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In Burkina Faso our AMURT team is
moving ever forward, despite the security challenges we are now facing in the Sahel Region. The conflict in Mali is beginning to affect our project areas there, which is forcing us to keep a lower profile while we wait for the situation to improve. However, the conflict is not interfering with the development of our master unit – Ananda Viirata. This year has been focused much on developing agroecological aspects. In addition to producing organic vegetables and fruits, we’ve also planted over 20,000 new trees, with many more growing nicely in our nursery.
This upcoming year, we are initiating a master unit based program that aims to 1. assist area farmers to maximize production on their landholdings, 2. cooperatively produce and process moringa and other locally grown items, 3. make moringa powder available as a nutritional supplement to vulnerable populations (pregnant women and young children). For more information, click on the Ananda Moringa image.
For this program, we are seeking $33,000 to construct agro-processing facilities on Ananda Viirata (our Bissiri community center). This facility will not only serve as the basis for our new program, but will bring us closer to realizing our vision of local self-reliance. This last month, we have distributed over 15,000 moringa trees to area farmers, with an aim to begin large-scale processing of moringa by next summer. Our goal is to finish construction by Spring 2013.
Dada Padmeshananda has brought a new wave of dedicated service to Burkina.
A year ago our school in Bissiri was launched. Over 100 children came to register. It was a great day of shared joy as from now on the children won’t have to face the over 30 km (both ways to the main city) bicycle on bad dirt roads to get to a junior high school. I was so happy to meet all of them; it feels like the family keeps on growing! The vision of this educational project is to provide students, in parallel with their academic studies, with a holistic education that would give them every opportunity to build their own future in accordance with the values of solidarity, service to others, wisdom, Neohumanism and ecology.
Now in its second year, the school has 119 students up to grade 7. The students are making sincere efforts, despite many still having difficulty understanding French. Still, thier determination is strong and their spirit high!
Prout Lessons from Development Work in West Africa by Dada Daneshananda
In June 2000 I arrived in West Africa to coordinate AMURT development projects. These last twelve years have been an incredible adventure for me, giving me the special privilege to work closely with the people in villages in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. I am very grateful for having had this opportunity to expand my mind and open my heart to the beauty of the human spirit that, in spite of the continuous struggle for survival, shines brightly in the African village.
Lesson 1: Seva Clinic–The community must initiate and own their projects
In February 2002, a group of community leaders in the Mafi-Zongo District of Ghana requested us to help them start a primary health clinic. We called a big meeting in April, and 150 women and men from ten villages attended. The discussion was long and lively with many different opinions about where to locate the clinic and how it should be managed. We made it clear from the beginning that the community would own and manage the clinic, not AMURT.
“Even with good intentions, clever planning and enough funding, if the communities are not empowered from the beginning, we are not likely to achieve true development and the projects will not last.”
At the end of the meeting, the communities agreed to complete a half-constructed building in the village of Seva, to send candidates to be health-care workers to the Domeabra AMURTEL clinic for training, and to obtain official permission from the government health department to open the clinic. Everyone agreed to finish all this by September.
It was not until April 2003 that the building was completed, all affairs with the health department were sorted out, and the local health-care workers were ready. We spent April arranging furniture, equipment, supplies and medicines. The clinic opened quietly on May 1, 2003. From the first month, the clinic has been financially self-sufficient in operating expenses and staff salaries. AMURT has played a supporting role to help improve the facilities and services available to the community.
AMURT helped train women health promoters and Traditional Birth Attendants to educate and assist births in the villages. The women named themselves Kekeli Women. Kekeli means “brightness” or “light”. In 2012 we started a new program for teenagers called Kekeli Girls. In Burkina Faso, AMURT’s presence in Deou Department goes back to 1986, when we began construction of a hospital. The safe motherhood initiative there has trained midwives in 37 desert villages. Today AMURT works with the communities on surface water harvesting schemes to make it possible to grow more vegetables in the arid semi-desert region.
These projects are self-reliant and supported by the communities due to three crucial factors:
1. The community identified their own needs and priorities.
2. They took the initiative and made the commitment to make it a reality.
3. And crucially, the community provided the leadership.
In my experience these are the most important factors for a successful community development project. Even with good intentions, clever planning and enough funding, if the communities are not empowered from the beginning, we are not likely to achieve true development and the projects will not last.
AMURT is a partner and a catalyst. Relief workers can play an important role, but we must never consider ourselves to be more important than the community. If we do, we will create financial and psychological dependency. We will perpetuate the debilitating neo-colonial attitude which is exactly what we wish to break down. If we are not careful, our presence could even cause more harm than good.
Lesson 2: Mafi-Zongo Water Project–Set aside western notions of timelines and efficiency
In Ghana we helped start a big water project in Mafi-Zongo. The sources of drinking water the people were using were not safe, were often shared by animals and they dried up in the dry season, forcing the women and girls to trek long distances to fetch water. A local assembly member from Mafi-Zongo invited AMURT to come in. A medium-sized reservoir was planned with a slow sand filtration system to purify the water. This simple technology is affordable to maintain, and the people can learn to operate it themselves. It is also ecologically sound, because it doesn’t deplete the underground water reserves, which are already scarce in this part of Ghana.
The design called for a reservoir to be constructed on top of Kpokope Hill, from where the treated water would flow by gravity to all the villages. The hill is very steep and to bring cement and other construction materials up was a huge logistical challenge. We called a meeting with representatives from all the communities and explained the situation. The communities agreed to collect the sand, transport it to the foot of the mountain and carry it up the hill in three weeks.
It took three months, with men and women from a dozen communities working hard, to bring enough sand to the foot of the mountain. Then we called an emergency day of communal labor for all the communities. That day the hill was alive and swarming with dozens of men, women and children, carrying pans of sand, making the difficult climb to the top.
This delay would have been avoided if we had bought the sand and paid workers to carry it up. But that would have been a mistake. Community development projects are not about meeting deadlines of international donors, but about bringing the whole community along together.
After that the people of each community dug the trenches and laid the pipes connecting them to the dam. In total, a network of 61 kilometers of pipes was laid that now provides safe drinking water to 10,000 people in 30 villages.
AMURT was first invited to Mafi-Zongo in 1993. The work started in 1994. It was not until 2005 that the first ten villages got piped water, and it was not until 2011, 18 years after it began, that the project was completed. The sense of pride and accomplishment felt throughout the villages when the project was completed created a sense of ownership and tied the populations of the 30 villages together. That pride and unity remains today and has been essential to the sustainability of the project. In African villages, people are not bound by clocks and calendars. They are patient, because they perceive time as moving in cycles. Time is vast, like the sky. People have enough time. Westerners, on the other hand, see time as linear. We are always in a hurry, we lose patience and lament if we “lose time”. We could learn a lot from African villagers.
Lesson 3: Ebonyi Maternal Health Program–The emergence of new leadership Nigeria has the ninth-highest maternal death rate in the world. In 2010 AMURT chose to work in Ebonyi state, the poorest and least developed state in southern Nigeria. In partnership with the communities, local NGOs and the government, we have set up three primary health care centers with outreach programs to serve the people of Ekumenyi, in the Abakaliki Local Government Area, where the maternal mortality rate is double that of Nigeria’s national rate. Our special focus is to reduce infant and maternal mortality, saving lives. We also work with water sanitation and hygiene committees elected by each village, to drill and manage boreholes.
We needed a baseline survey at the beginning. We trained a dozen health workers to go from compound to compound. They registered 5,000 women of child-bearing age, 15-49, in 36 villages. We were shocked by the results, because the surveys reported there had been 31 maternal deaths in the last three years. We decided to verify each one. The unenviable task fell to Paulinus, an unemployed health worker from one of the villages in the project area. Visiting the different compounds and asking about the mother who had died in childbirth, he met suspicion, and at times hostility. One man who had lost his young wife threatened Paulinus with a machete! Often his questions brought anguish. The father-in-law of a woman who died started weeping openly, and as a result all the men, women and children also started weeping. Paulinus verified all the heartbreaking details of 31 maternal deaths from 2009 to 2011 from a population of just over 20,000.
Our outreach health education program includes home visits to all pregnant women in the area. Only by maintaining staff on duty 24 hours a day in the clinics, can the maternal health program work. All the planning and investment would come to naught if we had failed to recruit dedicated staff from the nearby communities. They communicate well with the people, and so there is a high level of trust and understanding. As the women’s confidence in the health centers grows, the numbers coming for prenatal care and delivery is steadily increasing. The health centers are owned and managed by the local committees, and the com- munities feel that the health care centers are their own.
Blessing was only 17 when she first volunteered on immunization days at her local health post. Since then she has trained and worked at a number of clinics and health centers. Because she came from a poor family, she never had the chance to go to nursing school. When the AMURT clinic at Offia Oji opened, Blessing was 23, but the government health department did not pick her to work there. Still, she came and worked as a volunteer.
It was impossible not to notice Blessing’s dedication. She has helped at the clinic almost every day, always volunteering for weekend and holiday shifts. Of the 150 deliveries at the clinic, she has assisted in more than 100. In community meetings, local traditional leaders and the women leaders sing her praises. It’s moving to see how this young woman, without formal education or position, has earned such respect through her dedication, sacrifice and positive attitude.
The success of the maternal health program can be directly traced to the emergence of new local leaders, such as Paulinus and Blessing. In West Africa I have found that genuine leaders, who have the welfare of their people at heart, can be found in every village. They are like scattered jewels. Our challenge is to invite these dynamic people to come forward and take charge. Community development projects are opportunities to serve for those who truly have the welfare of their people at heart. The best hope for the future of the neglected communities lies with the new leadership. They are more important than us, more important than any money or technology or clever concepts we have to offer.
Lesson 4: Thinking in terms of all-round growth
Community development is the micro-view of PROUT and can play an important role in social change. By working at the grassroots level, from the bottom up, keeping PROUT’s key principles at the front, work for the poor takes on a revolutionary character. In one’s spiritual life, a meditation mantra leads to self-realization and helps to morally guide our choices. In a similar way, I believe that before undertaking any new project, we should think Proutistically and decide whether or not this action will promote the good and happiness of all.
Dada Daneshananda talks about AMURT’s maternal health programs in Nigeria:
This video, filmed for Nigerian TV, documents AMURT’s maternity health centers in Nigeria.
Our TBAs (Traditional Birth Attendants) currently cover 33 villages. AMURT has distributed 1 ton of millet in the flood-affected area of Bangeldaye. A watershed management program was initiated to collect surface water and keep the rainwater from running off without penetrating the soil by means of small check dams and other rainwater harvesting methods such as creating barriers to retain water around trees.
At the Bissiri master unit, the transition into organic farming is proceeding smoothly as the farmers have clearly understood the benefit of it. We have a donkey and a few goats and are working to acquire some cows in order to produce our own manure. A beekeeping project has been started to introduce beekeeping to the community.
Our clinic in Bissiri, near Ouagadougou, is growing. We hired a second nurse and have nearly completed a new room for the increasing number of patients during the rainy season (which is the big malaria season too). We are also building a simple toilet and bathroom facility. One of the nurses is now living in the MU itself. This allows the patients to get care during the night. We have been able to dig a borehole. The regular supply of drinkable water in quantity is a very great improvement.
We now are making our own bread, thanks to a very simple traditional mud brick oven. The bread is nice and our trainer, a French baker and friend, had the community taste its very first bits of pizza! Now the bread is made every day, small bread that the community can afford. There was no local bread available until now and everyone enjoys it.
Neohumanist school in Ejura, rural Ghana:
ALF has grown, matured and transformed over the last few years.
As a non-profit organization, we have grown into our new format as a social enterprise, a charitable non-profit that also will engage in income generation activities to support the service work.
We’ve moved our focus from training to establishment. Stabilizing the individual clinics and practitioners has been the priority and well as the pharmacy and its products, which will provide a stable future for continued growth in alternative medicine in Kenya.
We’ve reached out to East Africa and have partnered or supported homeopathic projects and practitioners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
Our core activities have become more self-sufficient through various income-generation. We have been mostly self-sufficient in our running costs for several years. Though, we still need your help for our special projects and charitable work.
The Spirulina Project: free distribution to children in need
The Spirulina Project started in 2011, is the brainchild of Didi Ananda Prama, Ireland. This highly nutrition blue-green algae is being grown adjacent to our Kambimawe Clinic in order to supplement nutritionally needy children in the area. Kambimawe is located in Eastern Province Kenya and regularly suffers droughts. It especially in those times that food is scarce and the children suffer from malnutrition. The spirulina is easy to grow and easy to distribute.
Recently HEAL International NV has supported the project by funding the constructuion of a permanent structure for the tanks. Now production is up and more chilodren are able to be put into the programme.
Free Children’s Clinics in Partnership with HEAL International NV
In partnership with HEAL International NV, seven of ALF’s affiliated clinics have been conducting free children’s clinics. In the first quarter of this programme about 1000 children have been attended to for their general healthcare. Grateful parents report that the health of their children have improved greatly. The children are also receiving a regular supply of spirulina.
Free Malaria Prevention and HIV-Supportive Medicine Distributions
In 2014, three independent projects from Western and Nyanza provinces approached ALF for health care support. Four hundred courses (doses) of the homeopathic anti-malaria medicine Malarix was distributed and 160 courses of Iquilai, a very effective immune restoration medicine in the management of HIV. In addition 200 doses of Wormex, for intestinal worms was also distributed.
New Clinics and Clinic Upgrades
In conjunction with the Free Children’s Clinic Project with HEAL International NV, five affiliated ALF clinics were upgraded or were finally established. Our affiliate homeopaths sometimes have waited for years until funds could be available to help them establish themselves. Thanks to HEAL, we were able to assist Elizabeth in Buruburu (Nairobi), Phylis in Kiambu (Nairobi), Joseph in Machakos (Eastern), John in Matuu (Eastern) and Munga in Likoni (Coast).
Allergy Treatment and Speciality Clinics
Thanks to the visit of Dr Neha Seth of Mumbai in May, a number of ALF affiliate homeopaths were trained in her unique homeopathic approach to the treatment of allergies. It is Dr Seth’s view that allergies – the body’s state of intolerance to substances – poses an obstacle to cure. By desenstizing and curing the patient of their allergies opens the door to the treatment of any other disease as well. As a result we have upgraded a few of our clinics to specialize in the treatment of allergies.
Abha Light Dispensary
The Abha Light Pharma opened its doors in Westlands, Nairobi in 2011 and has been growing ever since. It’s being run by the two-person team of Rachael Masaku and Jadu Rawi. Rachael is trained in homeopathy, reflexology, Bowen Therapy. She is also a certified trainer in NADA therapy and an Infant Massage instructor. Rawi is studying homeopathy and is our business & sales manager. She sees her clients in a therapy room at the back of the shop.
The dispensary has over 2,000 homeopathic remedies available to serve the practitioners of East Africa and individual from the public. As the public comes to know of its existence, the dispensary has grown and stabilized as a viable enterprise. The dispensary has also supplied professional remedy kits to private practitioners in Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda. We hope to continue to support the spread and growth of homeopathy throughout East Africa.
Visiting trainers and volunteers
Volunteers have ever been a part of ALF’s history and growth. We are ever thankful for their contribution to the projects. This year we had Jette Limberg from Germany. Her contribution in furthering the training of personnel was invaluable. Thanks Jette.
Malaria Research Partnership
ALF has also been in partnership with Martien Brands and Suzanne van Berkel in pilot studies in the effectiveness of homeopathic treatment of Malaria
Didi Ananda Ruchira