The last four weeks have been phenomenal! It’s hard to believe that we’re already through half the program – it makes me rather emotional just thinking about it – but at the same time I feel like I’ve lived in Kuwde for a long, long time. I wake up early in the morning and look forward to the refreshing bucket shower, to my Milo+oatmeal breakfast and the perfect temperature of a Lao morning. Sam, Grant and I have gotten quite skilled at finding perfectly shaped and shaded rocks during hot afternoons. I can navigate my way around the homestead at every time of day. I’ve even won a few games of ‘cinq-cinq’, the local, adrenaline-packed card game that involves throwing cards down with ‘beaucoup de force’. I’ve found Pringles (Salt & Vinegar, too!), peanut butter and Nutella-like cookies in Kara but at the same time I’m starting to really enjoy the food by Bea back home. My Kabiye, the local language, has improved, and after a lot of self-doubt I’ve come to embrace French-Kabiye by saying “bon soir” even at 11 in the morning if necessary. Sometimes, while sitting on a rock and looking out at the savanna woodland, I suddenly remember that I am in fact in Togo, West Africa, and I never fail to be incredibly amazed by everything we’re seeing and learning.
At the mean time, Sam and I have made good progress with our work at the Case de Sante! After recording all the data of transactions at the clinic during the past year, we (or rather, Excel) have done the math to calculate savings of the insured families, earnings of the CDS and how much families that were not insured would have saved if they were. Backtracking slightly, Duke students have initiated a community heath insurance at the small clinic here in Kuwde, where the income of the employees at the clinic are subsidized by a third party and the insurance reduces the economic risk and total cost of the basic but crucial medical treatment that the clinic provides. We’re in the middle of conducting more interviews to both inform families of the benefit of insurance, and also to learn from them methods to improve the system for the community. The work has been challenging (how many ways are there to write the same Kabiye names in French?) and immensely rewarding personally.