It all started with an embarrassing situation a few years ago. In the village of Mballa near Moundou in Southern Chad, a group of women presented a petition to the village chief that the village scribe had drawn up for them. The Elder asked them to read it out loud…. and the women, looking at each other, realized that not one of them could actually read. That was the moment when one among them, Mama Ruth, made a pledge in the name of all that none of their daughters should ever experience such humiliation, and that they would go to school, no matter what.
The problem was, there was no school in Mballa. So, Mama Ruth and her friends simply founded one. But they soon came up against another sort of problems: although there was an abundance of eager kids that were only all too happy at the prospect of going to school, there was neither money nor a structure or a teacher to assure ongoing qualified education. But locals were not easily deterred, and improvised with what little resources they had.
When World Vision came to Mballa – in fact, to date it still is the only NGO in the area - one of its first priorities was to support that fledgling project initiated by the villages itself. But typical for WV’s holistic approach, a number of complementary WaSH, Health, Resilience Livelihood, and Food Security programs were put in place to help villagers in their effort to extricate themselves from poverty and strife, all with tremendous backing from private donors and partners, as well as WV support offices of Australia, Germany, Taiwan, and the U.S.
Mama Ruth, WV’s #1 fan and advocate
If Chadians are usually a reserved people, Mballa is different. Its people are cheerful and outgoing, and they have always been on the proactive side. And among them, Mama Ruth has always been one of the most fearless leaders and active drivers of progress. Her determination is infectious. Her senior age is not slowing her down. She is now the director of that school she started several years ago. When World Vision created savings clubs in Mballa, she became their matron president. And she is the much-respected village doyenne. Nothing happens here without her knowledge and approval.
It is also Mama Ruth who ensures that World Vision’s activities and engagements in the village are honoured. Water points are clean and well-kept. Women learn a trade and acquire skills that allow them to pursue gainful activities. Boys and girls go to school. Health initiatives like vaccination, mosquito nets, the fight against malnutrition, and the emphasis on women’s health around menstruation, pregnancy, and child birth are all part of daily life. And Ruth herself campaigns against early marriage and female circumcision. The villagers have well understood the notion of proactive participation to better their situation, and are happy to do so. And they are remarkably inclusive and open-minded – anyone with a marginal lifestyle, like artists, gays, or handicapped people - all are a part of the community, no one is excluded because of their personal situation.
Meeting with so much enthusiasm and goodwill, it was easy for World Vision to successfully implement its programs. Some of the highlights include:
- 2 private sponsorships for the construction of a girls’ school
- Equipment of this school with tables, chairs, black boards, books, and didactic materials
- 15 reading camps involving 766 pupils and 27 facilitators
- 83 persons trained in the Literacy Boost program
- Self-governing Kids’ clubs to promote education
- Successful sensitization campaign on the topic of prenatal care and safe delivery, reaching 2,200 women in remote areas of the village
- Health center equipped with medication and medical supplies
- Training/up-skilling of 160 vaccination administrators and peer educators, 150 religious leaders, and 180 breastfeeding educators
- Training for 60 persons in soap making, and 45 women in textile batik
- Creation of 30 savings groups of 25 persons each, with subsequent training
- Creation of a disaster response group of 80 persons, including a committee of 12
- Entrepreneurial training for 60 women
- Pilot training program for 82 farmers on agricultural techniques and water & environment management
- Sensitization of 300 persons on harvest management
- Education on personal paper and document management (such as birth certificates etc.)
- Sensitization of children on environmental issues
Great Progress, but still Challenges ahead
Much has happened to make Mballa a showcase community, and gratitude for World vision’s work is immense. But that is not to say that all is perfect. There are still challenges and uphill struggles ahead. Among the most pressing ones is the shortage of qualified teachers, and the lack of a school building for girls. Villagers need more training and opportunities for trade and small commerce. But the entire community is mobilized and eager to demonstrate just how keen they are on becoming self-reliant in the not too distant future now that World Vision has provided the launchpad. This ambition is aptly captured when Mama Ruth shares her dearest dream of what she hopes to accomplish next:
“Now that our girls can go to school here, I want to create a university in Mballa!”
Photos and story by Natja Igney, Communications Consultant at World Vision Chad