A year ago, do you remember what you were exactly doing? June 17th, 2011 is imprinted very well in my mind. This time last year, I was getting off a plane from the US to Mali for a journey that we believed would change our lives and the lives of the Malian people. We came with the firm belief that Yeah could be the change that Mali needed. We believed he could be a fresh start for a country that was stuck in a rut of bad leadership and corrupt practices. Who knew where we would be a year later. All we knew was the journey had begun and was bound to be exciting.
I remember a year ago, my kids would freak out about flies and bugs. Now, a year later they run after them and catch them. A year ago, they would stick very close to each other. Now, they are making other friends. A year ago, they spoke only English. Now their minds are grasping words and phrases in French and Bambara. Instead of having a family of four, they have added our guards, cook and chauffeur as family. My kids have indeed grown since we came last year.
Politically, Mali too has come a long way. Who knew a year ago that what was one of Africa’s most stable democracies would not only be overthrown but the country would be divided. Who knew that almost 200,000 innocents would be displaced and uprooted from a country they had called home for centuries. Who knew that a year of campaigning would ultimately come down to fighting to restore a democracy instead of extend it. Who knew?
Through the year we have campaigned hard in the 4 corners of Mali. We have seen different cultures and traditions all compiled into a Malian. Mali’s diversity contributes to its beauty and uniqueness and we have found ourselves blessed by it. We have had the opportunity to better know Yeah’s culture and his family. I think his family has accepted us even more as they have gotten to truly know us. We have gotten to understand the challenges that Mali faces. We have been blessed to meet medical missions and people that want to make a difference and come to Mali to do just that.
However, we have also experienced history be rewritten and found ourselves amidst a coup. We have ourselves fearing for our family’s safety and in the prayers of many people that feared for us. We are being given an opportunity to continue to make a difference.
Now that we are here a year later, our resolve is no less strong than the day we started. Sure we have a hit a roadblock, but is a journey worth remembering if there are no bumps? Our people must be brought home. Mali needs to become a democracy again, so the people’s voice may be heard again. But the most urgent dilemma is that the North needs to be rid of terrorists. Mali and all Malians will not and should not be compromised anymore.