Wow, what a start to the New Year!
Although it had been a few weeks since our last UK-Nigeria online meeting (due to connectivity issues and holidays) I was quickly reminded again how thrilled I am to be involved with this dynamic group of people.
Although these meetings with Fantsuam are arranged for the same time and day each week, they are never routine, dull or a chore.
As this was our first for a while, there was a lot to catch up on. Despite (yet another) loss of connectivity and time lags, we enjoyed another productive session - and, miraculously, still managed to cover the whole agenda! A real triumph over adversity for the team.
The agenda is emailed to everyone on the Monday, shortly after I have conferred with Pam in a brief phone call. People are always welcome to send an email to me if they have an item which they wish to include. However, in practice this rarely happens. With the 'formal' structure and chairperson in place, we try to minimise any danger that the meetings will be UK-led.
We usually ask John to be chairman (not least because he's the best at keeping us on track!) And there are opportunities at the start of each meeting and under 'Any Other Business' at the end, for others to contribute agenda items. There is also tremendous flexibility at the meetings. Sometimes the best person to address an agenda item is absent due to travelling, training or sadly the occasional crisis. In these instances the item can be held over to the following week.
Of course, the UK suffered its own problems this week. Usually I am to be found at the same location as Pam. However, due to additional heavy overnight snowfall, I was uncharacteristically housebound. Thankfully the UK Skype connection was good and so we were able to type in the conference in real-time together. We also made use of the telephone landlines when required.
In a significantly warmer Nigeria, the team there also seemed to be able to connect easily with each other using Skype. For roughly half the meeting we were communicating in 'real time' and, when the other team didn't seem to respond, each group continued working through the agenda until after the time delay - when all the messages came through at once! Once back in real time, the text could be read and points and queries clarified together. Wonderful.
Matters arising from this week's online meeting included:
John Dada informing the UK that Fantsuam hosted a plastic surgery team from Women For World Health. The team came to assess facilities and patients re burns, webbed fingers and motor accident injuries. If Kafanchan is selected, the full team will return in August.
We learned that Fantsuam has two new volunteers: namely Ashea, who is having training in Abuja and Demas, who was observing the meeting.
We 'discussed' the proposal of organising a weekly photo from Fantsuam which would be directly fed on to the front page of the Dadamac website.
John informed us that a member of the team would be travelling to Jos to organise the repair of the baler - built with the aid of Marcus Simmons in September 2009. Once repaired, the plan is to see if it can be used to compress into blocks the plastic bags that litter the local environment.
Pam explained this year's agenda for the First Thursday meetings. The group hopes to look at permaculture and the wider issue of sustainable solutions. This is relevant for Fantsuam and its hopes for an Ecovillage at Attachab.
All in all, a fine start to the new decade. Let's hope it's a productive one for us all.
* One very sad note to finish. We were deeply sorry to hear that the wife of one of our Fantsuam friends was killed in a tragic car accident last week. We send our sincere condolences from the Dadamac family and hope you will join us in thinking of our colleague.