Wednesday, November 16, 2005

BURKINA FASO & ST. AIDAN'S : More Young People Making A Difference

St. Aidan's County High School is in Carlisle Cumbria. For us Yanks and other non-Brits, a quick trip to the Atlas will tell us that Cumbria is located in the northwest of England. L'Association de Soutien al'Auto-Promotion (ASAP) is located in the Region of Piela in the landlocked west African nation of Burkina Faso.

There may not seem to be a lot in common between these two communities, but the commonality of their humanity caused them to make a connection. And through this connection the students at St. Aidan's County High School are able to help the people in the Piela Region of Bilem Purga.

This all started when a UK broadcaster by the name of Jon Snow initiated a program ("On The Line") for young people in the eight countries which lie along the zero degree meridian line to learn about each other. (The meridian deals with longitude, not latitude - so, we are not talking about the equator here.)

Anyway, a partnership was created with organizations such as Channel 4, Oxfam, the World Wide Fund For Nature-UK, Action Aid and the Central Bureau for Exchange. To help the children from the nations of Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Algeria, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom to learn about each other since they shared the same time zone.

In 1999 three pupils from St. Aidan's - Penny Ritson, Andy Lesley and Ian Rousell - began working on a project that led to the link between the school, ASAP, and ultimately the villages in the region of Piela.

The students at St. Aidan's began learning about Burkina Faso and developed a web page that provides information about many aspects of that country. They give through accounts of the location and climate of Burkina Faso, and discuss issues such as the state of the agricultural industry, education, population, health, aid, economy urbanization, village life and the environment.

In the section on Village Life, they have posted the accounts of three individuals who live in different villages in Burkina Faso. One account of daily village life is by a mother, Dayamba Puamoni and the other two are by a boy, Gayeri Yeniban, and a girl, Tindano Joyce, each.

St. Aidan's web site states that: "Fund-raising has long been a tradition at the school, and many local, national and international charities and organisations have benefited from the enthusiasm of pupils for thinking up ideas and turning them into cash."

According to their web site all forms in St Aidan's raise money for community and school projects in Piela region of Burkina Faso. Not only have the students been active, but staff, parents and the PTA have all gotten involved as well. Some of the projects have been providing wind turbines to communities, and "helping the African pupils introduce new food crops into the school garden." The project that has been described as a "top priority" is the raising of £35 each year by every form to support a student attending secondary school in Burkina Faso.

St. Aidan's has also provided matching funds for a group of women from the village of Bilem Purga to buy, rear and sell kids or lambs. Through the ASAP and funds provided St. Aidan's, each woman may borrow up to £10 for the purchase. Then these women, with the aid of their children raise the livestock. When the kids or lambs reach market weight they are sold; the women sell the livestock, repay the loan and reinvest any profit. When the loans are repaid those funds enables more women to take part in the scheme.

Through this involvement relationships have developed, networks created, funds raised, had cultural exchanges have taken place. It's a "Win - Win" situation all around.

One really should visit the "St. Aidan's - Burkina Faso" web site. It was produced by the students at St. Aidan's and well illustrates the depth of understanding gained by those students about Burkina Faso and their friends in that country. This initiative has obviously been a great benefit to the partners in the north and the partners in the south both who share the same meridian.

Burkina Faso & St. Aidan's

St. Aidan's County High School

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