Supporters of the Lambs for School Project recently returned from a visit to Burkina Faso and shared the following - slightly edited - account of their visit:
The old cliché, “we saved the best for last” captures our recent experience in Burkina Faso perfectly! We traveled for 2 weeks before visiting a school where girls are supported by Friends of Burkina Faso (the Lambs for School Project). The two weeks of travel allowed us to become familiar with the culture, history, natural resources, and the complex needs of West Africa.
Three of us visited the primary school in Tilli. The greeting we received upon arrival rivaled any experienced by major dignitaries! The children were encircling the flagpole with teachers and Headmaster. As soon as we got out of the car, they surrounded us with outstretched hands in an overwhelming show of warmth and greeting. My eyes filled with tears --- the emotion cannot be put into words. I could not imagine how they had been prepared to meet us, but clearly they had immediate trust and wanted to welcome us in the most loving way. They quickly resumed their positions around the flag when the Headmaster called to them and as one boy slowly raised the flag, the school community sang the national anthem. It was sung with sincere, solemn, and proud voices. It was very moving.
We were asked, by words and gesture, to join the circle where three chairs were readied for us. Many introductions followed including the request that we introduce ourselves. Lacine (NEEED project coordinator) had briefly introduced us as being part of Friends of Burkina Faso and the Lambs for School Project. The 30 girls who were recipients of lambs wore their uniforms which included tee shirts that say Association NEEED on them. More introductions followed with the regional director of primary education speaking briefly about the goals and needs of the schools. Lacine spoke to the needs at Tilli and the schools in general that NEEED supports. I felt a little like an Imposter in view of all the work and contributions that have been generated by your group but I put that aside and said to myself, “”Be a good ambassador for the “real” FBF people”. I was very proud to represent you! Finally the village chief spoke saying, “We have been told that we have friends in the United States, now we see you”. There are no words to describe my feelings at his simple eloquence.
Next we were shown classrooms that need to be replaced. They are inadequate in all ways: roof not protective in wind and rain; too small with girls seated 5 to a desk/bench that at best would seat 3; overcrowded requiring some to sit on the floor. The teacher had three blackboards with math and French lessons printed. Water is needed and the water table has dropped drastically within recent years with the average well being 110 feet now. This depth cannot be hand dug which is a big problem.
We walked out from the classrooms back into that sweltering Burkina Faso sunlight. A flurry of activity erupted: the girls had brought their lambs to show us! The lambs baa’d and bleated, and for a moment, all I could think of was the nursery rhyme, “Mary had a Little Lamb,” and I began to think that lambs made these “Mary’s” very, very fortunate. The children returned to their classrooms and we were able to share the school supplies that we brought with us, wishing it could have been 500 times more. Again, wordlessly we were moved to yet another location. Imagine our astonishment when we were presented with two live chickens and it was made clear that each of us should hold the chickens high and pose for photos!! Another honor for which there is no equal in my life!
Suzanne, the work that Friends of Burkina Faso is doing is so valuable, every effort is so important, and every kindness is so APPRECIATED! You have my utmost respect.
Thank you for all of your help in making the connections with NEEED possible. Thanks also for your kind advice about sitting, listening and not asking too many questions. It allowed for the experience to simply unfold. I have said to friends about our visit to the school and the interaction with the people there, “” If a person could have but one experience like this in a lifetime, it would indeed be a very fortunate life.” With warmest regards, Claire