Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Haikus for Ouaga taxi drivers

Long line to red light
Let’s just swerve and pass these cars
It’s the safest way

I refuse to pay
Your fee for my skin color
Pick up more people!

Rush hour travel
Feels safer here than on bikes
...I can close my eyes

"Voila ton argent.
Wend na sonsga laafi."
Bam! I speak Mooré!

Monday, October 3, 2011

2 years down, 1 to go

I decided a long while back that I wanted to stick around in Burkina for another year, and it's about time I explained here just what it is that I'll be doing!

So, despite the fact that I loved my old site as if it were my baby, it seemed as if the projects I had started there had either served their purpose or were ready to have a new set of capable hands take them over. I decided to start looking for opportunities to gain some new experience and get my feet wet in the international development world and see how I felt about possibly working in it one day...

The most obvious place to look for such an opportunity was in the capital, Ouagadougou. And the most interesting sounding possibility was taking over the post of a soon-to-finish 3rd year volunteer, Meighan, at Marie Stopes International.

A little background on Marie Stopes International (MSI) -

MSI is an organization based out of the UK that provides family planning services around the world. In Burkina, MSI currently has one main clinic in Ouaga as well as 3 "outreach" teams and 10 "social marketing agents".

The clinic, which I am sitting above right now, offers pretty much any family planning service one can think of, from family planning consultations to condoms to pills to injections to IUDs to tubal ligations and vasectomies. They're one of the only organizations in the country to consistently provide all these services, and they do so for just about the lowest prices you can find here.

There are about 10 "social marketing agents", who seem to do similar things as Peace Corps Volunteers in the Health sector (except they are all Burkinabe and generally have more resources at their disposal). They hold large and small scale awareness sessions on family planning, its importance, and what Marie Stopes has to offer. Drumming up demand for family planning services is their big thing and they seem to be really good at it!

So, after these lovely people create this demand, the outreach teams swoop in to meet it. They come in trucks plastered with Marie Stopes slogans (Enfants par Choix et Non par Hasard!) and logos blasting African pop music out of megaphones and have a team of a doctor and two midwives who perform the family planning services families want and need. Hooray!

It seems to be a well organized and effective NGO that, despite only being in Burkina for 2 years, has already done a lot of education and service delivery.

What will I be doing at MSI for the next year, then?

Inserting IUDs?? Talking to people about why family planning is important?? Singing along to my fav Burkina jams on the megaphones??
Answers: ...um, no thanks; only to interested taxi drivers; aaand I wish!

My made-up title is Stagiaire d'appui programmatique, suivi et evaluation, et marketing (translation: Programmatic support, monitoring and evaluation, and marketing Intern). My main role is in monitoring and evaluation - I'll be involved in a lot of client surveys, mystery client organization, checking the books, and generally just trying to find all sorts of ways to make sure that Marie Stopes is doing the best it can in Burkina.

Another large part of my job is translating. Since MSI is an anglophone organization who is only in a handful of relatively newly-launched francophone countries, the infrastructure to translate all documents isn't yet in place. I'll be a go-to person for letting our Burkinabe staff (all staff except 2, my British boss and I, are Burkinabe) know what's going on with Marie Stopes in the rest of the world, and for letting the international offices know what wonderful things we're doing.

The rest of my job is just being there to help on whatever I can. This job should end up giving me a nice overview of how the organization itself works, a bit of how certain kinds of NGOs work, and some good experience in monitoring and evaluation in particular - which I understand is a very valuable skill to have in this field. Just what I'm looking for.

Marie Stopes also works with refugees and internally displaced persons in such countries as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Yemen. This is exciting to me because my current thought for next possible career move is (after coming back to the states to get a masters - which is necessary for the field) working in humanitarian aid in conflict zones and/or refugee camps. But as for all that future planning stuff, we shall see in a few years...

So there's the basic (if long) run-down of how I'm occupying my time here for the next year (and boy will it be occupied! full work days and weeks in an office at a computer - with AC, no less!). And as of now, the end of my first week, I'm loving this job. The environment feels comfortable but I also feel challenged and accomplished in one way or another each day (that sense of accomplishment was a bit harder to feel each day as a PCV in village).

Current 3rd year status: Off to a good start.