May 19, 2015

Update on Recent Visit to Timbuktu & Teshaq School

Dear Donor to the Teshaq School Rehabilitation Project

This report is to update you on my recent trip to Timbuktu, including a visit to the village of Teshaq to see the results of the rehabilitation project which has been completed. I was very pleased with the results. The note below are my trip notes written around the beginning of April. Since then, the Malian Government has signed a peace deal, though a number of the Tuareg factions have yet to sign. While challenges remain, we can only hope that peace comes to the area. Please see my notes below...

I am happy to say that Timbuktu is on the road to recovery from the takeover of Northern Mali, including Timbuktu, by the Ansar Dine militants almost exactly 3 years ago. While there are still no tourists in the city and it remains heavily fortified by UN Peacekeepers and the French military, there is a feeling that things are returning to normal. Refugees have, for the most part, returned. There is much more life on the streets than one year ago. The people seem to be moving from a period of looking for basic needs to looking towards the future. There is a feeling that if only the MNLA (Tuareg leadership) would sign the peace accord, there could be a noticeable inflow of opportunities.

I was happy to visit the school that Caravan to Class built last year in the village of Tombouz. Though the students were on school break, I loved seeing the finished school, the new well next to the school and new block of toilets. Most of all, I loved seeing the writing on the blackboard from before the students were on break. In the 6th grade classroom, there was a test on the blackboard with one essay question being “What was the role played by Djenne and Timbuktu in the 16th century”. The head of the village of Tombouz was overjoyed to see me again and asked to send a special thank you to the donors who made the Tombouz school possible.

Today, I went with Jiddou and Hamadou to visit the Teshaq school. This visit was unannounced and Jiddou insisted that I where a turban, both for security precautions. Teshaq lies on the North-West road, unlike a number of Caravan to Class’ other schools, where most of the problems lie. I was very happy to see the school. It was very well built as you may be able to see from the attached photos. Today was the first day back from school break, so there were not as many children as there will likely be next week. Nevertheless, those in the village quickly assembled to give me a wonderful welcome, parents and kids

The school looked great and the village is so happy to see a renovated school in the center of their village. The head of the village specifically asked me to thank the donors who made this possible.

We are into our 6th year with our partner NGO Nord et Developpement and its founder, Mr. Hamadou Toure. We took a chance on partnering with this small local NGO in early 2010 and this decision has paid off. Hamadou has an incredibly structured process for working with the villages and the authorities that keeps things organized and on track. He has managed to create a network of partners like Caravan to Class that operate in different sectors to uplift the villages where we work. The principal areas are Education (Caravan to Class), Sanitation, and Food Security. As for Sanitation, wherever Caravan to Class builds a school, the German NGO Arche Nova has built both latrines, provided daily sanitation supplies and training, and has drilled a well. In the village of Kakondji I was able to see a very successful food security project being implemented where network partner Arche Nova & Plan Mali purchased a large pump to bring water from the Niger inland, villages cleared field for planting grain and vegetables. The project also purchased seeds, oil and diesel (for the pump). The villagers pay 1/3 of their harvest back to the village to be able to continue the purchase of seeds, oil/diesel and machine maintenance.

Finally, we will be launching a new program in our 2015-16 budget…A Female adult literacy class. From our contacts with the villages we have realized that the more involved we get the parents, particularly mothers, with the schools, the more they support their child’s (particularly girls) education. We already have the classrooms, the solar for light, and the teachers…Thus, adding a few classes a week in the evenings for the mothers to learn to read and write in their own language(s), in a fun and well-structured way, would be very complementary to our existing work.

This note turned out a little longer than I expected. However, I want to reiterate my appreciation for your support for Caravan to Class. This is the time of year when I am busy writing grants to foundations for funding. We have received a Match grant opportunity from an existing foundation supporter which will match any new grants we receive up to $10,000. These funds will go towards our next school construction project in the village Kakondji. If you know any foundations which fund education in Africa, I would be grateful for the contact.

Sincerely,

Barry Hoffner

Caravan to Class

Apr 7, 2015

My Recent Visit to Timbuktu

Dear Tourari Donors

The purpose of this note is simply to send you a personal greetings from Timbuktu, Mali. I came here to visit our Samdiar school under construction, tour the villages where Caravan to Class operates, including Tourari and scout out our next school project.

I am happy to say that Timbuktu is on the road to recovery from the takeover of Northern Mali, including Timbuktu, by the Ansar Dine militants almost exactly 3 years ago. While there are still no tourists in the city and it remains heavily fortified by UN Peacekeepers and the French military, there is a feeling that things are returning to normal. Refugees have, for the most part, returned. There is much more life on the streets than one year ago. The people seem to be moving from a period of looking for basic needs to looking towards the future. There is a feeling that if only the MNLA (Tuareg leadership) would sign the peace accord, there could be a noticeable inflow of opportunities.

I was happy to visit the school that Caravan to Class built last year in the village of Tombouz. Though the students were on school break, I loved seeing the finished school, the new well next to the school and new block of toilets. Most of all, I loved seeing the writing on the blackboard from before the students were on break. In the 6th grade classroom, there was a test on the blackboard with one essay question being “What was the role played by Djenne and Timbuktu in the 16th century”. The head of the village of Tombouz was overjoyed to see me again and asked to send a special thank you to the donors who made the Tombouz school possible. Unfortunately, do to security issues on the day I was planning to go to Tourari, I was unable to visit the village of Tourari.

I did visit our current school construction project in the village of Samdiar. Samdiar is a very large village right on the Niger river about 20 kilometers from the town of Timbuktu. It is an ethnically mixed village of Songhay, Tuareg (black), Peul and Bozo who seem to get along well together. I am enclosing some pictures of the visit to Samdiar which speak for themselves….the usual incredible welcome, the frenzied women dancing, the kids all wanting to shake my hand, the camels, and the traditional chat with the village elders in the tent. The head of the area’s commune (a commune is comprised of 15-20 villages) even showed up and told me that the school was the first made of cement in his whole commune. The village chief was very happy and said “you came to our village, on behalf of Caravan to Class, one year ago and said you would build us a school. You have done that. No one has ever done anything like that for our village. We will remember you and your donors forever.”

Next I went to scout out two villages for our next school project and as a result, we will already start working on a budget for the Kakondji school in our 2015-16 budget that begins July 1, 2015. Kakondji is also on the Niger River in the same commune as Samdiar (the commune of Dangha). It is also a large village of children, which you will see from the pictures. It is incredible to think that this village, with so many children, has never had a school. The village elders spoke quite passionately about wanting to see their kids educated…that times have changed and they realize the need for the children to read and write. Kakondji fits all our criteria for a successful school construction project.

We are into our 6th year with our partner NGO Nord et Developpement and its founder, Mr. Hamadou Toure. We took a chance on partnering with this small local NGO in early 2010 and this decision has paid off. Hamadou has an incredibly structured process for working with the villages and the authorities that keeps things organized and on track. He has managed to create a network of partners like Caravan to Class that operate in different sectors to uplift the villages where we work. The principal areas are Education (Caravan to Class), Sanitation, and Food Security. As for Sanitation, wherever Caravan to Class builds a school, the German NGO Arche Nova has built both latrines, provided daily sanitation supplies and training, and has drilled a well. In the village of Kakondji I was able to see a very successful food security project being implemented where network partner Arche Nova & Plan Mali purchased a large pump to bring water from the Niger inland, villages cleared field for planting grain and vegetables. The project also purchased seeds, oil and diesel (for the pump). The villagers pay 1/3 of their harvest back to the village to be able to continue the purchase of seeds, oil/diesel and machine maintenance.

Finally, we will be launching a new program in our 2015-16 budget…A Female adult literacy class. From our contacts with the villages we have realized that the more involved we get the parents, particularly mothers, with the schools, the more they support their child’s (particularly girls) education. We already have the classrooms, the solar for light, and the teachers…Thus, adding a few classes a week in the evenings for the mothers to learn to read and write in their own language(s), in a fun and well-structured way, would be very complementary to our existing work.

Sincerely,

BH

Mar 3, 2015

Teshaq School Rehabilitation Project Completed

Dear Supporters of our Teshaq school rehabilitation project on GlobalGiving:

I am happy to report that we have just completed our Teshaq school rehabilitation project, and in record time. Our focus was to get it completed as soon as possible in order to be able to move the children from the temporary tents we set up into the permanent school which we finished last week.

Thank you so much for your generosity in supporting the Teshaq school rehabilitation project. Your important support has helped us fund the reconstruction of the Teshaq school which had severely deterioriated over the last few years while the residents of Teshaq were refugees in neighboring countries (Burkina Faso and Mauritania). Your support will also help fund the payment of teachers, books/school supplies, and basic nutrition. The Teshaq school is one the first construction by Irma Turtle of Turlewill. The parents, villages elders, school director, and teachers are incredibly committed to education and literacy in their villages. From the regular attendance we take in the school we support, we see that even without a welcoming school environment (pre-rehabilitation) the number of students attending the Teshaq is 79.

The security situation in Timbuktu has stabilized greatly in the past 18 months. I am looking forward to returning to Timbuktu by the end of March 2015 where I will be pleased to see the finished Teshaq school including the students, hopefully a complete brand new Samdiar school (which is currently about 85% finished), and to scout out our next school construction project.

Thank you again for your support for Caravan to Class and our mission to bring literacy to villages in Timbuktu. Without your support, we would not be able to continue our work. I do understand how many deserving needs remain unsatisfied in the world and am grateful for your support for one of the world’s most interest, yet under-served populations. We are please to report a recent grant award from the Rex Foundation in the Bay Area, started by the former Grateful Dead members. The connection to the Rex Foundation came from a long-time support and current board member, so please consider spreading the word. You never know where there may be additional opportunities to find supporters of our school projects.

Thank you again for your support.

Sincerely,

Barry Hoffner

Founder and Executive Director, Caravan to Class

 
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