In 2017, Munich family committed their vacation time to hosting a summer camp for the TuaRes primary school project, Zunoogo. TuaRes wanted to learn more about the Nietzer family experience, please find our interview below.
TuaRes: Dagmar and Peter, you were in Burkina Faso as a family with your two daughters for two weeks to support TuaRes on site. We would like to hear more about your experience.
Dagmar Nietzer: With pleasure, we have experienced so much, maybe our stay will inspire other supporters of TuaRes.
TuaRes: How did you decide to support TuaRes?
Peter Nietzer: I got to know and appreciate TuaRes founder Reinhard Gorenflos a few years ago in a professional context. In 2015, our paths crossed at Ashoka, the network for the promotion of social entrepreneurs, and Reinhard told me about his foundation. After I heard about the exciting project, I decided to financially support this initiative to promote girls.
TuaRes: What made you decide to spend your vacations for TuaRes in Burkina Faso?
Dagmar: Since the topic of refugees has been topical in Germany, we have repeatedly discussed how we can contribute to their integration. In addition to donations in kind and money, we also wanted to do something personal in Munich. We looked at various initiatives that had excellent concepts and met many interesting and committed people there. Unfortunately, since we both work full time and our daughters are more than busy with all-day school and private activities, we didn’t find a model that fit our lifestyle. This was unsatisfactory and so we looked for alternatives. Then one day the idea was born to do something on the ground in Africa. Peter and I had already backpacked through many African countries, and we were always struck by how much this continent depends on the commitment of women. Then the equation was quickly created, Africa + women = we ask TuaRes.
TuaRes: How did you imagine Burkina Faso and the work of TuaRes beforehand?
Peter: We didn’t know anything about Burkina Faso in the beginning. As a German-language travel guide, there was only a “print on demand” book. During our internet research we then became aware of the proximity to Mali and Niger, so that for a moment we were undecided whether we were not putting ourselves in a dangerous situation. But conversations with Reinhard and the Skype phone call with Leopold Boukoungou, one of the TuaRes directors on site, gave us confidence.
When Leopold then sent us the program for the 12 days in Burkina, we even had the feeling of being looked after by a travel agency rather than a development aid organization. The carefully planned familiarization with the country before the actual start of the project gave us the feeling that we were in good hands. The adventure seemed to turn into a voyage of discovery.
Dagmar: Due to our travel experience in Africa and our research, we adults could also imagine to some extent what it would be like on the ground. For our daughters it was more difficult. The fact that everything would be done in French worried them. And the fact that they would have to “work” during the vacations instead of chilling out like their friends was met with limited enthusiasm at first.
We had gotten a good impression of the local TuaRes team through email exchanges. Ideas were sent back and forth until a well-rounded program emerged. Therefore, we knew that the cooperation would work out well. To be on the safe side, we asked Reinhard again shortly before departure what behavioral tips he could give us along the way. He only said that we should behave quite naturally, everything else would then arise automatically.
TuaRes: What were your actual impressions of Burkina, the TuaRes team and the girls?
Dagmar: Already at the airport in Ouagadougou we were greeted with wide smiles and that immediately broke the ice. Leopold and Bienvenue, our supervisor and driver for the whole stay, were very open, helpful, and anticipatory. It was great how they slowly “settled” us in. Choosing our accommodations, visiting the quarry in the middle of Ouagadougou where stones are pounded as they were 10,000 years ago, and visiting the girls’ school helped us acclimate. The visit to the families of two TuaRes scholarship holders gave us an impressive insight into the reality of life of the local people: In their simple accommodations in the countryside, without electricity and running water, with hard-dried fields where millet is nevertheless grown.
Peter: At the camp, the school psychologists and assistant teachers immediately sought contact with us and we were able to get all our questions off our chest. When called upon, we supported each other, although of course we were more dependent on their advice than they were on ours. Since the children in Burkina Faso mostly learn French only in school, the translation of our French into Morée, one of the national languages, was indispensable for the communication with the younger ones. For the TuaRes girls, we were on the one hand authorities whom they hardly wanted to look in the eyes at the beginning, but on the other hand their curiosity quickly won out and they soon had no inhibitions about joining us in the project activities. Whether it was practicing badminton, designing postcards, or stringing beads, they always asked us for advice or wanted to or wanted to be shown how to do it again. We laughed with them when things went wrong and were happy together about all the things that sometimes worked out after only a short trial and error.
TuaRes: What moved you the most? What was the most fun with the girls?
Dagmar: On the one hand, we and our daughters were impressed by how well the girls seem to manage with so few resources and how spoiled we are in comparison. On the other hand, their openness and willingness to learn new things was striking. They absorbed everything, hardly any of them stayed away from the projects or seemed bored. We envied them for their musicality, their desire to dance and the joy of life they radiated through it.
Peter: Some of the psychologists and Leopold, the TuaRes director, come from exactly those villages we had visited before. We still admire their perseverance and discipline in completing their training. Therefore, we are currently discussing a lot in the family what possibilities there are to give the girls vocational training and work after finishing school. They have so much potential.
Dagmar: For me, the fact that it was a great experience for us is shown by the fact that our daughters said on the flight back that it wasn’t working at all, but that they had never experienced so much during their vacations. We all felt like we had contributed something to the girls’ life skills. If other families or individuals are considering getting involved with TuaRes in a similar way, we are happy to answer any questions.
TuaRes: Thank you for these beautiful closing words and especially for your great and tireless support, both financially and on site with the girls! We would be so happy if this could inspire other interested people!