Thursday, 13 November 2008

The wonderful world of work!

A new and strange feeling hit me this morning as I was dressing in the dimness of the African dawn: I was actually looking forward to going to work. It's a sensation I haven't felt for some time and I have to say I liked it - I hope it lasts!

The road outside Fantsuam Foundation, 1 Bayan Loco Close, Kafanchan: it looks a lot better than it really is...

The Fantsuam Foundation is no international business process outsourcing company: it is full of highly educated people committed to changing the lives of the disadvantaged rural populations of Kaduna State. Whether it's chairman John Dada driving a young AIDS victim to the hospital and later rueing why she couldn't have been compelled to go for a test earlier when the virus could have been controlled; or ICT trainer Yakubu enthusiastically explaining the wonderful world of the internet to local children in the next door classroom; or microfinance field officer Hajarah, sitting in a local chief's house amongst a group of women about to embark on their first enterprise processing dadawa ('local Maggi cubes'), and explaining how micro-credit works: Fantsuam is clearly making a difference to local lives.

My role in the organisation is as Micro Small and Medium Size Enterprises Development Officer... try saying MSME very quickly lots of times... it's a bit like 'red lorry, yellow lorry', Fantsuam's activities were borne out of micro finance, led by general secretary Kazanka Comfort who was inspired by Mohammed Younis. Today it's an integrated development organisation delivering secure livelihoods, vocational and ICT training and community health boasting its own health centre and maternity delivery unit.

The health centre (foreground) and maternity unit (background) - and also importantly - the lunchtime food lady serving the loyal staff in front of the idle generator (we use solar).

In addition a fish farm is being built to help ensure proper nutrition for its communities and there is a programme to mobilise 'kakas' (grandmothers) in the care of children left orphaned by AIDS and general support for families. In addition Fantsuam has the highly successful 'gaiya' (gift of labour) scheme: local volunteering based upon a local tradition of mutual support amongst neighbours.

I'm here to help the clients and enterprises we work with become more successful businesses and thereby lift them and their communities out of their current circle of rural poverty.
The only problem the organisation has is fulfilling the many dreams of John Dada who is a real visionary with a desire to improve the lives of local communities in whatever way he can. Let's hope the new crop of VSOs can carry on where the last lot left off and help to make at least some of those dreams come true.

Fantsuam is based in Bayan Loco - literally meaning - railway (loco) area. Kafanchan was once a thriving junction town. Now Bayan Loco is the local slum. Occasionally you will see men playing pretty passable tennis on the dilapidated courts of the 'Railway Recreation Club' which was clearly quite a place to be seen in its time. Rows of decrepit, two-storey concrete buildings overlook the dusty football pitches and railway sidings: these were the railway offices. I could go on but it's too depressing. What you hear is that all the politicians have invested in road trucks hence the railways were left to rot with no powerful interests to keep them going. Who knows what the real reasons are.

The decaying railway

A Fantsuam colleague (also a former railway engineer) did tell me that a passenger service was due to start running to Kaduna on 1 November 2008.. but the day came and went with the carriages remaining rusting and seemingly fused to the tracks. Meanwhile people are killed and freight is lost as vehicles crash on roads that are being pounded minute by minute by massively overloaded trucks, cars and well, any vehicle generally.

It is in the midst of this that our aged Peugeot picks its way across truly appalling dirt tracks every morning. The tar roads of Kafanchan and certainly this part of Kaduna State are generally not too bad.. However that's not the case for Bayan Loco (or come to think of it, Waterboard Road Kagoro). But you are reminded every day what you're here for. Some sort of economic regeneration - any sort.

It is within this environment that I, the other VSOs and all the Fantsuam colleagues and volunteers come to work every day and believe me, it's a lot more inspirational than the short walk from Liverpool Street Station to Worship Street, London EC1.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brava Cicely you look super professional at your desk
i am spreading the word about this initiative and have realised i know a sort of italian version of this Mr Dada---hm hm

ciao chiara