On January 15, 1997, Irene and Daniel Owens traveled to Senegal, West Africa for a three-week visit. The journey was in celebration of their recent wedding and marked the eleventh anniversary of Daniel's Peace Corps service in the village of Wendou Nody (1984-1986).
When Irene and Daniel arrived in the village of Sinthiou Bamambe, about 2 miles from Wendou Nody, Sada Dia was waiting for them. Sada Dia was the Daniel's host during his two year Peace Corps service. On route to Wendou Nody, Irene and Daniel rode on Sada's horse drawn cart on a flat dirt and sand road. As they approached the village, dozens of women and children rushed to greet them. They clapped their hands and chanted "Samba Dia" (the Senegalese name given to Daniel by the Dia family in 1984) and "Sada Dia." This was the beginning of a joyful reunion with hearfelt hospitality and celebration. For three days there was a continuous stream of greetings, the sharing of stories and memories, taking of photographs, and eating specially prepared meals. The celebration was particularly moving given the village's observance of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, which requires the faithful to observe the daytime fasting and prayer.
The people of Wendou Nody were pleased that Daniel and Irene came to visit. Haibi Aw, Sada's mother and matriarch of the Dia family, suggested that Irene be given her Pulaar name. And thus, Irene was called Haibi Aw from that moment on.
During their visit, Daniel and Irene observed that the projects that Daniel had been involved in during his Peace Corps service had not all survived. The millet grinder owned by the women's group was broken beyond repair, the wood conserving mud stoves were no longer being used, and the water well that had been constructed with money from a special Peace Corps fund was cracked and no longer operational.
Since 1986, several local initiatives in the village have taken root. A new Mosque has been erected in the village, the cattle population has grown (ten years ago the village had lost most of the cattle due to the drought conditions) and the health station under the direction 0f Thierno So, in Sinthiou Bamambe, has expanded to include a maternity ward with a licensed midwife and an expansion of vaccination and health programs for infants.
In 1995, Sada Dia, Amadou Ba, and Mamadou So sent a proposal to Daniel & Irene for an animal husbandry project (sheep) that would contribute to strengthening the local economy. They requested assistance in the form of matching funds. Due to the generosity of friends and family, Irene and Daniel brought a small contribution to the village in support of the project. The animal husbandry project is one way to raise funds for other initiatives in the village. Sada said that Wendou Nody is hoping to build water tower. In Sada's words, gardening, animal husbandry, and construction in Wendou Nody all depend on an ample and steady supply of water.
As with other parts of Africa, the limited local economy has forced many of the young men of Wendou Nody to seek work in large African cities, Europe and New York City. It is this income that helps the families in Wendou Nody survive. Sada's son and nephew, Oumar and Mamadou Dia, who were about six years old when Daniel was in the Peace Corps, are now living and working as shoe shine attendants in Dakar. Mamadou and Oumar came to the airport to see Daniel and Irene. For Oumar and Mamadou, who are expected to go out to raise funds for their families but do not have any formal education in languages or mathematics, a life of working in the competitive streets of Dakar is a challenge.
Daniel suggested to Mamadou that when he marries and has children, maybe he will be able to send them to school to learn to read and write in Pulaar or French - and that maybe one day, there will be a school in Wendou Nody.
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START THE SHOW ~ SENEGAL 1984-6 ~ Life in Wendou Nody