Today I survived my first bicycle trip in downtown Ouagadougou. On my way back to Zone de Bois, where I live, I realized that this afternoon it’s been a week since I landed I Ouaga. What a great occasion to start writing. I haven’t been too sure about whether I should or not, but I decided to just go for it and not overthink. My first week has been one of many impressions and it feels as though I’ve been her far longer than a week. But what am I even doing in Burkina Faso you might wonder. Or maybe now you wonder what the heck Burkina Faso is. It’s a country in West Africa. The rest. Well, I will explain.
I am taking part in an internship program hosted by Erikshjälpen or as they are known internationally, Eriks Development partner. In short, they are a Swedish NGO that work to promote and protect children’s rights in a dozen countries globally. The reason it’s called Eriks is because of the founder Erik Nilsson. Born in 1929, he suffered from hemophilia (bleeding disease) from an early age. During his lengthy stays at hospitals, he started writing letters to other sick kids. Long story short, here we are 70 plus years later. And now, Eriks have been kind enough to send me to one of their Burkinabe partners: Office du Développement des Églises Évangeliques, as from now referred to as ODE.
ODE is, as the name indicates, the development organ of a federation of evangelical churches. It dates back to 1972 and they run development projects within multiple areas, one of which is children’s rights. Thus the common ground with Eriks. The headquarters is here in Ouagadougou. I am interning at one of ODE’s projects that runs with support from Eriks. The project is implemented in two rural municipalities of eastern Burkina called Bilanga and Matiacoali. Three people at ODE work with the project. My supervisor Bargo and one person who runs it locally in each municipality. I haven’t been to there yet, but we are probably going next week.
I live in an apartment in a small house that belongs to ODE. It’s on a big road about three kilometers from central Ouagadougou. Just one block from the ODE headquarters though, which has been very convenient as I have been very tired the first week. I think it is mainly because of: 1) loads of new impressions for my poor brain to handle and 2) the Harmattan fine sandy dust that invades my body through eyes, nose and mouth. Tonight is no exception so I will go to bed shortly. One last thing though: the title.
I love proverbs and sayings, not least in other languages than Swedish. As you probably know, Hans Rosling left us last Tuesday. I had to share these sad news with someone as soon as I got the notification, so I turned to my supervisor Bargo whom I share office with. He didn’t know who Hans Rosling was, so I briefly explained. He then said the words in the title. Here, we would have said a baobab tree has fallen. Bargo couldn’t have guessed how incredibly accurate that expression is to describe the loss of Rosling. The baobab is a very large, very significant and very appreciated tree that has a near mythic status in many countries across Africa. And I think that is exactly how a lot of people feel about Hans Rosling. A great man who has inspired thousands and made a tremendous effort to spread knowledge about development and health issues. I hope this isn’t emotional exaggeration, but I feel like he is to our generation the closest we will come to a Dumbledore of this world. Wise, brave, kind-hearted and a wee bit peculiar. Regardless, he’s been a great inspiration to me and I think it was way too early for him to pass away. Rest in peace Hans.