Friday, November 14, 2014

The Impact of Education: Building a School in Fala, Mali

"In some parts of the world, students are going to school everyday. It's their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for an education. It's like a precious gift. It's like a diamond." -Malala Yousafzai

My journey starts in 2012 when I lived in Mali for a few months. While I was there, I traveled to several villages. There was a stark contrast between those villages with a school, and those without a school. In villages without a school, there were a lot of malnourished children, there was a lack of energy among the people and very little excitement for life. The villages with a secondary school were happier, cleaner, and more productive. The children were eager and excited, curious and inquisitive. There was also a special light in the eyes of those in the villages with easy access to higher education. With additional education comes increased opportunity and a future beyond the village. Those who complete their education will likely be the next leaders of Mali and help raise their country out of poverty.

Children from the village of Diorila, Mali where there is a middle school.

Fala, with a population of 1,587 children, is a remote village in the southern Sikasso region of Mali, West Africa. There is an elementary school in the village, but no middle school. Without an education beyond the 6th grade, future opportunities are very limited for the children in the village of Fala. Almost all children in Fala drop out of school after the 6th grade. With no other options, these children usually end up in the mining towns working as child laborers. In order for the children in Fala to attend middle school, they must walk 7 to 10 km each way to one of the surrounding towns of Touloula, Soumba, Donkerila or Diakaoro.

The community leaders and parents of Fala are committed to changing their children's future by enabling their children to remain in school. I work with an incredible organization called Empower Mali. We are currently building a middle school in the village of Fala. Once complete, children in Fala will be able to attend middle school in their own village. The school will serve 150 children each year from Fala and surrounding communities. In addition, the school building will become a community center at night that hosts adult literacy classes and workshops.

The Field Director of Empower Mali, Yeah Samaké, was born and raised in Mali in a village called Ouélessébougou where he is now the mayor. Yeah has overseen the construction of 19 other middles school in Mali.

It costs $60,000 to build a secondary school in Mali. We have already raised $52,000 through generous donations but we still need to raise the remaining $8,000 to finish the school. In order to raise the remaining funds, with the help of our board, I put together this video to promote this cause for education:


Our campaign ends on Sunday, November 23rd at 11:59pm. Check out our Indiegogo campaign to learn more and donate:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

{ Girls' Globe: Help us empower women around the world! }

Last May, as the U.S. Delegate for the G(irls)20 Summit in Mexico City, I had the opportunity to meet dozens of incredible women. As I tweeted live from the conference, I "met" Julia Wiklander, the Founder of Girls' Globe, and became one of the first bloggers for this incredible organization. Julia is one of the most passionate, energetic, optimistic, and dedicated women I have ever met. And for that, I joined Girls' Globe. This was my opportunity to make a difference.

The mission of Girls’ Globe is to raise awareness and educate others about global issues concerning the rights, health, and empowerment of women and girls.

Girls’ Globe is a constantly growing network of passionate people and organizations. After one year, Girls’ Globe has grown into a network of 12 bloggers from around the world, with over 2,500 followers. We plan to expand this network with additional bloggers and organizations in 2013 as we continue to share information and raise awareness. Our goal is to create an online database of organizations working to empower women and girls, to enable creative partnerships in research, funding and development.

We recently launched a campaign to raise money to attend the Women Deliver Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in May. 

In order to attend the Women Deliver Conference, we need your support to fund our bloggers travel to Malaysia and attend the conference. With your support, we can continue to educate the community and empower girls and women around the world.

If you cannot donate, please post the link to our campaign on your Facebook and Twitter. Help us spread the word! 

Check out the campaign online at: 

You want to know why I joined Girls' Globe?

And this is Julia Wiklander :) She is an inspiration to me.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

{ More than happiness }

I read an interesting article today in the Atlantic: "There's More to Life Than Being Happy" 

I love these words of Viktor Frankl:

"This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how." - Man's Search for Meaning, 1946

This article discusses the difference between "happiness" and "meaning." There is certainly a correlation. I find joy in fulfillment and purpose. Psychologists found that "leading a happy life" corresponded with being a "taker" and living a "meaningful life" corresponded with being a "giver." 

"The more one forgets himself -- by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love -- the more human he is."


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Life is a journey.

The name of this blog is Ma Vie de Voyage.

Directly translated from French, this means "My life of travel." I love to travel. I love to experience new cultures, new food, a new environment. But this phrase has come to mean much more to me over the last several months. I have come to appreciate the adventure of life, the beauty in simplicity, the small moments that matter most. I enjoy the everyday - La Vie Quotidienne. 

Life is a journey. If approached with an open mind, curiosity, and a sense of adventure, life is the best travel we will ever know.

So from here on out, I will be truly sharing, My Life of Travel. My Journey. Not just those in India, Africa, or Costa Rica, but my entire map. From Salt Lake City, Utah, to Monteverde, Costa Rice, to Mali, West Africa. This is my journey.

Friday, July 13, 2012

{ Use Your Voice - Priyanka from India }

My dear friend and fellow delegate, Priyanka Roychoudhury, from India, uses her voice to raise awareness and bring about change. "Isn't it time you use yours?"

I hope this short article she wrote will influence you, just as much as it has me. It's time to #changetheworld. Together, we can. BE INSPIRED.

Rabindranath Tagore once said "No civilised society can thrive upon victims whos humanity has been permanently mutilated."

Going by the wise words of the Nobel laureate for literature, Mr Tagore; it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Indian society is no longer a civilized one. Although hard to accept, it is a bitter truth which every citizen in India must be bold enough to look into the eye because the first step to bringing in a change and thereby a revolution is acceptance. Rife with social injustice, be it in the form of a sexist society or deep rooted income equality; India in this 21st century is plagued with a serious problem of obsolete stereotypic belief system. 

Over the past decade and especially over the last few years, India has welcomed globalisation with open arms. Its people can be seen adapting themselves to the western culture as if they were born to do so. But ironically, they are yet to let go of the age old belief system of a patriarchal society which views the female sex to be inferior to its counterpart and hence discriminated upon. The dismal situation is exemplified in the hundreds of cases of sexual assaults and violence inflicted upon the girls and women in this country. These victims are far from getting any justice; thanks to the ‘excellent’ judicial system that prevails in our country! And to couple that with the dreadful character assassination of these victims by the very protectors of the law; I am just not able to grasp the idea of why these victims are being blamed and punished for the crime being committed against them? 

One of the most recent reports of a teen aged girl being disgracefully manhandled in one of the prime locations of Guwahati, Assam by a group of men infuriated me and forced me to think- as a young girl myself, can I be assured of my safety and security in this country? Why is it that my parents have to constantly worry about my safety every time I walk out on the streets? If it can happen to that girl, who says I won’t be the next victim? I can bet on anything that I am not the only girl to be dogged by these questions today and like the million other girls out there, I need answers- right here, right now! 

If you ask me, the problem lies in the mind-set of the people. The society has turned pessimistic and has already accepted the fact that the society is incorrigible. This leads to the decadent ‘solution’ (as the public prefers to view it as) of blaming the victim of not taking precautionary measures, of wearing ‘provocative’ or ‘inappropriate’ clothing and thus holding the victim responsible for the crime. But shouldn’t it be the men who ought to be taught to act like civilised human beings and not turn into animals? Shouldn’t they be the ones who should be taught a lesson for committing the crime? I strongly believe that such debauchery must not be tolerated at all because it is a crime against the very essence of humanity.

A close friend of mine (who himself happens to be a boy) said, “the moral value of respecting girls and women has to be imparted to the boys by their families from a very tender age and the way a boy behaves with a girl reflects his very upbringing.”, and I couldn’t agree with him more. I happen to be an optimist and I know that every problem has a solution. And here is the good news- the solution to this problem is very simple; all we need to do is stop hitting the bush. Having discussions on news channels about why girls are wearing shorts and skirts are irrelevant and aren’t going to help solve the problem. The authorities must instead punish the perpetrators of such heinous crimes to deter others from committing them. And what can the public do about this? I say, they can do a lot. For a start I urge you to use your voice to bring in the change you want to see (and using your voice doesn’t mean sitting at home and shouting at the naive authorities on your TV screen for lack of proper action!!) because every voice raised counts and makes a difference. I used my voice through this article to reach out to you, isn’t it time you use yours?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

{ Marcie goes to Nicaragua... }

My friend Marcie is trying to bring clean water to the people of Nicaragua. She is amazing. She loves to travel, but most importantly, she loves to serve. She is so sincere, so genuine. She is going to change the world and make a big difference! She has already made a difference for me, as a dear friend :)

Please read more at the link below! her, HELP them. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

G(irls)20 Summit: 3.5 Billion Ways to Change the World

My travel adventure continues...and it's only getting better :) Be sure to follow me on twitter @elisabethjessop. I will be posting updates several times a day.

Hola from Mexico City! I am currently at the G(irls)20 Summit.

Why am I here? I feel so privileged to represent the United States as the U.S. Delegate at the G(irls)20 Summit. Can you believe it? They chose me!

I found out that I was selected at the beginning of May and it has been a whirlwind of excitement, anticipation, preparation, and a little anxiety. I am representing the United States! This is a big deal.

The G(irls)20 Summit brings together one girl, aged 18-20, from each G20 country and one girl from Africa, to look at the G20 Leaders agenda through the lens of the economic empowerment of girls and women so as to build strong economies, stable communities, and drive social innovation. During our time in Mexico, the delegates will participate in panel discussions, attend workshops and caucus' to discuss and promote tangible, scalable solutions toward financial prosperity and the economic empowerment of girls and women around the world. All of these activities will culminate in a delegate-led press conference and communiqué that provides a blueprint on how the G20 leaders can utilize and engage one of the best resources in the world – girls and women.

Modeled after the agenda for the G20, the G(irls)20 Summit for 2012 will focus on the issues of food security and violence against women. 

If you have any information that you think may be useful for me going into the summit, please share! Also, I would love to hear from the media! You can email me at or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter. 

Another post to come on current U.S. policy regarding girls and women, particularly in regards to food security and gender-based violence.

promise to write more about the summit later, and I will create a blog post to document each day of the summit, once I have returned. But for now, I'm soaking it all in, and enjoying every moment I here. I am surrounded by intelligence, passion, and commitment. I have enjoyed learning from our awesome sponsors, and the twenty (20) other intelligent, passionate young women that are here with me at the summit. We have had some incredible workshops already on our first day - Media and PR with Veritas, Maximizing the Playbook by Blackberry RIM (Research in Motion), and Navigating the Digital World at Google Mexico. We ended the evening with a fabulous dinner reception at the Canadian Ambassador's home where I met with many of Mexico's top officials.

Here are a few photos from my first day in Mexico City. Enjoy! More to come.

Me, Magdaly (Mexico), Claire (Canada), Sally (France), and Fisher (China) on our first evening in Mexico City.
I love the colorful buildings in Mexico! 
Magadly brought us sweet Mexican candies :) Yummy coconut!
Pretty view from our hotel. 
Awesome mural in our hotel.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

{ A coup in Bamako - this is history!!! }

Nothing much to report on around here...
Oh...there was a military coup last Wednesday!
No big deal.
Wait...a COUP? Is that what I said?
(In case you don't know, a coup is an overthrow - it's a French word).
If you haven't heard by now about the military coup in Bamako, Mali, you probably need to start looking at your RSS feeds (or setting them up) and reading the news...
It's a pretty big deal.

Coup d'état: a term I learned and studied over and over in school, particularly in my European History class as we studied the French. Never did I imagine that I would live amidst one. Never did I imagine hearing gunshots through the streets as the military rushed to take control of the government.
Meanwhile, I'm stuck between overwhelmingly excitement to be here and experience history in the making, and then an anxious feeling to get out of Mali as fast as I can, just in case. I like to take precautions. For the record, however, I have felt 100% safe at all times and we have so many people here that are watching out for us and put our safety above their own. Thank you, Marissa and Yeah, you have been so good to Kyle and I during our time here - I think of you as my own family. Love you guys!

Sorry, this post is a little late in the coming but I'm getting there! 
I've been back and forth the last few days trying to ensure my safety...

Long story short 
(let's see if that's possible) - 
I was downtown Bamako Wednesday afternoon, March 21, when I heard news of the military instability and potential coup. We headed home, unconcerned, but little did we know what would happen in the coming's crazy how things can change so quickly.
Here's what happened: 
On Wednesday morning, Malian military troops at their base camp in Kati (just outside of Bamako), were visited by a new Defense Minister. They quickly became upset because they have not received enough weapons, or food, to match the power and control of the nomadic Tuareg rebels in the North. Because of this situation, there are about 180,000 Malian refugees displaced and without food, shelter, and other basic needs. Many have died due to the situation in the north as well.
After the unfriendly visit of the Defense Minister, the military quickly seized the military base and then marched to the presidential palace in Bamako. They looted the place and riddled the cars and building with bullets. The coup was very spontaneous and not very well-planned, in my opinion. For a while, the whereabouts of President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) were unknown but they are now saying they have him and he is safe. Wednesday afternoon, Yeah was actually downtown finishing a meeting when he saw the military, led by Captain Amadou Aya Sanogo, surround the national TV station, ORTM. They shot into the air. Soon after, TV and radio stations were shut down and they took control. The military quickly surrounded the central parts of Bamako, and later the neighboring areas of Bamako as well, making it difficult to go anywhere. They quickly captured several other high-ranking government officials, looted their homes and other government buildings, as well as random local offices. All throughout the evening and throughout the next 2 days, we could hear residential gunfire as the military shot their guns in the air, making their presence known.

Soldiers block access to roads in Bamako
The looting of a local insurance company - it made me think of my mom and I thought of how awful it would be if her business was looted!

Sanogo (in green cap on middle right), leader of the military, giving commands to the other militants
Outrageous lines at the gas pumps - most of the gas stations are completely empty
Malians woke up Thursday morning, ready to go about their day as usual, not having heard the broadcast on national TV earlier that morning, only to find military blocking the streets and in control of Bamako.
Photos courtesy of The Guardian

At 4:00 am on Thursday morning, the military troops, under the name of National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State, or CNRDR, came on ORTM to explain their intentions. They advised that temporary military rule was in place and issued a military curfew between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm (it's all day, every day for American citizens...). At 11:00 am, they issued another statement to reaffirm their intentions and indicated that a temporary government would be put in place on March 27. As they took control, all airports and borders were shut down.  Throughout the last few days, during "down" time, they have been playing movies on national TV - in Bambara (the national language), when everything is usually in French. On Friday evening, the soldiers were ordered to stop shooting and return to their bases. Things have been much more quite since then. One thing that remains promising, noone has been harmed. Saturday, Sanogo appeared on TV to ask that all of the looters return what they have taken. He condemned the military, and other civilians involved, for their actions.

For days, there was talk of a counter-coup by the supporters of the President. Some even claimed that  the loyalists had won and Sanogo was injured, but on Friday night, we saw the Red Berets (like President Obama's Secret Service) on TV with Sanogo and the military saying that they supported the military and the coup.  Was this legit? Eh, I don't know. We still can't be sure.
Right now, as the borders remain closed and the airport shutdown, not only can we not leave, but nothing can get in - that means no fuel or food and there are shortages all over the city. Fuel has risen from 500 CFA per litre a week ago to over 2000 CFA per litre today - crazy!
 Mali has also been suspended from the African Union, France and the EU have suspended all aid and the US has threatened to cut off all aid to Mali.
 Another thing that is disconcerting is the advance of the MNLA leaders and the Tuareg rebels in the north. Since Wednesday, they have since captured two more towns. They are taking advantage of the lack of government at this time. They are dangerous.

Today, 4 days after the initial events of the coup, things seem very calm and stable in Bamako. People are going about with their lives, and I even heard rumors of a local wedding - a military coup certainly can't stop a bride on her wedding day, eh? But, large stores are still closed and people are still hesitant to play outside on the soccer fields.

One of the best, most accurate, analysis articles I have read:
Mayhem in Mali: Implications of the Military Coup in Bamako

Why did they remove the president from power? Elections were only a month away...Why didn't they simply protest to be sure that elections would be held on April 29, as planned? (There had been talk of postponing the elections until July so the president could make some constitutional changes)...It was much too spontaneous. Sanogo claims that he does not want leadership and will hand everything over to the temporary government once it is in place. How are they going to setup this temporary government? They are saying they will involve the leadership and opinions of every political parties and create a temporary, unified government. Will that work? I am concerned that there will be tension between the loyalists of ATT and the other political parties. Everyone will want to do it their way - the "right" way! Right now, there is talk of postponing the presidential elections by 6 months to a year - what?! That's a long time! It will be interesting to see how things play out here in Mali.

I am discouraged to see the "fall of democracy" in Mali, after 20 years of hard work and stability. It is almost as if the time tables have turned and we are back to 1991. 
But I have high hopes for the future of Mali.

I'm not going to lie, it has been pretty cool to see the military on TV, to see and hear everything unfold in Bamako. This is historic. Well, pretty cool, aside from the residential gunfire that I have heard outside my window that first night, all night, and during the proceeding days (for now, they have ceased all residential gunfire, for the most part). And aside from the loud gunshots at 1:30 am Thursday morning as they took Modibo Sidibé, the former Prime Minister of Mali who resigned after stealing government funds, and looted his house, located just down the street from our home.

It was almost comical to watch as one of the regular reporters for ORTM, very frazzled, reported on TV on Thursday evening, in an attempt to preserve a sense of normalcy. It was fascinating to see the state of the Malian Presidential palace on TV. It is a mess! Empty bullet shells clutter the ground, windows are shattered, papers everywhere. Yikes, but still kind of cool. And I enjoy watching the military on national TV - they look like a bunch of thugs :)

Not that I haven't been scared or anxious at moments, but I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be and I am safe so I'm making the most of it. But it hasn't been easy. And mom, don't worry, I do understand just how serious the situation is.

I admire Yeah Samaké's determination to serve his country and to lead his country out of ignorance and poverty towards sustained development, good governance, and proper resource management (including human resources). He has the ability to change the lives of millions - I am excited to see what he can do for Mali in the coming months. Watch his most recent interviews on Al Jazeera - you can also see some great footage of the events in Bamako the last few days:

Al-Jazeera: Current Situation in Mali - reaction of a Political Leader

Al-Jazeera Mali Coup d'Etat: Going Forward

This next video is a little longer, and the Skype connection is a little slow at first but Yeah makes some incredible statements about going forward and the potential future of Mali...Check it out!

Vive la démocratie! (Long Live Democracy)

Vive le Mali! (Long Live Mali)

Divisés nous perdons tous! Unis nous gagnons tous! (Divided we all lose! United we all win!)

To read more about what Yeah Samaké is doing in response to the military coup, and how things will continue with the Samake 2012 campaign (we're still going strong), read Marissa's blog: 
And if you want to help the refugees in the North of Mali, Yeah and his team are raising funds to provide basic necessities to the people. Those interested in doing so through the Samake 2012 campaign may make anonymous donations to a trust that has been set up: Friends of Mali Trust, 472 East 4380 North, Provo, UT 84604.
A planned peaceful march for tomorrow morning to the "Hommage aux martyrs," a local monument in honor of the lives lost in the uprisings of 1992, to establish democracy. On Tuesday, the temporary government should announced, hopefully they will reinstate the constitution, and everything should reopen as "normal." All government employees are required to be at work on Tuesday or they will lose their jobs. We'll watch as things unfold - as history unfolds!

I hope and pray that democracy will prevail and Mali can quickly bounce back from the coup.

As for now,
I'm safe. Kyle's safe. We're doing well! 
We are in a safe location, indoors at all times.
Very secure.
Once the airport is reopened (rumor says Tuesday or Wednesday), Kyle and I will be evacuated home, just to ensure safety.
Thank you everyone for all of your love and prayers! I have received countless emails, Facebook messages, and other communication the last few days from loving family and friends. Keep praying that we will return home safely.

Friday, March 9, 2012

{ Happy International Women's Day! }

I am proud to be a woman.

(had to choose a feminine color :))
"Connecting Girls, Inspring Futures"

Young Indian girl
A H'mong hill tribe girl in Vietnam
Dogon women in Mali
Women from the Pacific Islands
From album 'Southeast Asia' by David Terrazas

I write this post in honor of the millions of women who have no opportunity, no resources, and untapped potential. I write this for the women who have had such a profound influence on my life and have helped me to reach for my dreams and see my full potential. I write this for my sweet mom, my greatest example, for my dear little sisters, for my friends, and every other woman.

Let me jump on my soapbox for a minute. 

Women are oppressed. Many of the more developed nations have come a long way in fighting for women's rights and protection; but all over the world, particularly in developing countries, women and girls are fighting violence, rape, female genital mutilation (FGM), bride burning, child marriage, sex slavery and forced prostitution, and many other abuses...maternal mortality rates are disturbingly low...Where is justice? Less than 1% of US aid is targeted at women and girls. Want to know a frightening statistic? "It appears that more girls have been killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the 20th century." Women are more likely than boys to die of preventable diseases like malaria or pneumonia because boys are considered more superior. Boys are more likely to receive an education. But do we realize what education can do for women? Yes, it's empowering.

 We need to protect women's rights, protect their health, help them to get an education, and pursue their dreams. 

"Women's empowerment helps raise economic productivity and reduce infant mortality. It contributes to improved health and nutrition. It increases the chances of education for the next generation." -UNDP - Not only do women face oppression but they are an untapped resource in many communities around the world. Investing in women will improve our global economy. It will stimulate international development. This is why I am such a strong advocate for micro-financing for women. Women will invest about 90% of their income into their family (for children's education, food, health needs, etc.) while men will only invest about 30-40% into their family...10 things that stand in the way of a woman: illiteracy, HIV, lack of ID, pregnancy, safe and decent work, no aid support for women, girls must be distinguished as their own category and addressed separately, little organization reports on girls' statistics, lack of support, and law and policy (girl effect).

When a woman is educated, she stays health and HIV negative, she marries when she chooses, raises and healthy family, and sends her children to school. When she starts a business, she is not only improving her own quality of life but contributing to the economy and life of her community.

Women are not the problem, they are the solution. 

As a woman, I feel like it's my social responsibility to stand up for other women, to inspire them. To help them change the world and pursue their dreams.

Here are a few articles and links I wanted to share that I came across today for International Women's day:
What if YOU were one of the 6 MILLION girls living in the developing world???

"Rina Begum is a real person -- but she's also a statistic. When CARE met her, Rina and other women in her remote village in Bangladesh lived under virtual house arrest. Local tradition forbade women from leaving home without male escorts. Women who dared do so were subjected to public sexual harassment and even violence. 

Many women and girls around the world face similar limits to their freedom. For example, in parts of Nepal, women are confined to sheds while they menstruate. Adolescent girls, who cannot go out in public, are denied the opportunity to go to school. With restricted movement, women are less likely to earn income and less able to access health care. Furthermore, in too many places such rules often go hand-in-hand with forced child marriage."

So, the more important question is, what can YOU do? What are you doing to empower women and inspire futures? What are you doing to #makeadifference?

Find just one way that you can help women. Do you realize how blessed you have been? You have the resources and the opportunity...

I have so many personal examples that I look up to. Marissa Samake is empowering women by donating food to the villages. She is not only feeding the children but giving women an opportunity, EMPOWERING them, to earn money for themselves by selling the food, read more about what she is doing at: Like my mom, Cindee Leavitt Jessop, you can empower women through financial education and inspire women to recognize their own self-worth - find a way to relate to woman. My mom empowered many woman to stand up against abuse and domestic violence because she herself, is a survivor of abuse. How can you help?

Need a few ideas?

I feel so blessed to work with women around the world - from my young girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking living in a safe home in Nepal (check out The Red Thread Movement!) - to the sweet, destitute widows in India (see what Maitri is doing for them) - to inspiring the potential of my own friends and family - to empowering Malian women to become self-sufficient through micro-financing and community activism with Team Samake...
What are you doing?

Some of my girls in the safe home in Nepal. I pray for them and think of them daily.

Love these young Malian girls. 

Dancing with Malian women in the village of Dialakoroba.
Dancing among Malian women.

Sweet widows in India

I'll never forget this woman.
Women on the beach in India - they need a woman's co-op for beach workers in Goa

Sangita - a woman selling products on the beach in Goa. Trying to organize a co-op for beach workers in India...think we can do it? 
My own sweet "mother" and "auntie" in India. Love these women.
Step in and do your part. Inspire and empower women around the world. Together, we can make a difference and make a change in our global community. Are you in? 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

{ YEAH SAMAKÉ is the man! }

WOW. Last Wednesday, on March 1, my blog had 111 views...
I'm feeling the love! 

What do you want to hear more of on my blog? 
Am I doing alright?

I would love some feedback! 

Well, this post isn't about me or my blog.
It's about something far more important...


Please take a few minutes and watch this video...

See that 5 star rating on this video?
It's because...there's no better way to say...he's the man.
The bomb. 

Yeah is currently the mayor in his hometown of Ouélessébougou, Mali, West Africa.
He is also a 2012 Malian presidential candidate.
He's the man for the job.  

You can read and see all about Yeah and his accomplishments all over the web in news articleswikipedia, and numerous can read about the changes he plans to make for Mali...
Economic Development.
National Security.

Be sure to read more about him and his issues at:

But I want to take this time to tell you a little bit more about his character.

Those who meet Yeah love him immediately. He has a glowing smile that radiates through the room. He is full of energy, life, and passion. He is PASSIONATE about serving his country and his people. He is just a genuinely good man working to truly make a difference. I want to be like him. He has the strength to overcome anything. He lived in the United States for about 10 years before returning to Mali to become mayor of his many people leave their home country, come to America, and return? Very few...honestly, I don't know if I would return to Mali after being in the states. I love the people, I love the culture, but for one, it's SO dang hot! It's a sacrifice. But Yeah will sacrifice anything to help his people. He's dedicated to a cause. He is truly concerned about his country. He amazes me. 

He isn't like other politicians...
For one, he's honest. Always. He's transparent. I can ask him anything and everything and he will give me the facts. He is not corrupt. In fact, he is doing all of his fundraising in the US to avoid corrupting influences...he doesn't have any foreign interests or large donors there, he is merely targeting the general population. He has a big heart and a big head...he is not in any way egotistical but he is very intelligent. He thoroughly thinks through the issues at hand before suggesting a long-term solution. He's very sympathetic and compassionate towards everyone. He never acts like he's better than others. He is so genuine. He never gives up and he is full of optimism and excitement. Oh and did I mention that he never even makes fun of my bad French? He only encourages me to keep doing my best.  Yeah never wastes an opportunity. One of the most valuable things he has taught me:

"Have you ever been opportunity knocking? Explore - you don't know what's out there waiting for." 

I am ambitious but this incredible man has encouraged me to reach above and beyond the stars in places I didn't even know existed.

He has achieved so much. Like I said, you can read it all over the web, but let me just say that as mayor, within 3 years, he increased the tax collection rate from the initial 10% to 86%. The people trust him. He has brought lots of water pumps and electricity to villages in Ouélessébougou. He has built many schools. As mayor, he governs over 44,000 people. Look at what he has done in 2 and 1/2 years! What could he do for the 14 million Malians during his 5 years as President? I can't wait to find out!!! 

Not only is Yeah a talented, genuine, big-hearted politician, but he is an incredible father and husband. He is always looking out for his wife and children. He's a family man - and I admire that. I have nothing but good words to say about the Samaké family. They are incredible and they are working together to help change the future of Mali - a quick shout out to his wife, Marissa! She's amazing. 

When I first was offered the opportunity to come to Mali, I felt unsure. I had already spent a semester abroad and the opportunity to work on a presidential campaign was not appealing to me. But, after talking to a few friends who had met Yeah Samake, and had nothing but good things to say about him, I decided to dive right in. It has been one of the best decisions I made. My life has been changed because I know Yeah. He inspires me. 

Now, I'm here in Mali, and we're ready to knock 'em dead! 
We're working hard on the ground.
But, we still need all the support we can get! 
I'm ready to win this, are you? Think about the change we will bring not only for Mali, but for Africa, and for the rest of the World! 
Let's make a difference.
Support Yeah Samake for President of Mali! 

"United, we win all. Divided, we lose all."
"Unis, nous gagnons tous. Divisés, nous perdons tous." 

Monday, February 27, 2012

{ MIA? Back in Action! }

It's time for me to blog.
I'm a little behind. I've been so MIA - literally missing in action.
We haven't stopped moving for the last 2 weeks - from this event to that event to another meeting to sending some emails to more events and rallies. It's wonderful. I love it all. But, it leaves me very little time to share this incredible experience with all of you.
There are SO many things I wish I could share.
I wish I could better share this experience - I wish everyone could have an experience of their own like this.

I recently finished the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn - I would highly recommend it. What are you doing to empower women? Education is key. Check out the Half the Sky Movement, too.This book has had a huge impact on me and my view of the world. As well, it has helped me to gain a better perspective on my mission in life.

I have two things to share - please consider each of these very carefully:
  • "Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people." -George Bernard Shaw 
When it comes to Humanitarian efforts, you aren't being reasonable, right? The world depends on you. Be an Idealist. Face reality and break the bands of poverty, gender-based violence, FGM, and so many other issues plaguing our world today.

  • "Young people often ask us how they can help address issues like sex trafficking or international poverty. Our first recommendation to them is to get out and see the tackle an issue effectively, you need to understand it - and it's impossible to understand an issue by simply reading about it. You need to see it firsthand, even live in its midst." 
I'll try to make this short and quick. I don't all that you really want to see are some pictures :) You really want to #makeadifference? If you don't, stop thinking about yourself and think more about how you can serve others (haha). Well, the best way to make a difference is to educate yourself, empower yourself. Visit the developing world! Many people are hestiant and think it's dangerous, as they say in Half the Sky, "The most dangerous part of living in a poor country is often the driving, since no one wears seat belts, and red lights - if they exist - tend to be regarded as mere suggestions." Honestly, it's very safe. Yes, even for women. In my travels in the "developing world," I have not once felt threatened. There is reason for legitimate concern (like disease) but take precautions, and I promise, it'll all be okay. Often, it is merely the fear of the unknown that is holding you back. I'm here to tell you, firsthand, that it's all going to be okay. The best way to learn and truly understand what is going on in the world around us, you need to see these issues. COME. Europe is great - I loved my time in France and England. One of the greatest issues in the American education system is that students never fully understand the issues of poverty at home and abroad. Take some time to visit the developing world, whether it be a "gap year" in your education or a summer teaching abroad. Look into the eyes of poverty and violation of human rights. See the oppression of women firsthand. This will give you a much richer understanding of the world around you and I promise, you will have no regrets. You will live your life with a greater sense of satisfaction, love, appreciation, and selflessness. You will see the world with a new pair of colored glasses. You will be a better entrepreneur, a better wife/husband, better mother/father, and a more passionate student of life. You will then begin to #makeadifference. DO IT.

Now that I'm off my soapbox :) Here's to the last few incredible, exhausting, exhilarating, accomplished weeks in Mali!

I love the Malian culture.

Random thoughts:
  • I have spent so much time in the villages. I have seen ridiculous amounts of malnutrition and blown-out bellies (usually Kwashiorkor), disease, unhappiness, and hard work. 
  • I receive a marriage proposal nearly everywhere we go - I can't even count them on two hands anymore.
  • If I don't get a marriage proposal, then they ask for my phone number and won't let go of my hand until I give an adequate response (don't worry, I have not and will not give out my phone number).
  • Now, as far as Mali goes, I'm married without a phone. Oops!
Some of my favorite things:

  • Malian dance parties - at each rally we go to, there is a little dance party before and after with lots of African drums, masks, etc. An older woman usually shares a story in song. Meanwhile, a lot of the Malian woman stand up and dance around. I love dancing with them and seeing their faces just light up.
  • Even better, when I am the first one to get up and dance to get all of the other women to join in...their eyes sparkle.
  • Holding little Malian 
  • Smiling at Malian children and have them smile back and shyly look away
  • Holding Malian Children
  • High fives for large groups of Malian children all at once
  • Malian villages - I love the serenity out in Rural Mali
  • When I am with a large group of little children and they all fight over me...and smother me...and I have like 10 little hands grasping onto my arm with dear life. 
  • Religious devotion
  • The "Samake2012" song - Samaké deux milles douze..the beat totally gets stuck in my head for hours. 
The last few weeks are a blur. We have been so busy on the campaign. Enjoy a random conglomeration of photos!

Top - Playing with little kids, making hand gestures, while at a rally :) So cute! - Me dancing (left) with the Samake Singer (he wrote a song for President Samake!) during a rally in Bamako - me and Kyle swarmed with little children in a village in Mali - love it.
Middle - Me with the most adorable girls that I bought popcorn from at a local rally, favorite memory - Me with the adorable kids that I "played with" during one of the local meetings - our good friend, Dra, with all the kids, love this photo!
Bottom - Kyle and I eating out of a community lunch bowl with our hands, traditional Malian - Kyle and I with Yeah's sisters family and some of her kids - me with Kadija and Sira out in the village.

Can you tell that I just adore little kids?

Getting my move on with the village women in African song and dance before a rally!
All of the Malian women carry their little babies like this - on their backs with a cloth strapped around their chest. It amazes me! Still blows my mind. 

Top - Rally in Bamako Commune 5 - dancing in the village of Mandé, look how high he is! - a masked African dancer in the village of Diorila
2nd row - young girl dancers in Mande- the children anxiously and proudly running up to the school, built by Yeah's foundation - Dressed gunmen (community leaders) welcoming us into the village of Mandé
3rd row - Dancer in Mandé - welcoming Yeah to a community - Yeah speaking at rally in Bamako Commune
Bottom - Dancing in the village of Beneko, I loved this masked and dressed African animal dancer, they told an incredible story of courage through song and dance - women at a local rally, Malian women amaze me! - Local children lined up to greet PACP and supporters to the village of Mandé
As a sign of respect and appreciation, Yeah was given two live chickens at the rally in Beneko. Here, Dra is taking them to the local market to be killed, and yes, they're still alive in this picture. 
Love this photo.
My little girl, Tanta at the village of Kouri - she's adorable! She was my "dancing queen" in our dance party.
High fives all around - "children reaching for their dreams"
Me with my little sunshine, Arrah, she radiates light and a sweet spirit. Miss her already.
Surrounded by kids in the village of Beneko - they don't look so happy in this photo, do they??
Swarmed in little Malian children - I love this feeling.  
My mommy gave me a present and a card for Valentine's day :) Made my week!!! 
Top - we visited a Muslim mosque for Friday evening prayers. I was sitting with the women. Here Kyle is with the men (my picture didn't turn out :() - this is the view from our balcony at the party headquarters, the streets were swarming with devout muslims who had come to the community area for Friday afternoon prayers - Basketball game, too cool. Thanks Kyle for teaching me the rules of the game!
2nd row - adorable little kids outside our home - Local meeting - Gunmen in Mandé (repeat picture, my bad)
3rd row - Me dancing with Samaké Singer (I love jumping up and getting the crowd involved) - a "joke" at a local rally, the crowd was roaring with laughter - a young girl giving Kola nuts at the rally in Mandé (a symbol of appreciation and greeting of respect in Mali)
Bottom - Dancing again at the local rally - the beautiful Niger River in Ségou - Mali has Mountains!!! What a beautiful sight to see. Reminded us of Southern Utah. 

One particular day, this last Saturday, was insane. Meetings at 9, 10:30, 11:30, drive an hour to Kouri for another rally at 2:00, more meetings, drive, dinner, drive, another meeting at 12:30 am (so, yeah, it was technically Sunday at this point), and then home in Bamako at 2:30 am.
I loved it, every minute of it.
(Okay, except for sitting in the back seat with my knees in my chest as we bounced our way back to Bamako).
I love working on the Samake 2012 campaign.
I love being in Mali.
It's always an adventure :)

Life is so precious. I become very easily attached, especially to little kids. It was so hard to say goodbye to my little Arrah when we left the village of Kouri the other day. Yes, I really did cry. I'm more convinced than ever that "All you need is love." All these little children need is to feel important. Okay, that's the idealist in me. Realistically, I realize there are a lot of other factors that influence their lives - lack of education and opportunity. Education is empowering. I'm determined to "Teach the World."

Also, if you know me personally and would like an invite to read my personal blog (yes, it's private), shoot me an email or leave a comment here with your email and I'll add you! :)

Love you all, xoxo,