Twelve-year-old Fadilatou is one of the top five scholars of her age in all of Burkina Faso. She is the youngest child of the family, with six brothers and sisters. Because of her parents’ hospitality, they have received some of their nephews and nieces, along with their children, so the total number of people in the family is 23.
Fadilatou’s father was a driver, but is now too old to work, so he stays at home all day taking care of his grandchildren.
Her mother is a hairdresser and provides food for all the family with her income of less than $2 a day. Sometimes the mother goes to bed without eating, so the rest of the family can share the little food she has gathered.
In 2004 Fadilatou enrolled at the Assemblies of God Patte d’Oie Child Development Center. Her father was not for it because he did not know about the ministry of Compassion, but her mother insisted and convinced him to allow the girl to be part of the program.
Since she joined, Fadilatou has been the top pupil in class. She dreams of going to a military academy next year. “I would like to become minister of defense of the country,” Fadilatou tells her parents.
Her dream started when she joined Compassion and was taken good care of. But the girl’s parents could not believe this might be a realistic dream; they are poor and know no one capable of supporting their child. But since December 2009 Fadilatou’s parents have started believing in her dream.
Every year the Primary School Education Department of Burkina Faso organizes an Excellency contest. In 2009 Fadilatou ranked second in the contest. She received a prize for her performance, but was far from imagining that something greater was coming her way.
A worldwide conference was to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark. The mayor of Ballerup, a municipality of Copenhagen, did not want to leave children out of the event. So he organized a worldwide meeting for children from 10 to 12 years old called “Things Talk: The Creative Climate Camp.”
An invitation was sent by the mayor of Ballerup to the mayor of Ouagadougou to have five children partake in the camp.
The department in charge of the promotion of education was entrusted with the mission to select the five children. They decided to consider the results of the Excellency contest. So they chose the best pupil of each of the five administrative divisions of the capital.
Fadilatou was the top pupil of her administrative division, called Bogodogo, and she was the second at the country level. So, Fadilatou was among the happy five who would have the opportunity of a lifetime to travel abroad in a plane. But this was only true for Fadilatou, who was from a poor family where parents could hardly provide for daily food.
All the four other children were from well-off families. Some even had home teachers who were helping them understand their school lessons. As for Fadilatou, God and her church were her help and support.
For a whole month the top five pupils of the capital city took part in a training session at the craft industry of Ouagadougou. Some professional craft people taught them how to make toys out of cans and other salvaged materials.
The objective of the training was to help the children learn to be active in clearing organic waste out of nature, and transforming waste into functional objects. This to make sure these children would have something to share when they met with the other children of the world.
The general objective of the camp in Copenhagen was to combine art with the imagination of children to identify innovative methods, actions and teaching about global warming.
As the children were busy getting ready for their trip to Ballerup, Fadilatou was facing a big problem. She did not have a passport. The four other children did not also have passports, but as they were from wealthy families this was not to be a big issue for them.
The mayor of Ouagadougou decided to pay for all passport expenses for the children. But the parents had to pay first and be reimbursed later. Definitely Fadilatou was an outsider; her parents could not find $50 to pre-fund their daughter’s passport.
Fadilatou’s development center was ready to disburse the necessary amount for the child’s passport, but one of Fadilatou’s big brothers, who is a mechanic working in Bobo (360 km from Ouagadougou), decided to give the necessary amount for his little sister’s passport.
Because Fadilatou was from a poor family and seemed not to have someone who could stand for her, she was about to be replaced by another child. The center director worked hard to keep the girl’s name in the list.
December 1 was the departure day. The center staff bought some suitable clothes for Fadilatou and also gave her some pocket money.
At 7 p.m. Fadilatou was at the airport accompanied by her mother and the center director. It was her very first time to enter the airport gates. Her father was so afraid that he could not go with her to the airport. He stayed home asking God to bring his child back safe.
The five children from Burkina and the guide who accompanied them constituted the only African delegation among the 16 countries that effectively took part in the camp.
In Ballerup, Fadilatou and her friends got the opportunity to make various objects from cans and other waste that the population of the city appreciated.