2021 Administrative Expedition

The Ouelessebougou Alliance’s administrative and volunteers are so committed to transforming the lives of the people in the Ouelessebougou region. Because of the pandemic and the growing needs of the Alliance, it was very important to still have our annual Administrative Expedition. It was so important for the morale of the Mali staff and the villagers for us to show that the Alliance is still committed to working in Ouelessebougou. There are very few international NGOs still active in the area with local Malian staff. There is such a great need for international support. They took the necessary precautions to quarantine and have negative COVID-19 tests so they could fly from Utah to Mali. They were able to spend a week working with our Mali staff  to understand the greatest challenges and the most urgent and important needs in our 25 villages.

Please note that even though some of our photos and videos do not show us wearing masks, we always took precautions when visiting the villages. We wore face masks but sometimes took them off for photos. We also distributed free face masks, taught the importance of handwashing and sanitation, and answered many questions about the pandemic to help further educate the villagers about COVID-19. The villagers were extremely grateful for our visits, especially during this challenging time. Many are confused and questioning and looked to us for guidance. 

The 2021 expedition included 5 people: our Executive Director, Judy Hut; our Board Chair, Carl Dempsey; our board member Kara Carlston and volunteers Katherine Carlston and John Hut.

Left to right: Katherine Carlston, Kara Carlston, Anounou Sissoko, Boubou Traore, Djiba Soumaoro, Teningnini Diakete, Carl Dempsey, Sekouba Traore, Judy Hut. Not pictured: Modibo Doumbia, John Hut

We also had a second group led by board member Dick Loomis who is managing our exciting new malaria control project. He was joined by Dr. Ary Faraji, the Executive Director of the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District and volunteer Roger Loomis. We also had our local partners from the University of Bamako visit: Dr. Gunter Muller, leading malaria expert, and Dr. Mohamed Troare, the Head of Medical School. We are excited to share more about their trip at a later date.

A few days later, the Ouelessebougou Alliance’s great supporters — I call them the Alliance’s “savers, keepers, and hope”, Sister Ann Lewis, and Elder John Lewis (our former board chair) — visited us from Bamako. The Lewis’ are currently serving a mission for The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cote d’Ivoire, Abidjan and they split their time between Bamako and Abidjan.  While they were with us, we visited the village of Faraba II to see the new well constructed by LDS Charities West Africa. We also spent some time visiting the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have recently settled in Sounsounkoro near the town of Ouelessebougou.

During the eight days, Judy was very happy to spend time with her local staff and work closely with them in the office and in our partner villages. She was especially grateful to be able to assess how the Alliance can meet the urgent needs of villagers suffering because of the pandemic. John Hut was thrilled to be able to join his wife on his first trip to Mali and finally see for himself all the great work the Alliance is doing. He enjoyed his time teaching the member of young association about technology: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The visit strengthened Carl’s desire to move the mission of the Alliance forward as board chairperson and do everything possible we can to support the villagers’ goals. He greatly appreciated his time working with the Mali staff and observing our programs firsthand. He also enjoyed practicing his French in Mali.

Katherine Carlston was amazed by the beautiful resilient and friendly our villagers are despite the extreme poverty. She liked the Mali’s fabric and the colorful clothes and henna. Kara was surprised how the Mali’s women strengths, the joy of children, and their sacrifice. She said, “First trip to Mali with the Ouelessebougou Alliance and Katherine. The most beautiful, resilient people.”

As a tradition, every single person on the expedition gets a Malian name during their first trip to Mali. Carl was named after a village chief in Faradie and his name means “tall king”. John, Kara and Katherine received Dogon ethnic names in the refugee (IDP) camp. It was fascinating how the Dogon’s women looked at our guests from Utah and discussed about the appropriate names after them. That was the first time other ethnic groups except Bambara gave names to our Utah guests. That was amazing.

When people share names and languages, they become friends fast. Katherine was given a Dogon name after a beautiful refugee woman, Yakine, meaning God’s success. They became friends so fast and held hands and walked around. When Katherine wanted to say goodbye to her new friend, I could see emotion on this beautiful refugee woman’s face. She did not want Katherine to leave the camp. People can like each other even though you do not understand each other languages. That was the case of Katherine and her namesake.

Highlights of some of the expedition activities:

  • Met with the local authorities in Ouelessebougou, including the Mayor, the Village Chief, and the sous-prefet(government representative)
  • Worked with and met different NGOS such as The Wash Project, One Global Village
  • Trained youth people in Ouelessebougou about Word, Excel, and PowerPoint
  • Visited the Ouelessebougou Alliance’s women’s garden in Ouelessebougou and in Famana
  • Taught a Day for Girls lesson to 40 Internally Displaced Persons in the Northern of Sounsounkoro, and distributed 40 kits to these women and girls
  • Visited the Sounsounkoro Chief and discussed about the challenges the IPDs face in his village and possible new partnership with the Alliance
  • Opened ceremony of a new manual pump in the Sanankoroni’s women garden financed by the LDS Church of West Africa
  • Started a new partnership with the Cleaning Association in Ouelessebougou; they organized beautiful parties to welcome our team: traditional singer with more than 50 women and 30 men attended the event
  • Visited the Ouelessebougou Hospital to understand the challenges of the OB/GYN departments, pediatric and maternity
  • Trained the Healthy Village Workshop Phase 2 in Faraba, opened ceremony of the new manual pump financed by the LDS Charities of West Africa, and taught Days for Girls lesson and distributed 23 hygiene kits to the participants
  • Taught Men Who Know lessons to a group of adults and young people in Faraba 2
  • Visited Oure and Faradie to understand their health challenges and spent time with our health agent and matron
  • The Ouelessebougou Alliance’s youth Ambassador, Emma, raised enough fund to purchase 150 handwashing buckets and 150 kettles for the entire families in N’tentoukoro.
  • The Wash Project donated 150 bottles of soap to the people of N’Tentoukoro. The Ouelessebougou Alliance and the Wash Project teamed up and provided a handwashing with soap training to the heads of the N’tentoukoro heads of families.
  • Malaria team visited Mana, Zelani, Banankoro Djitoumou and worked several days in Bamako with the local Malaria experts on the Mosquito Abatement Program

You can learn more about what we did and see photos and videos by following us on social media. We regularly post updates and share impact stories from our expedition.

Instagram: @oa4mali

Twitter: @oa4mali