Visions of Change

By Tom Campton on Feb 1, 2009

Originally published in the WFCF Newsletter, Vol. 5, No. 1, February 2009

The following excerpt is from an article written by Dr. David Vader, a member of Messiah College’s Collaboratory for Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research. The article offers his perspective on Burkina Faso when he first visited, and what currently exists. WFCF, as noted in previous newsletters, has been a supporter of the Handicapes en Avant Project in Burkina Faso by way of donations made for various supplies and equipment to be used by the orphaned children at the orphanage facility:

In his article about his travels to Burkina Faso, Dr. Vader wrote: “When I first came to Burkina Faso in 1996 we came in the night. Custom officials combed through my belongings. The ride over mostly dirt roads from the Ouagadougou airport to the SIM guesthouse was lighted by kerosene lanterns. Although exhausted from travel, I was careful to brush my teeth with filtered water and carefully tuck a mosquito net in around my bed as a precaution against malaria.

In the morning I began the bush taxi journey to the rural village of Mahadaga in the southeastern corner of the country. There were multiple military checkpoints, where I understood not a word of conversation, but my passport was always duly inspected. In Mahadaga a generator provided electric power for lights between 6 and 9 PM each night. After that we talked or wrote in our journals by lantern light, usually retiring around 10 PM. Only a handful of motorized vehicles passed through town each day, none locally owned. Mahadaga’s wealthy owned bicycles. We saw them passing by the mission on their way to the Thursday market laden with a half dozen chickens hanging from the front handlebars, and a sack of grain or a passenger on the back. The nearest telephone was nearly 14 miles away, and the internet was unknown.

With more cash in the community, this year for the first time I have seen no women pounding millet into flour. Rather, they pay to have it ground by numerous gasoline powered mills available in the village.

Today, much has changed in Burkina Faso. More of the roads from the airport to the SIM guesthouse in Ouagadougou are paved, and fewer are lined at night with kerosene lanterns. Custom officials readily allow our project materials into the country and we no longer have to show our passports once on the road to Mahadaga.

In the Mahadaga guest house, we have lights and even fans around the clock, unless it is cloudy for a day or two and the solar charged batteries drain. Farmers have stopped planting some fields with food to grow cotton, a cash crop that can devastate the soil. To attain yields competitive on the world market they use dangerous pesticides that are banned in the U.S. With more cash in the community, this year for the first time I have seen no women pounding millet into flour. Rather, they pay to have it ground by numerous gasoline powered mills available in the village. The wealthy have traded their bicycles for motor bikes. Now there are bandits on the road when the cotton is being sold and travelers are more likely to be carrying cash. Cell phones help farmers monitor commodity prices and receive fair payment for their goods. The phones also serve as the new status symbol, and many people carry them who cannot even afford food.

The culture of Mahadaga is changing so that the weakest and most vulnerable people are cared for. I see nearly as many people on tricycles as on motor bikes, and I have not seen anyone crawl on the ground for years. The center we serve provides many who cannot walk, whether because of disease or malnutrition, with physical therapy and assistive devices. They walk! Families are visited and taught to care for their children. Education is provided for the disabled, including persons who are deaf or blind. One of our first clients of the center is now a law student at the University in Ouagadougou. He wants to be a professor. Many of the disabled are represented among church and community leaders.

Thanks to all of the present and past workers in the Collaboratory, and to our many supporters, for making possible our part in the story of God’s good work in Mahadaga. With God’s help we imagine a day when every disabled person is able to afford and maintain a hand powered tricycle, and those with disabilities so severe they cannot operate the hand powered tricycle have ready access to electric powered tricycles. Thank you for all your love and support, and God bless you.

Your generous support has allowed WFCF to contribute to the Handicapes en Avant Project. The personal account of the progress in Burkina Faso by Dr. David Vader conveys the power of what we can do together collectively. So, please consider making a contribution to WFCF in order to allow for continued support of such worthy causes.