In Northern Senegal, people sleep outside for most of the year (February-October) to escape the unbearable indoor heat. Because they don’t have the necessary equipment to properly hang their bednets, they either do not use them or they hang them ineffectively. I observed several compounds using sticks to prop up their bednets, which proves a feeble structure, and several other compounds had only two corners of the net hung so that the bednet was touching the person inside, meaning he/she was not protected from the mosquitoes, as shown below.


I decided to propose a project to the US Army’s Humanitarian Assistance Team, which would help reduce malaria in Thilogne by providing a sturdy yet portable structure to suspend the bednets. I proposed that we build 200 sets of “legs” that would stand at each corner of the bed. The base is made of cement, and in it there is a steel pole that stands upright with a loop at the top. We use these “legs” at all the regional houses in Senegal, and they have proven themselves to be effective and necessary.

My proposal was approved, and last week I went around to almost 100 compounds, handing out tickets for these “bed legs,” explaining to each family that they had to contribute one bucket of water to the project if they wanted a set of “legs.” Everyone seemed very excited and promised to come on the given day with a bucket of water. When the project was underway, however, not even 25 families brought the water; I still have people coming to me with their tickets asking for the “legs,” though they contributed nothing. Most people respond, saying, “sorry, I forgot.” In fact, I’m glad that the majority of people forgot because the project did not go according to plan, and we ultimately made only 40 sets, instead of the proposed 200.

The problem was the mason (pictured below). He was by no stretch of the imagination a professional, and he did not understand basic arithmetic. Even though, on the day the project began, there was a great translator who explained the project to the mason (after I had explained it to him countless times with pictures and detailed descriptions), and helped the mason determine how many supplies to buy, the mason did not understand. He was told he had three days to complete 200 SETS of “bed legs” but in the end he only made 150 LEGS. He used all the materials, though, because he made the base way too big and he built a metal “grid” for each leg, which was unnecessary and not part of the original plan.


Now, our yard is filled with these bed legs because only two families who brought water have come by to claim their set. It’s been three days since the project has been completed, and people were supposed to have come on the 21st. I’ve been trying to spread the word that they’re finished, so hopefully people will start taking them away.


Nonetheless, I want to wish all Americans a Happy Thanksgiving and all Muslims a Happy Tabaski! We will be eating goat meat with potatoes and onion sauce, and if it’s like Korité, we will eat the same un-refrigerated meat for about three days afterward. I bet you wish you were here to celebrate! :)