January 12, 2013Today I met with Adoulaye Karim at Ko-Falen to pick up his donation of half grain and half money. He is a man of small stature at 5 feet 3 inches tall, but do not let that fool you. This is a man that has dug over 500 wells with only a small hoe forged with a narrow pointy blade. And many of those wells are from 30 to 40 meters deep.  Most importantly, Abdou Karim’s presence in front of you is absolutely soothing.   He attracts everyone with his kindness and electrifying smile.   Jessica and Jon were drawn to him immediately, as they felt his kind human nature.  Jessica later remarked to me that she felt all the people chosen for aid were perfect candidates. “How did you choose these people?”

 “From many years of partnership,” I responded. Abdou Karim expressed his gratefulness on my video, but also wanted to sincerely thank Tami Dean, Ronna, and his namesake Shannon Spence for being his very first Western friends some 25 years ago. That is when he dug the well at my family home.  He is now about 49 years old with kids, and says the competition of well digging with the younger generation has made it hard for him to get jobs; also the reality in Mali at this moment definitely helped the grass blade to break at the joint. Now Karim is wondering about daily survival, looking for work to do.  Our help came to him at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Next, one of the heads of our families died a year ago and I was aware of it.  I purposely put his name in the list of families we need to honor. He was 98. His name known to me was Vieux Wattara (Wattara, The Elder), and during the time Ronna and I bought the land where Ko-Falen now stands and began the construction $1000 at a time, he was our only entertainer.  He had been living in this area which was farmland since 1960, the year that Mali gained its independence from France.  But all he got out of it from the government was a small 30 metres by 25 meters of land. He was not angry about it, as he believed that the earth does not belong to us, but simply allows us a sheltering place. I have over 6 hrs of video interviews with him, talking about his childhood and the very ancient way of Africans’ lives; also his time in the French West African army in Senegal during WWII.  Today January 12th, was the one year  anniversary of Vieux Wattara’s death, and I delivered his portion of aid to his family from us. I did not take my camera out of respect, as it was definitely a day of mourning him again.  The compound was full of his children and grandchildren. He had two wives–both present at the time.  I handed the money to the first wife, who is presently also the oldest in the compound. They all did blessings for us as they cried.  But I reminded them of Vieux Wattara’s own words, “We think and talk of our deceased loved ones to wipe the tears of the living–not to make them cry.”  They exclaimed at once, “He knows him well, he knows him well!” 

What we are doing here in Mali all the way from Oregon is definitely touching lives at the right spots. Thank you and much love.