Friday, 21 October 2011

He was OK

Travelling around Burkina Faso, occasionally we come across a major road-building work going on - the old washboard dirt tracks being transformed into proper tarmac roads. Often the huge equipment and trucks busy at such sites are emblazoned with a large "OK". These are the initials of the company founder, Oumarou Kanazoe, who died aged 84 on Wednesday, a man who worked his way out of poverty to become the wealthiest man in Burkina Faso.

Born in 1927, Oumarou Kanazoe was an only child of a poor family, and was sent to Quranic school, aged 7. When he was 12, his father died, making him the family's breadwinner. He began making cloth, then selling it as well as cola-nuts, salt, and matches. He opened his first store and restaurant aged 23, and five years later bought his first goods truck. In 1970, aged 43, he started his company (Oumarou Kanazoe), and in 1973, gained his first road-building contract. The company developed to employ 1,000 people, building dams, roads, etc, not only in Burkina, but also in other West African countries. No-one knows how wealthy he actually is. People tell me he never learned to read and write. What is sure is that he remained un-schooled.

But the website leFaso.net says: "Oumarou Kanazoé, at the height of his wealth, was considered a good father, a leader, a man devoted to his religion. Oumarou Kanazoé was also considered a tireless worker, who rose early and went to bed late." He had four wives and 30 children. He worked to bring unity among Muslims in Burkina Faso, and this was recognised by his appointment as president of the "Federation of Islamic Associations of Burkina". But he also gave generously to build dams, roads, churches, and schools. Since 1995 he has been President of the Chamber of Commerce of Burkina Faso.

His name might be little known outside West Africa. But he was known throughout Burkina Faso with great affection, often just by his initials...

He was "OK".

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

APT Online Shop now Open for Business!

Are you looking for a solution to the problem of birthday and Christmas presents? An alternative to just more "stuff"...?

We now have the answer at the APT Online Shop, where you can buy "apt" gifts that also help the church in Burkina Faso make a difference in local needy communities.

APT Shop - card example
How it works
You choose an "apt" gift for someone - for example, primary education, poverty relief, evangelism. The money given through APT will help alleviate need in northern Burkina Faso. And the person will receive a beautiful card telling them of the gift given in their name.

In a time when we have so much stuff, and when half the world is struggling with so little, this is a great way of  doing things differently and making an impact in the world.

Why not ask your friends and family to get you an "APT" gift this Christmas, instead of more socks and gadgets?

Go to: http://www.acaciapartnershiptrust.org.uk/shop

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

"Will the gold mines kill us before they save us?" Parts 2 and 3 of the cyanide story.

On Thursday I gave you a link to Part 1 of Steve Davies' account of the cyanide spill at Djibo dam in northern Burkina Faso by a truck on its way to a nearby gold mine.

He has now posted Part 2 and Part 3. In Part 2, Steve says:
"I will go all Erin Brockovich and tackle the question of corporate responsibility – in a word, blame... There is no use crying over spilled milk, but spilled cyanide is worth crying, tweeting, blogging and if necessary shouting from the rooftops about – if it means it doesn’t happen again."
Steve picks up on the claims of the mining company Avocet/SMB/Inata that they are "in no way contractually responsible for the delivery of cyanide" and that this was the responsability of Samsung, the delivery company. Steve acknowledges the contractual limitations but rightly claims that "Avocet Mining do have wider moral obligations to the people who live in the Djibo region", and that this includes taking responsibility for the Samsung trucks that are serving their mining business.

In a time when Avocet has reported it has tripled its pre-tax profits to $33.4 million in 2010, and now that gold has hit a record high of $1,900/oz, it is indeed worth calling Avocet to take responsibility for the impact of its highly profitable business on one of the poorest communities in the world:
  • Avocet are not signatories to the "Cyanide Code", which would make them responsible for how they acquire the cyanide. Joining the code, or even considering alternatives to cyanide would be a necessary step.
  • Samsung inexplicably blame "unexpected road conditions" for the spill. As Steve points out, these conditions are not unexpected - they have been like that for years! In addition, Inata acknowledge there have been "two earlier incidents where cyanide trucks turned over due to driver error with SAMSUNG". Given this appalling history, the investment in tarmacking the road to Djibo, and in improving Inata's supply transport would seem to be a priority.
In Part 3, Steve has taken a selection of comments from news forums in Burkina Faso where locals have been commenting on the cyanide scandal, and translated them into English. These are well worth reading, to gain an idea of the strength of local feeling about the mining company. Go and have a look.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Mining company cyanide accident in Burkina Faso

On 29 July, Steve Davies reports, a truck carrying 40 tons of cyanide to a gold mine in the north of Burkina Faso, overturned and fell into the dam at Djibo. Some of the cyanide spilled out into the water, that is used by local people and animals.

We're not dead yet.
"We haven’t been told anything – but we’re still here, we’re not dead yet." This was the commentary of one local on the incident.

Fortunately, it seems indeed that no-one has died yet. Steve reports the official mine director's report as saying:
"...there is some probability that small amounts of cyanide were released to the environment. However, in that strong sunlight contributes towards the rapid breakdown of cyanide, and that the rain storm of 1st August will have had a beneficial diluting effect, the danger now posed by this event continues to diminish."
Nevertheless, tough questions need to be asked of AVOCET mining company, SAMSUNG (Korea) and VEHRAD TRANSPORT (Ghana), and Steve will be asking them. You can read part 1 of the story at his blog here.

Mining companies have a poor reputation when it comes to their relationship with communities in less developed companies, and it is right that they should be held to account. Please help us raise awareness of this story by posting a link on your blog or on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Well, that wasn't so bad...

So, I did finish the Hermitage Harriers 10k at Whitwick, Leics. It was a hard run - the course was quite a hilly one:
But I took it gently, because of my knee, which was still feeling weak after hurting it on the London race last month, and I completed the course in about 59 mins, 30 secs, without doing further damage.

So far I have raised about £1,955 from the Whitwick race, and about £7,500 so far. Half of all money raised will go towards the Gorom-Gorom school building project, and the rest will go towards our other work of poverty relief, church planting, and community development with the Acacia Partnership Trust in Burkina Faso.

Just one race left - the Cardiff one - to sponsor me for that one, and help us bring God's blessing to Burkina Faso, please follow this link to the "FasoFive-O" page:
http://www.acaciapartnershiptrust.org.uk/current-projects/faso-five-o

Thank you!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Why I am dreading this Sunday

This Sunday is the fourth of my five "Faso Five-O" 10k races to raise funds to help us bring God's blessing to Burkina. I will be running in the Hermitage Harriers 10k, and you can sponsor me here. As you know, there is a "50" theme to my runs, with both me and Burkina celbrating 50 years. So I was pleased that my number for the Whitwick race is the number 50!

Having never run a road race before this series of runs, I am finding it hard going, but it has been encouraging at the same time. So why am I dreading this one? For three reasons:

Firstly, during the last race down in London, I hurt my knee, so am wary in case I do the same this time.

Secondly, due to my trip to Burkina Faso last month, I have also lost two weeks training, and am feeling terribly unfit.

And thirdly: my previous 10ks have been very large and fun public races, with thousands of people running, including giraffes, cavemen, and Darth Vader. This one is a serious-looking running club, with maybe 200 people. Most of them are a "runner's build" and look as though they are aiming at under 45 mins, whereas I am more of a "sitter's build" and will be thrilled if I finish in under an hour. I am certainly not aiming to beat my last time of 54-and-a-half minutes - I'll be happy just to finish in one piece.

All this means I could be finishing last, a good 10 minutes after everyone else. Still, as Lynne says, even if it happens, it will only be my pride that is bruised, and that's no bad thing. The main thing is that I am raising money to help build the school in Gorom-Gorom, and to enable the church in Burkina to bring God's love in meaningful ways to the communities there, through our charity, the Acacia Partnership Trust.

So if you would like to encourage me in this race, please feel free to sponsor me by going to http://www.justgiving.com/fasofiveo-Midlands and by coming along to cheer on number 50.

Thank you.

p.s.
I have just found out that, during the course, we run past Mount St Bernard Abbey, where, as a young Christian, I went for a spiritual retreat for a week, and began to feel God calling me to serve him in Burkina Faso.
Just discovering that brings back many memories and makes me think about the other race we are running in life, and the need for perseverence in serving God, in order to faithfully finish the course.

I might need to write more on this later...


Saturday, 6 August 2011

Wakkil Alla School - Two Challenges for the Coming Year

It has been great to see progress at the Wakkil Alla school in Gorom-Gorom, but we face two particular challenges before the new school year starts in October:
 
Challenge 1. Building the Classroom.
In October, we will take in a fourth class, and as yet we have no classroom for them are in the process of trying to raise funds to build the second block of classrooms as well as other buildings for Phase 2 of the building project, If you would like to contribute towards this, please click on the banner at the bottom. We hope to have a solution at least for the new class before the new school year begins! Please pray for this.
Click here to find out more about the School Building Project.

Challenge 2. Sponsorship of the Children.
The other challenge we face is to find a church, house group, business or other group who would be willing to sponsor the new class of children starting this year. We are looking for sponsors for each class of children. We are asking for a commitment of £2,000/year for 6 years. This money covers school fees, food, and administrative costs for the whole class of up to 40 children. Could you or your church help? Could a group of maybe 10 of you commit to £17/month each for six years to bring quality education to the poorest of the poor? If so, please write to us at admin@acaciapartnershiptrust.org.uk
Click here to read more about the Class Sponsorship scheme.

Thank you for your support and prayers.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Building Progress at the Gorom-Gorom School


My recent trip to Burkina was a flying visit of just 2 weeks. It was packed full, but was a very productive time. It was encouraging to see all that is going on, and especially to see the progress at the school.

It was the school holiday, so the school was quiet, but I had a good meeting with the headmaster, Nicodeme, I met a few of the children, and got to see how the building work is progressing. Above you can see Nicodeme in front of the classroom block, with the new kitchen in the background, and the "breakout space" to the right. Below you can see him in the breakout space - this is a sheltered area where children will be able to gather in the shade to rest, eat, or study, and is a lovely cool area.

All that remains to do on these works is the floor tiles, the external rendering, and the painting.
You can see these in more detail at the APT website here.

We are now fundraising for Phase 2 of the construction project, which will include more classrooms, more toilets, offices, water supply, and other building work (click here to read more). If you wish to help us build this school, you can give online by clicking on the banner below.

Thank you for your support and prayers.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The British 10k in London

About 25,000 were running the British 10k road race in London on Sunday, and I was one of them! Here I am before and after the race... spot the difference...!

It was a sunny, warm and muggy morning, and the atmosphere was vibrant. Sporting my new "Acacia Partnership Trust" running vest, I sweated through the streets of London, up Picadilly and Pall Mall, and along the River Thames, with delightful views of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye.

Having missed a lot of training over the last few weeks, with travelling, I found the going really hard, but I finished the course in 54 mins and 30 secs - another 30 seconds off my best time so far. So far I have raised about £1,500 from the London race, and about £5,500 so far. Half of all money raised will go towards the Gorom-Gorom school, and the rest will go towards our other work of poverty relief, church planting, and community development with APT in Burkina Faso.

To sponsor me for the two remaining races, and help us bring God's blessing to Burkina Faso, please follow this link to the "FasoFive-O" page:
http://www.acaciapartnershiptrust.org.uk/current-projects/faso-five-o

Thank you!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Food Aid in Gorom-Gorom


Pierre, Pascal and Seydou have been organising food aid for the people of Gorom-Gorom, providing help from APT to over 300 families in a time of need.
Click here to read more at the APT website:

To support APT's work, click here to donate online, or click here to sponsor Keith with his "Faso Five-O" Fundraising Runs.

Scotland Does Its Part.

My second run, on Sunday, went very well. I finished it in 54mins, 56secs, which was 3.5 mins faster than the first one!

Here are some photos of me with Lynne and Isla before the race, and of me crossing the line at the end.


Half of all money raised will go towards phase 2 of the Gorom-Gorom school building project, and the rest will go towards APT's other work of poverty relief, church-planting etc.

So far we have raised about £800 from the Scottish run, and about £900 from the Northern Irish one. Let's hope England and Wales can do as well!

To sponsor me or sign up to run with me, or find out more about the runs, click on this link:
Faso Five-O Fundraising Runs

Friday, 17 June 2011

One Down, Four to Go!

I finished the Lisburn 10k, the first of my five 10k runs, on Wed, at a time of 58mins, 35secs. Having never run a road race before, I was very happy with this time!

Lynne and Isla came to cheer me on, and my friend Stuart Wilson joined me on the race itself. This is a photo of Stuart and me with our medals at the end of the race:
For the Lisburn race, we have received £901 so far, for which we are very grateful. Half of all money will go towards building the second phase of the school in Gorom-Gorom. The rest of the money will go towards the rest of our work with APT in Burkina Faso, which includes poverty relief, education, church  planting, and community development.

The next race is in two days time in Glasgow. You can read more about my other races, and sponsor me (or sign up to run with me!) at the Acacia Partnership Trust website: click on this link:
Faso Five-O Fundraising Runs

Thank you!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Faso Five-O Video


Here is a 2-minute video about our work in Burkina Faso, prepared for the "Faso Five-O" Fundraisers.

Enjoy!

Monday, 9 May 2011

The Big Five-O

This year Burkina Faso celebrates 50 years of independence, and I too turned 50. So I plan to run 50km, (five 10km races) to raise awareness of, and funds for our work to bring God's blessing to Burkina Faso.
We are asking people to sponsor me or do their own "Faso Five-O Fundraiser". Half of all money raised will go towards the building of the Christian Primary School in Gorom-Gorom. The rest will help APT in all our other work of poverty relief, education, community development, evangelism, and church-planting.
So, here are three things I would like to ask you to consider doing:
  1. Sponsor me for one or more of the races by following the links below (and get your friends to sponsor me too!)
  2. Join me on one of the races and get people to sponsor you
  3. Hold your own "Faso Five-O" fundraiser. 
To find out more, including how you can join me on the runs, or hold your own "Faso Five-O" Fundraiser, visit www.acaciapartnershiptrust.org.uk/current-projects/faso-five-o

These are the races I will be running:
Running five 10ks may not be a marathon, but I have never run a road race before, so this is a big challenge for me. I have finally begun training - this was somewhat delayed because of Lynne's health problems following Isla's birth - and am feeling the effects of turning 50. My body is complaining and not responding like I think it should!

Thank you for supporting me in this!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Troubles in Ouaga

You have probably read of the troubles in Ouagadougou over recent days. I have not had time to blog about this with our recent family concerns, but here is a brief summary.

The Presidential Guard started rioting over unpaid housing allowances, which then spread into soldiers rioting in other towns. In Ouaga, traders then rioted to complain about the soldiers actions. President Compaore has dissolved his government, changed the Prime Minister, and dismissed the heads of the army, air force, and police. Friends in Burkina have reported the situation to be very unsettled.

The situation yesterday however was reported to be calmer, with the Presidential Guard apologising, and calling on all soldiers to stop further manifestations. Whether things will improve from here remains to be seen. Please pray for peace and justice in Burkina. Thank you.

For a brief summary of the situation, read this article at Bloomberg. For detail, go to leFaso.net, probably the best online site (in French) for news from Burkina.

My colleague in Burkina has also summarised recent events and translated some of the comments from leFaso.net into English to give you an idea of local reactions to recent events.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Christmas in Gorom-Gorom

Back Row: Naomi, Rebecca, Pierre, Betha, Keith, Olivia, Seydou, Sara, Chantal.
Middle Row: Lasala, Aseta, Lynne, Monique
Front Row: Denise, Halima, Samuel, Debora, Aisha, Felix, Timothee
This is our family on Christmas Day 2010. There are currently 20 of us for whom our yard - the Gorom-Gorom Ministry Centre - is home. We had a great Christmas, with about 40 of our Muslim friends and neighbours coming for dinner on Christmas Eve, for which Pierre killed a couple of goats.

It was a great opportunity to share with them the good news about why Jesus came into the world, and afterwards several stayed to watch the film of the life of Jesus in Fulfulde. Christmas Day itself was very relaxing, spending time with the family in the yard. We also had several friends come round to visit and chat. It was a distinctly warmer Christmas than back in the UK!

On Boxing Day, we had church, and afterwards went to visit our friend "Yusufi" out in his village:
In the afternoon, Lynne organised a Children's Day (below) of fun, games, stories, and sharing the good news of Jesus. We had about 30 at the start of the day, and ended up with about 80.
 

 
 
 A good time was had by all. I hope your Christmas was as much fun. It was so good to be away from the commercialism and materialism of the season back in the UK, and for it to be a time of celebration of Christ's birth, and of announcing that good news to others:
"I bring you good news of great joy that is for all people:
today a Saviour has been born - Christ, the Lord!"

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Camel Racing in Gorom-Gorom

 Festicham is the Gorom-Gorom's "Camel Festival" which takes place every year in January. One of the highlights is the camel racing...

And they're off...


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Dental Equipment Arrived in Gorom-Gorom


Here is Lynne with the dental equipment, which cleared customs in Ouaga last week, and which I managed to bring to Gorom-Gorom on Saturday.

Thank God with us for its safe arrival finally, and please pray for official authorisation to come through without problem, so that we can start doing clinics in local villages later this year. Thank you.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Temporary New Blog


My old Movable Type blog has kicked me out, so I will be blogging here for a few weeks until I can get a new blog properly set up. Thanks for your patience!

This is a picture of Lynne and me, taken at Christmas 2010 in our back garden in Gorom-Gorom.

Keith Smith

(P.S. you can still visit the old blog here:
http://www.voiceinthedesert.org.uk/keith/index.html )