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My experience of women’s rights in Togo has been mixed. The majority of women seem to spend their lives cooking, cleaning, going to market and sitting outside their houses with their friends, talking.
I have met women with no education whatsoever, who cannot speak even the most basic French and for whom the concept of a life outside the daily routine of the family home is strange, even intimidating. These women are beautiful to watch – the way Pascaline, a ‘domestic’ at Mama Togo’s house, washes clothes, cooks food, carries water on her head, has a unique elegance to it that I have never seen replicated elsewhere. She has been doing this kind of work all her life – the movements she makes when doing the housework are an essential part of her being.
I have also met women who want to make a life for themselves beyond the home, but are restricted by the opportunities for work there are in Togo. The main jobs for women seem to be running small shops or market stalls, hairdressing and dressmaking. Lea, another ‘domestic’ at Mama Togo’s house, is doing an apprenticeship in dressmaking. When I ask her about her work, her face lights up – she clearly enjoys the independence and camaraderie she experiences with the other girls at her workplace.
Then, I have met women at the top of their game. I’ve met lawyers fighting against injustice. The directrice of ASFEEN is a kind, formidable and dedicated woman who knows how women are treated in Togo and has a clear vision for how they should be treated. It is a great privilege for me to be working with ASFEEN to promote women’s rights. The office is tiny, housing just three highly committed and ...
With their home located near the SPCA in Grassy Park, Jeanette and Benjamin Jodamus provide a great base for animal care as well as other Projects Abroad volunteers in Cape Town.
After working with Projects Abroad for almost two years, the special host family treats volunteers like their own children, affording them the independence of an “open home” in which they can see to themselves as they please.
Although the Jodamus’s house boasts a separate section for volunteers, they spend a lot of their time with the volunteers, enjoying barbecues, lengthy conversations and all means of cultural exchange. “We love listening to all their travel stories,” says Jeanette, adding that she never tires of learning about new ways of life.
Jeanette and Benjamin view their role as holistic – providing not only basic care such as housing and food, but also the necessary psychological care for a young person in a foreign country. “Everyone has a story,” says Jeanette. “For some reason volunteers seem to trust us with theirs,” she continues, adding that she has spent many a night sharing tears and advice with the volunteers she has hosted. “We almost act as counsellors,” adds Benjamin, “but we really love it because we know that we have uplifted the lives of many young people, in our own way,” he continues.
On a lighter note, it is important for Jeanette and Benjamin that the volunteers have fun whilst staying with them. “Sometimes they wake us up when they arrive late from a night on the town, but we just laugh at their antics and go back to sleep,” laughs Jeanette. “There’s always laughter in our home when there are ...
A highlight for us this year has been watching the progress of six-year-old Nicolas Gerk, son of German volunteer Julia Gerk and our youngest 'volunteer' to date.
Although Julia and Nicolas began their experience as care volunteers, it was at a local primary school that Nicolas really started to flourish. We arranged for Julia to move over to the teaching project at the school, and Nicolas has completely come out of his shell, slotting into the preparatory students' daily program and forming friendships with children his age. It doesn't seem to matter to him that he speaks to them in German and that they answer in English!
Julia takes Nicolas to the surf project after school, where he frolics around on his board in the water.
It has been quite amazing to see how this German youngster has adapted so well to a South African routine that allows his mom to complete her volunteer responsibilities without having to worry about him.
It's great to know that we can cater for such a special duo. Keep up the great work, Julia and Nicolas!
I tried to have realistic expectations of India. I researched on theweb, read articles, assessed the political climate and learned all Icould about the history, customs and culture of these beautiful people.Armed with all of that knowledge, I felt responsibly prepared and evenshed a few tears of momentary reluctance when I boarded the plane. WasI ready for the stifling heat? Was a ready for cold showers and swarmsof mosquitos? What about laundry? I had never handwashed a load ofclothes in my life. Mentally, I was preparing for a rough ride.
But the moment I saw Amma's smile beaming at me from the front porchof my new host home, my apprehension melted away into memory. Amma'scontagious laugh and open demeanor filled my heart with warmth andsuddenly I was glad I had come. Yes, I was an all-day buffet for themosquitos. Yes, doing laundry for the first time in buckets rubbed myknuckles raw. My body didn't acclimate well either. I spent more thatone night writhing with a fever, nausea, cold sweats and the worststomach ache I've had in my life. Yet with all of those mishaps, Irecall many times walking, drenched in sweat to and my my projecthospital, with my heart so elevated with joy, I thought perhaps Iwould stay forever.
Amma's home has become my home. I retreat there with joy in theevenings and greatly enjoy every meal we get to share together. Ournighttime card games, together with our Auto driver are filled withlaughter and multi lingual conversations about every and nothing. Ihave lost a little of my heart to India and its people.Even though we maybe share 15-20 words in each others languages, thefriends I have made and the relationships I have cultivated with thenurses and staff of Booma hospital is something I will cherish in myheart forever.
I am not sure if there ...
Tomorrow i am getting the train to Beijing at 7.15am gonna be an early start especially as I'm going for some food with friends this evening, pretty excited to see beijing although it will be pretty rainy and humid. Im staying with a guy I met online (haha it's not as strange as it's sounds). The train is one and a half days and i know some people who are getting the train with me so it should be good fun. Through a website called couchsurfing you basically host people in your home and share travelling stories and you give them a gift but it makes accomodation cheaper and is a cool way of meeting new people. It's my first time trying it out but I've met plenty of people who highly recommend it :) So My host is 26 and is a chinese guy who works in Beijing he also helped get me my chinese visa which was real nice of him, so it's a bit of pot luck as to what your host is like but thats kinda the point of it :)
Last weekend I went to a small party in a restaurant/art gallery which was pretty awesome and I met a lot of people who I wish I had met before, when they asked me when i was leaving sadly my answer was thursday :( One guy even asked if seeing as I was teaching english here and was a native speaker if i wanted to apply for a job at his school, the possibility was exciting but of course I have a range of other commitments to meet. I think I might get some kind of teaching qualification after university so that I will be able to spend considerably longer travelling in the future :)
I've been preparing to go for the last few days saying bye to people and my family, getting souveneiur gifts given to me etc :) Its amazing when you about to leave a place how quickly your time runs out, especially because you want to spend time with everyone before you go :) But ...
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