Yesterday I had a great conversation with Séké over foufou and sauce d’arachide and Youki Moka, I asked him whether he feared a third civil war in this nation. He first proceeded to explain the extent of the war when he was living in Abidjan in 2011 “pendant que quelques gens se battaient, dans l’autre côté de la ville, ils étaient en train de fêter.” Meaning that while some were fighting, others were partying, highlighting the limited nature of the war in this nation. He assured me that he saw no chance in war returning, noting the ongoing construction, notably a few new highway routes meant to improve traffic, as proof that the country was progressing in the right direction.
He continued, “ils ont commencé la guerre pour voler, tu ne vas rien voir les businessmen qui préfèrent prendre armes, ils sont trop occupés! Et quand les voleurs ont finis de voler, ils vont arrêter la guerre parce que il faut vendre tous qu’ils on volé.” He impressed upon me the idea that war and poverty are inextricably linked, and that when the proponents of war had finished stealing everything they wanted, they needed to stop the war in order to ensure that they could sell their loot. He remarked that business people, or employed people in general, are significantly less likely to take up arms as their duties to maintain business had greater incentives.
I want to know more about the civil war that took place in 2011, largely affecting civilians and protestors rather than security figures, as I learn more I will share… Today I am looking forward to confirming my placement as an educator in a local school, I will update as much as possible!
I’ve been in Abidjan for a little while now, but I finally got a good internet connection at my brother-in-law’s office in Treichville. His name is Séké and he is the director of Royal Inspection International Africa, serving in Abidjan but also Takoradi and Tema, Ghana; Douala, Cameroon and Owendo, Gabon! He’s a busy guy who travels a lot, so we are really grateful that he has agreed to help SUAT complete our mission here in Côte D’Ivoire: to learn more about the realities of trafficking in this nation and develop tangible solutions based on the input of students and youth from the community.
Abidjan is a bustling city, full of life at all hours–and I do mean all hours. Due to the Ramadan season, and also the fact that we live near several mosques, my sleep has been pierced into promptly at 4 am, 5:30 am, and 7:00am due to calls to eat before sunrise and subsequent prayer times. After the imam finished, the rest of my attempts at sleeping were effectively neutralized by roosters and chickens who were determined to wake the city up. They also walk around the streets sometimes, but mostly in the slums across the bridge from downtown.
We live on the 4th floor of a neat little two bedroom apartment, and we take the stairs each time. The most interesting thing about Abidjan is the driving situation… There are actually ramps to help cars cross the sidewalk and get on the opposite street. Yes, cars drive on the sidewalk here sometimes, motorcycles are especially shameless for this. But don’t think the pedestrians are upset about their limited walking space, they have no problem walking through the main roads, especially when there’s lots of traffic. The president of France, François Hollande is visiting here soon, he’s picture side by side with the Ivorian president Allasane Ouattara on ads all across the city. People are also erecting the two flags side by side on the bridge leasing from the airport to downtown. It’s an interesting display of affection for a formerly colonizer nation, but hopefully all in good spirit. Today for lunch we had “foufou et sauce d’arachide” which is mashed plantain puffs and peanut sauce, very delicious!
I will add more photos later!! <3 Sesa
Training with the youth Pennacle!
Training with the youth Pennacle!
I have had the privilege of interning as a teacher on behalf of African Soul International for Pennacle Foundation Inc. In South Central Los Angeles! I began this internship with a goal in mind: spreading awareness about human trafficking and increasing knowledge about self empowerment and entrepreneurship for the youth in the program.
Pennacle is a provider for the LA County Summer Youth Employment Program, so my job included recruiting youth who needed jobs in the area, training them for 20 hrs, and helping them to find work in the surrounding area that could be sustainable! My first week, after training, I was helping a girl, I’ll call her K for privacy, create a new resume. As she was telling me about her struggle to find long term employment and sharing her frustrations of being a teenage parent who was raised by her grandparents after her mother was incarcerated for several years. She and I both shared a few years, but also a lot of hope and happiness. Another girl whose resume I worked on disclosed that she and her sister have both been living in a group home ever since her sister and parents got into a fight and child services came. It was rough because she didn’t know what address to put on her resume.
A few days later, as some of the newly employed youth were helping Pennacle set up for their free community food program, some of them shared with me the dangerous realities of living in the area. One youth, whom I will call Von, told me that after going home following training one day she was chased by a girl who got out of her car with a knife in hand. Apparently she didn’t look like she belonged there, so her life was threatened. Another group of young men told me how just looking as if you “don’t belong” in an area can get you killed, claiming that gangs in the area no longer care about colors but rather stereotype based on race and other physical traits. One guy, J, showed me two keloided scars just below his collar bone where a bullet had entered his skin and (fortunately) exited again. This occurred, unfortunately when he was only 16 and all because he was misidentified as someone else.
This has been an amazing journey so far, I can’t wait to see what comes next!
So… time for some updates!
After returning from Thailand, I formed S.U.A.T. (Students United Against Trafficking) which is a coalition of and educators who aim to increase dialogue around human trafficking and to raise awareness about how it works and how we can put an end to it! Current S.U.A.T. member and co-founder, Diana Ciuca, is working to replicate the Language and Life-Skills Curriculum developed with support from the Davis Project for Peace this summer in Mae Sot, Thailand! This will be our second year with Heavenly Home, so wish us luck!
Also, I am working to open a chapter of S.U.A.T. in Benin, so that I can use the curriculum in Beninese schools! This curriculum was developed to target trafficking with an innovative, preventative approach that emphasizes self-empowerment, leadership, and social change.
Benin is a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for the purposes of forced domestic and commercial labor, including child prostitution. Child trafficking is particularly urgent due to the influence of a traditional practice called “vidomegon,” in which poor children become the indentured servitude of wealthier families. Traditionally this opportunity gave low-income youth greater education access, but this has been corrupted due to globalization and child trafficking. A few hundred to several thousand children are trafficked each year to wealthier nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, and Cameroon.
To accomplish this goal, I’m working with grassroots organization PIED-ONG. PIED-ONG works inside Northern villages and rural schools to create a home for child victims of trade, trafficking and sexual violence and also rescues children from the South who have lost contact with their families. My goal is to merge the “Language and Life-Skills” curriculum with their pre-existing services.
Looking forward, I hope to standardize this curriculum so that it can be exported all over the world, as we all know trafficking is a global issue rather than a regional one! Thanks to everyone who has supported so far, and please contact me if you want to help take this project to the next level!
This picture was taken on the highway in Myawaddy, Karen State, Burma. At the time we were driving to get lunch when we passed this fellow talking on the phone in the trunk of his car… This photo is a perfect description of Burma. People just do what they have to do… I just hope he has on a seatbelt of some kind!