Turns out, I’m less of a pioneer than I originally thought. Yvonne, who runs the great Rondom Baba Foundation in the Mopti region of Mali, sent me a photo of her drawing camels in 1958 in Amsterdam!!!

yvonn

She is the 4th from the left, in the white, drawing a beautiful, very regal bactrian camel.

If you do not have access to bactrian camels, but you would still like to draw them, you can pick up a copy of the How to Draw Camels Ebook and you will be on your way!*

*Disclaimer* The bactrian camel drawing techniques that I teach you in the ebook will help you draw an obese bactrian camel. I have not yet perfected the pedagogy that will allow people to learn how to draw slim bactrian camels. But I’m working on it.

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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.

crowd_h2dc

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.

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Ali from Iran was kind to send his take on the camel in the pic above.

Today I am launching the most ambitious camel drawing mission I have ever attempted. I will be teaching 100 different people how to draw camels in Bamako over a 24 hour period if I can raise $1,000 for Malian refugees in Niger.

For more on this extraordinary and unprecedented mission, please click here to check out the campaign page. Backers will have exclusive access to the video documenting the mission. There are also several other rewards available.

Even if you cannot donate, please consider sharing this campaign and spreading the word.

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Many people are under the impression that camel drawing is not a very lucrative field. They are often surprised when they find out my annual income is well into the 6-figure range. Below is a recent exchange I had with a representative from a mining company in Mauritania. While he has not replied to my last email or given any indication that he will be paying me for my work, I expect a bank transfer from him any day now.

Note: AQIM = Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

While I wait for this bank transfer, you can get started drawing camels by downloading the how to draw camels ebook. You can pay as much as you want (or nothing at all). Keep in mind that if you purchase the book, 100% of the profits go to the current featured project supporting female pilots in Ghana, who are building planes in addition to flying them.

I will be transferring all donations from ebook sales since March to Medicine on the Move and AvTech Academy in July. After that, donations will be split between Mali Health Organizing Project and Project Muso – two incredible organizations that continue to operate in Mali despite the political uncertainty.

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Post image for Girls in Ghana Becoming Pilots, Building Planes, and Practicing Humanitarian Aviation

On my personal blog, I posted about my experience at the Kpong airfield in the Volta Region of Ghana. If you haven’t already, you can read that post here. Here is an excerpt:

Northeast of Accra, close to Lake Volta, the largest man-made lake in the world, there is a town called Kpong.

It is here that Jonathan Porter (aka Captain Yaw), a British expat, partnered with the local community to form an aviation and engineering school for girls (AvTech Academy), a flight school for anyone who wants to learn, and a humanitarian organization, Medicine on the Move (MoM), which uses planes to bring doctors and health education to villages that are inaccessible by road.

Patricia (see photo above) is 22 years old. She is the first woman to obtain Ghana’s National Pilots License. She is an engineer, a recipient of the Rotax Aircraft Engines certification. She knows how to fly and build planes. She’s the only certified female flight instructor teaching the National Pilots License in Ghana. When I met her, she was teaching a Norwegian oil industry engineer how to fly.

Any superlatives I use to describe my time at Kpong would be an understatement. I was truly blown away by my experience there. In this post, expect some camel drawing with the girls of AvTech Academy along with several insightful interviews. To start with, Jonathan Porter, the founder, and lead pilot Patricia Mawuli, were nice enough to answer a few questions about the various organizations that are operating in Kpong.

1) There are many non-profits and NGOs operating in Ghana and throughout sub-Saharan Africa. What makes your project unique? (with respect to both MoM and Avtech academy)

We believe in a sustainable solution. Let us be honest, most programmes aimed at helping folks are three to five year projects. Any parent will tell you that raising a child is more like a thirty five year project – and then some… even though results can be got in as little as eighteen years… EIGHTEEN – not THREE. If we were to ‘assess’ our children at three (or even five) and then cut the funding on them because it looked like they might make it in the world, we would be seen as ‘STUPID’ – but that is exactly what a THREE – FIVE project is.

Now, we understand that. Political cycles require that funding is short lived – for political cycles, and political careers are short lived. Therefore we set about creating a triangle of sustainability that makes our operations not only sustainable but self-perputating in terms of personnel and human endeavor collateral!!! For more on this, see this page.

2) What are some of the challenges in running MoM and Avtech Academy?

Not that many really, no more than any other operation. However, funding is always a challenge – and although we have our sustainability curve that we will be reached in the coming years, we could do with a little hand up to get onto that curve a little sooner so that we can focus more on the delivery with a solid, sustainable engine of change driving the propeller of health education to ensure changes in behaviour that will give rural communities the wings that they need for sustainable socio-economic development….

3) What is your vision for the future with respect to these projects?

Our big push in 2012 will be the ETCHE programme and the INCSI initiative, which we believe, linked with the MoM aerial support mechanisms will lead to a sea change in rural health outreach in developing nations.

4) When will we see a camel shaped plane?

Patricia says, the issue would be that the fuel tank would be large and heavy and the undercarriage only good in sand, as well as the lack of wings to provide lift may get in the way…. however, she adds, should you wish to provide funding for research – we are sure that we could ‘route it for a good cause’ …. and although it may not lead to a camel shaped plane, the principles and desired outcomes of camel drawing would be furthered, and more smiling faces may be found out there in the rural communities… all thanks to the principles of the Camel Man….

The Girls of AvTech Academy

These girls are learning how to fly and build planes. I feel privledged to know them. I spent the morning hanging out with the girls in the air traffic control tower (which they operated themselves) to get a better idea of their reasons for getting involved at Kpong airfield.

Juliet:

Lydia:

Emmanuella:

Of course, I didn’t leave Kpong without teaching the girls how to draw camels. I have not come across more enthusiastic or confident students.

Until July, all profits from the How to Draw Camels Ebook will be going towards Medicine on the Move. Few organizations have impressed me as much as this one.

Consider picking up the ebook if you haven’t already and be sure to check out the Medicine on the Move website as well as the MoM blog and the AvTech Academy blog.