2014 Year-End Newsletter

Dear Build a School in Africa Supporters,

School #12 in N'Golokouna

School #12 in N’Golokouna

Thanks to some very generous donations at the end of last year, rather than wait until the end of the year we were able to wire funds in January for our 12th school, built in N’Golokouna, a village in the Kapala commune near the border with Burkina Faso. Construction started in January. This is a good time to build, because it’s the dry season, the harvests are over, and the residents are available to supply the unskilled labor that makes up part of their contribution to the project, in addition to their donation of the land, foundation stones, and sand and gravel, which are usually gathered locally. It’s also the coolest time of year, with construction pretty much finished by the time the really hot weather begins.

Summer 2014 Trail Ride

Summer 2014 Trail Ride

Our summer trail ride fundraiser was successful, with over 40 riders enjoying the beautiful trails in Groton, Massachusetts, riding 8, 14 or 20 miles on a marked trail through woods and fields, with a home-cooked African buffet dinner after the ride.

In November we were grateful recipients of a very generous grant from the Institute for World Justice, and we just wired the funds for our 13th school, for which we will break ground this week in Kartioni, about 12 miles east of Sikasso. Kartioni currently has just one cement block classroom, shared by 5th and 6th grades, one mud-brick classroom for grades 3 and 4, and classes for the youngest students are held in a vestibule elsewhere in the village.

Our new building will enable them to have all the students in one area. In a very encouraging trend, there are currently more girls than boys enrolled in school in Kartioni, and it has been our experience that wherever we have built a school, overall enrollment has increased. It is also easier to hire and retain teachers when they can teach in a bright, airy and durable new building, rather than in dark, stuffy mud-brick buildings that have to be re-plastered after every rainy season.

Our Director, Judy LoDSC01490rimer, did not take her annual visit Mali in 2014; although there have been only a few Ebola cases there, it seemed prudent to delay travel to the area until the epidemic is completely controlled. Our goal is to be able to construct our 14th school by the end of 2015.

We wish you a joyful year in 2015!

Judy Lorimer, Project Director

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Requesting Funds from Us

Please do not ask us to supply funding to other projects. We have been receiving an increasing number of requests to fund worthy school construction projects in many parts of Africa. However, we are a very small organization with limited resources and fund-raising capabilities, and must confine our school projects to the Sikasso region of Mali. For the near future, at least, we cannot expand beyond this region and cannot provide funding for other organizations. We wish you luck and success with your own projects, but we are unable to provide any assistance. Thank you.

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How do we fund new school buildings in Africa?

How do we build new primary schools in West Africa? It costs about US $30,000 to build a bright, modern, well-ventilated, concrete-block primary school in Mali. These schools usually replace mud-brick schoolrooms which are small, dark, stuffy, and require constant upkeep. A new school building by itself doesn’t guarantee that every child will get a good education–you also need good teachers, books, etc. But a clean, dry place to learn is a necessary component. It is also easier to recruit and retain teachers if they have a bright and airy new classrooms in which to teach.

So how do we do it? Where does the money come from? From people like you! We extend a huge thank you to our latest donors, the students, faculty, staff, and parents of the Burlingame Intermediate School in California. In February 2014, the school held a fundraising campaign, with a goal of raising $1500 to help build a school in Mali, West Africa. They exceeded their goal and raised $3,656, which will go a long way toward helping build our next school, scheduled for Kartioni next fall. This short video describes the gaps in primary education in Africa, and a little bit about their fundraising campaign.

We’ve been incredibly fortunate to receive donations from schools, churches and individuals. Fund-raising ideas have ranged from bake sales, car washes, and spaghetti suppers to a young woman who ran a marathon and raised $1,000 in pledges from family, friends and co-workers. Visit our Contribute page to learn more!

Note: The statement that many second-graders in Mali could not read a word in French may be true, but it should be noted that most schools start teaching in the local language (Bambara, Fulani, Songhai…) for the first couple of years and don’t begin French until grade 3.

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New School Construction Underway in Ngolokouna

Talk about starting off 2014 with a bang!  When our Director Judy Lorimer left for Mali in November we had just $55.65 left in our construction account. Then we received a $5,000 donation from a family foundation, $500 from the Four Square and a Roof Foundation in Canada, and $10,000 from ABTech Technologies in California, giving us enough for our next school!

The next school construction project has already begun in the village of Ngolokouna, in the Kapala Commune south of Sikasso in southern Mali. We decided not to wait until November because they really need help!

School construction usually starts in November during the cool and dry season in Mali. In a country whose economy is based on agriculture, nearly everyone is helping in the fields from May to October. During the hot season, usually beginning in February, manual labor gets increasingly difficult. However, as of right now, harvest time is over, no one is in the fields, and it hasn’t started to get brutally hot, so it made sense not to wait to get this project underway.

You can read some background about the village of Ngolokouna in this document (PDF, 120K) from our partners in Mali.

The two existing mud-brick classrooms in Ngolokouna. As you can see in the top and bottom photos, the windows are very small, so the rooms are dark and stuffy, and get very hot during the day.

Poor latrines for girls and boys. These do not have sealed tanks, so they can contaminate drinking water supplies if they are too near a well. The latrines BSA builds have concrete pits to protect local water sources.

Grade 5 classroom

Grades 1 and 3


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Year-End Newsletter

Dear Build a School in Africa Supporters,

In spite of the political unrest in Mali in 2012, Build a School in Africa was able to build its 10th school, in the small village of Kounfouna. My annual trip, which had been postponed until January 2013, had to be canceled because French and Pan-African troops went into northern Mali just 2 days before my flight, and there were State Department warnings about travel to Mali. However, the funds had already been wired to Sikasso, and we were able to go ahead with the Kounfouna project, with construction starting in February 2013 and finished by early May.New School in Konfouna, Mali

Politically, things have stabilized in most of Mali. There have been occasional skirmishes in the north around Kidal and Timbuctou, but they have been quickly put down by French and Malian troops. The presidential election took place in July, with Ibrahim Boubacar Keita winning a decisive victory in a peaceful election, and Parliamentary elections also took place peacefully on December 1.

New School in Konfouna, MaliSince I had been unable to visit Kounfouna in 2012 , we visited the new school early in November to see it in operation. The village put on a huge celebration, with music and dancing and lots of speeches. This tiny village had not had ANY school until 2012; miles (over really terrible roads) from the nearest community with a school, almost none of their children had access to any education. In 2012 a first grade was started in a windowless storeroom, hardly a satisfactory learning environment, but now that they have two bright new classrooms—with hopes to add more in the future—the children of Koufouna have a much brighter future. They currently have just one teacher, who shuttles between the first and second grade classes, but the mayor has promised to hire another teacher, and has also promised to give free birth certificates to any parents who wish to enroll their children, so we expect that the number of children in school will increase dramatically.

New School in Konfouna, MaliFundraising continued during 2013 for our 11th school, sited in Kongoliko, in the Blendio commune north of Niena. They already had one cement block classroom, and Build a School in Africa is adding two more. We started construction in Kongoliko on November 12th, and the school is already almost half finished. Upon completion. that will have 3 cement block classrooms that meet government standards, as well as three of the old-style mud-brick classrooms, which have definitely seen better days, but at least they can serve grades 1 through 6.

New School in Konfouna, MaliFor 2014, we hope to build our 12th school since 2005; there are a number of communities on a waiting list and our partners in Mali will soon be drawing up community profiles before making a decision on where it will be. Wishing you health and happiness in 2014.


Judy Lorimer, Project Director

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Close to Fundraising Goal for School #11

We are pleased to announce that our next school building project will be in Kongoliko, Mali, a small village between Bougouni and Sikasso.  We’ve almost reached our fundraising goal — right now we have $14,500 — just about $500 short of our annual $15,000 goal.

If you’ve thought about giving in the past, now would be a great time! We just need a $500 boost to put us over the top!

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School #10 Finished

School #10 is finished!  Here are recent photos of the new school buidlings in Konfouna.

Konfouna 3 Konfouna 2 Konfouna 1

Now we’re making plans for the next school project. We already  have about 85% of the funds we need to reach our $15,000 goal for the next school. Our collaborators in Mali are putting together community profiles so we can choose our next site. There’s a village near Niena, along the Bougouni-Sikasso road, that looks promising. We’ll keep you posted! Volunteer Judy Lorimer is currently planning on a trip to Mali in November, insh’Allah.

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Message to Our Supporters

To Build a School in Africa supporters, past and present,

A message from Build a School president Judy Lorimer:

Here is an update on our school building progress:  when we started in 2002, we thought we’d be fortunate to raise enough money to help build ONE school; we are now building our 10th and already have a good portion of the funds we’ll need for our 11th school (to be started in November 2013). We couldn’t have done it without the help of many individuals and groups.

In spite of the turmoil in Mali over the past year, we have continued with our project, and
just broke ground on our 10th school, in the village of Kounfouna, a short distance southwest of Sikasso. Their present classrooms are mud brick buildings with no windows, so the new school will be a huge improvement. The project started just a couple of weeks ago and the walls are already up!

I did cancel my January trip because of State Department warnings, but am planning to go in November to visit this school and see the kids in their new classrooms, and to attend the groundbreaking ceremonies for school # 11 (site to be determined). Original plans to build a school to serve 4 villages near MʼPessoba were put on hold when the communities started to quarrel about where to locate the school. Rather than get involved in the spat, we went to the next school on our waiting list.

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Fundraiser for Health Project in Berkeley, California

Our friends at The Dokotoro Project invite readers in Northern California to a house party that will feature fantastic Malian music, food, and drinks.

The Dokotoro Project is raising funds to translate and publish the book “Where There Is No Doctor” in Bambara, a national language of Mali, West Africa. It is the world’s most widely used guidebook for community health, published by the Hesperian Foundation in Berkeley. We’re celebrating the completion of our first two chapters at a friend’s beautiful home in the Berkeley Hills.

We’ll be featuring a DJ playing African classics, and live music by Karamo Susso from The Gambia, master of the kora, a 21-stringed African harp. More surprises TBA! More details and RSVP below.

Join us to celebrate the completion of our first two chapters at a launch party hosted at a beautiful home in the Berkeley Hills. Fantastic bay views, crisp autumn air, great company, live kora music and delicious West African food and drinks.

Sunday, November 11, 2012
3 – 7 pm
RSVP to michelle@dokotoro.org for location and full details

Rides will be available from the North Berkeley BART. A donation request will be made at the event.

For those of you who cannot attend but still want to support this effort, please make an online donation.


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The Situation in Mali and How It Affects Our School Construction Projects

As many of you know, a crisis has been unfolding in Mali for several months now. In March 2012, a group of military officers staged a coup, dissolving the current government, and sending the president into exile just weeks before elections were to be held. The coup has been widely condemned by many Malians, and by foreign governments in Africa, Europe, and the West. In April, a group of Touareg rebels and Islamist militants captured three of Mali’s regional centers in the north (Gao, Timbuktu, Taoudenni).

The Tuaregs are an ethnic group in Mali’s north, and groups of Tuaregs have staged a number of rebellions against the central government over the past century. However, it seems that the Touareg revolutionaries have largely beens swept aside by Islamist groups Ansar Dine and Al Qaeda in the Magreb who seek to impose a strict form of sharia law heretofore unknown in Mali.

Islamist groups have engaged in jihadism, terrorism and arms trafficking, and committed atrocities in the northern Malian cities of Timbuktu, Gao, and Douentza. Recent reports have indicated widespread human rights abuses. The UN reports that as many as 450,000 Malians have fled their homes for refugee camps in Mauritania and Niger, or to seek shelter with friends or family in southern Mali. In October 2012, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution urging a military action to remove Islamists that are terrorizing the population in the northern Mali.

How does all of this affect our work?

First, rest assured that none of our volunteers or collaborators is in harm’s way. Our current school construction projects are in the Sikasso region, well away from the violence in the north. For 2012, we are planning to break ground on a new school in the southern part of the Segou region, which is also far from the violence.

Second, we plan to continue our fundraising and construction projects as usual. We feel that our work is more important now than ever. Following the coup, most non-governmental organizations and foreign governments have withdrawn all aid other than essential humanitarian aid. This has meant the loss of jobs for many, and impacted local economies.

Our president and super-volunteer Judy Lorimer usually travels to Mali in November each year. Due to the current situation, she is postponing her trip annual trip until at least January, while keeping tabs on the situation and talking to our friends in Mali. While  northern Mali is unsafe for travel, in the capital and southern regions, for many life goes on as usual. There have been several protests in the capital Bamako, mostly peaceful, although there have been a few instances of violence. In fact, one recent article indicated that gold and cotton producers (two of Mali’s largest exports) are doing well due to high prices on the international marketplace.

Malians need our help now more than ever.

The conflict has created a refugee crisis. While many northerners have fled to cities in the south, many others living in refugee camps across the border in Mauritania and Niger. Each of these countries is dealing with food shortages, and conditions for refugees are extremely difficult, with poor sanitation that can lead to outbreaks of cholera and other diseases. Please consider making a donation to one of the organizations that is providing aid directly to refugees:

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