Hirondelle d'Afrique dans la Presse

Light comes to darkest Africa Sunday Independent


Traduction :

Résumé de l'article
LA LUMIERE ARRIVE EN AFRIQUE NOIRE. Sunday Independent
 
C'est l'histoire d'une Française dans la cinquantaine qui voulait aider les enfants Béninois les plus démunis.
Elle voulait à tout prix éviter le système des gros organismes humanitaires. Et un jour ,elle est partie dans un vieux véhicule pour amener la première pierre à la construction d'une école dans un petit village au Bénin.
Cette action a inspiré Redmond Cabot et il la rejointe sur sa route.
 
Pourquoi étais-je à Paris en train de marchander un billet destination "Ouagadougou", capitale du Burkina Faso?
J'étais prêt à rejoindre un groupe de Français qui avait quitté les boulevards parisiens pour traverser les routes sèches, rouges, poussiéreuses et défoncées de l'Afrique de l'ouest.
Leur mission consistait à distribuer des livres d'école tout le long de leur route et d'apporter la première pierre à l'édifice.
Ma fiancée et moi devions les rencontrer sur leur traversée pour les assister.
Obtenir deux sièges pour l'Afrique de l'Ouest s'avérait une tâche difficile. Nous ne savions pas exactement comment ,quand et où les rejoindre.
Mais mon expérience antérieure m'a vite réassuré .Tout allait s'arranger.
Malgré les difficultés de communication, le groupe qui conduisait une Toyota Hiace et une très vieille Peugeot
404,avait pu nous tenir informés de leurs arrêts ,pannes et retards. 
J'avais rencontré cette femme, Dominique Wasse, par le biais de ses amis Irlandais.
En 1970,Dominique est venue dans la banlieue de Dublin à Sandycove en tant que fille au pair .Elle est restée, s'est mariée, a fondé une famille puis est retournée en France en 1984.
Depuis 4 ans, elle rêvait de construire une école au Bénin ,pour une communauté laissée pour compte.
De retour à Paris, elle s'était liée d'amitié avec Guillaume Abiola originaire du Bénin.
Tous les deux avaient une passion pour l'Afrique et une détermination d'aider les petits béninois .
Ils étaient d'accord que l'éducation était le meilleur moyen de leur donner une chance.
Ils créèrent l'ONG "Hirondelle d'Afrique". Grâce à des soirées ,le soutien de leurs amis et des collègues de Dominique qui travaillent à l'aéroport de Roissy, ils récoltèrent assez de fonds pour acheter le terrain de la future école.
Dominique tient un discours passionné où elle explique que l'Hirondelle est une petite association qui s'assure que tout ce qui est récolté est pour les enfants du Bénin ,que les membres sont bénévoles et qu'il n'y a pas de gros frais administratifs.
Enfin ,ma fiancée et moi-même quittèrent Paris sous une pluie battante pour arriver dans une Afrique chaude et humide ,le nez envahit par des odeurs douces et épicées. Toute l'excitation, l'amour, l'innocence, la beauté et la douleur de l'Afrique était au rendez-vous et nous accueillaient comme un vieil ami doué de pouvoirs magiques.
Nous étions au Burkina Faso et la caravane de l" Hirondelle était encore loin. Nous avons voyagé.
En fin de semaine ,la petite troupe arriva : Dominique, Guillaume ,ses deux filles et son fils ,trois jeunes métis, ainsi qu'un jeune photographe, Tony .Nous étions une réelle curiosité pour les africains. Quatre adultes blancs , un africain et sa progéniture. Dominique fumait comme un pompier et portait des robes hippies.
La nuit, elle marchait sur le dos de Guillaume ,un massage ; les passants se demandaient pourquoi cette femme blanche torturait cet homme noir.
Après un peu de repos ,nous avons fait 1200 kms jusqu'à la côte béninoise.
Sur notre chemin, nous nous sommes arrêtés dans des villages pour distribuer des livres d'école.
Nous étions une vraie attraction pour les villageois avec nos massages, avec le fait que nous dormions à la belle étoile sous un arbre, le fait que nous nous baignions dans la mer, mangions et buvions assis par terre. Tout cela dans la bonne humeur et avec de bonnes parties de fous rires.
L'expérience la plus triste fût notre rencontre avec un groupe d'orphelins à qui nous avions distribués des vêtements. Ils avaient entre 3 et 8 ans. Leurs parents avaient été tués par une explosion alors qu'is essayaient de siphonner de l'essence d'un camion citerne.
On est arrivé dans un tout petit village, Hlodo, à 3h00 de la côte du Bénin.
Le pays portait le nom de la "côte des esclaves". La seule source locale de revenus semblait être l'agriculture.
Beaucoup d'enfants étaient envoyés loin de leur famille et placés pour travailler, souvent traités comme des esclaves. Les "vidomegon" (en fon :garçons et filles de la campagne) à qui l'on promet éducation, expérience et argent mais qui en fin de compte deviennent les serviteurs de la famille d'accueil ,sans aucune rémunération.
En voyageant à travers le Burkina et le Bénin ,j'ai vu des situations extrêmement difficiles et ai été témoin de la manière dont les gens gèrent ces difficultés.
Les grands et glorieux projets mis en place par des organismes étrangers ,laissent les populations dans une euphorie à court terme puisqu'ils ne comprennent pas les procédures et les règles. 
Le seul succès que l'on puisse obtenir vient de gens ordinaires et simples qui ont la capacité de réagir devant des situations avec le sens des réalités .Les acteurs du fameux projet "Irish Bothar" disaient que la réponse à la misère africaine n'était pas de  leur jeter de l'argent .Ce procédé étant comme si on leur donnait une corde pour qu'ils se pendent.
Le village de notre destination n'apparaît pas sur la carte. Les villageois vivent dans des huttes faites d'argile et de paille.
Dominique, Guillaume et les enfants portent la première pierre où l'association va construire l'école.
Dominique porte une robe rouge, Guillaume sourie ,les enfants jouent. Sourires et visages heureux .Maintenant ,il faut construire l'école.


Article orginal :

This is the story of a middle-aged French woman who wanted to help the people of poverty-stricken Benin. She was determined to avoid the inefficient aid agencies and so one day set off in an old van to build a school in a dusty village. Her actions so inspired Redmond Cabot, he joined her


What are these?


By Redmond Cabot
Sunday December 30 2007

What was I doing in Paris trying to find a ticket to the wild and exotic-sounding Ouagadougou (pronounced 'wagga-doo-goo'), the capital of Burkina Faso?

I was on my way to meet a group of French people who had set out to drive from the boulevards of Paris to the dry, red, dusty, shifting roads of West Africa. Their mission was to bring school books and the foundation stone for a local school to be built on the coast in Benin.

My fiancee and I were due to meet them en route to assist. Getting standby flights to West Africa was proving tricky. We were unsure if or when we'd leave Paris, or where we were going, or how we'd meet these people when we got there. But I reassured myself that I was an experienced fund-raiser and that all would be well. Broken and infrequent communication from the French contingent -- who were driving a Hiace Van and a 1978 Peugeot 404 -- had kept us informed of arrests, breakdowns, and delays.

I knew the lady heading this mission, Dominique Wasse, through her Irish friends. In 1970, Dominique came to the Co Dublin suburb of Sandycove to work as an au pair. She stayed, married, raised a family and then, in 1992, returned to France. Her dream of building a school for a forgotten community in Benin began four years ago. Back in Paris she had become friendly with her neighbour, Ghion, a Benin-born Frenchman. Each had a passion for Africa, each wanted to help African children out of the poverty trap.

Education is the answer, they agreed. Thus, their dream was born. They call themselves the African Swallows. Dominique raised the money for a site for a school by holding tea parties at Charles de Gaulle airport, where she worked. She and Ghion held African evenings, where people would pay to watch a film. She talked a passionate, straightforward game of wanting to bring direct assistance to a community without incurring large overheads, which was such a contrast to so many of the large but inefficient aid agencies.

Eventually, my fiancee and I got hold of flight tickets and we left Paris on a miserable, rainy day. At the other end of our journey, we stepped off the plane into a hot, humid African day, our nostrils tickled by its sweet, dry smells. All the excitement, love, innocence, beauty, and pain of Africa came welling up to greet us like a craggy old friend capable of producing magic. We were in Burkina Faso, well ahead of the driving team -- who were struggling through the rocky roads of Mauritania's bandit territory -- so we decided to travel a bit.

In the town of Bobo Dioulasso, south-west of Ouagadougou, black plastic bags are everywhere: blown along the shopping streets, plastered onto branches and bushes, splayed over waste grounds and open areas. Even the smallest thing you buy comes in a plastic bag and no one thinks twice about throwing them away, so it is hardly surprising the bags litter every part of this urban landscape.

We met Adjara, the second wife to a polygamous husband (the rule rather than the exception here), a mother of seven children, and grandmother to countless others. The youngest of these is six years old and today she was helping Adjara pick up the plastic bags and take them to a recycling centre. How Adjara finds food to feed all these children is never quite clear. As I talk with her, she exudes magnificent qualities of good humour and resilience. She comes to this centre most days to wash the dirty bags that have been collected for recycling. She grimaces as she pulls out a used condom from the suds. Adjara helped form the recycling co-operative with several other women in the town to provide work for themselves (and to help clear up the litter). After collecting and washing the bags, they cut and spin them into handbags, shoes, dolls, key-rings. They even melt them down and make stools. In this poor economy the women came together to combat unemployment: they devised a novel venture, and preach a positive environmental message. They sing and gossip as they work.

For that morning's work they earned about €13 between them. On the day I visited there was much excitement among the women as they had heard of possible orders for their products from America and France.

Later on, I met Dr Michel Akotionga back in Ouga-dougou, where he showed me pictures of damaged female circumcisions.

The practice of removing a girl's clitoris in a coming-of-age ceremony was raising a whole host of 'whys' for me. According to the customs and traditions of the local community, an uncircumcised girl cannot become pregnant, the nerve ending inside the clitoris is a 'worm' that must be removed, and if a man has four or more wives and cannot be with each one all the time, the others may not enjoy sexual pleasure.

In 2004, 69 per cent of all girls in Burkina Faso underwent this cultural tradition. Dr Akotionga, the government and a host of Burkinabe and foreign associations are fighting to end female circumcisions -- it's slow work, but there is some progress. By this year, the rate is down to just under 50 per cent.

As the doctor was explaining this brutal procedure -- unsanitary 'surgeons' gouging at little girls' genitals with razor blades -- I was wondering how such practices fall within the social norm of acceptability. Do other nations look at the Irish with incomprehension and recoil as they observe our customs and practices? What of our famous drinking reputation, or the relationship between the State and the Religious orders? 'Ahh, sure.'

Later in the week, the French party arrived -- Dominique, Ghion, his two daughters and son, and a young photographer, Tony.

We were a flamboyant-looking lot, a curiosity for the Africans, four white adults, a black man and his three brown children. Dominique chain-smoked and wore colourful hippie dresses. At night she walked on Ghion's back, a massage therapy that had passers-by wondering why this white woman was torturing an African man.

After they felt refreshed, we drove the 1,200km to Benin's coast. On the way we held impromptu meetings with village communities to distribute school books, we entertained locals with our massages, slept under trees, partied, swam, ate and drank.

One of the saddest experiences was when we met and gave new clothes to a group of recently orphaned children, aged from three to eight. Their parents had been killed by an explosion as they attempted to chip into an overturned petrol tanker in order to get fuel.

We arrived in the tiny village of Hlodo, three hours north-west of Benin's shoreline -- the country was formerly known as the 'Slave Coast' -- under a hot African sky. It is clear from the fields we pass that farming is the only source of local income. There is little here, so many parents send their children away to work.

On August 23 1833, the British outlawed slavery in all of the colonies they occupied. Yet today in West Africa hundreds of thousands of children are placed into service for work and treated like slaves. Typically boys or girls from a village will go to work for a family in a city with the promise of education, experience, or money.

To illustrate the situation, we heard the story of Elise -- a beautiful but retiring 13-year-old girl in the full flush of adolescence.

She sats and told us that after her parents separated, times grew hard, so her father told her she would go to a friend's house in neighbouring Nigeria to improve her prospects.

This was not the case. The life she found there was very different from her home, and the one promised.

Elise worked non-stop for the family, selling clothing and materials, as well as doing all the domestic and cleaning duties. Often finishing her days at 3am, she was regularly abused physically and verbally by the lady of the house. The family tried to erase her identity, beating her for speaking her Aja language, even threatening to kill her on one occasion if she spoke it again.

Beatings came for dropping a boiling pot that had scalded her hand, for not cleaning to their liking, even for falling asleep while massaging the lady's feet. Elise was five year years old. This is the practice of 'Vidomegon', child placement -- or is it modern-day slavery?

This practice highlights a social custom and tradition that straddles a fine line between the definition of slavery and 'placement'. By sending a child away in adherence with a social and traditional norm are hard-up parents facilitating any abuses that may occur?

How different is it to Irish history and 'placing' children with relatives or being sent to work in other houses or institutions?

Social customs have given rise to myths, not always based in reality. How many Irish have similar stories about 'placings' for children that did not necessarily benefit the child?

Elise stayed with 'Madame' for seven years, sleeping on the floor, given no money, no promised education, or even new clothes. By chance one day in the market she overheard a man speaking her language. She approached him and begged him to help her escape. He agreed.

Elise's story was one of many that we heard that day.

She was disturbed as she recounted her tale. She doesn't like remembering it, and as she does, she cries and plays with her hands. She was visibly traumatised as she recounted her memories of being beaten, or the degradation of being thrown dirty underwear to wash.

Elise is happier now she is at home, starting school education, her main hope of advancement, through a sponsorship programme next year. If the horrible past of slavery in West Africa is to be truly shaken from these countries then only education and community awareness can be the way forward. Educated girls are never sent away.

Asked why he had sent his daughter away, her father told me it was because of money, and the lure of supposed opportunity. He needed school money, but he didn't have enough. Now he felt terrible. Everything that he would never want to happen to his daughter happened.

Would he ever do it again? 'Never, none of my other children will be leaving now.'

All around the family compound was blatant evidence of real poverty. How do you tell poor people to change their lives and customs in a way that we deem right when they have not the freedoms of decision-making that we do? Therein lies much in the relationship between Africa and the developed world.

Travelling through Burkina Faso and Benin, I had seen difficult situations, and had witnessed how people cope with them. The grand and glorious schemes may leave people high and dry after the short term, left with procedures or regulations they do not understand.

Yet the sustainable successes we saw came from ordinary people, no fancy stuff, and their adaptability to react to situations in a common sense and connected way. I remember Salibo, working in partnership with the successful Irish Bothar schemes telling me the worst thing people could do as a response to Africa's difficulties was to throw money at it. He said it was like giving people rope to hang themselves on. Perhaps that is a lesson in there for our society trumpeted as so successful, perhaps not.

Our destination village does not appear on the maps. Its people live in mud huts that look like Iron-Age plantations from our history.

Dominique, Ghion, and the children carried the foundation stone to where they are going to build the school. Dominique wore a red dress, Ghion grinned, the kids played, we jumped up and down. A local man took his machete to work at the edge of the site. Smiles and happy faces glowed. Now all we need to do is build the school.

You can learn more about the group's activities, and even assist, by going to www.hirondelledafrique.org

- Redmond Cabot




Numéro de NeoSapiens de Juillet


Le 11 mars 2007 dernier, "Hirondelle d'Afrique" a eu son 1er droit de citation télévisée grâce à un de nos membre actif, Christophe WANTE lors de l'émission "Questions pour un super champion".

Découvrez cet extrait et un grand merci à Christophe !!


 

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