I was very impressed to see improvements in some aspects of the daily life out on the streets of Lome, at our office and in my Mama Rosa’s life.
When it comes to general development of the country, the first things I noticed were more asphalted streets, people respecting traffic lights and less police on the streets. There’s one thing I can’t decide if it should be under “positive aspects” and that is that more and more people seems to have considerably gain weight. I guess that shows an economical growth, right? Or just better marketing for unhealthy foods?
Projects-Abroad Togo started the collaboration with the Social Affairs and FODET, two governmental organizations who monitor the work of the orphanages in Togo and fight against child trafficking, with the purpose of joining our forces to stop crime and corruption. We started working with more foster homes and orphanages and a few new Human Rights projects. We also extended our help in two new fields: Speech Therapy and Psychology.
We said “Good bye” to Sarah who worked with Projects-Abroad in Togo for one year and wished her good luck with her future plans of continuing her studies back in Denmark. In the same time we said “Wezon” to the new member of the staff, Katrin from Germany, who will be with us for one year in Togo. The main purpose of my trip to Lome was to train Katrin as the new Assistant Manager, which turned to be a fun and interesting job thanks to her curiosity, seriousness, spirit of initiative and enthusiasm.
Mama Rosa’s house was exactly as I left it. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Romanian Almanac “Flacara” on the same spot on the table of the terrace where I used to spend my evenings one year ago. But Mama Rosa had now fresh new stories from her trip to France where she stayed with her son for 3 weeks last summer (she has an actual book with photos made by her son, the Doctor, as she proudly calls him).
On the way back from Togo I had the chance to stop for a few days in Morocco. In Rabat I met one of the most amazing Projects-Abroad teams, so warm, welcoming and hospitable that made me feel once more part of a big family.
The first stage of the project was finding the story we could adapt and perform; something with a strong moral at the end and fun characters to play. Ali translated a Romanian folk tale about a lazy man and a hard working man who both want to find their fortune at a castle. The lazy man finds animals to ride on to get to the castle and keeps stopping along the way to sleep. He doesn’t reach the castle in time and so is chased away by the creatures of the forest, whereas the hard working man does not stop and walks the whole way to the castle where he finds his fortune. I wanted to include a hard working princess as well, based on the story of Cinderella, where the children help her do her chores so they can go outside in the sunshine. The performance ends with the Princess kissing a frog turning him into a handsome prince and they all lived happily ever after…
I spent the first few days making all the props and costumes which was a lot of fun, I had some help from another volunteer, Soley, to make the castle: bright pink, glitter and three towers – what more could a Princess want? Once everything was made, we started rehearsing. All the volunteers wanted to be involved: Soley played the frog and the hardworking man, Jon played the snail, Afra played the lobster and the horse, Katie played the lazy man and I played the princess. I live with Afra, Soley and Katie and so we managed to rehearse everything and get the performance done quickly. We had a couple of rehearsals at our house, inviting Jon over, which was great and we had a lot of fun practicing being all the different characters and animals.
The day before the performance, Ali translated the important parts of the story so the children could understand it but we left some of the performance in English. There wasn’t a great deal of speaking so we hoped that the fun costumes and simple actions would be enough for the children to know the moral of the story. After a few final run-throughs we felt ready to perform. Everyone felt happy about performing and Afra was looking forward to performing in front of the kids she cares for. I was nervous about the children not responding when I asked them to help clean or getting them to scare the lazy man away, but with any performance, you never know until on the day….
The children were really curious when we arrived but weren’t allowed to come in the lounge until we were starting. We all got into our costumes and made sure all the props were in the right place, we all hoped that the children would enjoy it and that we’d have some fun too. After the performance I realized there wasn’t anything to be nervous about, the children loved it. They responded really well, one girl came and stood at the front with me to help ‘clean’ as she really wanted to join in. After the performance Ali asked them questions in Romanian to see if they understood everything and they all told her the moral of the different stories. They even understood the moral where I was speaking in English and asking them to help, they knew that when you work together then you get things done a lot quicker. It was great to have such a positive response so we left in high spirits and looked forward to the next foster home. We knew that the kids at the second home were a lot younger but the response was still amazing. They loved joining in and when I asked them to scare the lazy man away they shouted so loud that a little boy started crying because he got scared! They understood everything really well and were laughing all the way though, especially at the lazy man’s mask and when all the different animals came in. After the performance we got to spend some time playing with the children and we let them try on all the costumes. We bounced balloons to each other and they wandered around wearing crowns, lobster claws and all sorts of different masks. They loved it and so did we, it was an absolute joy to see the children laughing and playing with us and I really hope that they’ll remember the performance in years to come. It was such a good experience to have and I would love to do it again, it was something so simple and the performance itself only lasted about 10 minutes, but I will remember the children’s smiles forever.
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