Caravan to Class

Caravan to Class imagines a world, where no matter where a child lives, the fundamental right of education is assured. We are dedicated to reversing the injustice of illiteracy through school projects in Western Africa's remote villages.
Mar 30, 2012

Timbuktu visit to Tedeini school

Dear Donors and Friends of the Caravan to Class School for the Tedeini school:

As Executive Director of Caravan to Class, I just returned from a trip to Timbuktu, Mali where I visited Caravan to Class’ first school in the village of Tedeini. Both buildings, the brand new 3 classroom building and the completely renovated 3 classroom building look great! The school recently reopened due to the problems facing Northern Mali mentioned below.

Before I tell you about the school, I would like to update you on the challenges facing Northern Mali. There were a series of kidnapping of foreigners in the town of Timbuktu itself and in the a nearby town.  While the Malian Government, at times like to play up the Al Queda link, in order to induce involvement of both the French and US forces, the situation itself if very complex. The biggest change, for the negative on the situation in Northern Mali, was the downfall of the Gadhafi Government in Libya. Gadhafi himself had invested a lot of money in Mali and in Timbuktu in particular. He had a large house in Timbuktu and a few hotels. All are now unoccupied and the Timbuktu government is now waiting for the new Libyan Government to claim them. Long-term, it is good to get Gadhafi’s influences out of Timbutku, but short-term there are challenges.

Many of Gadhafi’s best-trained soldiers were Turage. After the fall of Gadhafi, they loaded up their trucks and left with their arms. These ex-soldiers are well-armed, well-trained, and know the desert well. They created a very combustible situation in the desert and reignited a Tuareg rebel group to take arms against the Malian government to have their own separate state, the Azawad. While there are very legitimate complaints by the Tuareg and others in Northern Mali about the lack of investment in basic necessities like health services, education, and infrastructure, it is only a tiny percentage of the population that is militant. After a few clumsy attempts to attack some villages that the rebels took over, the rebels counter-attacked, killing and beheading many Malian soldiers. This ignited significant ethnic tension between the Tuareg and the Bombara (Mali’s main ethnic group) as far away as Bamako. As a result, many Tuareg fled their villages in the Timbuktu area to Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger and are only now starting to return.

The above challenges, directly lead to the military Coup d’Etat that toppled the Government last week. The military was very unhappy with the support from the government in fighting the rebels. These are challenging times in Mali, previously one of Africa’s most stable governments. However, for Caravan to Class, we view our mission as a long-term one and we continue to move forward.

The above has also impacted the Tedeini school. Many of the families, particularly the “white” Tuareg fled to Burkina Faso and Mauritania as refugees due the fear and perceived risks of ethnic strife between the Bombara and “white” Tuareg, which fortunately has not occurred. Families are said to be on their way back. However, at the moment there were about 40 students, most in the lower grades 1-3. I was able to be there during the daily lesson for each grade (1-6) put out over the entire country via radio, roughly 20 minutes per grade. We have a good director at the school Abdoulaye, and the students seem to be learning but there is a long way to go. Caravan to Class is in this for the long-term and our challenge, once families come back to the area, is to put in place a strategy and programs to be sure all children in the village are coming to school, that there is equal access for girls, and that the children are on track to be literate by the end of the 6th grade. We are determined to achieve this.

Please find enclosed pictures and a link to a short video of one of the classes at Tedeini.

Sincerely,

Barry Hoffner

Executive Director, Caravan to Class

Links:

Mar 30, 2012

Visit to Timbuktu Hearing-Impaired School

Dear Donors and Friends of the Caravan to Class School for the Hearing Impaired:

 As Executive Director of Caravan to Class, I just returned from a trip to Timbuktu, Mali where I visited the only School for the Hearing Impaired in the entire Timbuktu Region (Ecole des Deficients Auditifs) that Caravan to Class supports. The school has was built with the aid of a large French NGO which is no longer working in the Timbuktu region. The building is a nice one as is the land, donated by the Timbuktu Regional Government. Unfortunately, financing for food and teachers is limited. In addition, though the school has a bus, it does not have the means to finance money for a bus driver nor even gasoline for the bus. Some of the students live far away and thus this impacts daily attendance. Please consider supporting. Even a small donation, $10, can make a difference.

 Before I tell you about the school, I would like to update you on the challenges facing Northern Mali. There were a series of kidnapping of foreigners in the town of Timbuktu itself and in the a nearby town.  While the Malian Government, at times like to play up the Al Queda link, in order to induce involvement of both the French and US forces, the situation itself if very complex. The biggest change, for the negative on the situation in Northern Mali, was the downfall of the Gadhafi Government in Libya. Gadhafi himself had invested a lot of money in Mali and in Timbuktu in particular. He had a large house in Timbuktu and a few hotels. All are now unoccupied and the Timbuktu government is now waiting for the new Libyan Government to claim them.

 Many of Gadhafi’s best-trained soldiers were Turage. After the fall of Gadhafi, they loaded up their trucks and left with their arms. These ex-soldiers are well-armed, well-trained, and know the desert well. They created a very combustible situation in the desert and reignited a Tuareg rebel group to take arms against the Malian government to have their own separate state, the Azawad. While there are very legitimate complaints by the Tuareg and others in Northern Mali about the lack of investment in basic necessities like health services, education, and infrastructure, it is only a tiny percentage of the population that is militant. After a few clumsy attempts to attack some villages that the rebels took over, the rebels counter-attacked, killing and beheading many Malian soldiers. This ignited significant ethnic tension between the Tuareg and the Bombara (Mali’s main ethnic group) as far away as Bamako. As a result, many Tuareg fled their villages in the Timbuktu area to Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger and are only now starting to return.

 As a direct result of the above, the Malian Military intervened last week with a Coup d’Etat. We hope that Mali, a country that had previously been lauded as one of Africa’s more stable democracies, will soon return to democracy.

 The above has also impacted the Timbuktu for the Hearing Impaired. All foreign NGO that were based in Timbuktu have left and funding has dried up. There are no foreign tourists now in Timbuktu at all, which has significantly impacted the work prospects for a large segment of the population. Caravan to Class is one of the few charitable organizations still active in the area and we intend to increase our investments in education in the area.

 The school is run by a 25 year old, Mr. Kailou Diop. He became deaf at the age of nine due to a severe illness. From what I saw, he does an amazing job bringing hope to the hearing impaired at the school. Aside from real sign-language learning that was clearly taking place, he seems to inspire the children through teaching about interesting topics like analyzing movies. Unfortunately, due to the lack of funding, not only does he run the school, but he is the only teacher. The three classes are separated not by age, but by signing level. He moves between the three classes teaching their specific levels. This school deserves greater funding and Caravan to Class intends to help.

 Please find enclosed pictures and a link to a video with the teacher showing how to “sign” Caravan to Class.

 Sincerely,

 Barry Hoffner

Executive Director, Caravan to Class

Links:

Feb 7, 2012

Caravan to Class: Mora School Project Update

Mora School in construction
Mora School in construction

Dear Friends of Caravan to Class

Thank you so much again for making our 2011 Global Giving Winter Challenge such a successful campaign which completed the funding for our Mora School Project.

I wanted to report to you on some of the statistics of the Caravan to Class Global Giving campaign itself, the progress on our Mora school project, and the challenging situation in the North of Mali where Caravan to Class operates.

Global Giving Statistics

Caravan to Class finished our Global Giving Mora school project campaign with the following highlights:

  • First in funds’ raised with $29,206 out of 276 small charities
  • Fourth in number of donors with 171

In addition, we are happy to report that we were successful in increasing our outreach beyond friends and family donors, one of the main objectives of our Global Giving campaign:

  • 61% of all donors were new and unaffiliated donors
  • 19% of donors contributed using gift certificates
  • 14% of all donors were anonymous donors
  • roughly one-third of our donors are from outside the United States, including donors from Russia, Australia, Turkey, Mali, Spain, Sweden, Germany, France, Switzerland, England, Singapore, and Hong Kong
  • 52% of donors gave $10 - $25, 7% $26 - $50, 11% $51 - $100, 18% $101 - $250, 12% more than $250

 Caravan to Class is very excited about our new partnership with Global Giving and we see them as a cornerstone of our social media outreach strategy. We will continue to list projects (#9810, #9808) on Global Giving, under Caravan to Class, as well as use them for our annual fundraising campaign in November-December.

The Mora School Project

As of the beginning of February, the school is almost completed on the outside and the inside should be finished in the coming month. The students are already learning inside the classroom while construction is being done on the outside. Our school has been certified by the Timbuktu Ministry of Education. In addition, the head of the village reports that roughly 45 children are attending school. Our target, by the end of the school year, is for the school to be at capacity, or 70 children.

Situation in Northern Mali

While there have been problems in the far desert areas of Mali in the past, violence had not touched Timbuktu in recent years. Unfortunately, in late November 2011, there were two kidnappings of foreigners within 24 hours, one on the main street in Timbuktu, with one German tourist shot and killed. The Malian military mobilized to attack bands of former Malian, mostly Tuareg, fighters with the Gadhafi regime who have fled Libya in recent months. As usually happens in these conflicts, the most vulnerable of the population suffer and this is unfortunately the case with many of the Tuareg near Timbuktu.

The Caravan to Class schools are still open, although some fearful families have temporarily moved to Mauritania. We hope that a resolution is found in the very near future that will restore calm and peace in the region. In the meantime, Caravan to Class is more determined than ever to move ahead with our schools. In this difficult time, our schools remain one of the very few sources of hope in the villages where we operate.

 At Caravan to Class, we want to express our gratitude to you for supporting us and the children we serve in the Sahara Desert Region of Mali.

 

Sincerely,

Barry Hoffner

Executive Director, Caravan to Class



 

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