In the blazing heat it is hard to stay up with hydration. In April it is 108 degrees every day; dry, dusty, smoky, very little wind. There has been no rain since last fall. When I see patients in Mali for constipation or dizziness or headache it is really about the water. Nobody drinks enough. It is mango season now. The big yellow fruit literally covers the huge trees. They provide needed vitamins and fluids for the dehydrated, malnourished poor. The children of Dagabo village this trip often had a mango in their right hand. But even with this God given manna it is well known that the rains are two months away. The parched land, the cachectic livestock, and the impoverished people are barely hanging on at this point.
Hundreds of miles to the northeast of Ouelessebougou and Dagabo, in Ibrahima Kodio's town of Koro, it is even hotter and drier. This area in the Dogon receives even less rain and is right on the edge of the Sahara. The construction of the new Grace Private School building on the land we purchased last year has stalled out due to lack of water. A large amount of water is needed to make the bricks. Hundreds have been made but we need hundreds more. It is cost prohibitive to bring a truck full of water from the Niger so the builders are dependent on wells, which are either drying up or private and inaccessible. Ibrahima had a team dig down further on an existing well but no water was found. He currently has people looking more widely and is confident that we will eventually find enough to begin again.
Despite these problems, the rains will come and he has faith that the school will be complete for the new classes in the fall. The land will contain three classrooms housing the seventh, eighth and ninth grades. There will be three simple, private pit toilets nearby- one each for boys, girls, and teachers. The existing crumbling small building on the land will be converted into modest administrative offices. First through fourth grades will remain in the rented building that is currently in use. Every year a new grade is added- this will be the first year to have fourth grade. There are currently 22 children in ninth grade. This is the biggest class and getting closer to the goal of 30. Ibrahima said that several students transferred in the fall just to take ninth grade at Grace, hoping that will be enough to be able to pass the national test to get into high school. He says that there is a definite difference between these students and the ones that have attended for three years but he and the teachers are doing their best to prepare them for the exam.
Overall the children are doing well. Thanks to many friends like you they have schoolbooks for the first time. Something that no other school in Koro has. They have very good teachers and daily Bible instruction. They have pride and hope for the future. On May 15th, the school will have a Student's Day celebration. This was held two years ago and was a great success. Ibrahima hopes to make it an annual event. The kids will feast and dance and sing. Each class will have a role and showcase their talents in some way. There will be awards and speeches and special guests. It is a great way to showcase the school and to instill school spirit and pride.
The ripple effect of this tiny school in a remote town in a desperately poor country that is not even on most Westerner's radar is immense. The administrators and teachers and builders and security guard and all of the others that receive an income from the school- the children receiving the education- their families who benefit from the child's education and their burgeoning faith and dreams- and the wider community that will ultimately benefit from these well educated, enthusiastic young people- so many people are affected by the smallest donation, the humblest prayer, the tiniest amount of attention.
Despite lack of safe water, plentiful food, adequate health care, personal privacy, or political stability, Malians are some of the kindest, gentlest, most grateful people on the planet. They share and assist each other in a way that our culture lost long ago or maybe never had. They make due with very little through reuse and recycling; nothing is wasted. By donating to Grace School you can be assured that all of the money is being used in a remarkably frugal manner. Ibrahima keeps receipts and reports on purchases and expenses to the penny. Although communication remains difficult, internet service remains virtually nonexistent in Koro. Ibrahima and I had a great meeting last week in Mali. These face-to-face meetings are best. Additionally he is able to report in by phone on a monthly basis. We are in need of more people or churches willing to give on a monthly basis. The budget will have to grow as the school grows. $50 or $100 a month - even $25 a month - or a one-time donation- every bit helps. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info about Mali, Grace School, or to find out how you can help.
The picture was taken at Clinique Paix in Ouelessebougou, Mali. From left to right: Jackson, our head pharmacy tech; Isaac, one of our long time translators, an English teacher in Bamako, and father to twin 3 year old girls and an infant son; me; and Ibrahima in his role as lead translator and local organizer of our medical mission.