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Education for Mali

For Many, A Child's Life in Mali

For Many, A Child’s Life in Mali

Watching the children in Mali, my heart sometimes catches. For many of our children in Mali, there is no future under the current circumstances. Many of them will never have the opportunity to make something of themselves. Many girls will get married of by the time they are 15. Many boys, having no better option, will farm or follow the family business. Many more will remain without a job and with no opportunity, will join the masses that beg on the street to supplement what they make so they can take care of their family.

Fact of the matter is, this is a dreary picture and a dreadful reality for many Malians. If you were to stay in Mali, you would not be able to tell that most Malians are suffering. Malians are the most happy people I have seen. Maybe it was God’s one blessing to them to help cope with their miserable circumstances. But Malians are certainly not lacking in entrepreneurial spirit. This is evident from the large number of business people ranging from the side of the road seller to the store keeper.

The one thing that can truly help shape Mali into a success story in the long run is education. Today 70% of Mali’s population is in the age group 0-25. Yet only 31% of Mali’s population is literate. This figure is even lower for girls. While the government was able to put a elementary school in most villages, much of Mali’s 80% rural population lacks a middle school. Simply, because the government does not have the resources to build middle schools. So after 6th grade, many children will drop out of school simply because they have no access to one. For many a middle school is several villages and towns away.

I cannot imagine my children walking 5 miles (7km) a day to go to school. Not just once, but 4 times because in Mali, children return home for lunch. Now add in dirty, dusty roads and predators and you have a situation where most parents will keep their children at home.

For the past 10 years we have raised awareness about the one thing that has impacted our own lives. And that is the power of education. Yeah and I have both been blessed with extraordinary circumstances and blessings. And it is our education that has taken us many places and allowed us to make a living. But not just that, it is our education that ensures that our own children will never know the pain of hunger or the lack of opportunity. Our parents by giving us an education helped break the cycle of poverty and the lack of opportunities that spring from illiteracy.

Now we want to give that back to the people of Mali. It seems like an enormous task, but I am always reminded that sometimes all it takes to make change is the power of one. We are not Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi or even Mother Theresa. But we do have an honest desire to see change come to Mali and we do enjoy the support of wonderful friends and family and even unknown supporters that keep our work going. Through our foundation Empower Mali, we are partnering with villages in Mali to take our education back and empower our young children to stay in school and get educated. And not just get an education, but create an opportunity to build a brighter future for themselves.

We currently have two middle schools under construction adding to the 17 others Yeah has already brought to Mali. Two middle schools, one in Katele and one in Ferekoroba, that when completed will be seen as the beacon of hope for the children of that village. We are so grateful to our friends, family and supporters who have invested in these buildings of hope and in all our activities for Mali.It has been a blessing to visit these villages before the school is built and then visit the classrooms after. The classroom is teeming with life and activity and one only has to chat a few minutes with the students to see the immense joy they get from being able to enjoy childhood and the freedom of education for a few more years.

Empower Mali School Ferekoroba

Building Youth Around the World Academy of Ferekoroba

Empower Mali School Katele

DeJoria Academy of Katele

Our fight to educate our children in Mali will not stop with just building schools. Through Empower Mali, we hope to help introduce teacher training and adult literacy classes. We hope to couple the power of education with access to good healthcare, clean water and solar power to light up villages. We all have the chance to help lift Mali from within. Mali’s success will be the success of our children just like Mali’s failure will pull the rest of the world down. We all have the opportunity to become the change we want to see in the world. For Yeah and me, we have been blessed with the chance to share our blessings, one village, one community and one school at a time.

Empowering Mali one child at a time

Empowering Mali one child at a time

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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Past Posts

 

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A historic day for Ouelessebougou

On February 11th, the people of Ouélessébougou welcomed a very special guest. In the first visit of its kind made possible through an invitation by the Mayor of Ouélessébougou Yeah Samaké, the Ambassador of America to Mali, Mary Beth Leonard, paid a visit to Ouélessébougou. The visit was a chance to cement a strong friendship between America and Ouélessébougou. Ouélessébougou has been one of the few lucky villages that has received a lot of support from religious and nongovernmental organizations in the US. The visit also gave an opportunity to display Ouélessébougou as a model of success when talking about decentralization and transparent governance.

The people of Ouélessébougou showed up in droves to show their support for the Ambassador of a country whose people served them. The streets lined up with children and the people of Ouélessébougou as the Ambassador’s entourage pulled up. The representative of the Chief of the Village of Ouélessébougou welcomed the Ambassador and her delegation. He extended his deep thanks and appreciation for the support of America in Mali’s struggles and all the investments that had come to Ouélessébougou. The teachers association followed by thanking the Ambassador for the American investment in education. Speaking in his role as Mayor, when Yeah spoke he thanked the Ambassador for making the journey to come visit Ouélessébougou, emphasizing that there is so much to see and so much cultural beauty to experience outside of Bamako. He talked about America’s role as a great democratic country from whom Mali could learn many values of true democracy. He praised the efforts of America in coming to Mali’s aid and for providing financial and logistical support. He expressed his gratitude for the numerous NGOs, entrepreneurs and medical groups that visit Ouélessébougou from the US. Through their help, Ouélessébougou has received free healthcare treatment.

When the Ambassador spoke, she was very grateful for the opportunity to come visit Ouélessébougou. No other American Ambassador has ever visited the community and so this was a historic first for an Ambassador of America to set foot in Ouélessébougou. The Ambassador spoke of the friendship that Mali and America shares. She focused on education being the key to development and praised the community of Ouélessébougou for their unique citizenship participation in their government. Today, thanks to the clean, transparent governance, Ouélessébougou enjoys a 92% tax collection rate from its 50000+ population spanning 44 communes. The people have seen the benefits of paying taxes in the services they have received. The event in the main square of Ouélessébougou ended with a song by the famous Malian rapper Mylmo that got the children on their feet. My people were very excited to celebrate this unique, special occasion with the Ambassador and her delegation.

After the welcome celebration, the delegation toured the different sites in Ouélessébougou that have made the city a developing, moving city. We started by visiting the stadium that was recently enclosed. Before the youth would have no place to play. By enclosing the stadium, the Mayor’s office has introduced a place for our youth and also a venue available for rent where national/international games can be played. This will bring many investments and business opportunities to the area. Next on the tour was the new hospital that is under construction. The hospital when completed will be the biggest of its kind in the region. When the hospital is completed it will house a maternity center, emergency room, pharmacies, child care unit, dental clinic, eye care facility and healthcare center. It will be the only big hospital between Bamako and Sikasso, which is 7 hours away. This is an amazing facility and when completed it will bring accessible healthcare to the Djitimou area. I am excited for this sprawling facility to be completed! It will reduce the unnecessary deaths caused from distance to the next health center. Next, the delegation toured the famous solar panel field and were introduced to the inner workings of the facility.

After lunch, the delegation headed to the village of Ferekoroba to see the Empower Mali school that is currently under construction. While there, Yeah discussed the importance of education and the role American NGOs in contributing to Ouelessebougou’s education. NGOs like Building Youth Around the World(who donated $50K for the Ferekoroba school) and our foundation Empower Mali play a strong role in strengthening the weak education system in Mali. There is no investment by the government primarily because the funds do not exist. Hence the education system is severely affected and all the help these non profits give help raise the communities where they work. The Chief of the village of Ferekoroba was very honored to have the Ambassador visit his village and personally came to greet her and her delegation. The Building Youth Around the World Academy is progressing nicely and will be completed soon. This is the first building of its kind since the primary school was built in 1956.When completed, the government will provide teachers to the school. The children are very excited!!

The final step in this very exciting day was a visit to the village of Tenkele. While there, the Ambassador got to experience the beautiful folklore traditions of singing and dancing of the area. She was honored with songs and presented with a sheep by the people of Tenkele. Tenkele is one of the bigger communes under Yeah’s jurisdiction as Mayor. The people came out in great numbers to support their community and welcome the Ambassador.

The day was indeed wonderful and packed with many memories. The event was covered by the national TV ORTM and brought the accolades Ouélessébougou deserves for being such a beautiful, forward thinking city. This visit achieved its purpose to strengthen the ties between the US and Ouélessébougou and to demonstrate the fruits of a successfully run local government. The people of Ouélessébougou are better off today than when Yeah took office in 2009. They have clean running water, a clean source of energy, new infrastructure like school cantines and maternity centers, a new high school ( the biggest in the region), a new hospital under construction, a civil service department and an efficiently run Mayor’s office. The people have a renewed faith in their local government and an assurance that their tax money is not being eaten by their Mayor. It is this sense of citizenship that makes Ouélessébougou special. The Ambassador was quick to recognize all these accomplishments and extended a warm thank you to the people of Ouélessébougou and their Mayor for making the day so memorable. My people in Ouélessébougou will indeed treasure this historic visit just as much.

You can watch the National TV ORTM Coverage( in French ): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mOJpM4hKwrg

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Past Posts

 

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