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(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)

I’ve been working on two separate projects during my time here: the first being the Kuwdé Health Insurance System project and the second Charlie’s Kabré Oral History Archive project. This blog post is meant to provide a brief update on how those projects are going, so here goes.

The health insurance work began with the inputting of patient data for the past year into Excel, which Jackie and I completed in the first couple of weeks. The next phase has been an interview process with different heads of families. Some of the interviewees are in our system, some used to be, and still there are others who’ve never had health insurance before. The goal of these interviews is both to encourage families to buy insurance and to get feedback. As expected, we’ve received immensely kind responses and little constructive criticism. Most answer each question by praising the insurance system and explaining their understandings of how it’s deeply valuable to their families and community. Interviewees that dropped out of the system or who have never been in it almost always tell us that they very much wish they could have insurance, but they simply don’t have the means. Still, others have speculated that many families are worried that if they buy insurance, then they won’t get sick, or at least not enough to benefit from it. And this is very understandable, as many families can’t afford to lose any money at all—there are little means here to “minimize risk”. But, as a solution, we implemented a new policy that says that if a family never visits the Case de Santé during the duration of their insurance, it will roll-over to the next year free of charge. In reality, this policy will only apply to one insured family this year and implies no loss at all to the CDS. But even so, people are thrilled when informed of this change, as, I suppose, it directly addresses their primary concerns. Anyway, I have very much enjoyed working on this project, I’ve learned a lot, and hope the rest of our work goes just as well. I’ll also add that Jackie has done fantastic work, as she is really the head of this project. Though she’s had to teach me how to use excel above a third grade level and how to use a PC in general, she’s done very great work, and is in the process of statistically analyzing and organizing broader insurance data to best ensure its maintenance going forward.

The oral history archive project is also going well. The goal of this project is to collect various Kabré oral traditions—folktales and fables, songs, and proverbs—and both record and transcribe them in text so as to preserve them forever. Indeed, many Kabré today can’t recall any traditional stories or proverbs, and so the hope is that by creating an archive of such oral histories, that Kabré can continue to learn and pass down and learn their vibrant tradition of storytelling.

Many afternoons after working at the Case de Santé, I hike down to Farendé to meet with Jesper, Charlie’s linguist friend who is the brains behind this project. Together, we’ve collected stories, songs, and proverbs, and have begun to translate and transcribe them. On one hand, this work is rather challenging, as the stories are typically told to me either in Kabré or in a French that is directly translated from Kabré and are thus very difficult for me to understand. Often, I don’t understand the majority of a tale until Jesper and I have written it all down and analyzed it together. But still, it’s very cool to spend many afternoons interviewing village elders who very happily recount for me their stories. And even though on the surface these stories are more or less for children, these elders have such an intensely animated, joyful way of storytelling. Charlie and I interviewed my host father, Santi—an older, very conservative traditionalist, and rather stoic a person—who, when telling his stories for us, would burst into fits of laughter at the animal voices he put on for each of his characters. Without a doubt, the best part of the project is the happiness that is so evident in people’s dispositions when they share these oral pastimes with me. But, Jesper and I have much work to finish before our group leaves the villages in just over two weeks, and so I hope to be very productive and have a smooth, continually great end to my time here.