When A Village Rises Up Together: Who Said it?……..”You Can Help The Poor Any Time You Want”

“Fish,” he said softly, aloud, “I’ll stay with you until I am dead.” ― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

“Patience and tenacity are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.” (Thomas Huxley)

We can have all the best intentions in the world… but reality tells us it does not give a hoot about our intentions.  That was last week’s lesson.  I intended to take the weekend off -Wow…. that sure did not happen. But there have been some great things happening for The Invisible Humanitarian. Despite the fact that I walked to the bakery in the dark (thank heavens) with my boubou on inside out at 6 am this morning.

“There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.” (Terry Pratchett)

I accidentally double booked for  last Friday, so I had to ask a Malian friend to step in for me. He has been a casual, but critically valuable  partner on this drip irrigated garden stuff for three years now. Word was getting around of my reverse engineered community development episode a few days ago. When A Humanitarian Loses His Magic Cape… Of All The Decisions I’ve Made,This One Pleases Me Most.

I am not certain what all my friend told this new village ladies’ group about the other situation in the other village. However, when I informed the them that the garden had to be set up by Friday or be delayed until next term, and that by Monday’s site inspection the seeds needed to be sowed, ground cover placed, and the fence completed, or I would take their garden drip kits back to Sikasso too, the old lay in the group said,

“You will not be taking out our garden, because we will not be giving you any reason to do so. The work will be complete. “

Her only other comment was; “If you take the drip irrigation kits, all the surrounding villages will say we were too lazy to work. This is not true, we will not have it said about us. The work will be complete.”

So I guess there is some truth to,  “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

Training & setup day was scheduled for last Friday, so the women, and surprisingly some men, all showed up, and they did in one day what many villages take a week or two to do. I wish I had been there, just to see and experience the the energy. But it was good for Emmanuel to get the credit. I don’t need credit; I like to be invisible, after all. It’s best when locals are helping locals. They loaded him up with some manioc when he left too. I’m happy for the guy- his family can sure use the help, too. Talk about the poor helping the poor.

“Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work…” (Albert Einstein)

On arrival, he noticed that the poles they mounted for the water supply were too low. Off they went  en masse out into the Sahel, and within twenty minutes young boys and girls were emerging with longer poles for the adults to cut to size. The men set to work planting them in the ground immediately.

Back in town, after my meeting was over in the late afternoon, I took an hour’s nap after a totally sleepless night. Then I got up and called Emmanuel to see how the village work went. He was still not home, and was only just arriving at the village where we took up the garden systems last week. He was stopping to haul some of the material home to Sikasso for me.

I asked what took him so long in the other village. He informed me that the village is excited and they came out in numbers to help…. the men too. Not only did they set up all the drip irrigation lines for the first twelve families, they also planted all the seeds, put down all the ground cover, and finished building the wooden fence too, all in one day… Emmanuel said I would have been proud of them. They were the hardest working group yet.

Well there you go. Just when……………

I have been on a marathon since Tuesday’s village day. Friday night saw us yet again sleepless, up bailing out the house… (Rain Flood episode). Sunday was a 11 hour day with two garden kits set up and four site inspections, a LONG way from Sikasso. This was with another NGO and a village she is responsible for, with whom we are partnering a little. More on that later.

And this morning,  I woke up at 2:30AM  and could not get back to sleep. I can’t imagine why, as I have raccoon eyes and am about done in. I’m actually putting my head down on my desk as I type this from time to time. I am having a blast, yet, frankly, I am running out of juice now after one more sleepless night.

However, I have to be out to the villages by 9 AM, for that new village inspection (I have 27 drip garden inspections total today), and I guess the old lady might be correct after all; I should have no reason to take their kits up when I arrive today.

Which is fine by me…. I really do not want  a repeat of that. Once is enough. But I don’t mind being the bad guy if I have to be. It seems I often am the bad guy anyway, because I often fail to meet people’s expectations. But somewhere along the life line I arrived to the point, good or bad,  where I don’t care about that anymore.

However, maybe calling it quits with that one ladies’ group sent a good message far and wide. Or maybe not. A good message does not mean everyone appreciates the message sent.  I’ll know today, if the “recuperation” ladies group even bothers to talk to me. Emmanuel did inform me that those women are very angry at my dugutigi (the guy responsible for me – I’m kind of part of his extended family in the village). They are probably blaming him for not intervening, or not doing enough political speak intervention to dissuade me from taking the drip irrigation back to Sikasso. It does not matter if I clarify that it was my fault, my decision; I put him in hard place. Because of his cultural role,  unfortunately, my decision puts him in a tough position where he can’t win, either.

I will have to go see the Chief of the village today and explain what happened, and assure him that we are happy with the progress of the other groups, and that we are still working with the village, just no longer working with this group, is all.  Wish me luck…

In a real way, dealing with food security, development, or poverty issues feels like this many days, 

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Another wise man one said,

“The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want…” (Jesus Of Nazareth – Mark 14:7 NIV)

And I want to…. as tired as I am…….. “I can’t not want to.”

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