The next day we entered
Bobo-Dioulasso; our goal since leaving London. This had been our first major objective, and the reason we have been pestering you all for money”
Jon Beswick : 9th May

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Starting from their departure in London on 14th March 2009.
Europe 14th March
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25th March
26th March
30th March
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4th April
Senegal again!
8th April
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9th April
11th April
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Nigeria 20th June
Cameroon 16th July
Gabon 30th July
Congo 6th August

Click the photos to see the gallery of Burkina Faso
and the building of our first shelter.

Click the photos to see the gallery of Burkina Faso
and the building of our first shelter.

DIARY : Burkina Faso Imagery: ©2009 Terrametrics
Map data: ©2009 Europa Technologies

8th May : Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso

Something that has become steadily more apparent over this trip is the clear differences between countries in Africa. The mere act of crossing over a line that was marked out by man not long ago ushers you into a completely different environment. Suddenly the flora gets thicker or sparser.

We left dense rainforest in Liberia to drive open roads and plains in Cote d’Ivoire. The trees change entirely and you see a different range of animals in the bush. The houses change completely, suddenly becoming round rather than square, or mud rather than straw. In a short space of time we see remarkable changes in geography and culture, and we are still in awe every time we cross a border. Crossing border number 10 in Africa we were equally impressed.
Burkina Faso is undeniably beautiful.

It immediately puts the traveller at ease. Perhaps this is because some of the stigma around Cote d’Ivoire had sunk in, but Burkina did have a different vibe. We spent our first night in a small village at the local (and only bar) trying to chat with locals and watching a magnificent electrical storm light up the plains around us.

9th May : Burkina Faso

The next day we entered Bobo-Dioulasso; our goal since leaving London. This had been our first major objective, and the reason we have been pestering you all for money [see justgiving link top right].

Our aim was to build our first shelter here at Rev+, an HIV clinic specialising in the treatment of mothers and children. We were to design and build a shelter that the children could use. We headed for the hospital where we met up with Geoarges Kouassi, the pharmacist and link with the One 2 One charity. He took us to meet with the President of Rev+, Madam Pare and her assistant, Fanta. They were impressed with our design and were happy for us to start immediately. And so began one of the most challenging projects either of us has ever undertaken.

We surveyed the site for the shelter and immediately set about finding materials. The original design consisted of a wooden structure, with a canvas surround. We quickly discovered that wood in Burkina is both expensive and unreliable. It’s all imported from Cote d’Ivoire, increasing the price and the number of termites it contains. We also found that it was not possible to source canvas in Bobo-Dioulasso. It was ‘back to the drawing board’ with a list of the materials that we did have access to. An abundance of metal workers made it clear that a metal frame was sensible and the impending monsoon season informed our decision to go with a thick plastic surround. Jon quickly drew out a new design based on the local knowledge he now had and we set off on the hunt again.

As such, finding the materials we needed was easy. Negotiating a price was not. As we have discovered, and were later informed by Geoarges, being white automatically means we are wealthy. All prices were inflated by at least 200%. The fact that we were working to build a shelter for their community did little to temper the demands. It was very frustrating. And so the skills we picked up haggling at checkpoints and borders, once again came in useful.

10th May : Burkina Faso

Work begins on our first childrens shelter.

We are finally able to draw breathe. Bad roads and sleepless nights from the heat has exhausted us, but we are now filled with the drive and excitement of carrying out our first project for the charity.

11th May : Burkina Faso

After two days of work we had our first bitter taste of bureaucracy. We had just finished digging the foundations and levelling the ground on site, when we were regretfully informed that we must stop work. Although given verbal permission, it was needed in writing.

We had just 14 days to source materials, prepare a site and build a shelter. Work stopped for several days while we waited for the written authority. With only 9 days remaining and our options fading we decided to find another site. We set up shop in a local street outside the workshop of the guys stitching our roof together. We have been there for the last 3 days now and made a lot of progress. Hearing of our plans and our predicament the guys have really made an effort and we have gained much of the lost time.

We now have a team of seven people working for us on the construction. We also have a whole metal yard working on fabricating the frames, bolts and anchors. Work is progressing fast. In many ways this situation is preferable. We are working in the community with the community. And we are learning a lot about both our plans for the shelters and about the environments and situations into which they are to be placed. The work is of course frustrating at times. We have to keep a close eye on our metal workers to make sure they are working to schedule, and managing a team of seven with a combination of limited French and drawings can be tricky. However the work is incredibly rewarding as we see our design come to fruition.

18th May : Burkina Faso

Today is the day. By evening the shelter is complete. Nothing can describe the elation we feel in successfully completing the project.

19th May : Burkina Faso

Following the completion of the shelter in Bobo, there was the small matter of officially handing it over to the community. After a brief exchange with the local mayor we signed a hand over paper. The shelter now belongs to the people of Bobo Dioulasso.

We both feel incredibly proud of our achievement,  especially given the challenges we faced.
We invited the whole community and in particular the local children to come and enjoy the shelter and get their views on it.

There was a stampede of tiny people and a thousand hands were on us as we handed out balloons and sweets. It was terrifying but again a proud moment. They loved the shelter and spent the rest of the afternoon running in and out of it. Not the original purpose we had for the shelter but ...

20th May : Burkina Faso

Waking up on our final morning in Bobo I felt awful; dizzy, nausea and feverish.
Nevertheless we set off for Ouagadougou to obtain our visas for Ghana. Jon read up on Malaria and since I appeared to have all the symptoms decided it best to take me to the local hospital. Jon managed to communicate the problem and got me a blood test.

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