Dreams realised after five days work in Cote d’Ivoire

Arranging a trip to Cote d’Ivoire via Ghana in under a week is not for the faint-hearted, particularly when your visa for Ghana has expired! This is what happened just prior to Easter.  The decision was made by C.R.E.E.R’s board that unless one of the board was on the ground in Cote d’Ivoire, nothing would move forward.  The only option due to flights was to go via Accra. Thanks to good friends of C.R.E.E.R’s in London, one of the Founder’s passports was sent in advance to obtain another 2 year multiple entry visa for Ghana, to be issued in 24hours.

A quick turnaround in London and landed in Accra on the Wednesday evening.  A lot of pleading on the Thursday before Good Friday (a public holiday in Ghana), the Ivorian Embassy went out of their way to assist the passage by bending all the rules.  C.R.E.E.R’s founder managed to get a visa in 5hours rather than the normal 3 days due to the exceptional circumstances.  Luckily the consul remembered the face having given a visa during the 2010/2011 crisis after much pleading then! Accra - Abobo Travelling by public transport to the Ghana-Ivorian border at Elubo/Noe on a public holiday is never all that enjoyable especially with an early 5am start!  Finally at 7pm (14hrs later) on Good Friday evening C.R.E.E.R was re-united in Bassam with our Ivorian Director, Erick after 2 years of only contact over the internet and phone!  After a mere 5 changes of transport to get there in the hot, cramped, uncomfortable conditions West African bush taxis always offer!

The few long 18+hr days of work started in earnest the next day with a base in the Abobo district of Abidjan.  An Ivoirian board meeting didn’t go as planned due to various family commitments but we saw all the board members that Easter weekend around Abidjan. Monday morning; another early start to travel to Abengourou, a mere 193km away, however the road after Adzope is in a bad state.  Four hours later, sore from the tightly packed minibus with homemade metal framed seats (& poor padding) we arrived in town.  The founder had previously visited Abengourou in 2009 and remembered a few landmarks, but now we had to explore the town thoroughly to see it’s suitability.Abobo Abidjan - Abengourou Erick had carried out a lot of the groundwork for C.R.E.E.R since last seeing him during the Ivorian crisis in January 2011.  Our latest news was that King Nanan Boa Kouassi III of Abengourou was willing to donate land to the project; but to move this kind gesture forward our presence was needed on the ground.  Abengourou is ideally situated for the project, with the border at Niable for Ghana under 20km away. Cote d’Ivoire’s 10th largest town, it has all the facilities that the project needs.  It’s in a region of agriculture including cocoa, rubber & timber.

Our first few hours in town we got our bearings & immediately went to the hospital, Centre Hopitalier Regionale d’Abengourou to see the facilities and find a competent professional to join the team part-time.  DSCN1974DSCN1969DSCN1971We met with Sylvie, a nurse, who was very interested in the project for Abengourou and agreed with us to work on a contractual basis.  When we’re operational she will work with the centre, visiting on a fortnightly basis to check the children and advise on medical and dietary matters.

Tuesday morning dawned; Abengourou was suffering from a power cut so  sleeping past 5.30am was impossible with the hotel room’s fan not working, a ‘mere’ 35 degrees by 8.30am!

Meeting with Director of Youth, Sport & Leisure, Abengourou We headed out to firstly visit our bank in town to start organising an account; quickly followed by a visit to the post office to enquire about a postal box.  We were expected by the King at the Royal Court at 10am.  However, his adviser sent us to the Director of Youth, Sport & Leisure who gave us an in-depth interview about the project, Erick had already been through this on a previous visit.  They were alarmed by the story of ‘Zoe’s Ark’ they quizzed  us at length to ensure our suitability.  It was reassuring that they were taking C.R.E.E.R seriously and weren’t leaving any stone unturned! Roi d'Abengourou

Returning to the Royal Court, we sat with the notability; the King spoke through his spokesman to fully agree the project.  He granted us our land and our presence in Abengourou to help street children, some of which are trafficking victims.

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Elated, we departed for a late lunch prior to returning to the long road back to Abidjan! None of this would have been achieved without Erick’s hard work, his friend Charlemagne & Mamy, the King’s niece facilitating for C.R.E.E.R.  Another long afternoon on the road in Charlemagne’s car; the Founder arrived in Grand Bassam at 10.30pm due to the roads and traffic!

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Wednesday was due to be the day of departure to return to Accra but it wasn’t to be.  Our NGO paperwork has been in order & many NGO’s work with the paperwork we had but there was one final formality that hadn’t moved forward & had to be organised prior to departure.  Our paperwork had been sitting at the police station for 18months which wasn’t ideal considering Erick had made many trips to prompt the police to move it forward.  Despite a call a few days earlier to inform the police we wanted a meeting, our presence was a revelation to them at 8am.  We were told to return later in the morning; we duly took our place in an office at 10am to find that all our files on their computers had ‘vanished’ and it all had to be typed from scratch again.  Frustration!!!  After 4hours of sitting tight to ensure the papers were finally printed and sent to the correct office; the return journey to Accra was in sight, but for the following morning … Another early start at 4am to cross the border as it opened! Thrilled that C.R.E.E.R finally has a home in Cote d’Ivoire with a town that has welcomed us and wanting to work with us!  It couldn’t have been a better trip!

A few shots of Abengourou

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Green building materials?

It all got rather exciting today.

We found a project for a floating school in Lagos in Nigeria http://ht.ly/hMEpg although this wouldn’t be ideal for land-based C.R.E.E.R it was the start of a trail.

It led to an orphanage in South Africa that has been built from shipping containers; which then incited a call to the architects in Johannesburg who assured us that even in a tropical climate; it is possible to keep containers cool.  They suggested looking up an architect, Adam Kalkin which initially led to this site:  http://www.residentialshippingcontainerprimer.com/howto then onto www.quik-build.com which is Adam Kalkin’s own site.

Another call to Germany to talk to Frankie our builder, who has already been involved in container conversion; he has got excited with the prospect too!

So using our original plans, there’s a possibility of creating the two dormitories, bathroom block and other living spaces with the containers – the possibilities are endless!   The whole container site would be covered by a roof that has solar panels; together with rainwater collection and possibly compost waste sanitation, we aim to be as green as possible.

We found an article about dry composting in Haiti after the earthquake that might be possible to use; we’re discussing it with a few experts in the subject currently: http://humanurehandbook.com/downloads/Public_Sanitation_Using_Hot_Composting.pdf

Now to find a friendly company ideally in Cote d’Ivoire who might want to help us out with finding containers so we can recycle them!  Or we’re back to the drawing board with bricks & mortar!

A, B, C of farming for CREER

A is for avocados, we hope to have a tree or two on the land

B is for bananas, which are native to Cote d’Ivoire & will be grown with the expert eye of one of our Ivorian board members.  They contain at least 10 percent of a recommended daily intake of carbohydrate in the form of fibre and sugar. Also rich in potassium and the vitamins A, B-6 and C.  Bananas provide about 105 calories, whilst containing negligible amounts of sodium and fat.  Ideal for the children’s diet.   http://www.livestrong.com/article/530296-what-nutritional-qualities-are-bananas-heavy-on/#ixzz2Kc7J8vNo  Please also see P for Plantains (large bananas)

ChickenC is for chickens, we aim to buy a few hens and several dozen chicks, use them for their eggs & meat; if we have excess, we will be able to sell them locally; thereby compensating on other provisions such as rice & flour.

D is for dogs.  No we’re not going to feed them to the children!!!  But they will be a useful deterrent to anyone attempting to enter the centre; animals stealing our produce and playmates for the children!

E is for eggs & eggplant (aubergine) – eggs from our chickens & aubergines (eggplants) grow easily in the tropical climate of Cote d’Ivoire.

FishF is for fish, we will need expert advice and have already talked to a former trout fish farmer about creating a small fish farm with stock to feed the centre & sell locally.  A rather costly project & it might be too much of a gamble!  Tilapia or ‘Capitaine’ as it’s known in Cote d’Ivoire is a favourite.

G is for goat, these are eaten locally and taste very good, particularly when smoked.  They may not be eaten at the centre but will do a good job on the land keeping the weeds down.

H is for honey, made from our bees we hope, there’s a post about it here: https://creercentre.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/bees-honey/

I is for iron, essential part of any diet & will be found in many of the root vegetables & greens that we’ll grow at the centre.

Vegetables

J is for juice, we’ll be able to make a lot of juices from the various fruits growing on the land

K is for kiwifruit, not that we’ve seen kiwifruit growing in Cote d’Ivoire but it would be interesting if we could get a male & female pair to grow & produce; the climate might be a little too tropical.  Worth a try!

L is for lettuce, easily grown, good source of dietary fibre as well as potassium & iron

M is for mango, lots of mango trees in Cote d’Ivoire, lovely fruit to eat; we hope to have one on the land.

N is for nuts, cashew nuts are grown there, the main growing region is near where we hope to have the land.

O is for onions, a staple part of the diet, which we will endeavour to grow to save on purchasing costs.

P is for pineapple or papaya, both grow well in the tropical climate giving the children more fruit intake.  It’s also for plantain a larger banana that can only be eaten once cooked.  Often fried to create ‘alooko’.

Q – Still thinking about this … the question remains how much we can grow on the 5ha of land with a few animals

R is for rice, one necessary foodstuff we cannot grow & will cost us dearly; currently the price for a 25kg sack of rice is about 20€.

S is for sheep, we will start with a few and hope to grow a small flock to keep the centre’s meat purchases to a minimum.

T is for tomatoes, another staple part of the Ivorian diet and easily grown.

Tomatoes

U is for we need U to help us, to make this small holding a reality!

V is for vegetables, which as you can see we aim to grow in a variety of forms

W is for wild oranges that may be found growing on the land.

X is for xceptional produce that the children will be involved with!

Y is for yam, another part of the staple Ivorian diet, often made into ‘attieke’ which Americans tell us tastes like sourdough.

Z is for zuccini (or courgette) easily grown in this climate.

Our Builder, Frankie & the Drogba connection

Frankie is a force to be reckoned with … he gives as good as he gets!

How he’ll get on in Cote d’Ivoire is anyone’s guess, but he’s already ‘au fait’ with Ivorian culture to an extent!

He built a house near Marseille for the world famous footballer Didier Drogba, an Ivorian himself.  However, the house was initially built for another man but rented it to Drogba who loved it so much, he bought it!

So we have the claim to having Drogba’s builder!  Frankie did spend an afternoon talking to Didier about the pool tiles whilst surrounded by an entourage of assistants.

However, this time Frankie will be managing the project & learning from Ivorian builders, bringing in new sustainable ideas & giving it the ‘Drogba’ seal of approval.  Frankie doesn’t cut corners & will ensure that the building is fit for purpose.

Spanish by name, English by birth, German by residence, he also (luckily for us) speaks French!   We can’t wait to realise the project with Drogba’s builder overseeing it all!

 

Why, where, what will C.R.E.E.R be?

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C.R.E.E.R = Centre de Reinsertion et d’Education pour les Enfants de la Rue

(Centre of Reinsertion & Education for street children)

Cote d'Ivoire near the Ghana border

Why?

Some children are sold by their families for about US $60, believing that they will have a good life with an employer or promised that they will receive an education.

The families often need the money to manage the rest of the family.

Traffickers will sell these children onto farmers, domestic homes and brothels  offering children for US$200-US$250+.

Many of these children end up mentally and physically scarred from working  like bonded slaves; some will manage to runaway but live on the streets.

Why do families sell their children?

This video says it all, it’s why there are so many children coming from the Sahel belt; the Sahara encroaching on farmland; seeing it for yourself is startling, this video makes it all a bit more real

A farmer with dry land, how can he be expected to feed his family if the land isn’t sustainable?

It’s not just in Niger, but in Burkina Faso, Mali (where there’s more than just drought right now!)  and right across to Mauritania on the Atlantic coast where many West Africans are working for a pittance & slavery has only just been made illegal …

What makes it worse is when families such as these, share their food bowl with you; C.R.E.E.R’s founder has eaten with similar families.

So many are ‘forced’ to sell a child for US$60 or so, to pay for the rest of the family, buy necessary provisions or receive medical care.  The US$60 will go a long way for the family but the child who is sold will end up trafficked & working for others somewhere …

We all have to give back in abundance.  Our own way is to help the trafficked children in long-term rehabilitative care, providing an education to empower them out of this vicious cycle.

Read more here about the young girl’s legacy who gave the inspiration to create C.R.E.E.R http://wp.me/s3aqBS-17

Where?

C.R.E.E.R is to be a non-profit, non-political and non-religious centre in Abengourou, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).   We expect a mix of Christians & Muslims as well as local religions; those that want to follow their faith can do so locally and will be taken to their place of worship by our staff.  We aim to work with the children, to give them future hope and be able to lead a normal adult life, after being part of a family at the centre.

Map of CI

What will C.R.E.E.R be?

As the first such designated centre in West Africa our aim is to give long-term rehabilitation for trafficked children from all over region that are being brought over the border for farming, domestic servitude & prostitution.

We’ve already talked to the immigration authorities.  The Ivorian Authorities are keen to see us set up as there’s nowhere that solely caters for trafficked children.  They house those that they can intercept at the border, wherever they can find a bed.  Our aim is to repatriate those that have families that can take care of them & educate the children that cannot be repatriated.

The idea is to create the centre as soon as possible.  C.R.E.E.R has worked hard since conception in 2010 before the Ivorian crisis and was unfortunately let down already regarding land with false promises in early 2011.

We aim to be as self-sufficient as possible, enabling the children to learn about animal husbandry as well as renewable energy sources and their maintenance.

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1.  We have been promised 5-hectares of land just over the border from Ghana in Cote d’Ivoire’s 10th largest town, Abengourou.  We will build the centre with single sex dormitories and workshops but to also create a small holding that the children will manage with tutors.

a)  The centre will provide accommodation for about 30 children initially.
b)  All children will receive an education, maths, French and also potentially English as core components of other subjects.

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2.  On the land we want to build workshops, this will be the vocational part of the project so that all children will have a chance to leave with a skill.

We hope some will further their education too in tertiary establishments.   The workshops will consist of vocational skills such as sewing, mechanics, carpentry and cooking etc.

We have a wonderful manager who is now ready to work with us, he has already managed an orphanage for several years & dearly missed by the children there.   He has held a variety of important meetings for C.R.E.E.R with government ministers.

We totally trust him & believe he will drive things forward in the interests of trafficked children.

In the longer term we’re hoping to have other C.R.E.E.R centres in Africa, the next one being at the other end of this trafficking corridor, just inside Nigeria’s border.

If you’d like to help, please email us at : c.r.e.e.r.rci@gmail.com

Or join our group http://www.facebook.com/groups/c.r.e.e.r.rci/

Or page http://www.facebook.com/pages/CREER/160911540628718 on Facebook

We’re also on Twitter @CREER_RCI

Please help us to get the first building at the centre constructed

(Thanks to ThirdEyeMom for the video & Sahel update: http://thirdeyemom.com/2013/02/26/starving-in-sahel-its-time-to-care)