Sometimes the difference between projects running smoothly and failure is minute. That tiny, overlooked detail can wreck havoc or last minute cancellations mess up the entire plan. It is impossible to know what will happen next but in Togo you can be sure that ça va aller—that is going to go—translation: it is going to be alright.

I was the lead for two conferences and taken part in enough camps, trainings, and other events to know ça va aller is the truth. But at the most recent event I attended, the third annual Women’s Wellness and Empowerment Conference (WWEC), we were not so sure this would be the case.

For the first few days our only problem was breakfast, when the kitchen staff was exactly one person preparing for a group of 50. Ça va aller –Peace Corps Volunteers can help chop vegetables and scramble eggs.
A few participants working on their presentations

It was the last day of the conference when our paramount event started to fall apart. The organizers planned the day to coincide with International Women’s Day (March 8) so the participants could celebrate with the locals. In groups, they were to present one thing they learned to an audience of community members. 

All the women were excited to do it and wanted to make sure the celebration perfect. They meticulously prepared skits, fact checked information, and set up a seating area for the guests.

The only problem was that the community members weren’t showing up. We assumed the event would be subject to the l’heure Africane and thus announced the celebration time earlier than it was actually scheduled. Yet even thirty minutes after the scheduled time, our perfectly arranged seats were still waiting to be filled. Ça va aller…right?

While the women waited, the PCV team started brainstorming. In less than ten minutes we had an alternate plan and signs to go along with it. We would lure community members to the event by leading a parade around the neighborhood. 

Our Women's Day parade

When we shared our plan to the women, they were completely on board. They were not allowed to leave the center since the conference started so they were excited to finally see the city; even if it meant marching at one the hottest points of the day (+100°F around 11 a.m.). 

That parade turned out to be one of the most successful parts of the conference. It brought in almost 100 community members and filled nearly all the seats. The participants’ presentations didn’t disappoint either—each one was perfect. It made the entire PCV team proud to see how well the women mastered the information and how much they changed in only a few days.

The event was so inspiring, the organizers want to include parades in future conferences. So in the end, everything did turn out alright. 

I guess we knew all along that ça va aller, just not how much our plans would have to fail first.

The WWEC team and participants
For more information about WWEC, visit:

My latest album features all the WWEC photos—including shots of our morning yoga/zumba classes. Check it out here.