When I first met Yeah at University in 2003, he told me that he wanted to run for President of Mali, his country. I thought he was joking. As we got married and began our journey together, I realized he was not joking. In everything he did he always put Mali ahead. I realized very early on that serving Malians was the center of every decision he made.
Back when Yeah was in Mali, after he had graduated with an English degree from the prestigious Ecole Normale de Bamako, he returned to his city of Ouélessébougou. He soon realized that there were not enough teachers in his village. The government did not have funds to pay for teachers. Yeah could have moved to Bamako and gotten a well paying job there, however he chose to stay in Ouélessébougou. He volunteered at the local middle schools teaching English.
After graduating from BYU Utah with his Masters in Public Policy, Yeah partnered with Adrian Escalante to form a foundation that would serve the educational needs of the people of Mali. Through his leadership and fundraising efforts as the director, 17 middle schools were built in the rural villages of Mali. Each of these schools served 150+ children from the community increasing access to quality education. Additionally, Yeah headed many medical and dental missions from Utah helping connect quality resources with a deep need in Mali.
In 2009, the Mayor of his city was up for re-election. The commune was in crisis. The Mayors office had embezzled a lot of money and the result was that the city was suffering with inadequate access to education, electricity and clean running water. We didn’t have the means, but Yeah wanted deeply to run for the Mayor’s seat. He believed that he could change the way the Mayors office was run and ensure that all the money was used to serve the needs of his people in Ouélessébougou. Yeah ran and won with 86% of the vote. He became one of the youngest mayors in Mali. Using the education he learnt and the lessons of service he experienced in Utah, he quickly turned Ouélessébougou, a city of 55000 people, into one of the top ten communities in Mali. During his time as Mayor from 2009-2015, Ouélessébougou got its first big multi-service hospital, the biggest solar panel field, running water and the first high school. Business started to boom and many new hotels and new businesses opened their doors in Ouélessébougou. All of this would not have been possible without people recognizing that Yeah was a good man who truly loved his people and his community and wanted to make life better for them.
In 2012, we believed that we could impact change on a bigger scale. Yeah wanted to run for the Presidency of Mali believing that corruption and lack of management was responsible for the destitute plight of many Malians. In a country of 16 million people, Mali in 2012 remained one of the poorest countries in the world despite being the 3rd largest gold producer in Africa and the second largest cotton producer. The leaders were prospering but Malians were suffering. Committed to making a change, we left the comforts of America and moved our family to Mali. We could easily have stayed but we chose Mali because we believed that Yeah’s leadership and service could bring change. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our bid. But we didn’t loose the opportunity to get a larger name recognition and broaden the bases of our political party.
Through our Utah-based foundation Empower Mali, we continued strong, hoping to make an impact on our fellow Malians living in the rural villages. Through EM, we built 6 more middle schools, teachers houses, donated tractors to villages, initiated scholarship for Malians to study abroad, brought clean energy in the form of electricity generating playgrounds and donated textbooks. Each project Yeah initiated was done as a partnership where the village contributed and became part of their future success.
In 2015, the President of Mali, who Yeah contested against in the 2012/13 Elections appointed him to be Ambassador of Mali to India and 9 other Asian countries. Yeah was ambivalent and unsure as to whether he could effectively serve his fellow Malians abroad as much as he could in Mali. We chose to go. We believed that Yeah could help impact policy at a global level and that the impact would be felt by local Malians. That holds true today, two and half years later. Today, through Yeah’s efforts, Mali has secured funding for the $100 million electric line that will connect Sikasso and Bamako, a commitment to fight terrorism in Mali’s Northern region, scholarships for Malian students to study in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and many more exciting new opportunities.
At every step of our journey these past 15 years, I have never seen a man who loves his country more than Yeah. He sleeps, breathes and is Malian to his very core. Love for one’s country is seen not in the things we say but in the things we do. Yeah has fought for many opportunities in education, healthcare, clean running water and access to a better quality of life. But the fight is far from over. Today more than over, Malians remain destitute, a victim of poverty and lack of access to basic necessities. I once heard a saying “ If Serving is below you, then Leadership is beyond you”. Yeah has served his people from day one but he can do so much more if given the chance.
That is why we have chosen to run for the Presidency again on July 29, 2018. But we need your help. We are fundraising outside Mali because we don’t want to be controlled and influenced by the donations of special interest groups within Mali. Our goal is not to empower them but rather to serve the needs of our people. The 17 million Malians who deserve better. I believe Yeah Samake is that man who can change the course of their path for the better. But we need your help to help us win this election not only for our fellow Malians today but for our generations in Mali to come.
We can do this! We can bring change to Mali. Become a part of our journey and help our bid by donating $50 at www.Yeahsamake.com