The New Year is upon us and it doesn't seem possible that we've been here over 2 months--it seems like a life time. The New Year is often a time of reflection, resolutions, and sometimes remorse. Given that Nigeriens are nothing if not resilient, is there a plausable reason to be hopeful--certainly not optimistic. (It's hard to be optimistic when the population is expected to increase by over 200% in a few years, but again hopeful is doable.) And it's more likely to be doable by Peace Corps than by NGO's. NGO's spend millions on big important projects but they don't follow through with consistent management. An example, we recently spent 2 weeks in a rural village where Luxembourg spent a small fortune on a solar powered pump, well and latrine for a primary school with one hundred students. The water didn't work for the lack of a seat for the faucet, a $5 or $6 item. No one from the NGO bothers to check on their project. No one has looked for a part in the capital city of Niger and most internet companies won't ship to Niger--smart move. (I'll pick one up in Europe this summer.) The Peace Corps at least has people who speak the local language and stay in the area for follow-up. One of Peace Corps' major draw backs is no money for development. We can manage but we can't initiate. The US budget deficit means fewer dollars for government which, in my opinion, is not bad. Peace Corps volunteers use their own money--using our own money means a more careful evaluation of small scale projects. And because Niger is so down and out, small scale works. Sixty percent of the population makes less than a dollar a day. Here $2 a day is meaningful.In Niger there are projects that can be managed, implemented, and audited that hit that number. The country continues circling the drain but some people can reach escape velocity. Perhaps. Maybe I'll know in a couple of years. Stay tuned.
"We were the fools who could not rest,
In the dull earth we left behind,
But burned with a passion for the South,
Drank strange frenzy from its wind.
The world where wise men sit at ease,
Fades in our unregretful eyes,
And thus, across uncharted seas we stagger
On our own enterprise."
Sir Ernest Shackelton Dave