Nourou Sidibe and his Beautiful Family

This evening we went with Pres and Sister Binene to visit Nourou, the 2nd Counselor in our Bamako Branch Presidency.  His beautiful wife had a baby girl 2 weeks ago on Nourou’s birthday.  We had a lovely visit on this balmy evening.  Nourou has 2 beautiful girls now–we are so happy for him!

A Visit from Lynn Curtis

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This week we got to visit with Lynn Curtis as he came into town, and then several days later before he departed.  He’s the Executive Director and founder of Broadweave Solutions, a company that fosters business enterprise in underdeveloped locations and the linguistics skills required to go along with business success.

Lynn went with our friend Anounou to Ouelessebougou for the week where he met with and trained about 20 men and women interested in improving their business skills through literacy training.  He has programs for both French and Bambara, and we were really excited to visit with him about that as we consider ways we can teach literacy here.

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This evening we heard all about his excellent week in Ouelessebougou and he brought some materials to us to try here with our friends and members of the Church who want to improve their literacy.  This is going to be fun!

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Sekou’s Medical School in Bamako

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Today between our meetings we passed by Sekou’s medical school, the University of Kankou Moussa in Bamako.  Sekou is a second year medical student here and he loves it.  He was excited to show us around the campus.

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This is the administration and faulty building:

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This is the classroom wing where Sekou’s class is.

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This is Sekou’s class room.  He said he’ll spend 4 years in this room.  The professors rotate in and out of the rooms, so the students stay in the same place.  There are 30 second-year students in Sekou’s class.

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Their weekly schedules and exam schedules are posted outside the classroom:

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The center of the campus has basketball standards and a place to play some soccer.

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What a wonderful blessing it is to have someone like Sekou in medical school here.  He has such a good heart and he loves the thought of ministering to people as a profession.  We wish him well.  It’s a long grueling path to become a doctor, but Sekou is well on his way!

Visiting Jigiya Bon Girls’ Orphanage in Bamako

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Today one of our good members, Josue Togo, took us to visit a girls’ orphanage here in Bamako.  Stepping into this place was like stepping into an Oasis!  After winding our way through many dirty crooked streets, we pulled up to this compound and Josue invited us in.  What we found was delightful.

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This is one of many orphanages here in Bamako.  Josue works with many NGOs to help find funding for this and other humanitarian endeavors.  These orphanages survive because of generous donations from individuals and organizations who notice and care.

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This orphanage has 60 beautiful young women.  Many have been the victims of abuse.  This is their safe haven.  The courtyard of the compound is filled with beautiful gardens the girls look after.

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Mariam Dembele Togo is the director of this beautiful orphanage.  She is lovely.

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The girls sleep 4 to a room in bunks with mosquito nets.  They each have a desk and a chair and a locker for their clothes.

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Malian drinking fountains!

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It was lunch time and the girls were busy eating.

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This is the kitchen and the helpers who help prepare the meals for the girls:

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These are the bathrooms:

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Here’s where the girls fill their buckets for bathing in the bathrooms:

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Laundry drying.  There was way more on the ground than on the clotheslines.

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Our purpose for meeting with Josue and visiting the orphanage today was to learn more about humanitarian opportunities we might want to become involved with.  We are here to love and serve in any way we can.  Josue had lots of good ideas and he is well connected in this community.  We are grateful to have good members like Josue.

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Francois Cissoko and the English Academy in Bamako

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Francois is one of our early members of the church here in Bamako.  He traveled to Accra to be baptized in 2016 after learning about the gospel from friends here in Bamako.  He’s a favorite translator for the expeditions who come to Mali, being fluent in Bambara, French and English.

Francois Director of the Mady Sissoko English Academy in Bamako.  This school started last fall semester with a group of high school and college-aged students.  Many of them are basketball players at local high schools who have been involved with groups that have come to Mali to promote their sport.  Mady Sissoko is a Malian high school player who went to Utah to play high school basketball.  He’s in his senior year now at Wasatch Academy.  Mady has been recruited to play for Michigan State.

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Before and after school, students who want to learn to speak English come to this school where Francois helps them learn from an online curriculum.  They do their work on individual laptops and have classroom discussions to practice conversation skills.

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Students were just starting to arrive as we were leaving.  They were happy for this chance to learn a valuable new skill.

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Good things are happening here in Bamako.  We have good members around us doing good things.  Francois is fantastic.

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Visiting Anounou’s Home Place

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Anounou is our Malian brother.  We’ve worked together for a long time.  He’s been to our Utah home, but today we got to visit his Malian home place and meet some of his family.  Anounou’s father had 4 wives and 22 children.  They are a close-knit family and they love and help each other.

Today Anounou took us to see where he grew up as a boy, here in the old part of Bamako.  We met 2 of his brothers and 2 of his brother’s wives.  They also felt like family to us.  There was a peaceful feeling here in their 2 compounds.  Friendships deepen when you get to visit the home places of those you love.

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Anounou’s neighbor came out to meet us.  Look at her beautiful henna hands!

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A Visit to our Nativity Woodcarvers

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This morning our friend, Anounou took us to visit Pascal, the woodcarver in his shop here in the old part of Bamako.  It was amazing to see where these good men work on the Nativities and carvings they are making for us and for so many of our friends.  In the picture above, the shop is where the break in the roof is, open on the top and on two sides.  That’s were the chunks of wood turn into works of art.

As we approached, we found Pascal and 4 other men carving things we ordered a few weeks ago.  They were seated on low chairs or slabs of wood on the dirt floor, with their work on their laps.  There were no power tools, no lights, no fans, no floor, no inventory.  They only work when they get orders and they have no shop to display their work so they can get more orders.

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The families in our mission have already ordered more than 50 Nativities!  That’s more work than these men have had in several years!  They were ecstatic when I came today with more orders.  Between them, these fathers have 22 children.  What a blessing this will be to their families.  They are so grateful to all who have placed orders.  They love their work and they work hard, as you will see.

This is Pascal, who manages this shop.  I’ve known him for many years now.  Every year when we’ve come to Mali, we’ve ordered carvings from him for our annual Ouelessebougou Dinner Auction.   Each year we’ve ordered 2 or 3 Nativities, a Noah’s Ark with animals, and some things like bowls, trays, or serving spoons.  He also does very beautiful carvings of African women working or of animals.

Today he was working on an animal for one of the Nativity sets.  He told me every carver knows how to make every piece for every Nativity set.  They didn’t have samples sitting in front of them to copy, they just know how to work the wood and turn it into something beautiful.

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Pascal carries his inventory in this leather sack and in his back pack.  He pulled out the little bit of inventory they had on hand.

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This man is making the Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus in the African hut.  He copied one I found in the markets near Abidjan.  Pascal said it takes one carver 4 days to make this piece.  This Nativity sells for $25. That’s about $6 a day divided by 8 hours = about $.75 an hour.

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This next carver is making the marionette Nativity.  The arms on these pieces move.

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This man is making the arm pieces.

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The wood they use is Teak.  One of the older men here today had brought this wood to them.  He was resting now.

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Here is the tool box.  Every single bit is done by hand.

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Even things like bowls are carved by hand, not turned.

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Here is Pascal’s price list for each piece they make:

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What an interesting visit!  I love watching how things are made and I love the feeling of my appreciation increasing because of that.  The work these men do will be treasured by me and by many others.