Feature Article of Thursday, 14 June 2012
Columnist: Ofori, Oral
Title: Out of the midst of political instability, the Mali Rising Foundation becomes a beacon of hope
By Oral Ofori
Mali Rising Foundation (MRF), a beacon of hope in the politically unstable West African nation of Mali is an American based non-profit organization that was established in 2004 to build schools in developing countries. Education in Mali remains a great concern with about 46% of the population being literate. These numbers are even lower in the rural areas that hold a majority of the population. MRF focuses on rural areas because of the challenges inherent in these communities including extreme poverty, scarce resources, weak infrastructure and limited access to schools.
To find out more about the ongoings of the Mali Rising Foundation, I talked to the wife of its Executive Director; Marissa Coutinho Samake, who is volunteering her time to MRF. I asked Marissa to briefly expound on the hopes and aspirations of the foundation. She told me that Mali Rising Foundation hopes to empower the children of Mali by expanding educational opportunities for them in their own communities. The foundation is doing this through building schools and working with the government to provide teachers whiles the villages provide labor, land and 20% of the funds for schools built. It is this unique partnership that makes these schools self-sustainable.
Launched in 2004 under the name Daily Dose Foundation; its parent company, the Mali Rising Foundation was headed by owner Adrian Escalante and has for its Executive Director Yeah Samake who is also a Malian Presidential forerunner. The Foundation is greatly motivated by the desire to be able to provide educational opportunities for children in under-developed countries that desperately need it. Yeah Samake, Malian Presidential hopeful and Executive Director of MRF has been blessed with the education he received in his native Mali as a result of his father's unrelenting desire to see all 18 of his children go to school despite the economic hardship it presented to him at the time. The result of that education has seen Yeah traveling to America in pursuit of a Masters degree in Public Policy at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah and returning home to eventually become the Mayor of Ouelessebougou, the Malian community in which he was raised.
In 2005, the Daily Dose Foundation became the Mali Rising Foundation under the leadership of Samake who saw to it that his board focused a lot of its efforts in the West African nation of Mali. The Mali Rising Foundation is a U.S based 501(c)(3) organization which solicits for funding to aid the implementation of all of its projects. All donations received by MRF are tax deductible under US Law. With contributions from individuals and organizations, the MRF's hopes of empowering children through education continues to remain strong and unwavering... this is evident in the fact that the foundation has till date completed its 13th school as of 2011 and is feverishly working on completing two more schools prior to the close of this year in the Malian town of Khouloun.
The Board of Mali Rising is made up of 14 members that come from all walks of life, most of whom have held leadership roles in service organizations and bring a deep love of service coupled with a desire to effect a positive change both in each other's lives and importantly those of the people whose cause they are seeking to champion. The board is headed by Chairperson Fred Johnson. In addition to overseeing the foundation’s expenditures, the board is also responsible for ensuring MRF has adequate resources to carry out its mission of building schools. To find out more about the board members check out the Mali Rising Dream Team here: http://malirisingfoundation.org/about-us/board-of-directors
Marissa Coutinho Samake who is also a BYU past student (studied Bachelor of Science in Information Systems) and volunteer at the MRF says the utmost objective of this Foundation is to effect real and lasting positive changes through education by committing its efforts and resources in four major areas, thats: building schools that are cost-effective and environmentally sustainable, providing adequate learning resources and materials for such schools, assisting with the training of teachers, and strengthening and improving already existing but under-funded educational institutions in Mali. These efforts contribute to the important goal of empowering young Malian minds through education. The children of Mali and Africa are going to give birth to the continent's future leaders and thus the more educated a nation becomes, the brighter its future will be.
A major beneficiary of the MRF since its establishment has been children in rural Mali; nearly two-thirds of such children in rural dwellings that do not have schools; a million of them are between the ages of 7 and 12 and are currently out of school. Marissa tells me MRF has been tirelessly working to give these young children the opportunity to get an education to enable them get more opportunities for their future in their respective rural communities because when children are educated, they in turn will empower the village they come from. As Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
'Since its inception in 2004, Mali Rising Foundation has partnered with villagers and the Malian government to build schools, each of which is a proud moment for us as they are a testament that 150 more children will get the opportunity to get an education each year' says Marissa, who went on to add that 'a few of our schools are now equipped with solar panels allowing those villages that do not have electricity to hook up computers that have been donated by the foundation'. These milestones present a moment of accomplishment for MRF that has also been able to accomplish the following for the Malian people:
· 13 schools to date, with 2 more for this year enrolling 946 female and 1,292 male students.
· School equipment for 13 schools: desks, chairs, office supplies;
· Computers/Laptops donated to schools and the Mali Ministry of Education;
· Solar panels for the schools in villages where electricity is not readily available;
· Textbooks: something new in Mali as usually the teacher has the only textbook;
· School kits/hygiene kits for the past 6 years from different Boy Scout projects;
· Secured 5 scholarships to Paraguay with Martin Burt's San Francisco Agricultural School in Paraguay. The students will go later this year.
· Secured 8 scholarships to date from Wasatch Academy for students to go to an American high school. These are $48,000/year scholarships and cover the students from 9th-12th and then help place them in colleges. These students are strongly encouraged to return home to serve their countries;
· Medical equipment for hospitals in Ouelessebougou and dentist chair to clinic in Bamako.
· To date, about 6 medical missions and 3 dentist missions serving around 4000+ Malian men, women and children.
Despite all the Foundation has been able to accomplish, access to education remains a critical need in Mali, particularly in the rural areas where two-thirds of the 11,700 villages do not have a school. Most people in Mali live on less than $1 a day. As a result of these dire conditions, over a million children do not have the means to obtain an education. A lot more schools are needed to make a lasting impact and the Foundation, as dedicated as it is, will not be able to make it all happen without the support of donations from individuals, businesses and the community. This is why everyone is encouraged to check out the great work that Mali Rising Foundation is doing on their website at: www.malirisingfoundation.org
Given the recent political upheaval and unrest in Mali, the foundation believes its work of providing educational opportunities for the youth has now become even more critical. Although the communities where MRF operates remain unaffected by the crisis, as new political changes take shape in the coming months, it envisions an increasingly important role for itself in empowering Malians to forge a better and peaceful future. Education serves as a stabilizing and normalizing force both during conflict situations as well as in the post-conflict era. Education in Mali will help promote social and economic reconstruction and provide fundamental building blocks for a stronger civil society. Now more than ever, MRF believes that the educational needs of Malians need to be fulfilled.
Marissa Coutinho Samake studied Bachelors in Business Management at Brigham Young University in Provo Utah and is originally from Goa in India. When I asked what has made a woman like herself abandon life with a place and a people she calls home and family for a socio-politically unstable life in a country like Mali, she responds saying '…from those to who much is given, much is expected. I have been blessed with amazing parents that gave me all the things and opportunities needed to be a successful individual. I believe very strongly that as humans, we all deserve basic rights to education, affordable health care and the ability to make a living…' It is this belief that has brought her to Mali and continues to fuel her faith in her husband and his political career as she says: 'Yeah can help Mali’s young minds, and give heart and hope to the rising generation. My comfort is a small price to pay for the blessings to affect a nation’s future'.
It is on this backdrop that Marissa feels that every child deserves a fair chance to make a difference for themselves. Mali is one of the poorest nations in the world, but if given the right opportunities, every child can be given the chance to change their own destiny. If that opportunity is given them in their own country, they will return that good fortune to their motherland. No investment in a child’s education is ever a lost investment and like Confucius said “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”
On November 10th 2012, MRF will hold its Annual Dinner Auction. The annual dinner serves as its main fundraising campaign to support their mission of effecting lasting positive change in the lives of children in rural Mali, West Africa. All are encouraged to participate and those that would like to volunteer at this event may contact the Foundation via its email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or via their US telephone number +18019576254. I personally feel MRF is a worthy foundation to support and when you look at the powerful effect your support would have on lives and futures then I'd ask you to not hesitate one bit in supporting this case, especially if you have the means to do it.
Oral Ofori, +1202-706-9881, email@example.com, Freelance Writer ( www.oralofori.blogspot.com), Broadcaster, Retail Specialist, Music Promoter, Artiste. http://about.me/oralofori/