Sunday, November 12, 2006

Recently, Valentine was looking at an old catalogue with a picture of a button in it that said « You are looking at a Winner ». She remarked: “I remember that I showed this to you a couple of years ago and you told me ‘My child, here are words of wisdom from Mom: Anybody who would wear that is a LOSER!’”
So, I guess I can’t very well get a button or have a t-shirts printed up. My daughter would think I’d lost my mind. But I am feeling VERY much like a winner these days (despite the fact that I am a negligent blogger). Though my previous blog entries had endless complaints about it, the SIAO turned out great! Wonderful! In fact, for the first time ever, Papiers du Sahel won an award at the event! The project got the Celtel Award for Excellence in Recycled Products !!! When I arrived on Saturday morning (the 4 of November) Eugenie gave me the news! A 1,000,000 fcfa ($2000) prize for us! I was pretty astounded. I feel like the paper project is amazing and the women are so deserving, yet big-time recognition had always escaped us. And it finally came!! A huge awards ceremony was scheduled for that night. We were only allowed one entry ticket to the event, though, which was kind of odd. I went up to the Awards Office to beg a couple more tickets, explaining that we are a cooperative and the credit for our work goes to many people. Plus, I figured it would be depressing to go to such an event all alone. But they were unconvinced. So, we just had the one ticket. I thought that Eugenie (as the president of the cooperative) should go. But she said her health was not good and she’d prefer to forgo it. We had a group meeting and the women insisted that I go. It was very sweet of them. I think it was considered as my part of the award, as they know that none of the money will go to me, of course.
So, after working from 8 to 4 at the SIAO, I rushed home and got the kids ready for church. ( I had to lead the singing, but hadn’t rehearsed with the choir, as I had been so busy with SIAO. God did not let me humiliate myself too badly, I’m happy to report) We hurried home afterwards, I quickly changed and jumped in the car. As I pulled up in front of the Officers’ Mess, I could see it was a huge event. There were hundreds of people seated at tables in front of a big stage. I showed my invitation card and tried to find a place to sit. That’s when my shoe broke. Yes, my platform shoe no longer had a platform. At that point, I definitely felt like a “You are looking at a Loser” button was in order. There was no way to repair the shoe. Should I just go barefoot? Maybe not - the Burkinabé put a great store by in being properly dressed. These things always start late, anyway. I jumped in the car, drove across town and threw two pairs of shoes in the backseat. (An extra pair, just in case.) I got back at 9 pm, just as they started the ceremony. The first thing they did was start announcing the awards! Ours was about the fourth one announced. There was lots of press there and I smiled in front of the blinding lights, secure in the fact that I had two intact shoes on my feet.
After that was done, they started into the “Miss SIAO” contest. Extremely nervous girls explained why they wanted to be elected “Miss SIAO”. “Because I really, really, really like African arts and crafts” was the standard, if uninspired answer in all cases. After the first round of the competition, the buffet was opened. Instead of heading for the food, I made for the door. My work there was done. I had the check in hand and hadn’t embarrassed my co-workers by falling on my face. I figured I’d better quit while I was ahead.
Part of the ceremony was on local television Sunday night. I’ve had a few people tell me they saw me on the RTB news. The announcement of the awards has also been in many of the local papers over the last week.
Monday we took down our stand at SIAO. We were all tired, but happy. We were also all sick, I should add. The terrible dust and heat in the stands has made many of the exhibitors fall ill- lots of bronchitis and sinusitis. It certainly triggered my asthma. Eugenie isn’t well at all and has missed three days of work this week…..
But things will hopefully soon be back to normal. Right now, we are waiting for a visit from the directors of the Village Artisanale. For those of you that don’t know it, it is a sort of arts and crafts shopping mall here in Ouaga. It is a huge center, sponsored by the European Union and is one of the few things here that really works. There are dozens of nice workspace/shops for selected local artisans. It’s very organized, pleasant and is on every tourist itinerary, as it is one-stop, hassle-free souvenir shopping- a rarity in West Africa. Now that we have won the Celtel prize, the Village is interested in giving us a place! We’d put in an application last September, but we were just one among hundreds of demands for the mere 12 new slots available! But now we stand out from the crowd and have a real chance!
I guess this post is long enough! I am just so very happy!!!! The Papiers women and I are all wearing invisible "You are looking at a Winner" buttons. I guess that's the only cool kind.


Samantha said...

Congratulations, it must be so gratifying to actually be doing something that makes a difference. That's one of the things I miss here in France, the lack of volunteer opportunities.

karondaray said...

WOW , great job to you and all the wonderful ,talented, strong women that you have around you.

MLW said...

Yea! The women of Papiers ROCK! You kicked that recycled-plastic-bags cooperative in the butt!

Umm, wait. That's not the proper spirit. Don't tell them I said that.

Congrats on getting much deserved recognition. Sounds like quite a whirlwind for someone down with malaria and typhoid a few weeks ago.