There is always a first time

Publish date 15-09-2020

by Mauro Palombo

For the first time, the N’tchangue inhabitants, 40 km from the capital, went to a dispensary, right in their village. Which always and until recently, has been without a health care facility where it is possible to carry out visits, medications, consultations on malaria and other endemic diseases, vaccinations, checks during and after pregnancy, to have assistance in case of difficulties in childbirth and help with the transfer somehow to the nearest hospital (40 km), in case of complications. The situation was serious but rather usual for Guinea Bissau, a small African country once a Portuguese outpost (several colonizers, several Guinee, who had to incorporate the name of their capital into the name), and then by independence and still shaken by very agitated political events, which contribute to relegating life, especially in rural areas, to immobility. However, the vicious circle of misery can be broken. In the area, the volunteers of the Abala Lite Onlus Association - "how are you?" in the Balanta language - since 2007 they have been traveling for several months every year. Bringing news from time to time. However, nothing is done without the consent and active cooperation of the local community: patient, exciting work. Since then we have always been by their side, sharing different technical skills - even with the field work of expert friends - and elements of their creations - photovoltaics, pumps, school supplies, sewing workshops, computer rooms ...

The method is to propose the new from the direct experimentation of the volunteers. People, especially women, always the most attentive and propulsive, see work and its results, they appreciate, and want to emulate. With suitable educational interventions, involvement in the management of new initiatives is promoted: first vegetable gardens, then fruit growing, then commercial cultures such as cashew (cajù), organizing market opportunities for what is produced. The next step is to form an association of farmers to manage the activities and organize a non-occasional sales network, set up a cash fund for the purchase of seeds, tools, pesticides and anything else needed for good agricultural practice. The role of the volunteers is to create an authentic and full autonomy.

Continuity of action is also ensured by the involvement of the Franciscan mission with its village, hospital, school, in the network with other associations and authorities in the area. The next step was water to irrigate. With new wells and restoring others that have been inactive for years, equipping them with tanks, photovoltaic pumps and panels to power them. Here too, the experts who attended took care of scrupulous training: from the use and maintenance of the facilities for local technicians, to the use and conservation of water in hygienic and healthy conditions, for all families. The school is restructured together, and the teaching that is practiced there; the kitchen is built, learning to organize it around a better diet for children. A school that also becomes the embryo of an agricultural school, to be increasingly aware and capable of managing a reality made up of many things at the service of each and everyone. Like the dispensary, built together and run by a Franciscan nun. The news has brought about change, and it is there for all to see. Even those from nearby villages… and they are waiting for us!

If you want to help us: Associazione Sermig Re.Te. per lo Sviluppo, IBAN: IT29 P030 6909 6061 0000 0001 481 Banca Intesa SanPaolo

Mauro Palombo
NP june-july 2020

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