American Friends of Le Korsa is a dynamic non-profit organization that works directly with dedicated doctors, teachers, and students in Senegal to improve human lives. Operating programs at carefully selected sites, responding quickly and immediately to emergencies, we are astonishingly effective. Our actions are concrete, designed to fulfill urgent needs. We are in constant contact with our network of Senegalese colleagues to make sure that we are achieving our goals, and the results are extraordinary.
While we recognize that we cannot provide global solutions, we have, with very specific projects, all small-scale compared to what larger and better-known charities do, made a tremendous difference in the areas of medical care, education, and cultural enrichment in a part of the world where the needs are urgent and substantial.
AFLK is devoted to action that is direct and effective. We do not have a cushy infrastructure, and any money that we receive goes to work, verifiably, in Senegal; as an accredited 501(c)(3) nonprofit, all donations are tax deductible and we are also legally incorporated in Senegal.
I created AFLK in 2005 initially to find American support for a French NGO, Le Kinkeliba. Its name is that of a popular Senegalese herbal remedy, reflecting the respect for local tradition that underlay its endeavor to provide the benefits of western medicine in rural Africa. I was eager to help Le Kinkeliba after I traveled to Dakar and then on to the remote reaches of eastern Senegal with the organization’s founder, the Paris-based dermatologist Gilles Degois, where I saw the fantastic impact of his work. By having French dentists and ophthalmologists and other of his professional colleagues team up with Senegalese partners to bring modern medical practices to people desperately in need, by building modest but appealing facilities for this work, and by engaging successfully with the local populations, Dr. Degois showed how much can be done to make a demonstrable difference in the well-being and health of others. He created a library with donations from Catherine Camus (daughter of the novelist,) and established kindergartens and a community farm. And he developed residential facilities to give high-school-aged girls a salubrious setting to continue their education. To this day, his Foyer des Jeune Filles, a safe residence on the outskirts of the city of Tambacounda, allows gifted young women to complete their educations and so to have an alternative to their proscribed existences of marriage at age twelve and the obligations of raising large families while still teenagers themselves. Le Kinkeliba no longer exists, while AFLK changed its name from American Friends of Le Kinkeliba to American Friends of Le Korsa—“korsa” is the word in Pulaar, the local language in eastern Senegal, for love and kindness—and continues to assist and support some of Dr. Degois’s original projects while undertaking new ones of our own.
In the remote village of Sinthian, isolated from the world in one of the hottest and most arid parts of eastern Senegal, we have funded construction of a wonderful kindergarten, enabling children to learn to read and write in French at a younger age than when state education begins. This school, an assemblage of airy and attractive buildings, gives the little boys and girls access to running water for the first time in their lives, and assures them of two good meals every day. We have recently funded the building of housing for the devoted teachers who have come from great distances to teach there. We support the Sinthian medical center, the only one in a vast region, providing a fund for Magueye Ba, the excellent doctor in charge, to cover the cost of treatment of patients with malaria and AIDS and other illnesses. We buy medicine for people who cannot afford it, and, when necessary, cover the cost of patients needing urgent hospital care who are not able to pay for it.
Now we have constructed a fantastic cultural center in Sinthian. Designed gratis by the world-renowned architect Toshiko Mori, who has joined us on repeated trips there, THREAD is an uplifting building, constructed at low cost with local materials to fit in perfectly with the indigenous style while providing a true élan, which offers residencies to dancers, painters, writers, and others coming from all over the world in order to develop their own work in this setting and to help teach the local population. Nick Murphy, an energetic young staff member at the Albers Foundation, is developing this project and establishing vital liaisons with people from all over the world to make it work.
We believe that people everywhere need more of the opportunities known to many of us in wealthier countries. No one should be denied life’s pleasures, sports among them. At Sinthian we are constructing a tennis court and other athletic facilities and organizing programs of instruction.
At the same time, depending on the old-fashioned approach to water collection, we have dug a well and installed a pump in the nearby village of Dialico so that a group of some thirty women, all of whom have started for the first time to grow vegetables other than the peanuts and corn which have been the sole local staples, no longer have to walk miles every day in the blistering heat carrying buckets of water on their heads.
Under the guidance of Magueye Ba, we discovered the medical center he built at Fass, on the far side of the Gambia River. By providing Fass with the electricity and running water it previously lacked, funding an ambulance, and constructing a maternity unit there, we give the possibility of safe and effective medical care to tens of thousands of people who otherwise would have faced an impossible journey by horse cart, dugout canoe, and four-wheel drive vehicle, rugged enough if one is feeling healthy, often not survivable if one is in dire need.
In the city of Tambacounda, we work with the outstanding director of social services at the single hospital for this city of 1.5 million inhabitants, to buy medicine for infants and babies who are orphans or whose parents lack the money to pay for it. When needed, we have funded the evacuation of patients to Dakar, a journey of twelve hours; among other things, that is where the nearest scanners and MRI equipment are.
In Dakar, we work with the pediatric neurosurgeon Seydou Badiane, who counts on us for vital support, enabling him to acquire shunts and drainage tubes so that he has what is needed for each patient rather than being forced to re-use them on multiple occasions and risk infection. We have refurbished a pediatric unit that was in horrendous disrepair and is now efficient and cheerful. We also support a pioneering center devoted to women’s and children’s health issues and nutrition in Derklé, one of the poorest neighborhoods of Dakar. We found them a donor for powdered milk, the supply having been cut off; the 15,000 Euros this generous individual gave last year and recently renewed for 2014 means that toddlers who would otherwise suffer horribly from malnutrition enjoy energy and health.
We give scholarships and provide accommodations for as many as twenty scholarship students at the University of Dakar. Some of them come from Sinthian and the surrounding region, and are the first members of their families to be educated past the age of ten and to go to their nation’s capital city. We work closely with each student, monitoring his or her progress, occasionally needing to stop the support of a slacker but far more often allowing hard-working, serious young people to achieving their impressive goals.
In the city of Thiès, we have a strong liaison with a remarkable school where Muslim and Christian children are educated together and given unprecedented opportunities to advance in life. We recently covered the expense of the rehabilitation of its classrooms, which surround a garden and playground, and we provide scholarships and partial-scholarships to families that cannot afford the full tuition, which is the equivalent of five dollars a month.
We have recently developed a vital partnership with Project C.U.R.E., a remarkable American non-profit, based in Denver, that gives used but refurbished American hospital equipment, all in tiptop running order, and medical supplies to places in the world where they are desperately needed. Since starting this partnership in 2014, we have succeeded in bringing over 1.5 million dollars worth of vital material to the hospitals and medical centers where we work. I met with the Minister of Health in Dakar in order to assure the exoneration of customs charges for these donations—there is a history of donations from non-profits intended for Senegalese institutions ending up sitting in Dakar harbor and then eventually getting returned to the donors, because of the high import duties that can be imposed on them—and we have recently delivered everything from wheelchairs and operating tables to blood pressure monitors and cartons of surgical gloves to recipients who specified their needs for this material. We fund the construction of the shipping containers and the transport and delivery expenses; Project C.U.R.E. provides the incredible furniture and equipment.
AFLK is flourishing. We have remarkable friends in Dakar and in eastern Senegal, with whom we have a superb partnership, and the team of people now working for us in the U.S. and in Senegal—Allegra Itsoga, our brilliant and energetic director; Nick Murphy, the insightful and innovative Director of THREAD; Moussa Sene, the on-site manager of THREAD and our go-to person throughout the Tambacounda region; Louis Valentin, our liaison with all of the people we try to serve in Dakar and in rural regions; and Anne Sisco and Brenda Danilowitz, at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in Connecticut, who offer perpetual help to our work—truly make fantastic things happen.
We know there is a limit to what we can do, but we succeed in stretching a relatively small amount of money in order to achieve amazing results. Our hope is that, beyond helping to the extent we can, we will set an example of how much can be achieved with relative ease and at a low cost.
We count on you to continue to make it all possible.
-Nicholas Fox Weber, Founder and President of AFLK