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RPCV Alisa Meggitt returns to Senegal
RPCV Alisa Meggitt returns to Senegal
Senegal village sends thanks
Teacher delivers supplies from Shimek students
By Mike McWilliams
Iowa City Press-Citizen
When Alisa Meggitt returned to the West African village she had lived and worked in for two years, she said the scene of starving and sickly children and devastated crops were all too familiar.
Alisa Meggitt poses with her souvenir Jembe Senegalese drum and her African hat Friday on her back porch.
"It was exactly the same, and it was so weird, because I felt like I never left the place," said Meggitt, who lived in Ndiouffene, Senegal, from 1996 to 1997 as a member of the Peace Corps. "I immediately regressed back to that Peace Corps mode."
Her second trip to Ndiouffene, albeit humanitarian in nature, wasn't for the Peace Corps. She acted as courier for 210 pounds of donations and $2,500 worth of clothes, school, medical, hygiene and animal care supplies.
The supplies were collected as part of Shimek Elementary School's "Circle of Kindness" project. From late January to mid-March, Shimek students solicited goods and money from family, friends and neighbors and organized bake sales for the relief effort.
Meggitt, who taught fifth grade at Shimek, thought of the idea to raise goods for the small Senegalese farming village. She departed June 9, and for two weeks, she helped bring relief to the 400-person village that is in the grips of a ravaging drought.
In the short amount of time Meggitt was in Senegal, the drought had taken its toll. The villagers had planted seeds, only to have the seedlings die because of a lack of rain. She said animal carcasses, such as horses used to pull plows, scattered the landscape. They died because of a lack of food, Meggitt said.
Each of the 46 families received more than 50 pounds of food and seed, thanks to the Shimek students. Locals told Meggitt, known as Nabu by the villagers, that such a grand relief effort was unprecedented in the 500-year history of the town.
"If it weren't for these Shimek kids," Meggitt said, "they wouldn't have a harvest this year."
Aside from crop woes, photographs taken by Meggitt show children with severe burns on their bodies, rotting teeth from malnutrition and eyes nearly swollen shut by infection.
Meggitt said she and her travel companion set up a medical hut to train each family how to use and differentiate between various medicines and vitamins.
Alisa Meggitt poses with children from the village of Ndiouffene, Senegal.
"Many of them have never had their own medicine before," Meggitt said. "Some can't tell the difference between an aspirin and a malaria pill."
But Meggitt said life in Ndiouffene was not all gloom and doom. While she was there, she witnessed a wedding and took in cultural events, such as dancing.
Craft items also were popular. Meggitt's living room table at her home in rural Iowa City is covered with about 100 items, such as necklaces, dolls and wire sculptures she collected during her trip.
Meggitt said she plans to give some of the souvenirs to some of the Shimek students, if she gets the chance. She no longer teaches at Shimek but said she still wants to share her stories, souvenirs and pictures from the 17 rolls of film she shot.
"I'm going to beg for an assembly so they can see the results of the their hard work," she said. "I'm madly proud of these kids."
Even if she doesn't get that opportunity, the Shimek students should know the village is extremely grateful. A handwritten thank you letter from a Ndiouffene villager is an example of the gratitude.
"The fact of giving us seeds may be a little thing for you, but not for us. The people of the village, especially the children, will never forget you," the letter reads. It closes with: "We thank you so much. We cannot say more. We look forward to hearing (from you) soon. Ndiouffene's people."