So much to report, as the second group of volunteers from Encore de la Paix has spent already a week in Abam Eba. We arrived in Gabon at the end of July and made our way out to the village after the mandatory RPCV dinner on the beach and trips to stores to buy a few building supplies, local sim cards for phones, and other essential personal items for a month in the village. After a Sat afternoon meeting with our counterpart social and cultural association, named CEFAME, we left Libreville on Sunday July 28 in a 2 vehicle caravan arriving in the provincial capital Oyem the same night. The following morning we did the round of official local government introductions and then drove 30 kms to the village of Abam Eba, whick is located 5 kms from the Equatorial Guinea border. It is in Abam Ebat that Peace Corps built an elementary school 1964 and 1965.
The next day, the school director convened a meeting of all the area village chiefs and available villagers The idea was to get the help we need for the repairs to the older 60s school and to finish work to the March 2019 pre-school classroom. Help means stuff like truckloads of sand from the nearby stream needed to mix the cement, village based local volunteer labor, and requests for locally produced fruits, vegetables and palm wine.
We had a work meeting with our on-ground foreman, Medard, to lay out steps for the five projects we’ll be scrambling to complete in the short time we have in the village: paint the March 2019 newly built preschool classroom, complete the 1960s school renovations construction of a small wall on the front verandah; a back wall, steps in front of both the school and pre-school, completion of a world map mural, and distribution of mosquito nets (timed for the August 17 national independence festivities.)
We got to work right away and made good progress over the course of the week. Joan, Jack and Claire pitched in on the pre-school painting before turning their attention to preparing the grid for the world map mural. Dick and Drew worked with Medard and the group of village volunteers to build forms for the two veranda walls and the steps in front of the classrooms. Even Bob, our in-country indispensable chef, has been seen with a paint brush in his hand while organizing 3 young Michaelangelos to do most of the interior and exterior painting.
We generally start at 8.30 and work to about 6 with brief stops for food and whatever. The village guys working with us are doing a great job with a lot more energy and muscle power than the rest of us over 60 types.
We’re all staying with the same folks who hosted the group in March – Papa Jean and Marthe. The photo below shows Claire with Mama Marthe and her daughter-in-law Rachelle. Claire’s holding the baby that Rachelle was carrying in March when the first group of Encore volunteers were here.
Accommodations are quite comfortable and the food is more than enough, even if some of the dishes are new to us – but that will be the subject of the next entry.