So, Niamey and the first leg of our journey came to a close. Sadly, Terrell left to go back to the United States to prepare for her next Asian adventure and Chris VJ moved onward to Ukraine in support of Nick Israel’s efforts there. The morning of our departure, we left for the airport at 5:30 a.m. for our flight to Agadez– guess how long the check-in process at the airport took? One hour precisely, and we were the fifth in line. Everything moves at a slower pace in this part of the world, including planes that always tend to board an hour or so later than scheduled. Once on board, I met my seatmate, a stout gentleman who proceeded to drape his jacket and arms across my seat and insisted on putting his legs nearly in the center of mine. It was quite cozy and I almost felt bad every time he glared at me for disturbing his sleep by adjusting my cramped muscles to alleviate the pain of being forced into a quarter of my airplane seat.
Upon landing in Agadez and with this leg of travel pain over, we were cheerfully greeted by Aziz’s cousin and Nick’s old friend from his time in Agadez: Mahmoud. Unfortunately, Nick and Mahmoud couldn’t reminisce about their time in Agdez together too long, as we had a full schedule and were due to attend the opening of a welding school sponsored by SoA and put together by the US Army Civil Affairs Team.
SoA provided the funding for the basic materials needed to establish a welding and carpentry trade school in the historic city of Agadez. The program will provide the opportunity for 20 students to enroll in a 9-month education program, where they will be educated in the basics of welding and, in turn, be employed in the local community. Providing alternatives to the smuggling and trafficking that have dominated the Agadez economy for centuries is critical to stabilizing the region.
Courses at the school are being run by a Technical School Instructor who previously taught in the Agadez School district; he will also act as the custodian of the tools to ensure that the school remains functional and our donations are used properly.
The program is a self-sustaining SoA investment, all made possible by supporters like you. The school’s first project will refurbish 200 school desks that will then be resold to the school district – saving money for the district and funding another iteration of welding classes and supplies. A workshop management committee is being set up with nominations by the parents’ association of Agadez. The committee will also determine the price that each school will pay to repair a desk and report the cost to the Ministry of Education, who will then release those funds back into the apprenticeship program.
After opening the welding school, Nick, my SoA counterpart in Africa, and I revisited a project that he initiated almost two years ago alongside SoA while he was still on active duty. The project repaired a basketball court for disenfranchised youth. While in town, we donated new basketballs and nets; a resounding success and an opportunity to talk about my favorite basketball team and hometown hero, Lebron James. The time in Agadez was fruitful, but rushed, and we quickly embarked on our last leg of the journey to Cameroon.
Thank you for helping me relive my first adventure wearing the world renowned SoA blue hat. I hope you enjoyed a peek inside my perspective of Africa, travel and work. Please stay tuned for my next escapade to one of my most beloved West African cities, Bamako, and up north to the African coast to Tunisia.
Until next time,