My last post was months ago. At the time, I was working on a fundraiser for Malian refugees in Niger. I said that if I was able to raise the requested amount, I would draw 100 camels with 100 different people in a 24 hour people in Bamako. The video above is the result (you might have already seen this as it was posted previously on philintheblank.net).
After the video, I took a much needed sabbatical. It is difficult to sustain a high level of camel drawing and this particular project was one of the most ambitious I have attempted. I was burnt out, but I’m back now.
I have a few posts coming up on a few specific projects I have been collaborating with in Mali. For now, I want to introduce some of these projects while also linking to a few other things that I think are worth your attention.
1. SOS Démocratie (website in progress, check back later for content) – A newly formed association in Bamako, SOS Démocratie has 3 objectives: to pursue civil advocacy outreach to sensibilize Malians before the next election, to raise voter turnout, and to monitor elections and ensure that they are credible.
Historically, close to 70% of eligible voters in Mali have chosen not to vote. Of those that do, many vote on the basis of where a candidate is from, or whether or not a candidate’s party has come to their town or village to hand out fabric, rice, etc. Access to candidate platforms is limited and many Malians have voted without knowing what kind of social and economic programs have been proposed.
We are trying to change that. And when I say “we,” I mean the Malians that started and run the group. I am involved in whichever way I can be – web work, putting people in touch with one another, finding partners. For all of them pessimism surrounding Mali’s politics, there are in fact Malians who are motivated and working to effect change. More to come on this project.
2. Yeredon Dance Center – I have been spending a couple days a week at this dance center in the Nafaji quartier of Bamako. It is a community based dance troupe that also offers classes and lessons to anyone that wants them. Their prices are reasonable and they also offer lodging for foreign visitors. What impressed (and continues to impress) me most about this center is that everyone there puts their craft above everything else.
Over the past several weeks, I have been working with the dance troupe to produce a video that will hopefully serve as promotional material for them while also showcasing some Malian theater and dance for those that are still wading through war stories.
We filmed last Saturday. The above photo is a picture of the crowd that had gathered about 10 minutes after the first dance had started. I will explain the project more fully when we release the video, which will be on youtube etc.
3. Dokotoro Project – I am not personally involved in this project, but I was happy to have been referred to it by the project’s founder. The idea is to translate the book “Where there is no Doctor” into Bamanankan, the most widely spoken language in Mali. The book is a practical, easy-to-follow guide for diagnosing and treating almost any disease and ailment.
Currently, the book is offered in French, but many Malians, especially those in villages and rural areas, do not speak much French beyond “ca va.” It would be great if there was an audio component to this, as many Malians are not literate in any language, but perhaps that is a next step, an admittedly more complicated one. In any case, I think this project merits a donation and any other support you can offer (share it around!).
4. CREER – C.R.E.E.R. is a NGO in Cote d’Ivoire that was founded by a friend of mine. Child trafficking in West Africa is not a problem that is going to be solved by one NGO. It’s going to take concerted government efforts that address both prevention and enforcement. That said, Chloe’s project is having a significant impact in its own way and her personal commitment is exceptional. Consider donating or sharing the project with your network.
5. Malo Rice – Malo Rice is a company that I plan on featuring on the site in the next several weeks. It is a social enterprise in the sense that they are trying to increase average income of rice farmers in Mali, promote local rice products, minimize environmental waste etc. It is one of those social enterprise stories that sounds too good to be true, and that may indeed be the case. Will find out more when I meet with the CEO and have a better sense of their current operation.
That’s it from me. More to come soon.