Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Today is officially a holiday in Burkina Faso. It’s the celebration of Ramadan, the happy and welcome conclusion of a month of fasting for the followers of Islam. In a hot country like Burkina, a month of fasting is not an easy thing to do! Especially when it means not eating or drinking ANYTHING during the daylight hours! In addition, many Muslims continue to carry out their regular daily work responsibilities. Darkness is a welcome relief as they are then permitted to eat and drink something. The determination with which these folks stick to the strict requirements of their faith during this time of the year is indeed admirable!

As I’ve mentioned before, our night guard is a Muslim. In our experience since coming to Burkina, we’ve found Muslims to be excellent guards. They are usually more respectful and conscientious in their work than most.

For the first time since coming to Burkina just over 10 years ago, Kathy & I have now officially become employers. Prior to this, others employed the guards associated with our places of residence, and we reimbursed them for our part. Now this responsibility has fallen to us. I spent yesterday afternoon filling out the necessary employer and employee registration forms, and calculating both employees’ salary for the end of this month. Never having done it before, I found it somewhat complicated (calculating hours worked, overtime, holiday time, pension and unemployment deductions, as well as deducting amounts for cash advances already taken, and a fixed deduction for loan repayments). Fortunately, I had the help of our administrative director who is well skilled in this area!

One of the things he recommended was that we increase our guards’ salaries somewhat. The cost of living has gone up significantly in Burkina (as elsewhere), but salaries have not, making it difficult for ordinary people to make ends meet. On top of this, it’s the time of year where students go back to school and parents are required to shell out significant amounts to enroll their children and provide them with the necessary school supplies. As a result, most are forced to find sources of credit. Our guards have taken out loans with us for this purpose, which they will repay little by little over the next 10-12 months. Several employees on our Centre (with whom we have built a good relationship) have also approached us for the same reason, and we have helped out as we are able.

It wasn’t until we came to Burkina that we discovered what it’s like to be millionaires. Being rich (compared to our Burkinabè friends, employees, and colleagues at least) was not something we anticipated prior to coming here, and must admit that we do not find it very easy to play such a role! Suddenly, everyone sees you as a source of help and credit. And a person who does not share their wealth, at least to some degree, is regarded extremely unfavourably here! To strike the right balance between generosity and retaining enough to meet your own expenses is a constant & challenging juggling act :) Thank God we’re not millionaires at home in Canada too!

1 comment:

Duane and Carin said...

How are you two? You haven't posted in awhile so I thought I would check and see if you have any prayer requests?

Carin Guthrie