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Friday, February 12, 2010

Diary from Mali: VP of Fund Development, Anwar Khan

Stirring and frying peanuts for peanut butter.

Monday, February 8, 2010

We arrived at Bamako airport at 2.30 am on Sunday. It took 30 hours to travel from Dallas to Bamako. I and my wife met up with the rest of the delegation in London.There are 11 staff and volunteers on this trip to Mali. After a few hours of rest we went to see three orphans.Ibrahim is now 18 and was an orphan when he was 8. His mother explained that she was not able to receive help, even from family. She is too old to work. Ibrahim would not have been able to eat more than one meal a day, or go to school without support.Now he is planning to go to University. We met several orphans in the slums of Bamako. Without assistance it is a struggle for them to survive. Many were farmers who lost their farms and moved to the city. In the city they did not have their family support and were alone when the male head of the family died.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010
The orphans we visited today were living in single family homes, but with up to 50 people. There were between 5 to 10 people per room. In one house there were 26 children from several families. I have never seen so many children live together in such confined spaces. Meeting orphans, hearing their stories, and watching their widowed mothers cry has a sobering effect. I saw most of my group with tears in their eyes and looks of despair. I reminded them we have to smile on the outside, even when our heart is breaking on the inside. We want to show respect and empathy, not pity and despair.

In the afternoon we went to see community microfinance associations. The widows in these areas formed community associations that would receive interest-free loans to help support businesses set up by local widows. They produce soap and peanut butter from local supplies and sell the final product in the market place.

The widows were very gracious and allowed me to help them make soap by hand in the local traditional way. Another group was roasting peanuts under a wooden fire and then crushing the peanuts to make peanut butter. The peanut butter tasted delicious. There is no salt, or sugar added, the special ingredient is pride and respect. The widows association is giving a voice to these women and providing a social network for them.


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