Nasara for Burkina - a story from Burkina Faso
Previously called Republic of Upper Volta and later renamed by President Thomas Sankara, this country is located in West Africa, in the sub-Saharan area of the Sahel; its citizen are known as Burkinabes and the capital is Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso has been severely affected by the Islamist terrorism since the mid-2010s: several militias, partly allied with the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda, operate here and across the border in Niger and Mali.
In 1985 the first group of volunteer workers arrives in Africa, but only in 2005 a piece of land in the savannah right outside Ouagadougou is bought by the organization. In the savannah, once basic issues (well, mill…) are solved, nature allows for a quiet life strongly linked to tradition and the sense of community; money and strategy can help project economy outside of the community borders.
During these early times of the association the main areas of intervention were: distance adoptions, schools to learn a profession, dig of wells to provide water and leprosy patients aid and support.
In 2012 the village chief and his ministers give their blessing to start building a social center in Djiacofè, a slum close to the capital. But what is it a slum? It is an undivided neighborhood where every structure is built without any rule and land ownership does not exist; here there is the same degree of poverty as in the savannah, but the urban context and the population density generate precariousness and depression: there is no electricity, sewage, aqueduct or roads. The only water available comes either from the barrage (but it collects all waste present on the ground and it is used without rules in terms of hygienic practices and quantity) or from expensive few private wells; therefore, the organization started by digging a well for drinking water and providing the community with a purifier.
Electricity is essential to carry out the association’s activities: the center is equipped with 80 solar panels, huge capacity batteries and battery charges.
Poverty prevents many families from sending their children to neighborhood schools, which are often only private since the State does not invest in slums; consequently, the fight against early school leaving has always been one the primary objectives of the organization. The Kindergarten was inaugurated in 2013 and today over 200 children attend of which 40% are “Social cases” selected by the ministry of Social Action and excepted from payments.
Students achieve the elementary diploma thanks to the primary school, but they are supported also when they finish their education within the center; a clear example is the story of Roland who was sustained from the age of 6 until graduation and now is a doctor working in a red zone hospital (high risk of terrorism).
The services to the local population include regular sport activities, the use of the apatam (study hall) at night and the microcredit: 180 women are divided in groups that know and guarantee for each other; they receive a 6-months training before receiving the first loan.
In Burkina Faso, 80% of sick people turns to traditional doctors; the reasons are cultural, but above all it is the lack of money, since everything related to health is costly. In 2021 Nasara opened a medical center in Djicofè that has treated over 500 cases. The story of Victor shows the collaboration between the clinic and the traditional medicine: he lives in the Savannah and had a risky compound fracture. But there was a coup d’etat in the country, so doctors were unable to reach him; a traditional doctor treated him for 6 months, preventing gangrene until he was operated by volunteer surgeons in the medical center.
Moreover, there is a special attention towards disability: the organization currently supports 2 fisiotherapic centers for disabled children that otherwise would be left to the margins of the society.
In conclusion, Nasara was able to establish an effective operational base over time: cultural integration, good logistic (water, electricity, security, buildings) and efficient and semi-autonomous local personnel are the key elements of this success.