I have been wanting to post this for a long time. I finally have the motivation I need to start writing it, but I’ll get to that later.

I didn’t even try to start writing it before because, quite frankly, it scared me. This is such a serious subject, and I didn’t (and still don’t) know enough about what I want to write about. I felt like I could far too easily get something wrong.

Part of want I want to write about is what’s been happening in Mali.

I’ve read a few articles, and a few more headlines, and little of it is good news. Al Qaeda and other various insurgent groups violently taking over towns and villages, mostly in northern Mali. The military not able to do its job, at least partially due to corruption and lack of leadership from the government. A military coup of the government. The French and other countries sending troops and warplanes to try to help the Malian government to take back control of their own country.

Don’t ask me for the details, or try to discuss military strategy, the religious aspects, or possible political agendas with me. I don’t know enough about any of that stuff. But I do know that people are being terrorized and killed. The country is at war.

But that’s only part of what I wanted to write about. The other part is a personal story, and it’s not mine. It’s of a former co-worker of mine.

I know someone in Mali. A few years ago, she and her family left the United States to move to Mali. She’s moved to a country where she didn’t know the predominant language, at least not well. Power outages are known to be frequent. Food and clean water are not things taken for granted. As far as I know, she isn’t in the middle of the fighting, but she’s seen armed soldiers in the streets. Nowhere in Mali is very far from the fighting.

She is a wife and a mother of two. Why did they move to one of the poorest countries in the world? A country torn by corruption and war? It wasn’t for their own safety, convenience and comfort.

It was through her that I first heard of the Mali Rising Foundation. An organization she worked with helping to build schools throughout Mali, especially in more rural areas where children would have to walk for hours to get to the nearest school building. And that’s if they were lucky. The literacy rate in Mali isn’t much above 30%. Think about that for a second. 2 out of 3 people have never been taught how to read.

How to change the world? Education. Through education, people can improve their lives and the lives of those around them. Mali Rising Foundation has helped build at least 14 schools since 2004, when it was founded.

How many people are brave enough to leave comfort and safety behind to try to help others? I personally know one. Her name is Marissa.

I’ve heard about another. I haven’t met him. He is Marissa’s husband. When they moved to Mali, he wasn’t leaving home, he was returning home. Originally from Mali, he came to the United States to go to school. While he co-founded the Mali Rising Foundation, he has much more ambitious plans to try to help raise Malians out of poverty and rebuild the country.

His name is Yeah, and he is running for President of Mali.

An election was scheduled for April 29th, 2012. That election was never held because the military took over the government. Yeah faced the armed men of the military and spoke of how important it was that they return the power back to the people. Of how important democracy is.

Marissa and Yeah are remarkable people not afraid to face danger themselves to try to help others help themselves.

Another election is being planned, this time on July 7th. Needless to say, Yeah and Marissa have been very busy.

There are a lot of websites if you’d like to find out more about Mali and what Yeah and Marissa have accomplished, and what they are trying to accomplish. Here are a few:

samake2012.com – Yeah’s campaign website

firstladymali2012.com – Marissa’s blog: Journey in Mali & Getting Mali back on track

Journey in Mali – Marissa’s Facebook page

Mali Rising Foundation – Mali Rising’s Facebook page

@teamsamake – on Twitter

I probably haven’t done this subject justice, but today is the right day for this post. Happy Birthday, Yeah.

Support Yeah Samake

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2 thoughts on “a remarkable person I know and another I don’t

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