Brick by brick, architecture that helps transform life in Senegal
Nov 20, 2020
The publication of Toshiko Mori Architect: Observations, and today’s Zoom conversation between Toshiko and our founder and president Nicholas Fox Weber (register here), is a moment to reflect on the two buildings Toshiko and Le Korsa, with our local partners, have created in rural Senegal.
The Fass School opened in 2019, becoming the first school in the Vèlingara region to offer girls and boys an elementary education alongside traditional Quranic instruction. It is a major achievement for a village where illiteracy has been nearly total. Now, over 200 girls and boys—including some coming from nearby villages—are receiving instruction in French and in Pulaar, their local language, helping them gain basic literacy. That sense of progress is reflected in the design of the building itself: the height of the ceiling increases as students move through upper classes, reinforcing their educational advancement.
In homage to Le Korsa’s founding by the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the school hearkens back to the one room schoolhouse in Germany where Josef Albers taught, and links this rural village to his ideals as an educator: “to open eyes.”
That same principle is at play in Thread, the artists’ residency and cultural center in Sinthian, which was the first building Toshiko Mori Architect completed in collaboration with Dr. Magueye Ba and Le Korsa, in 2015.
Its ovoid form, with two large oculi on each end, provides space for artists working en plein air, natural performance spaces for local dance and theater programs, and a place for the agricultural collectives we work with to hold meetings. The latter group also benefits, as the entire village does, from the roof’s funneling of rainwater into two holding basins, where it can then be used for gardening.
Without Thread, Le Korsa likely would have never helped organize these agricultural collectives—the space made it feasible, from having test gardens and a water source to a meeting place. Thanks to its space, we are also able to invite local experts to teach the women soapmaking, or canning, helping them expand their skills and their ability to earn income.
Congratulations, Toshiko! Thank you for showing how a great building can make so much possible.
Seams of Change
Nov 12, 2020
In recent years, the word entrepreneur has come to evoke a creative and successful individual who “disrupts” an existing system with an internet-based technology. But at the Foyer de Jeunes Filles in Tambacounda, the female entrepreneurs we work with are improving women’s lives with a simple technology: sewing machines.
Sutura, the small-scale sewing business we helped establish at the Foyer in 2017, is thriving by making reusable sanitary pads, tote bags, and masks. Its team, consisting of local tailors and former students of the Foyer, just received its biggest order yet: the NGO Carrefour International has requested over 3000 reusable pads. The huge order, which Sutura is beginning to fill, will raise several thousand dollars that will both pay the tailors who are part of Sutura and cover some of the cost of expanding their production space, which will allow them to grow their business.
(Want to help with the expansion? Donate!)
Sanitary pads are not readily available in Tambacounda. Their lack, combined with social stigma regarding menstruation, means that many young women find themselves in uncomfortable circumstances each month, improvising pads or skipping school. Sutura was created to help eliminate this problem, and was modeled on the business She for She, created by Mary Consolata Namagambe, who visited the Foyer to introduce the idea and to teach a small group to make reusable pads.
The initiative took off. The team was soon supplying pads to the Foyer and to Dr. Magueye Ba for distribution in the medical clinics of Sinthian, Fass and Kocoum. Sutura also began selling to local associations through word-of-mouth. “Now, numerous organizations devoted to reproductive health come to see me about ordering the pads,” said Maimouna Ka Sow, director of the Foyer, who helps Le Korsa oversee Sutura.
Sutura has even expanded its offerings to include tote bags and, because of the pandemic, masks. The small investment Le Korsa made in Sutura is paying off — the team now has the training and notoriety it needs to excel, and more young women have access to sanitary pads. Our hope is that soon enough, Sutura will be profitable on its own, and provide the Foyer with another source of income.
In the meantime, we hope you will join us in supporting these incredible entrepreneurs! A donation of just $5.00 will buy a set of reusable pads for a young woman in Tambacounda. If you can’t join us now, we hope you will save the date for #GivingTuesday on December 1, when people around the world join together to celebrate generosity. This year we are raising money for all of the Foyer’s programs, and we hope we can count on you.
Thank you, as always, for your support.
Expanded Sinthian Kindergarten to open this month
Nov 04, 2020
The Sinthian Kindergarten, which Le Korsa built in 2010, is set to reopen next week after the nationwide academic holiday. Thanks to an expansion, it will be even larger this year, capable of accommodating over 100 students.
Originally consisting of two classrooms and several teachers’ residences, the kindergarten will now feature a third classroom, built by Dr. Magueye Ba’s contracting team. His experience of building in the region allowed the construction to progress quickly, and to be ready to meet the demand of more students this year.
The kindergarten remains one of the linchpins of our rural educational programs. Because French is the language of Senegal’s public schools, which begin at the age of 7, it is imperative for students to learn the language at a young age in order to feel comfortable in the classroom. Sinthian’s kindergarten offers instruction in French, and in basic subjects such as math, geography, and art. The school also features running water and handwashing stations, ensuring that students develop good hygiene habits.
Renovations at the Women’s Center of Dakar to accommodate more patients
Oct 20, 2020
In 2016, Le Korsa and Dr. Juliette Faye opened Keur Djiguene Yi, the Women’s Health Center of Dakar, the first free, public, and government-sanctioned women’s health center in Senegal. Four years later, the center is seeing more patients than ever before and has expanded its staff and its space to meet demand. We could not be happier.
During KDY’s first year, Dr. Faye, who was working with one nurse at the time, offered complete reproductive and gynecological care, including pre- and post-natal exams, as well as education on contraception, family planning, HIV prevention, nutrition, and infant immunization, to just over 500 women. Word quickly spread about Dr. Faye’s warmth and excellence, as well as the center’s free care, and by 2018, 887 patients had visited the clinic. Many had brought their children for care, too.
“Because of the increase in patients, and the longer wait times, I asked for help and hired a second OBGYN as well as a pediatrician,” Dr. Faye said. Together, Dr. Faye and the center’s expanded staff — which now includes a second nurse — will see almost 1500 patients this year.
To handle the patient load, Dr. Faye and her team recently remodeled the center, which is accessibly located near a major bus station in the Derklé neighborhood of Dakar. “We transformed an office space into a second consultation room by adding a new examination table and screens for privacy,” Dr. Faye said. “We have also installed new cabinets for storing equipment and medicine, and we plan to add more chairs to the waiting room downstairs, so no one is obliged to wait outside,” she added.
All of these modifications will make the patients more comfortable, and the doctors better able to offer care. We hope that in the years to come, patient demand will be even higher, and we can make full use of the center’s three floors as well as its outdoor courtyard, which could be converted into a children’s playground or garden. To help support the center, please click here.
Fass School featured at Arch Daily
Oct 13, 2020
The Fass School, designed by Toshiko Mori, is given a close look in this feature at Arch Daily. Highlighting some of the technical and structural elements of the design, the article also features some of the architectural renderings, displaying the careful consideration that went into each and every decision about how this school could best serve its teachers and students.
Having opened last year, the school is now serving over 200 students, bringing elementary education to a region where students were receiving only Quranic instruction. It is a project we began working on in 2012.
Our primary goal was to bring a school to students who lacked one, but also to create a well-designed building that would support and enrich their experience. Toshiko Mori’s design does that through its form, an oval shape that “allows for easy circulation between classrooms, allowing the school’s few teachers to move quickly between classes.” Read more at Arch Daily.
Bac Passage Rate at Foyer de Jeunes Filles Is Higher than National Average
Oct 01, 2020
Students in Senegal who needed to take their Bac — the college entrance exam — did so late in August. At the Foyer de Jeunes Filles, the girls achieved a 50% acceptance rate, 10 points higher than the national average.
This is the second year in a row where the Foyer students have surpassed the national average. It is particularly impressive given the challenges all students and teachers faced this year.
“I want to thank our staff, all the parents, and most of all the students for their hard work in the difficult context of Covid 19,” said Maimouna Ka Sow, the director of the Foyer.
For the six students who passed their Bac, university awaits. If they choose to attend school in Dakar, they can take advantage of the program Le Korsa has created with Madame Sow, in which students from the Foyer share an apartment in Dakar. There, they can study and live together as they did at the Foyer, extending the community that contributed to their academic success while avoiding the often impossible situation of securing university housing in Dakar.
We are so proud of these students! In Senegal, only 32% of girls even enroll in secondary school. We are honored to support those who do so, and who go on to university. If you would like to support them too, please join us by making a donation.
Cashew trees against climate change
Sep 23, 2020
As unprecedented rains flooded parts of Senegal this summer, it became clear to us that we needed to redouble our efforts in helping the local population adapt to climate change.
Le Korsa decided to help the local population plant over 2000 cashew trees across 18 villages of the Tambacounda region. Each tree helps to stabilize the water table, prevent erosion, and restore nutrients to degraded soil. It also offers a food and income source: the nuts can be consumed and sold, as can the cashew apple (the fruit attached to the nut), which can be made into juice, preserves, or vinegar. And the cashew tree, through pruning, can provide wood for cooking, preventing people from cutting other trees for charcoal making, a scourge of the region that leads to deforestation and compounds the negative effects of climate change.
“Once the populations are convinced that they can earn money from such plantations, they will plant these trees themselves,” Moussa said. “Our goal is to help them see that they can have a new cash crop while preserving the environment, and they can stop the abusive logging of trees,” he added.
Ever since 2015, we have run a free tree nursery from Thread, and anyone who wanted a tree could have one. But we are now expanding that effort by creating tree-steward committees in villages throughout the Tambacounda region, ensuring these groups receive proper training and support so they can tend to the trees while they take root.
Join us! You too can help plant trees that are essential for helping rural populations adapt to climate change.
Net gain: an important step in malaria prevention
Sep 16, 2020
Le Korsa has just distributed 1000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets to help prevent the spread of malaria in Senegal. We sent 500 to the Sinthian Medical Clinic in rural Tambacounda, and 500 to Keur Djiguene Yi, the Women’s Center of Dakar, where they will be distributed by Dr. Magueye Ba and Dr. Juliette Faye, respectively.
The nets are especially important this year, as a heavy rainy season has created sustained breeding conditions for mosquitoes. Compounding the problem are shortages in mosquito nets caused by the Covid-19 pandemic—many NGOs who could devote large budgets to malaria prevention have already spent their resources battling the coronavirus, and the usual supply chains are disrupted.
As soon as we learned about the pending problem two weeks ago, we acted. Coordinating with Dr. Ba and Dr. Faye, we purchased 1000 of the treated mosquito nets through a local supplier.
The nets are recommended by the World Health Organization for two essential reasons: the insecticide prevents mosquitoes from landing on the nets and biting people through them, and they are durable for up to three years, even after multiple washes.
Because pregnant women are especially vulnerable to malaria — the parasite can cause birth complications and increase the risk of child mortality — Dr. Juliette Faye was eager to have the nets at Keur Djiguene Yi, where she sees about 1000 expectant mothers each year. “The nets will be an enormous help to our patients,” she said.
You can help support this program, and all of our work, by making a donation. Thank you to everyone who already donated! You allowed us to respond quickly and effectively.
On Maternal Health and Making a Difference: Dr. Juliette Faye
Sep 10, 2020
Dr. Juliette Faye is is a certified OBGYN and the director of Keur Djiguene Yi, the Women’s Center of Dakar. In 2021 she will be a Mandela Washington Fellow, joining hundreds of other young African innovators for a leadership program in the United States.
As an OBGYN, can you tell people about the state of maternal health care in Senegal?
Maternal health in Senegal is not as good as we would like it to be in comparison with other countries. We have a high maternal mortality rate — 365 deaths per 100,000 births — which can be traced to a lack of qualified OBGYNs and midwives.
What can be done to improve reproductive health for women in Senegal?
Increasing the accessibility of prenatal and maternal healthcare, and decreasing the cost of that care, would improve it. And, importantly, we need to increase the overall technical capacities of clinics and hospitals throughout Senegal.
Tell us the typical experience of a pregnant woman in Senegal. Will she see a doctor? How often?
The experience is different in urban and rural zones because of a difference in financial means and the number of qualified medical personnel. But if we take Dakar as an example, here, most women will see a midwife about two or three times during their pregnancy, which does not meet the standards of the World Health Organization. There is a list of blood tests that should be completed, but most women do not have the means to pay for them.
Can you talk about the differences for women from Dakar versus women from a rural village?
In Dakar we have better access to equipment, such as X-ray and sonogram machines, than in the rural zones, where there is almost no equipment of this kind.
What is the most common cause of maternal death? What are you and the staff of KDY doing to prevent it?
The primary causes of maternal death are post-partum hemorrhaging and the complications related to high blood pressure at the end of the pregnancy. At the Women’s Center of Dakar, we offer preventative treatment for hypertension, we stay with the women all through childbirth, and we arrange for them to give birth in a hospital with an operating block and a present OBGYN, so that any complications during birth can be quickly treated.
Does childbirth happen more often at home or in a hospital?
Now more in a hospital or a clinic.
What can NGOs such as Le Korsa do to help?
Le Korsa and other NGOs can support the training of doctors, help to increase access to medicine, and continue to implement projects where pregnant women can be seen by qualified doctors, as we have done at Keur Djiguene Yi, the Women’s Center of Dakar.
If you would like to help Dr. Faye and Le Korsa improve maternal health, please consider making a donation.
The Fass School wins an Architizer A+ award
Sep 04, 2020
The Fass School, which is the first to bring elementary education to a region where, for years, students received only Quranic instruction, has been awarded the jury’s pick in Architizer’s A+ Awards for the category of “Institutional: Primary and High Schools.” The awards are one of the largest forums for celebrating the year’s best architecture and promoting the importance of meaningful buildings.
This school, designed by Toshiko Mori Architect, is one of Le Korsa’s major projects, and the result of years of work with our partner Dr. Magueye Ba and the religious authorities of Medina Gounass, who govern the region. Together, we developed a model based on Senegal’s écoles franco-arabes, which allows Fass’s children to gain basic elementary education while simultaneously receiving traditional religious instruction.
Toshiko Mori’s design for the school building features open brickwork, a central courtyard, and progressively higher-ceilinged classrooms that give students a sense of their achievement as they advance through upper grades.
Since it opened in 2019, the school has increased its enrollment to over 200 girls and boys, and we are currently working with the administration in the village to hire more teachers. If you would like to support teachers’ salaries or school supplies, please join us by making a donation.
You can also read more about the project in a recent feature at designboom.
An interview with Dr. Magueye Ba
Aug 31, 2020
Dr. Ba, who runs the Sinthian, Fass, and Kocoum medical clinics, is one of our closest partners. He also runs a contracting company that built Thread and the Fass school, and is now busy working on the redesign of the Tambacounda Hospital maternity and pediatric wards. Dr. Ba answered some of our questions about life in Senegal during Covid 19, the coming malaria season, and how the hospital redesign is poised to change the region’s healthcare for the better.
How has the Covid 19 pandemic affected the population of Sinthian, Fass, and the surrounding region? Senegal has had a smaller number of cases than many other countries, but you and your patients face many difficulties in obtaining supplies during regular times. As a doctor in the region for over 15 years, what have you seen during these unprecedented months?
After the first case appeared here in March, Senegal put in place a certain number of restrictions that have had a major impact on its economy, health, and social fabric. The population is in a more difficult and stressful situation than it was prior to the pandemic.
At the medical centers of Sinthian, Fass and Kocoum, we have many patients with chronic conditions such as HIV, diabetes, or tuberculosis, and during the lockdown they found it near impossible to visit the clinics to obtain their medications. Inter-regional travel was prohibited, as was travel by motorbike, and in the interior, motorcycles are the most common means of transportation. Furthermore, certain patients who needed to go to Dakar for certain treatments, such as for cancer, were unable to do so. The consequences of these restrictions took their toll, with patients experiencing complications of their conditions, and many dying at home.
Regarding the economic impact, it’s important to mention that in rural Tambacounda, weekly markets are the most important means of exchange and commerce. With their suspension, many families experienced food shortages. People could not work nor buy food, so there was a real lack at the dinner table. Even though we had very few Covid 19 cases in the region, families were plunged into poverty, and what Le Korsa did, by providing food to the local population, and support to the Sinthian medical center, has helped immensely and given us life.
For now we continue to practice and promote all the proper hygienic measures, including frequent and rigorous handwashing. We are seeing less illness related to poor hygiene as a result.
Construction on Tambacounda hospital is advancing. How do you see this new building improving healthcare in Tambacounda?
The construction of this building, with its waiting room capacity, will be of capital importance for the entire region of Tambacounda, the patients, and medical staff.
Currently, the maternity ward at this regional hospital lacks beds. Those of us who are doctors out in the bush, and who need to refer patients to the hospital, are obligated to call ahead to see if there is a bed for one of our patients. Often, patients have to wait outside, under the trees.
It is the same in the pediatric ward. Because of the unit’s overall dilapidation, babies have to wait outside for their mothers, especially in cases where the mother needs some follow-up care.
Thanks to this new building’s waiting rooms and technical features, caring for patients will be much more efficient. No patients will be turned away. And its beauty and functionality will help keep OBGYNs and pediatricians practicing medicine here in Tambacounda, rather than deciding to leave for elsewhere.
This year, there has been more rain than usual in Tambacounda, which is good for crops, but it will also mean more mosquitoes and possibly a rough malaria season. Can you tell us what you are expecting in terms of malaria this year?
Malaria is the primary cause of death in our region, and children are the most vulnerable. Malaria can strike at any time during the year but it rises during the summer rainy season and peaks during September and October. Last year, we had 1010 cases in October, and five people died.
Children under the age of five who are malnourished or have anemia are the most likely to develop a serious form of malaria, which can cause neurological or hematological damage. It is the same for pregnant women, who can experience miscarriages, become underweight, or even lose too much blood while giving birth. So we pay the most attention to children under five and pregnant women.
For mild cases, treatment is simple and free. We also focus on preventative measures.
Mosquito nets are an excellent form of malaria prevention, but they must be used properly, and that can be hard to monitor. The other important preventative measure is proper cleaning in the villages, and ensuring that mosquitoes don’t have stagnant water in which to breed. So we are working on that, and we are grateful that Le Korsa is helping to provide more mosquito nets this year.
If you would like to help us prevent malaria, please consider making a donation so we can provide more nets.
Sports despite social distance
Aug 28, 2020
Exactly a year ago, we hosted a basketball training camp on our new outdoor surface located next to the artists’ residency and cultural center, Thread.
Each day, children came from three surrounding villages—Dialico, Koar, and Ngene—to learn new skills and techniques from Coach Maissa Fall and Coach Keita from Morocco.
Today, while, we cannot gather in large groups due to Covid-19 restrictions, athletes are still taking to the court on their own time, and with proper sanitation measures in place, to remain active.
The court has been a crucial outlet in a difficult time for everyone, when the normal routines of life have been disrupted. We are hopeful that we will be able to resume hosting sports workshops next year, and if you’d like to support them, please consider making a donation.
How a brick design for Tambacounda Hospital found its way to a school in Sare Sidi
Aug 07, 2020
When Le Korsa and the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation began working with Tambacounda Hospital on improving the hospital’s maternity and pediatric units, we launched an architectural competition to solicit the best design.
Manuel Herz was the winner, and his reimagining of the spaces includes using perforated bricks that allow air to flow through the units, keeping them naturally cool.
While creating these bricks, our longstanding partner Dr. Magueye Ba — who is also the contractor for the Tambacounda hospital project, and whose team constructed Thread and the school in Fass — decided to use them as well on another school we were building with support from the Clara Lionel Foundation in Sare Sidi.
This school, which replaced a temporary structure of wood and thatch, is providing hundreds of children and their teachers with a safe and comfortable building that they previously lacked.
Le Korsa’s goal is always to use “minimal means for maximum effect” as Josef Albers stated, and Dezeen has more on this story of using resources, and good design, effectively and efficiently.
Even in a pandemic, books are being sent to Senegal
Jun 29, 2020
Les Amis du Korsa (LAMKO), our partners in France, have been organizing shipments of books to be distributed to schools and institutions in Senegal for over 5 years now.
The latest shipment, gathered by Louis Valentin and Alan Riding, is about to be sent to our office in Dakar, from which it will be distributed to the Foyer de Jeunes Filles in Tambacounda and the library at Thread in Sinthian. Thank you LAMKO!
Jun 19, 2020
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation / Le Korsa celebrates Juneteenth–also called Freedom Day–as a holiday of utmost importance. The anniversary of the day when, in 1865, the remaining enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy were finally emancipated is one to celebrate. At the same time, we continue to devote ourselves to the fight against racism vigorously and with open minds and hearts.
Free therapy for those who need it
Jun 11, 2020
Ending racism and achieving equality were central to Josef and Anni Albers, who fled Nazi Germany in 1933, and once in the US, supported black artists such as Jacob Lawrence. The Albers Foundation and Le Korsa carry on their legacy by fighting racial injustice in the US and around the world, and by helping those who do so.
Many people are suffering, and we want to connect people in need of mental health services with exemplary therapists offering free care.
If you, or someone you know, would like to be connected to a qualified therapist, please email Shane O’Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Availability is limited, and preference will be given to applicants who have suffered due to their race, ethnicity, gender, or political values. If you are in need, there is help, and you are not alone.
Radio interview with founder and president Nicholas Fox Weber
Jun 01, 2020
Mark Lynch of WICN public radio conducted an absolutely wonderful interview with our founder and president, Nicholas Fox Weber, covering our history up through our present projects .
You can listen here: https://www.wicn.org/podcast/nicholas-fox-weber-le-korsa/
Food kits distributed in three villages
May 29, 2020
With Covid 19 restrictions having disrupted the food trade throughout West Africa, there have been reports of a looming food crisis. After speaking with our partners on the ground, who assured us they had a good food supply, as well as vegetables from the gardens we helped them set up, we decided to provide additional support as a precaution.
Each household in Sinthian, Dialico, and Fass received a sack of rice or two depending on the family’s size, and fonio and sorghum seeds. In Sinthian, for example, the village has decided to store the rice until at least July.
While everything about the future of the pandemic and its effects remains in flux, we are doing everything we can to ensure our partners have what they need.
Mask-making at the Foyer de Jeunes Filles
May 18, 2020
Over the weekend, Le Korsa supported the fabrication of over 1500 masks at the Foyer de Jeunes Filles. Several of the tailors involved had family members afflicted by Covid 19; they were eager to contribute their skills to help stem the spread of the virus, which has infected over 2000 people in Senegal.
As Maimouna Ka Sow, director of the Foyer said, the initiative “augments our response to the pandemic, but also provides much-needed income for people affected by Covid 19, especially during the period of Ramadan.”
Sinthian Kindergarten’s new classroom
May 08, 2020
Senegal has 1551 registered cases of Covid 19—for now, only one of those is in Tambacounda. There are no cases in Sinthian, where as a result, our work on the new classroom for the Sinthian Kindergarten has been allowed to continue.
This third classroom, being built by Dr. Magueye Ba, will join the two existing ones built in 2010 and provide space for an additional 25-30 students each year.
Scrubs donated by FIGS proving essential in Covid 19 care
Apr 27, 2020
Just before the Covid 19 outbreak began, we received a large donation of about 1000 scrubs for Tambacounda Hospital from FIGS, a medical-wear manufacturer.
The timing was fortuitous: those scrubs, because of their distinct grey color and durability, are the only ones being used by the hospital staff in the isolation ward, where there are 34 Covid 19 patients. Everyone at the hospital can identify, from the grey scrubs, their colleagues who are in that ward, and ensure that only authorized doctors and nurses go in and out of it.
No one planned for the scrubs to be used exactly this way, but it just goes to show how generosity makes for a better reality, and often in unforeseen ways. We, and the entire staff at Tambacounda Hospital, send a huge thank you to FIGS.
Progress at Tambacounda Hospital
Apr 16, 2020
Stop-work orders as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic have not affected Tambacounda, where construction continues on the redesign of the maternity and pediatric wards at Tambacounda Hospital.
To see these wards take shape is a bright spot during a dark time; they’ll increase the hospital’s capacity to treat mothers, babies, and children by about 300%.
Update: April 3
Apr 03, 2020
Senegal is now up to 207 cases of Covid 19, and the first has appeared in the Tambacounda region. We are in constant touch with our teams to stay on top of the situation.
To date, we have: installed hand washing stations at Thread and outside the Sinthian medical clinic; we have acquired masks and sanitizer for Fann Hospital and the Women’s Health Center of Dakar; installed hand washing stations at the Tambacounda Hospital construction site; and we are also working with the Tambacounda hospital administration on procuring more personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses. In short, we are doing everything we can. And your support makes it all possible-thank you.
Covid, Le Korsa and Senegal – from Alan Riding
Mar 30, 2020
With COVID-19 now sweeping the United States and Europe, Africa is bracing for its own wave of infection, with the added complications of overcrowded cities, poor infrastructure and a dearth of medical supplies and trained personnel. At Le Korsa, we’re mobilizing to help in Senegal.
Fortunately, Senegal is not the most vulnerable country on the continent, although the government has already ordered confinement and suspended international travel. Senegal also has a basic health structure and is home to a branch of the Pasteur Institute, the French foundation which researches and treats infectious diseases. The Institute in Dakar is working with a British laboratory, Mologic, to develop a cheap and rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19.
In the current crisis, we have obtained masks and antiseptic gel for the Fann Hospital in Dakar and for the Women’s Center, which was founded by Le Korsa, also in Dakar. In the Tambacounda region of south-east Senegal, where our work is concentrated, our team has also acquired masks and gel for the health clinics in the villages of Sinthian and Fass. At Tambacounda’s only hospital, construction is going ahead on a new gynaecological and pediatric wing financed by Le Korsa, but work may be halted by further confinement measures.
Schools have already closed across Senegal, but we continue to pay the salaries of the teachers at the Fass primary school and the Sinthian kindergarten, which Le Korsa built. At the Foyer des Jeunes Filles inTambacounda, the 144 young women who live there while attending secondary school have had to return to their villages, although we are covering the wages of the staff. Further, we’ve decided to provide a monthly stipend to the freelance drivers who insure our mobility in Dakar and Tambacounda and, critically, for the seven-hour between the two cities.
It’s too early to gauge how badly Senegal will be hit by the pandemic – as of today, 142 cases of infection and no deaths have been reported – but it’s evident that, as with any natural disaster, the most fragile will suffer most. Where possible, we’ll be there to offer them a helping hand.
Former New York Times journalist Alan Riding is a longstanding supporter of Le Korsa and is active in our French association, Les Amis du Korsa.
Update: Covid 19 response
Mar 25, 2020
As of March 24, Senegal has 99 cases of Covid 19, with the number expected to rise. Nearly all regions have been affected at this point. President Macky Sall has declared a state of emergency, issued a curfew, and restricted all domestic travel and gatherings.
We have been working closely with our partners Dr. Badiane of Fann Hospital, Dr. Juliette Faye of the Keur Djiguene Yi Women’s Health Center, and Dr. Magueye Ba of the Sinthian Medical Clinic, to source additional masks, sanitizer, and thermometers as they prepare to deal with a growing number of cases.
Keeping healthcare workers protected is essential in the fight against Covid 19.
We have worked with these doctors for many years and are doing our utmost to ensure that they, and their colleagues, are well-equipped for the challenges to come.
Your support makes this possible. If you are able to make a donation at this time, it will go a long way to helping our colleagues in Senegal.
A message about Covid 19
Mar 20, 2020
Over the past week, Senegal has taken measures to contain the spread of coronavirus including limiting public gatherings, closing schools, and closing some mosques in the Dakar region. The country has 38 confirmed cases as of today, which is expected to grow.
All of our partners and colleagues are safe and healthy, and we are in constant touch with them to ensure they have what they need. Teachers and staff at the schools and health centers we operate will continue to be paid during any shutdowns.
Many, before schools closed, held meetings about coronoavirus preparedness and instituted new cleaning and sanitization measures. At the Foyer de Jeunes Filles, during the March 9 celebration of women, Maimouna Ka Sow had her nursing staff speak to the girls about the virus, and demonstrated proper handwashing technique. Those girls are all now at home with their families because the Foyer has been closed.
At the Wassadou Medical Center, the staff have masks, extra sanitizer in every room, and they have set up isolation rooms in preparation for the virus moving into the interior of the country.
We will keep you updated as the situation develops. But our work remains the same — to continue to support our partners and colleagues in Senegal. As always, your donations make it possible, especially in times such as these. Thank you.
New scrubs for Tambacounda Hospital
Mar 10, 2020
FIGS, a US-based company that manufactures high-quality and durable medical wear, has just donated a large shipment of new scrubs to Tambacounda Hospital. They were received over the weekend by hospital director Dr. Thérèse-Aide Ndiaye and her staff.
Tambacounda Hospital is often lacking for basic supplies such as scrubs, so the approximately 1000 new pairs will be put to immediate use by doctors and nurses. We are so grateful to FIGS and their Thread for Thread program for making this donation, and for working with doctors all over the world to improve their working conditions.
Former New York Times journalist Alan Riding joins us in Senegal
Mar 03, 2020
From Nick Weber, Founder and President of Le Korsa
For the past six years, Le Korsa has been graced in having Alan Riding as a devoted friend and supporter. He has now made three trips to Senegal with us; he regularly writes his friends asking them to support our work; he gives his time and energy unstintingly; he provides both insights and enthusiasm.
To have Alan writing about Le Korsa is no small thing. Alan joined The New York Times in Mexico in 1978 and, in the following years, he covered the Nicaraguan Revolution and the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala.
At the end of his assignment in Mexico, he wrote Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans (Knopf/Vintage), which has sold over 450,000 copies worldwide and is now considered a classic about modern Mexico. Following that, he spent five years as The New York Times’s bureau chief in Paris, before becoming the newspaper’s European Cultural Correspondent. While in this post, he co-authored Essential Shakespeare Handbook and Opera, two illustrated reference books . His most recent book is And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris, now published in several languages, and while he is no longer a New York Times staffer, he often has book reviews in the paper and leads trips organized by the Times. And he has recently become a playwright of distinction.
Alan returned from a trip with Team Le Korsa at the start of last week. What follows is a letter he intended initially for Le Korsa’s Paris-based community; when I read it, I realized that it is so rich, succinct, and vivid that it should be disseminated as widely as possible. All of you should have the pleasure of seeing our work through Alan’s eyes. (Not only are the words his, but so are the photographs; while Alan has written a lot about photography, few people knew of his hidden talent in that direction.)
I am sure that you will relish this beautiful report.
Le Korsa in Senegal
I’m just back from a week-long trip visiting Le Korsa’s projects in the Tambacounda region of south-east Senegal and, as promised, here’s a brief report on how they’re faring. In one word, well! Given the entrenched poverty of the area, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but I believe our “from-the-bottom-up” approach is making a difference.
Please read below and, if so inspired, do please consider supporting our work. To donate and learn more about Le Korsa and our French NGO, Les Amis du Korsa, please click on aflk.org (for US tax deductions) or lamko.org (for French tax deductions).
Thank you for caring.
I’ll just focus on four projects:
The most ambitious is construction of a new $1.3 m. maternity and pediatric center for the Tambacounda hospital. Shocked by existing conditions, Le Korsa decided three years ago that a modern extension was absolutely vital. Now, with an ingenious S-shaped design by the Swiss-based firm of Manuel Herz Architects, the center is rapidly taking shape and should be inaugurated early 2021… with luck and with money!
Indeed, to turn the shell into a working hospital will cost as much as construction of the building itself. And we’re not there yet, so we still need help!
The Foyer des Jeunes Filles is a secure hostel financed by Le Korsa that enables girls from surrounding villages to receive a secondary education in Tambacounda. Now housing 140 young women aged 11 to 23, it is wonderfully run by its director, Maimouna Ka Sow, who supervises both their welfare and education.
This includes “reinforcement classes” provided every afternoon by hired teachers to insure no student falls behind at school (above left) while others are kept busy doing homework (above right). I gave a writing workshop for a group of them and sensed their determination to prepare for a future so unlike that of village life, where early marriage and motherhood awaited them. They have reason to feel optimistic since over a dozen alumni of the foyer are now studying at universities in Dakar. And there too, Le Korsa is providing their housing.
Sinthian is the village south-east of Tambacounda where five years ago Le Korsa and the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation built a stunning cultural center which has since become the social heart of the community as well as a temporary “residence” for a succession of artists. We’re involved in other programs there, such as bee-keeping, vegetable farming, the local medical center and a kindergarten. On this visit, scores of infants in little uniforms helped Le Korsa inaugurate a second classroom for the kindergarten while entertainment was provided by a popular rap artist, Negga Dou.
We forded the Gambia River to reach another village, Fass, where Le Korsa opened the community’s first–ever primary school a year ago. I was keen to visit it because it offers 200 children – girls as well as boys – their first opportunity to learn French – the official language of Senegal’s educational system – as well as to engage in Koranic studies.
In Fass, as in other villages, by providing wells and advice, Le Korsa has enabled local women to assume responsibility for farming vegetables, providing better nutrition for their families and a welcome splash of green in the otherwise arid landscape.
Tambacounda Hospital Rising
Feb 21, 2020
Over nearly two weeks this month, our team was in Senegal to meet with our local partners and to visit our projects. There is much to share and a fuller report will follow soon.
For now, we are thrilled to share that construction on the redesigned maternity and pediatric units at Tambacounda Hospital is advancing beautifully; the second story is rising quickly and drawing much attention from cars and pedestrians on Tambacounda’s busy streets. When it is completed it will increase the hospital’s capacity by 300%.
We are so grateful to everyone who is making this happen — architect Manuel Herz; construction company owner and our long-term partner Dr. Magueye Ba; hospital director Dr. Thérèse-Aida Ndiaye; engineer El Hadji Cheikh Mbacké; Ngom Ndongo, the site manager; the many bricklayers and laborers who are making this building a reality; and our donors, without whom none of our projects would be possible.
A peek at some recycled furniture
Jan 24, 2020
As part of the trash and recycling program that we launched last year, we have been working with our local partner Negger Dou to create furniture from tires gathered around the city of Tambacounda.
This set of tables and chairs is awaiting its placement in local schools and businesses. In the meantime, we are on the lookout for a good workshop space where we can set this up as a long-term program. Stay tuned.
See what YOU have done in 2019!
Dec 16, 2019
Join our sustaining donor program
Dec 03, 2019
A small gift can make a big difference, which is why we’re excited to launch our sustaining donor program. Committing to a monthly donation of just $25 provides a vital source of revenue that allows us to bring quality healthcare, education, agriculture, and the arts to Senegal.
Your monthly donation can provide a mother and her baby with a month’s worth of prenatal care, or it can furnish an entire school with a month’s worth of books and supplies. It can also allow us to install wells that help gardens flourish and feed entire villages.
Please help us change lives in Senegal by becoming a sustaining donor.
Also Known as Africa Art Fair to feature Roger Da Silva’s Photography
Nov 08, 2019
Art is a crucial part of all the development work we do in Senegal.
At Thread, we have hosted numerous artists from around the world who have worked right in the midst of the agricultural, educational, and health programs we operate in Sinthian. We also help support, with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, art in Senegal in other ways, such as the restoration and display of Roger Da Silva’s photographs of Senegal from the 1950s and 1960s.
These photos, which depict everything from family gatherings to dances to the country’s first post-independence president, Léopold Senghor, will be on display outside of Senegal for the first time this month at the Also Known as Africa Art Fair, held in Paris from November 9 to November 11.
DaSilva was born in Benin and took up photography while enlisted in the French army. He eventually made his home in Dakar, where he documented postcolonial life and the optimism that pervaded the country as it became an independent nation. DaSilva made about 75,000 images during his lifetime, but they had gone missing until his son, Luc, found them in 2008, the year his father died.
Le Korsa and The Albers Foundation have helped to restore 100 of DaSilva’s recovered film negatives, and it is a selection of those images, and the vibrant culture they depict, that will be on display in Paris this weekend. The images will be for sale, with all proceeds going to support our efforts in Senegal.
You can read more in this recent article from CNN.
Thread win’s FIBRA award for plant-based architecture
Nov 05, 2019
Thread, the artists’ residency and cultural center in Sinthian designed by Toshiko Mori and built by Le Korsa and the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, has just won a FIBRA award in the category of Cladding and Covering. The award is the first of its kind for contemporary plant-based architecture.
Thread’s bamboo and thatch roof, which was the feature singled out by FIBRA’s jury, was built by locals with local materials. It undulates from high points to low, and funnels rainwater into holding basins where it can be stored for agriculture use. It also creates both intimate and public spaces while tracing a lyrical line, and is one of the defining features of the building.
The thatching technique used in the roof is that of the Bassari, an ethnic group in Senegal. During construction, an expert Bassari thatcher came to Thread to teach contractors and to oversee the thatching process. This marriage of traditional methods and materials with innovative design is what makes Thread an unforgettable building.
Congratulations to Toshiko Mori, Jordan MacTavish, and to all of our staff who make Thread the incredible place it is.
People of Tamba featured in the Guardian
Nov 01, 2019
People of Tamba, the photographic portrait series undertaken by Giovanni Hänninen while he was in residence at Thread, depicts many citizens of Tambacounda in their work places, highlighting their contributions to society.
Because Tambacounda is a major departure point for many African migrants, Giovanni conceived of the project as a counter to the reporting he heard coming out of Europe, which emphasized only the numbers of migrants arriving on European shores, or being lost at sea, and not the human element of the crisis: who some of these migrants were, what they and their families did back home, and the complexity of what made some of them leave their countries.
“I decided to present the photographs in large format to show the people of this project on a human scale and thereby create a rapport with the viewer,” says Hänninen.
“They are like us; with their past, their present and their aspirations for the future. They represent everyone’s history.”
The series is gaining wide exposure in Europe, having been recently featured in the BBC and the Guardian. It will be on exhibit, along with Giovanni and Alberto Amoretti’s short documentary film series on clandestine migration from Africa to Europe, Senegal/Sicily, at the Also Known as Africa Art Fair, held in Paris from November 9-11.
MZW Gives Back program will benefit the Foyer
Oct 10, 2019
MZ Wallace has partnered with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation to create a tote bag featuring the iconic typeface that Josef Albers designed for the Bauhaus. 100% of the net proceeds of its sale will benefit Le Foyer de Tambacounda, enabling more girls to live there while attending local high schools.
Adorned with one of Josef Albers’s dictums, “Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers,” the bag also includes two pouches, one of which features an Anni Albers quote: “Students worry about choosing their way. I always tell them, ‘You can go anywhere from anywhere.'”
Monica Zwirner, a cofounder and designer at MZ Wallace said, “Empowering women has always been important to our philosophy of giving back to the community, whether on a local or global scale. Ensuring that women have access to an education, and the opportunities that arise from it, is an impactful way to put this philosophy into action. We are thrilled to partner with The Josef & Anni Albers Foundation to support Le Korsa.”
Environmental action reaches a new peak in Tambacounda
Sep 30, 2019
Trash piles are a common sight in Tambacounda. They may be less common where you sit reading this, but the danger posed by plastic waste is real no matter where you are. Scientists estimate that six billion tons of it are in the natural environment, becoming microparticles that enter the ecosystem and food chain.
It’s why, among other environmental efforts, Le Korsa is helping to create a waste removal program, which we launched on World Cleanup Day. The annual event, which fell on September 21st, unites millions of people from across the globe to clean up solid waste. We helped it become observed for the first time in Senegal by organizing local government, volunteers, artists, religious leaders, and youth associations to clean up Tambacounda’s streets.
Le Korsa provided rakes, shovels, trashcans, and wheelbarrows to support the cleanup, and our key partner UGC, a local trash removal company, loaned bulldozers and personnel. But our most effective contribution was a wide-ranging effort to educate and involve the local population.
During the planning phase for World Cleanup Day, Le Korsa staff member Jaime Barry and our partner, local rapper and activist Negger Dou, organized volunteers to launch a creative recycling program. They gathered over 500 old tires, which people normally would have burned, and began transforming them into colorful chairs, sofas, and tables for people’s homes and Tambacounda’s soon-to-be cleaner public spaces. The goal is to urge artists to put their creativity to use for the public good.
To ensure that people were excited about cleaning up Tambacounda, Jaime and Negger Dou organized a concert on September 20. Promoting the idea that “The Street Is Not Your Trashcan,” the performers and musicians shared messages about environmental consciousness and proper trash disposal, which is a stubborn problem in the region. While the municipal government has a solid waste management infrastructure, much trash in the city never makes it to the proper receptacles or pick-up locations.
It was heartening to see, on the 21st, that the message had been heard. Hundreds of people, young and old, joined together to remove trash from Tambacounda’s streets and public areas, including the central market and train depot, which are littered with waste.
Tambacounda’s municipal government used the occasion to redouble their efforts to educate the citizenry about waste disposal and sanitation. As deputy mayor Mame Balla Lô said, “We need the local population here to recognize they must commit to proper trash disposal—the problem concerns us all,” he said.
“The man of the day was the deputy mayor,” Jaime said. “He personally had a shovel and was digging up drainages and going under bridges to take out trash that has blocked waterways. Several people joined us for the cleaning after they saw what he was doing. He was an inspiration,” he added.
Le Korsa and Negger Dou are now working to ensure that the environmental consciousness and partnerships created during World Cleanup Day are lasting.
Negger Dou, who has a local radio show, will continue to broadcast messages about environmental responsibility, and we are working with him to develop new ways for artists to reuse waste.
We are also working with the local government to improve the city’s trash pick-up program. The main problem is a lack of trashcans and dumpsters in the neighborhoods, so we will be helping the government source more, and will be investigating where to place them for maximum accessibility. We will also be helping the government find ways to reduce illegal dumping.
Your support makes all of it possible. Thank you.
Tennis and basketball program underway
Sep 11, 2019
Just days after Le Korsa completed construction on the new tennis and basketball court in Sinthian, hundreds of children were practicing forehands and backhands, dribbling and lay-ups. It was the first time tennis and basketball had been played in Sinthian, where soccer reigns supreme.
To introduce these sports to Sinthian, in late August Le Korsa ran a tennis and basketball workshop for boys and girls from Sinthian, Koar, and Sall.
Lamine Gueye, a tennis pro from Dakar, offered instruction to the children, many of whom had never held a tennis racquet before. He focused on the basics of the game, including footwork and ground strokes, and will be returning to Sinthian regularly to continue teaching.
Basketball, which is highly popular in Senegal, needed no introduction in Sinthian. But some of its finer points did, and for that, we invited the coaches of the Tambacounda Basketball Club to run two days of training. The energy was electric as hundreds of boys and girls took jump shots for the first time.
These instructional programs will continue twice per year, affording children the chance to hone their athletic skills. But the greater purpose of the court is simply to be a new forum for athletics, open to all, in a rural and isolated part of Senegal where such facilities are non-existent.
100 new trees for Sinthian
Sep 04, 2019
This August, Le Korsa’s agricultural team was joined by locals to plant 100 cashew trees in Sinthian. For many residents, it was the first time they had planted a tree, and in a few years, they will see their efforts literally bear fruit.
The tree planting is part of Le Korsa’s broader environmental sustainability programs, designed to help residents of Sinthian adapt to climate change and diversify their agricultural skills. “This was the worst rainy season most people have ever seen here,” said Moussa Sene, who oversees Le Korsa’s regional program and initiated the tree planting. “So the goal is to help the local population see that we have to adapt,” he added.
Moussa explained that the cashew trees will help stabilize the water table, release oxygen, and prevent erosion, all of which helps to mitigate the negative effects of climate change.
The trees will also boost the local economy. “Growing cashew trees, or other fruit trees, can help the population earn money from a source other than peanuts or corn,” Moussa said. One kilo of cashews can be sold for 1000 fcfca, or about $1.75, which is a good price in the region, and a mature tree will yield a nice crop. Both the cashew nut and the cashew apple are edible, and can be transformed into products such as oil or preserves. And bees produce excellent honey from cashew trees, so the beekeepers will have an even better product to sell.
At Thread, Le Korsa maintains a large stock of seedlings — cashew, papaya, mango, moringa — all of which are available to anyone in the region who would like to plant one. We have already helped distribute over 2000 trees in the region, and plan to do so continuously.