Niger Summer Mission 2011 – Day One

Greetings from Niamey!
Technically our travels which began on Wednesday and ended yesterday combine for a Day One … but we are thoroughly settled in and ready to get to work.  That’s a good Day One feeling, to know that we are each committed to our Computer Lab project.

My hope for the group I am with this year is that they each have a rewarding trip through the relationships they build and all that they learn, as well as accomplishing a lot. Coleen, who was here last year is back.  The remaining members of our team are: Beth, Emily, Karen and Joe.  It’s nice to see a collection of individuals who signed on for this trip months ago come together as a group so seamlessly.

We haven’t even gotten to our real purpose here and already each person is showing a great willingness to pitch in to help each other.  One of the keys to a successful mission is teamwork, and the recognition that no job is too small and no individual is too big to lend a hand.  That’s very much like the nature of life in Niger: the poverty, the climate, the environment … everything about it is so vastly different and considerably more difficult than the lives we live back home.  If you can’t get along, you might not go for long.

A couple things of note to share:

Our travels were uneventful, smooth and safe.  Almost perfect.  Unfortunately what prevented perfection was the sad fact that Air France misplaced Coleen’s luggage.  It is 3:30 p.m. as I write and we have yet to be called about the whereabouts of her stuff.  A great example of the type of person Coleen is, is the way she responded to what for some would be a crisis.  I hope if an airline ever loses my luggage I will respond with the same grace she has.

On another note: my most recent trip to Niger was in January.  Seven months later things have not changed to any discernable degree … certainly the future of this country is a multiplicity of very long rows to hoe.  That said, since I was last here open and free elections were held and a
new government is in place.  From the security at the airport to the people in the market, it seems to me that there is at the very least a sense of lightness that hasn’t existed.  Maybe it is hope, maybe it is just the feeling of having the experience of participating in an election.  Niger is an amazing country, populated by a strong and resilient people … it is a very good thing to recognize this lighter air.