Post 8: Connecting Communities

As a teacher, one thing I love to do is connect my classroom to my non-profit work in other communities. I am constantly teaching my students to be good citizens and it is important for me to exemplify that expectation. Every project I have done through International Inspiration has been connected to my workplace in one way or another. In this case, since I have been back from Guinea, I have been working with the teachers and students in the 4th grade French Track at my current school, The GLOBE Academy.

The initial plan was to establish penpals between students here and there, however, things do not always work out the way we envision them. Upon my return to America, teachers began a strike in Guinea. Because of these strikes, schools were forced to close. Our French teacher, Amy Bingham, and I used this as an opportunity to open up a conversation with our students about challenges faced by different communities. We talked about the strikes in Guinea and we talked about how there have been teacher strikes in America too. We put ourselves in the shoes of those students and thought about how we would feel if the strikes in Guinea happened here in our country.

We've also spent time learning about the culture of Guinea. One great question the students asked me was how I communicate when I go to Guinea. I explained to them that people always find a way of connecting and communicating. They learned how Guinea's French is mixed with ethnic languages as well. I shared with them the handful of phrases I know in Susu and they loved learning these new foreign expressions. Students also had the opportunity to research Guinea, learning about their flag, food, geography, customs, and more!

It has been a lot of fun connecting my students here to my work in another community I care about, in a different country, across the great Atlantic Ocean.

Check out more pictures at www.facebook.com/international.inspiration.1 or
@internatlinspir on twitter!

Post 7: Tangled in paperwork

** Hi Everyone! **

-- So we haven’t had an update in awhile because we got stuck in a paperwork limbo for a while and I (Erica) didn’t think paperwork was too exciting. However, it has been brought to my attention that people want to hear what is going on even if it just boring paperwork ☺

-- I start by saying that we have many people looking out for us as we endeavor on this project and without them our work wouldn’t be possible! Thank you to all who have supported and are currently supporting us in many different ways!

Now, rather than just take our money and begin construction, our construction manager, Fode Abdoulay Camara, asked us if we had obtained a “Titre Foncier” (a land title that permits construction). Of course, we didn’t know what this was at the time. We learned that if we did not obtain this document from the government, they would have the right to come to our property and bulldoze any construction that was completed without it. We have been told that the government is strict about this process and enforce it regularly. Others have unfortunately learned this the hard way. Therefore, we are very grateful to have been told that we need to have this paperwork done before any construction can begin.

-- Obtaining this document has been a tedious process because it included getting more paperwork done in the local area where the land is located. The local area has had to validate the proper sale of the land to us and verify that the land that is listed on our paperwork matches the physical location of the land. This took some time because one family owned the land for a very long time, long before there were clear, official records kept. This meant that it also had to be verified that the owners were selling land that was theirs to sell, which could only be done by working with the chief, land surveyors, and other village elders.

-- Many document and processing fees and transportation costs later, we have finally completed the process for our local paperwork and all of it has been dropped off at the ministère de l'habitat. We are now waiting to receive the Titre Foncier. While this process has used up most of the money we had planned to use for construction materials, we are glad to have this done right the first time! So, this is where we are for now. We await our Titre Foncier!

-- Please continue to donate and share our cause with others who may be able to support us in anyway. Our work hasn’t stopped; it is just in a less exciting paperwork phase at the moment!

A special thanks to Ibrahima Dakino Camara for traveling back and forth, helping us take care of this paperwork!

Post 6: Working on the land

-- We, Forrest, Fode and I, are so excited to share this next update with you. Preliminary construction for Bayiby Cultural Arts Academy has officially started! Our local contractor has been doing an amazing job. He has not only been working hard preparing the land for our peaceful compound wall, but he has also helped us by overseeing all the other work that is being done on the land. What's more, he has been a major advocate for us in the community, as we strive to maintain positive working relations our neighbors while also staying within our budget. We are all one in our efforts toward the vision we are bringing to fruition.

-- Here are the first transformation pictures for the land. The brush has already been cleared, the well is dug, and the perimeter has been prepared for foundation. Forrest will be returning to Soixante Six this week to use our remaining money to purchase construction materials, which will stay with our school, such as shovels, wheelbarrows, water jugs, and rope. He will also be purchasing rock for our perimeter foundation. Our next step will be to begin purchasing bricks!

-- Grant us the opportunity to continue our work by showing your support! If you can't afford to donate, help us spread the word. No donation or effort is too small. We thank all of you who have participated in supporting us and hope more will join the cause!!

Post 5: Meeting the neighbors

-- While out at Soixante Six we also took time to get to know our new neighbors.  The family across the main road welcomed us into their compound.  With their balafones, djembes, and boté drums, they played for the rhythms Soli, Mane, Guinea Fare, Yoki, and Sabar for us.  They were jammin!  We also met the kids who live next door.  They are so silly!   Hopefully they will be our future students!

-- Please help us keep our work going by donating today!  No amount is too small!

Post 4: Our first visit to the land

-- Tuesday was a very productive and successful day.  Together, we traveled to Soixante Six, where our school is going to be built .  We surveyed the land again - it's been a year since we last saw it.  We finalized the paperwork and made the last payment.  The land is officially ours!! 

-- We met with the village chief, Fode Abdoulay Camara, and told him about what we plan to do with the land and for the community. He and Alseny, who watches over thenland for us, have become part of our building team.  Together, we are ensuring that local workers are hired and that fair wages and fair prices are paid.

Post 3: Starting out productive

We had a productive day yesterday.  We went to check out other compounds to get some ideas for how to optimize the space on our land.  Then, we sat down to sketch out our plan.  Tomorrow we will go out to the property and meet with our first builder.  He is local to the area and we are hoping he will be the one to build the compound walls.  Our first priority is to make sure we can protect all that will be inside!

Post 2: A special thanks

We would like to give a special shout out of thanks to those who have privately donated in the past couple of weeks. Fode and Forrest are now out in Guinea and I, Erica, will be heading out very early Thursday morning! Then, our work can begin. I can't wait to hit the ground running.
Its not too late to donate. After I leave and come back to America, our donations will still be sent to Fode and Forrest while they are out there! Help us get as much construction done as possible before the rainy season starts!!

Post 1: The countdown begins

And the countdown begins for our next project to formally kick off! 3 Days until Forrest ‘Fode’ Matthews leaves for Guinea, 8 days until Fode ‘Lavia’ Camara leaves, and 2 weeks until I can head out.
-- Our trip has a lot of work involved! The site survey was completed last year, so now it is time to start construction. We will meet with local builders, outline our architectural expectations, and develop our estimated construction budget. I will be bringing all the money that has been, and will be, fundraised through Dec. 20th. This will all go toward our initial building costs. During my short 1 week there, I will also begin arrangements for the youth portion of our culture exchange program. Just like International Inspiration’s first project in Liberia, we will initiate another pen-pal exchange program between youth in our local communities; this time between American students and in Guinean students. Even more exciting is that this pen-pal exchange will be in French!! Elementary students studying French in America and Guinea will be able to practice writing in their language of study. We are looking forward to kicking off this program. It truly helps bring our communities together.
-- Additionally, we are very lucky to have Forrest out there for an amazing 4 months. During this time, he will be monitoring the school’s construction and ensuring that are hard-fundraised dollars are being put to proper use. Stay tuned for pictures and project updates from him!!
-- We are all very eager to get this project off the ground. Every time we talk about the significance of this school, my passion for it grows in ways I didn’t think it could. Every time Forrest, Fode, and I meet to plan, we feel ever more enthusiastic about the difference we will be able to make for all the members of the Guinean community and for those who enjoy studying West African culture. As the first of its kind that we are aware of, our school is not only dedicated to preserving a culture that is draining from its home country, but is also comminuted to including and uplifting as many as Guinean artists at home and abroad, from beginners to masters.
-- We have great visions for this project and only through your support can it be a dream come true. No support is too small! Inuwali!