From walking through Dorma Village for the past week to conduct interviews and collect technical data, one thing has become clear: it is impossible for us to blend in. No matter where I go, a small band of children is there to follow me. At the Wellbody guest house where we live, the neighboring children are constant fixtures in our daily lives. They chat and play cards on the deck for hours, squish their faces in the windows during our meetings, and peer into the open doorways for a glimpse of the Wellbody staff and EWB team living inside. In the village, there is a group of children who chant “white woman, white woman, white woman” when I am in viewing distance. Sometimes they come and bear-hug me from behind, which can be quite startling. Some will follow us for hours when we were conducting interviews or collecting technical data around time. My favorite is when they ask for “snaps” or photos. Their faces light up when they see their own faces smiling back at them.
What strikes me the most about the children here is the amount of responsibility they are given at such a young age.Young girls carry their infant siblings on their backs with pieces of cloth. Several times a day, they balance gallons of water on their heads. Boys help in the construction of small huts that act as house extensions.Out of necessity, the children generally seem to help out in the household in any way they are able. Still, the kids seem to have hours of free time every day to play football, running around while balancing spare tires with sticks, and wander around the village. School is out of session right now, so this isn’t an unexpected picture of life during summer vacation—but many families are not able to send their children to school during the year. This could be their lives year round.
When we were conducting surveys, education often topped the list on the concerns for individual families. School fees, which don’t include school uniforms and other supplies, for primary and secondary school are typically around 75,000 to 90,000 Leones a year per child (about 17 to 21 USD). This might not sound like very much without putting this number into perspective. Many of the households we interviewed were barely scraping by spending around 20,000 Leones (a little under 5 USD) per day to feed households of 10 people or more. Even the annual government taxes of 5,000 Leones (slightly more than 1 USD) per adult can place a burden on households.
There is little we can do to solve the poverty that is pervasive in the villages of the surrounding area. But, we can look at greater community development needs in Dorma Village. In the community surveys, the majority response to greatest problem facing the community as a whole is a reliable, clean source of water that functions year round. In the past few days, we have been meeting with NGOs and government officials to learn more about the water sources in Dorma, what problems these sources have, and how we can learn from the mistakes of previous development projects in the Dorma community. With all of the data and information we have been collecting, we hope that we can help improve the water situation in Dorma with a project that is sustainable and beneficial for the community.
Frances Lu '16