JUN '12 - Sao Tome

Little princess is big enough this year to inherit a pretty dress!

Little princess is big enough this year to inherit a pretty dress from an older sibling.  She danced all day in it, even wore it to the beach.  Speaking of which, there are few things more entertaining than kids at the beach.  The short video here is just enough so you can hear the squeals and laughter.

At the beach in Africa

In Sao Tome & Principe to work with the local NGO, I had plenty of time with friends including a couple of trips to the beach.  The kids really wanted to go; it's hard to refuse them, of course.

The goal this trip is to realign and expand our Family Assistance and Education Support project through STeP UP, the local NGO.  We finance the project, and STeP UP does the work, for which I'm profoundly grateful.

We've expanded our small project to include 12 school kids and their families plus a couple of small business start-ups.  We're working with a family and their son in prison as well.  Circumstances here are difficult (understatement), but the people are among the nicest we've encountered in our travels.

My friend (and his son, left) at home; after a few years off and on when I'm in the country, we've covered a lot of conversational territory.  He's accompanied me on several trips; he's got relatives in Ribeira Afonso which is home to one of our families.  After a couple of years, we discover he's uncle to the kids.  And I arrived this year to discover I've been named godfather (Padrinho) to the latest arrival among his nieces and nephews, an unexpected honor.

We've partnered with several families for specific goals of keeping the kids in school and the family viable and moving forward.  School doesn't cost much, but there are uniforms and shoes and supplies and some small fees like the school bus if the school is too far to walk to.  Helping parents includes things like mosquito nets or in-home health education or small business finance, or perhaps things for gardening or fishing.

This family (right) has doubled the size of their cultivation area.  We financed the materials for water lines to the house and the field, but they did all the work.  In an area about 450' square, they've got sugar cane, corn, beans, bananas, manioc, and several things I didn't recognize.  They now raise enough for themselves and some extra to possibly sell or trade.  Oh, okra, too.  Lots of okra!  They've got 5 kids, 4 of whom are in school.  Busy folks.

Youngster (left) pulls up a manioc root to show me.  Easily pulled from the ground, the root provides carbohydrates but no protein.  Still, it's an important staple in the common African diet.

The large bananas (plantains, I guess) are eaten fried or boiled, much like we eat potatoes.  Not bad, actually, with a little salt.

Off to Santa Luzia to visit family friends, the minimal road through the tropical jungle provides an opportunity for the kids to make lots of noise, a little of which is in the video here.  If you can select a hirez replay, you'll get a good look at the vegetation here.

Jungle Cruise

If you look for Santa Luzia on the Google satellite map, you'll have a hard time finding the road we followed.  In fact, I had a hard time finding that road.  :)

In the village of Santa Luzia, I'm worn out.  We've got almost a dozen kids with us, and they've dragged me all over the countryside.  Fun, though; delightful kids.

I get a little relief when the kids run off with my cameras.  They take most of the pictures from this trip; almost 4 thousand total.

Same kids, down the mountain and on to the beach near Micolo.  Even with a tan, I look oddly out of place.

At a roadside vendor's near the beach, we eat concon (flying fish) and fried bananas.  This was the first family to adopt me some years back; they introduce me to others as a family member now.

In a neighborhood where I've become the semi-official photographer, kids play at an odd jump-rope game.  Easily entertained, the children are bright and energetic.  Moms and dads appreciate having photos of the family over the years.

Delightful children; some show signs of inadequate nutrition.  The lack of protein will often result in stunting; underweight for height and under height for age.  The reddish tint to the hair is an indicator.  This village is on the shoreline and most depend on fishing for subsistence.  Illegal fishing by the developed countries has depleted the fish population here.  It'll take decades to recover if we ever manage to get the bad guys off the water and out of the Gulf of Guinea.