Togo Diaries continued..

Togo 2012: Days 1-3

Things are going brilliantly. It’s been an action-packed last 3 days, the last 2 of which we have spent with the children at the Foyer Le Pierre du Pauvre orphanage, though the children who come there are not all orphans in fact. Some have indeed lost either one or both parents, others are former runaways and there are also some handicapped children and some whose families could simply no longer afford to look after.

The group are LOVING it and have thrown themsleves wholeheartedly into the activities, despite the very hot weather. Those who are new to Africa are quite surprised how happy, playful and fun-loving these children are. They are so happy for us to be spending time with them, as are the team who run the orphanage. They have very good memories of our visit in 2007, some of the older children recognising myself and Rolo (Andy) from then. It was the first visit by a De La Mennais Brothers group to this particular orphanage which our congregation in fact has no direct links with. Since then a few French groups in the Mennaisian Network have been here too.

Palm Sunday evening

After lunch I asked one of the nuns at the convent where we are staying if there was a local tailor who we could visit to choose cloth and get measured up for some genuine Togolese clothing (shirts + trousers for the boys, dresses or skirts requested by the girls). They managed to get one to come and measure us up at the convent, his shop being a bit far across town for us to easily visit. So we left the choice of cloth designs to him. He hoped to have them ready for us by Saturday… one way of helping to boost the local economy and get some precious souvenirs! Our Scouse Team members cherish the ones they’d had made for them on previous trips and have indeed brought some with them here.

While we were waiting for the orphanage lorry (the one we grew to love in 2007) to take us to the Foyer in the late afternoon, it finally started to rain here in Kara… but not just any old rain. After about 1hr of steady rain with occasional thunder + lightning, the storm eased enough for the open-backed lorry to come and pick us up. Big smiles + hugs from Bernard the jovial lorry driver for myself + Rolo. Once at the Foyer (after having enjoyed a refreshing sprinkle of rain in the lorry) the warm welcomes continued for everyone. The welcome ceremony of dances and songs from the children of the Foyer had to be postponed a couple of hours as the storm soon returned with a vengeance, setting up shop not far from Kara. Lightning every few seconds, thunder and truly torrential rain. Thomas, the Deputy Director of the Foyer (Michel, the Director was in Lomé for meetings) said that it was the first rain that they had had in Kara for over 6 months and that our arrival had brought the rain as a blessing from God.

In the end it all worked out fine, as we then had welcome drinks followed by our evening meal, after which the rain had eased enough for the ceremony to take place (though in fact all of us, performers included, managed to squeeze into a covered area). The Foyer children were soon getting us up on our feet to join in the dancing, JD’s (James’) moves particularly impressing the locals.The rain cleared the air of much of the humidity that we had endured since our arrival in Lomé, making that night’s sleep much easier.

Monday + Tuesday – Days 2+3

Bernard and his lorry were back to pick us up at 9am Togo time, meaning 9.20 🙂 but the Team were beginning to get used to the flexi-time operated here and now took such delays in their stride.

We spent Monday + Tuesday (today) running activities at a branch of the main orphanage that is right out in the country about 10 miles from Kara town. Here live 72 younger children aged between a couple of years and about 14, but many of the older boys (including some in their early 20s) who live in the town base came with us in the lorry to join in the fun.

Morning = music + dancing to start with (YMCA, Macarena, I Am A Music Man, Cha-Cha Slide, Lord I Lift Your Name On High – remembered by the older locals from the 2007 trip… etc.), then (Monday) cardboard crown-making, each decorating their own with their name + their own designs (many have continued to wear them these past 2 days) and (Tues.) friendship bracelets, decorating wooden spoons into spoon dolls, balloons, etc… At the same time we would get little improvised games going outdoors: keepy-uppy with beach balls (a winner every time!), frisbee games… and by Tues. were simply giving the children balls of all sorts that we had brought with us and letting them play their own little games all over the place that we would join in with (tennis balls, large and small footballs, rugby balls, etc…), one game area spilling over into another, games being interrupted by some of the younger children coming out from the arts and crafts and deciding to take us on at tickle-and-run games (they LOVE doing this). The net result of all these simultaneous activities was that the place had turned into a site of glorious, happy, smile and laugh-filled mayhem of the most wonderful kind.

Each afternoon (after lunch and the obligatory siesta/rest) we’ve had a very competitive but good-spirited footie match with the older boys… yesterday Togo vs. England… we won on penalties after extra time had us at 5-5, then today mixed teams. I was on the losing team 3-2. Many of the local boys play bare-footed. All excellent fun. In this climate the balls absolutely fly through the air. This combined with the make-do pitch, complete with a tree as a permanent fixture in defence at either end, made for unpredictable – though no less fun – action. Today we also taught them a variation of baseball we call kickball.

Sorry about the lack of photos. Both the versions of Firefox + Internet Explorer on the XP computer I was alloted this evening were incapable of opening the page that would allow me to upload photos. Better luck next time hopefully.