Thread featured in AFRIKArchi Magazine
Oct 30, 2015
Thread has been featured in the latest issue of AFRIKArchi magazine; please click here to read an online version of the article.
AFRIKArchi is a French non-profit association devoted to promoting architecture and urban renewal throughout Africa.
Report from August trip to Senegal: Part 3
Sep 17, 2015
Yaya Diallo, whose education AFLK has supported from adolescence through his university degree and licensing in agro-forestry, is now Coordinator of Agricultural Projects for AFLK. Since April, he has been managing an AFLK-funded initiative to help women earn income through market gardening, or small-scale agricultural production, in the villages of Dialico and Sinthian. In both villages, women have formed associations in order to organize the harvesting and selling of okra, and have learned key agricultural techniques in the process.
In August, we saw the projects firsthand, and heard from Yaya about how they were developing. “In Dialico, the women harvest 20-25 kilograms of okra every three days, and one kilogram of okra is sold for 700 CFA,” Yaya said. That’s approximately $1.20 per kilogram, so every week the women can earn almost $30 from the crop, which is a considerable sum for the area. They pool their income through a Groupement d’Intérêt Economique, or a consortium designed to promote economic advantage, with the goal of having enough funds to undertake other projects.
Prior to working with Yaya, the women of Dialico were growing okra, but were expending greater energy for a lesser yield. The increased production — and decreased difficulty of labor — is thanks to the installation of a solar-powered pump for the village’s well, which feeds an irrigation system deployed throughout the garden. Yaya and Moussa Sene, the General Manager of Thread, helped the villagers set up the system. “When we installed the pump, it was a huge change,” Yaya said. “The time the women spent watering went from two hours to 30 or 45 minutes,” he added.
Because Dialico is in the arid region of Tambacounda, where the rainy season lasts but three months, it has an extremely deep well — dug to approximately 80 feet — in order to reach the water table. The labor required to haul up water from that depth, and then to carry it throughout the garden, was extremely taxing for the women. “Often, they wouldn’t even finish watering everything in one evening,” Yaya said. But now the pump distributes the water easily and efficiently, and not just to the garden, but to the villagers for general usage as well. “Everyone relies on it for all their needs, from laundry to drinking water to bathing to household chores,” Yaya said.
In Sinthian, the women are also making use of a solar-powered irrigation system to grow okra, but having not had prior experience with the crop’s cultivation, they are doing it on a smaller scale than at Dialico. “There, it’s an experiment in teaching the women to become market gardeners,” Yaya said. The women have planted a parcel of land on the site of Thread, which yields four to six kilograms of okra every three days. They sell the crop among themselves in the village, but are gaining confidence in their farming capabilities and plan to expand. “We are currently looking for a larger growing site,” Yaya said. “The women told me that they had always tried to have a market garden, but this is the first time that they have actually seen the fruits of their labors,” he added.
In Sinthian, as in Dialico, the goals are to keep expanding the projects so that the women can improve their economic situation. Thanks to the women’s hard work, and the expert assistance of Yaya and Moussa, we are seeing that it is possible.
Report from August trip to Senegal: Part 2
Sep 10, 2015
We at AFLK are always trying to think of new ways in which we can help people improve their access to healthcare, and so their health and well-being, in the Tambacounda region. One of our goals is to bring health specialists to the region so that they can share their expertise with the local doctors and nurses.
In August, we were joined by Paris-based physical therapist and professional masseur Alexandre Guillaumin, who traveled to Sinthian to train Dr. Magueye Ba in basic physical therapy techniques, and to treat patients suffering from musculoskeletal problems. Alex is a longtime friend of AFLK who has visited Sinthian twice before, and on a prior visit, he and Dr. Ba had discussed the idea of Alex returning to work in the local clinics.
“During my other two visits to Sinthian, I used several different massage techniques on Dr. Ba, who, because of his work, had back problems,” Alex said. “Because of that, Dr. Ba asked me if we could organize some open hours at the Sinthian medical clinic, during which I could use similar techniques to treat some of his patients, because there are no physical therapists or specialists in musculoskeletal problems in the Tambacounda region,” Alex added.
“Over five days, I worked in the medical centers of Bala, Fass and Sinthian, seeing about two dozen patients. Most of these patients were suffering from chronic lower back pain as a result of working long hours in the fields or the banana plantations, and being bent over most of the time. While I treated these patients, I also trained Dr. Ba in a few techniques that he could use on his own to treat these conditions,” Alex said.
In addition to showing Dr. Ba specific procedures he could use to treat patients, Alex also provided patients with stretching regimens they could perform on their own in order to alleviate their conditions. Alex will be returning to Sinthian once per year to continue working with Dr. Ba.
An AFLK Scholarship Student is Making Strides in his Studies
Sep 02, 2015
Assane Sal Sow, a scholarship student who is supported by American Friends of Le Korsa, recently completed a Level 3 English course in the Amideast / Tunisia Language Course. Assane attends university in Tunisia, and is in his fourth year of studying food engineering and the food industry.
“These studies were always my dream,” Assane said. “Senegal has many agricultural products which are not transformed into food by a lack of enterprise,” he added.
Assane is now thinking about ways to use Senegal’s raw products, such as mangoes, tomatoes, bananas, and milk, to help develop a food industry throughout the country.
After graduation, Assane plans to spend a year abroad — perhaps in Canada — working in project management, so his strong English skills will be very helpful as he looks for a position. He then plans to return to Senegal to put his experience to work in the agricultural and food sectors.
Bravo, Assane! All of us at AFLK wish you luck in your fourth year!
Please click here about more information on American Friends of Le Korsa’s scholarship program.
Report from August trip to Senegal: Part 1
Aug 21, 2015
Between August 1 and August 15, American Friends of Le Korsa’s United States-based staff were in Senegal to meet with staff and partners in Dakar, Tambacounda and Sinthian. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting reports and photos from the trip, but we wanted to start by posting some photos of our visit with Madame Khady Guèye, director of social services at Tambacounda Hospital.
Madame Guèye graciously showed us some of the medical equipment that AFLK, in partnership with Project C.U.R.E., helped to donate to the hospital in March.
A young donor makes his mark
Jul 01, 2015
We recently added an extraordinary young friend to our list of supporters: Sam Bruchet, a 12-year old boy from Cork, Ireland. He has raised over 500 euros for AFLK by completing a series of athletic feats, which included running 3.2 miles, swimming 25 pool lengths, hitting the crossbar of a soccer goal five times, and playing a round of tennis. Sam’s generous family and friends sponsored him to complete these challenges.
Sam, whose mother Fiona Kearney is the director of the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in Cork, has known about our work since first meeting AFLK’s Founder and President Nicholas Fox Weber several years ago. But it was just earlier this spring that he decided to help. In June, he presented his donation to Mr. Fox Weber, along with a letter that detailed the physical tasks he completed to raise the 500 euros.
In the regions of Senegal where we do our work, 500 euros is enough money to pay for cataract surgery and follow-up treatment for someone who otherwise would not have a chance of it, or to send two children to kindergarten for a year, or to provide life-saving nutrition for scores of infants and toddlers.
Thank you, Sam!
Introducing AFLK’s French affiliate and partner, Les Amis Du Korsa
Jun 09, 2015
Les Amis du Korsa (LAMKO) is a French non-profit association created in 2015 to support medical, educational, agricultural and cultural projects in Senegal. It welcomes donations which are deductible up to 66% from French income tax.
The association is a French cousin of American Friends of Le Korsa. LAMKO’s immediate mandate is to provide financial support for AFLK’s current and future projects. New projects may also be developed in response to major donations by individual philanthropists.
AFLK’s work is concentrated in an arid Pular-speaking region of eastern Senegal. In the town of Tambacounda, it provides assistance to a local hospital and a foyer which houses students from villages attending secondary school. Some receive AFLK scholarships for higher education. In the village of Sinthian, it supports a medical center, a kindergarten and an elementary school and it recently built a cultural center which serves as a residence for foreign and Senegalese artists and an arena for local cultural events. In the nearby village of Fass, AFLK supports a medical center and has plans to build an elementary school.
The founders of LAMKO have visited these projects and endorse AFLK’s strategy of working with local leaders – teachers, doctors, artists and sportsmen – to address specific needs.
Nicholas Fox Weber, the Executive Director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, is president of both AFLK and LAMKO. Run by volunteers, the French association has no overhead costs. AFLK’s administrative costs do not exceed 2% of donations.
Donations and inquiries can be directed to Allegra Itsoga, email@example.com
Hope Arrives on a Truck in Tambacounda
Jun 03, 2015
Dear Friend of AFLK:
On May 5, a truckload of splendid hospital equipment arrived at Tambacounda Hospital. The surgical operating table, hospital crib, seven beds for the intensive care unit, incubators, IV poles, boxes of baby bottles, syringes, speculums, bandages, surgical gloves, and other supplies had started their journey in Denver, Colorado. It took eleven years for this to happen, but the material is already being used, and the gift has been celebrated by local doctors and government officials and in the newspapers, giving people in that isolated city, statistically the hottest on the planet, incalculable happiness.
The bill of lading reads like poetry to me. And even though the videos of the arrival sent to me by the hospital’s superb and devoted director include, in one instance, the sight of a carton of supplies falling off the back of the densely packed truck in which it arrived, one can feel nothing but joy about this.
In 2004, when Gilles Degois took me to Senegal for the first time, we went to Tambacounda Hospital. He handed over a duffle bag full of vials of blood, desperately needed there, which he had brought with him from Paris. The director gave us a tour. He showed me the one surgical operating table, so dilapidated that it could no longer be raised or lowered, and told me that a second table had been stolen en route. I resolved in my mind to try to get them a new table, and, returning to my usual haunts, asked friends at Yale New Haven Hospital and doctors in New York and Ireland if there were discarded tables available for this part of the world where a secondhand table, not necessarily the latest model which would be wanted at more prosperous institutions, would be an incredible gift. There were lots of promises, and no follow-through.
Then, some three years ago, a friend, Deborah Kobe Norris, took interest in what AFLK was doing. Debbie joined one of our trips, after which her daughter Ellie, excited by what she learned about us, did research on used medical equipment in the U.S. Ellie discovered Project C.U.R.E., an exceptional non-profit organization based in Denver that has warehouses full of material no longer considered prime by American hospitals, but renovated as needed and in good working order. AFLK got in touch with Project C.U.R.E. and funded the trip of Dr. Martina Schulte who does site visit evaluations for the organization to determine equipment needs. Marty’s report resulted in Project C.U.R.E. approving the donation of three containers of material, with highly detailed lists of what was most necessary having been worked out by our indefatigable director Allegra Itsoga, Marty, and doctors and nurses in Dakar, Sinthian, and Tambacounda.
Moustapha Diouf saw to the details of the first two containers, ensuring that their contents were delivered to Fann Hospital and the clinics in Sinthian, Fass, and elsewhere. And, less than two weeks ago, Louis Valentin went through hell and high water to hand original documents to the right people and overcome unimaginable bureaucratic obstacles in order to get that precious container through Senegalese customs. At one point, the situation became so dicey that I wrote to anyone I thought might help, and Azeb Rufin and Seydou Badiane, the first in Paris and the second in Senegal, responded immediately and went to bat for us with the right people. Louis plugged away tirelessly, practically sleeping on the docks. He prevailed, and the container was released. It was unloaded, with the rich contents filling a large truck to the brim, and finally transported on the ten hour journey to Tambacounda.
We agreed to fund the containers and the transport; Project C.U.R.E. agreed to give material worth about $1.5 million. I went to Dakar to meet with the Minister of Health to obtain an exoneration of import duties and other charges at customs, since, as is now the case in Nepal, the government usually imposes prohibitive taxes and fees even on donations to non-profits from non-profits. My greatest fear had been that, as happens with so many gifts to Senegal, the donation would sit in the port and then eventually be returned to the donor or sent elsewhere.
Tambacounda Hospital is the only hospital in a vast region. It is at a crossroads for travelers to Mali and Guinea, where a large population is treated for malaria, the consequences of road accidents, and a range of other illnesses and difficulties. It has a staff of dedicated professionals, a devoted director who has moved from the comforts of Dakar to this less desirable outpost in order to serve the people in his country who most need him, and, above all, patients who simply want to live and enjoy decent health.
We thank you wholeheartedly for all that you have done to make this possible.
Nicholas Fox Weber
Mosquito Nets to Provide Malaria Protection at St. Anne’s School
Jan 24, 2015
AFLK recently awarded a grant of $10,000 to Saint Anne’s school in Thies, an hour south of Dakar, to pay for the installation of mosquito netting and louver slats on their windows as well as fans for all of the classrooms. Before this grant, the students at Saint Anne’s had two choices: sit in a closed classroom in the sweltering African sun with temperatures that more often than not reach well beyond 100 degrees, or open the windows to allow a bit of airflow and battle the barrage of malaria-carrying mosquitos.
With this grant, nets dipped in mosquito deterrent and fans that help to circulate cool fresh air protect them. Students are now able to concentrate on what is most important: their education. A child dies every minute in Africa from malaria. Nets are the number one way to protect them.
Five Local Hospitals Receive Medical Supplies from Project C.U.R.E.
Our partnership with Project C.U.R.E., a Denver based NGO that provides refurbished and recycled medical equipment and supplies to the developing world, has been extremely fruitful. Two shipping containers, with over one million dollars in goods, arrived safely in Dakar this month. Each was packed with a variety of medical equipment, consumables, and furniture for use at five local hospitals to which AFLK has provided support for almost a decade.
The recipients were thrilled with the donation.Dr. Magueye Ba of the Sinthian and Fass medical centers told AFLK that infection due to equipment deterioration has always been an additional problem and said “What a relief to have such modern equipment and consumables that meet hygiene standards.” A third container will arrive shortly with supplies for a sixth hospital as well as extra goods to help all of our colleagues with Ebola prevention.
Upon a special request from AFLK, Project C.U.R.E. arranged for extra boxes of gloves and bottles of disinfectant to fill every available inch of space in the container, in order to take advantage of the shipment and guarantee hospitals have access to these desperately needed supplies. Simple items such as gloves and soap can mean the difference between an isolated case of Ebola and a full-fledged outbreak similar to what is happening in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
In the Era of Ebola
Oct 11, 2014
Josef Albers used to talk to me about reacting quickly and effectively to the givens of a situation. He said that open eyes, practical knowledge, and dexterity could lead to simple, gratifying solutions.
Many of you have already heard about Allegra Itsoga’s response to people’s concerns about Ebola in Senegal. This is a recap of her initial steps and an update on the results.
After returning from Senegal in September and then hearing that a single case of Ebola had been identified at Fann hospital, a scene of a lot of our work in Dakar, Allegra, Director of AFLK, was determined for us to help, to the extent feasible, to ensure that Senegal does not become the home of the next outbreak in West Africa. She asked Magueye Ba, the doctor at the Sinthian and Fass medical centers, our main bases in the extremely rural and isolated villages where AFLK operates in the region not far from the Gambia River, and Seydou Badiane, our close colleague who is head of neurosurgery at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Fann, where he specializes in brain surgery on small children, how we might help.
They and Allegra quickly developed a list of necessary supplies, and she determined the least expensive and most efficient way to deliver them. The goal is to ensure that, in the event of an outbreak, the medical staffs at these institutions have the necessary tools to isolate any cases and prevent further spread of the disease. Boxes of gloves, bottles of disinfectant, protective eye goggles, and other supplies were purchased, and our staff members based in Dakar delivered them in a matter of days.
In addition, AFLK assembled 1000 “Ebola Protection Kits” for distribution in Sinthian. Each kit contains a box of rubber gloves, two bars of soap, hand sanitizer, a large bottle of bleach, a bag that can be sealed to dispose of contaminated items, and a poster teaching villagers how to recognize the symptoms and stop the spread of Ebola. All items are stored in plastic buckets that can itself be used in the cleaning and disinfecting process. A team of student nurses, led by Idiatou Diallo, whose studies we have helped support through one of our scholarships for many years, has been distributing one kit to each family in Sinthian and the neighboring villages, and conducting educational seminars on how to recognize the symptoms of Ebola and the importance of seeking help immediately if exposure or infection are suspected.
Allegra also got in touch with our superb allies at Project CURE, the Denver-based non-profit that helps us bring large containers of medical equipment to Senegal. In the shipment that will be delivered at the end of the year, Project CURE will fill every inch of available space with extra boxes of gloves, and bottles of disinfectant, packing them around the operating tables and wheel chairs and blood pressure monitors and other material being given.
Our colleagues in Senegal say that these rudimentary supplies are desperately needed. Gloves and soap can mean the difference between an isolated case of Ebola and a full-fledged outbreak similar to what is happening in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
– Nicholas Fox Weber