Things are much calmer in the Capital of Bamako. French and Malian troops have taken back the city of Gao in the North, and they are heading to Timbuktu as I write. We hope that this important historical city is returned to Mali without tragedy. Despite the return to calm, life is still not back to normal. The struggles to place an interim government in motion has made daily life a difficult task. Food and fuel prices have soared, making it hard for businesses and families. After ten months of this, peoples’ resources are exhausted. I am so thankful we can help in our small way, with our 15 Families food and medical aid, one neighborhood at a time. But today, I will continue my story of visiting the village of Soni Tieni to deliver school supplies raised by donors to Ko-Falen Cultural Center.
As I mentioned in my previous letter, my decision to travel to Soni Cegni was a sudden decision. But I am so glad I went to see the headmaster Fah Diarra and his school administration, as they had much to say. They had wanted to come see me in Bamako when they found out that I may not make it to Soni Cegni earlier on, as they felt it was important to keep up the relationship we have developed. After the Youth Association sang their songs of welcoming, Fah Diarra–now with completely gray hair– turned and shook my hand. Since Fah Diarra the headmaster is getting past his retirement age, he is bringing new talents to the school of Soni Cegni. He introduced to me 3 young teachers that will be teaching in Soni Cegni’s school. One of the young teachers is an English teacher (male), another one is a biology and chemistry teacher (female), the last one is a math teacher (male). They were all present when I brought Ko-Falen’s school supplies raised by donations. After that, Fah Diarra walked me to his office and chatted with me for a bit about the complexity of life and its many goods and troubles. He said he was not sure whether or not their hardships are created from the effects of war or whether it was there sleeping on them all along. Nonetheless, it has not been a pleasant couple years now. As we proceeded to open the boxes of school supplies, instantly, his mood changed and one could see his smiling teeth delivering a message of happiness. He called the three young new teachers to witness the kindness of Americans once again. “Though these people from the US live countless miles away, they have by all means proven a sense of humanity to us. Just because one drinks from the same breast is not the only proof of brotherhood. These people–these Americans–are our true brothers, for they understand that we humans share the same blood in humanity. They are kind, thoughtful, and generous and above all, they care about children.” Upon opening the supplies, the young English teacher burst into laughter; he was so happy to see 36 books for each class from 7th grade, 8th grade and 9th grade. It was at the request of the students through Fah Diarra the head master that I spent $400 out of the $1000 dollars I was given for them, on English books. “The students want to learn more English so they can communicate with their American friends.” The English teacher was still standing on the side, smiling with happiness. In the middle of this happiness came a question: “We purchased only 5 of these books for a school in Kaye, and it cost 100,000 cfa. How did you buy 108 books for 200,000 cfa total?” I smiled also and replied, “This is thanks to my nephew Seydou and his business sense and bargaining skills.” The rest of the supplies I brought were sponges to erase the boards, paint for resurfacing the chalkboards, buckets to mix paints, chalk and other small things for the classes. The repainting of the blackboards is for the entire 18 classrooms. Fah Diarra and the entire school of Soni Cegni send their grateful appreciation to the KoFalen advisory and executive boards, and all those that donated to Kofalen. The young biology teacher quickly added to Fah Diarra’s message, “My biology and science classes are in desperate need of books also.” “Let us hope for health, long life, and the possibility that we will be able help you all.” said the head master.
Only love from Mali,
Baba Wague Diakite