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Leadership is Service

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


 

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Posted by on March 20, 2018 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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