Caroline and Annie, two young women – one a mother of three children and one a mother of four – were on their way home after buying “le pain couchée” or the “gone-to-bed bread”, as they say in the Ivory Coast. This day-old bread is sold at a low price in the impoverished area where they work. Here the huts are made of planks, one beside the other, leaving little privacy.
The day we met, there wasn’t any bread left, and the women were on their way home, each with a baby on their back. Then, just in front of my house, they approached me and boldly asked, “You wouldn’t have any work, would you?”
When Caroline introduced herself, I felt an instant connection because we have the same name. I responded, “I don’t have any work, but I can offer you my friendship. I have just arrived here; I don’t know anything about the area, but it’s your home, you can help me discover many things.” So we arranged to meet several times, and she showed me around the neighbourhood: the factories that make attiéké (grated and fermented cassava – an Ivorian speciality), the market, the rubbish dump, the place where they smoke the fish… She opened my eyes to many things that, as a foreigner, I could not see.
And then one day, she said, “Hey, that’s my house; let’s go in”. Our friendship grew from this, slowly, day by day.
I told them about my work with the families living in poverty and about my dream of establishing a Tapori group (Tapori is a worldwide network of children whose motto is: “We want all children to have the same chances”),a group where children learn together, build friendships through cultural and artistic activities, and try to change the world by transforming how extreme poverty is viewed. Caroline and Annie were enthusiastic about the project, but because they still needed to find work, they had concerns. Despite this, in the heart of the neighbourhood, they found a spot with space and shade for the group! Because it’s in the same place where they sell their bread, they know many of the families that live there.
Is asking them to work for free unfair when they have nothing? If I ask for their help, it’s because we can create something together; I can’t do it without them.
That’s when Annie says, “We have nothing, we live in poverty, but we can always give our children everything we have learned through our life experience”. For her part, Caroline gives free loaves of bread to women in more difficult situations than her own. I truly admire them as I witness their daily struggles, hope for a better future, and the extraordinary faith that carries them.
Caroline Blanchard, Ivory Coast