Gbeleme Village


~They led the way, I willingly followed

We visited Gbeleme (bel-leh-meh) Village for our Service Learning Project. We went with the intention that we’d be able to help with some village work, but due to the heat, we were unable to do so. Instead, we received a thorough tour of

the village. We were able to visit their newly built latrines and their local palm wine distillery. The village people were extremely kind-hearted and welcoming —I have never seen people so selfless. I found it humbling that they were so willing to offer us water satchets, coconuts, and oranges, when they themselves faced many challenges just to obtain suitable drinking water. Despite those challenges, though, they effectively created a rainwater catching system to obtain suitable drinking water for the village. We were able to learn how to fetch water from the local dam. I had a difficult time carrying the bucket of water back to the village; I kept spilling water from the bucket. I will be honest and admit that I probably made a fool of myself. Despite that, for once, I was able to carry a small burden that they carry on a daily basis. In all honesty, the children were showing me up. They led the way, and I willingly followed. It was obvious that they all had an unspoken knowledge on what sacrifices would be necessary to survive. I found that extremely admirable. I am not going to lie and say that I didn’t feel selfish and privileged throughout the visit. There we were, American, and very privileged, taking what they had. I just kept feeling like we should be giving not taking. But of course, they insisted. Fortunately, we were able to give them clothes, as well as handout notebooks and pencils, plus cookies to the children. They were extremely thankful and expressed their gratitude by showing us a basket weaving tutorial! I would have enjoyed staying longer, but students studying abroad in the summer will be able to return to the village to address issues that the women face. Despite the men’s protests, some women shared that they wanted to be provided information on “how to not have so many kids.” The women displayed a certain type of independence and strength that I especially loved. Most importantly, I loved seeing how communal they all were, acting as a huge family.