting small amounts of money into the larger fund on a monthly basis. OBRAR plans on making the loan system available to other villages and ethnic groups in the area, including Fangoli village (see photo).
Neighbor Ape began working with OBRAR previously on education projects but also initiated a healthcare project in late 2012. This project began as a tribute to Dorothy Pruetz, mother of Neighbor Ape’s Director and frequent donor to our non-profit. Dorothy passed away in November of 2012 after being diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. Even while she was ill, she spoke frequently of those who were not as fortunate as she. She worried about people, especially those she knew of in rural Senegal, who did not have the same access to healthcare she had in the United States. She also worried about those who did not have relatives or friends around to help them in emergency situations. In memory of Dorothy’s kindness, Neighbor Ape joined OBRAR in seeking to bring healthcare to those who need it in southeastern Senegal.
The first step we have taken is to provide seed money in the form of approximately $200 so that the OBRAR healthcare project loans can immediately become available for those in need. Additionally, we are working on a program that will contribute, without the expectation of repayment, from 50 to 75% of the costs of healthcare in situations in which healthcare costs are most prohibitive during the initial year of the OBRAR healthcare project. We plan to work with local healthcare workers that travel in between villages to understand their needs in terms of medicines that might be purchased by Neighbor Ape. Finally, we plan to purchase between 30 and 100 mosquito nets to distribute throughout the area before the rainy season begins in May. Malaria is one of the most serious diseases people face in this region, and it is endemic in southeastern Senegal.
This project is an especially fulfilling one for Neighbor Ape, as well as participants in the OBRAR healthcare project. We look forward to continuing our support and to expanding our aid in innovative ways.
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