Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to visit the World Renew team in Mali. We greatly enjoyed experiencing another culture and country. The World Renew team has a health education program that they help facilitate in the churches in Mali. The program is very different from the one in Dakar. We were there to A) see how the program worked there, B) see the material they use for the curriculum, and C) give any suggestions on how to make the program easier to run.
Here are some of the differences between the program in Dakar and the program in Mali:
Program run in churches during church events
Program run in neighbourhoods
Most participants are educated
Most participants have had less than 3 years of education
Involves people of all ages
Involves 13 to 18 year olds
Involves males and females
Involves only females
Normally large group events (25-500 participants)
Small groups of 20-25 participants
Events last one or two days
Groups meet twice a week for 7 to 8 months
Curriculum constantly changes due to evolving church needs
Curriculum has remained relatively the same for 20 years
As shown by the table, the differences are huge, so it was quite a different experience from Dakar, even though we have a “similar” program. We enjoyed working in the office with World Renew staff and also meeting World Missions staff who would pop in. In Dakar, we do not work at the office with World Renew, but live near and work at the centre with World Renew Senegal’s partner, SLDS (Senegalese Lutheran Church). We also greatly enjoyed that Bamako, while the same actual temperature, was much cooler feeling than Dakar since it was much less humid. 31 degrees feels much cooler when there’s not 80-100% humidity day and night. Bamako also felt a little bit like Ontario to us: there were corn fields (we haven’t seen any corn in Dakar), hills (Dakar is very flat), grass and trees everywhere (this is because it was the rainy season), a (very large) river (instead of an ocean), and we felt that there was more English spoken – likely related to a larger number of NGOs, and UN activities.
While we were in Bamako, we were able to see several church events where World Renew presents topics ranging from social media to sexual abuse. We went to a women’s group from a church in one of the villages close to Bamako where they talked about confrontation. We also went to a mother-daughter event which is one of two big events that are done each year. We were also able to take part in a youth event (3 to 15 year olds). Everything was taught in French and translated into Bambara (which is a tonal language and we are very thankful that Wolof is not), making it easy for us to understand what was happening in such a short visit. We really enjoyed being able to visit churches and church groups, and to hear many Christians singing together. In a way, it was a time of refreshment for us to see and meet our brothers and sisters in Mali.
While we were there, we were able to squeeze in a day of sight-seeing. We went to a lookout on one of the hills that overlooks Bamako and got a bird’s-eye view of the city. We also went to the national zoo and park. The zoo was the most beautiful one we have ever seen. It was beautifully landscaped and the animals were in very large spaces. The park was also beautiful and full of large trees. Lastly, we were able to go to the cinema to see a fairly recent movie (the new Ben-Hur movie), in English and in 3D! Apparently, it is the only theatre in West Africa with a 3D screen. Dakar does not even have a theatre, so we thought we were living in luxury.
All in all, we had a wonderful, 10-day trip to Mali. The guest-house where we stayed was lovely, the World Renew staff was very friendly, the program and churches were refreshing, and the scenery was homey. We are very thankful that we were given this opportunity and cannot fully express how refreshing it was to go.