Oct 31, 2013

A Big Birthday Wish Thank You from Tourari

Student and Teacher
Student and Teacher

Dear Donors of the Big Birthday Wish to Rebuild the Tourari School in Timbuktu, Mali:

First, as the Founder and Executive Director of Caravan to Class, I would like to, once again, thank you for your generous support for literacy in one of the world's most underserved areas. We have a personal thank you that we would like to share with you from some video footage www.youtube.com/watch?v=di7g0juIHMk taken at the school in Tourari only this past week. You can hear the children reciting in French their thanks for what you have done for them and mentioning the names of Debbie and Eileen. I love the footage of the girls playing the Timbuktu equivalent of “duck-duck-goose”. We are actually not that different after all!

With the current upheavals taking place in the Middle East and the terrorist activity in many parts of Africa, the only long-term answer is education. In reviewing a study entitled the Geneva Declaration On Armed Violence and Development, there is a clear relationship between low levels of development, particularly education, and high rates of violence. Education give people, particularly girls, a voice and generally leads to increased tolerance. There are so many pressing needs in the developing world, particularly when it comes to first priority challenges like hunger, unsafe water, diseases like HIV. However, we cannot forget that without education, people will never have a voice and will be vulnerable to continuing hardships.

Since Eileen and Debbie launched the Big Birthday Wish to Rebuild the Tourari school, Caravan to Class has been hard at work on a number of fronts and is happy to report the following:

  1. Through our local NGO partner, Nord et Developpement, Caravan to Class has secured a partnership with Arche Nova, a German NGO, which will work in the area of sanitation, ensuring latrines work (and repair or build ones if not) and provide sanitation training at the eight schools that Caravan to Class supports. They will also help with well repair and/or drilling new wells.
  2. Caravan to Class received three large boxes of books from Alliance Francais in San Francisco, which I will take with me when I travel to Timbuktu early next year. Our plan is to put our first Caravan to Class library in the Tourari school and launch it with a number of books I will bring.
  3. Caravan to Class has a new intern from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Lauren DaSilva, who lived in Ghana, West Africa and is passionate about literacy. Lauren will focus on social media.
  4. Caravan to Class will shortly launch another campaign to rebuild the Tombouz school, also destroyed by the militants. We will provide a CD of Vieux Farka Toure’s new recording Mon Pays (My Country) to each donor who donated above the $65 level courtesy of the artist. I would like to extend this offer to all donors of the Big Birthday Wish at any amount. If you provide us with your mailing address, we will send you a CD.

Now, for some news about Tourari.

  1. We are quite excited about our partnership with Arche Nova. I have spoken with their representative in Bamako recently and they are gearing up to drill a new well in Tourari. The best news is that this well will go directly at the exact school site, versus outside the school. We will still spend the small amount of money to repair the old well, for use by the rest of the village. But, it will be exciting to have a new well in the Tourari school. This work will start shortly.
  2. We have worked with the village to find the perfect spot, in the existing school footprint, to put the new 3-classroom brick school. We have made the first transfers of money to begin requisitioning supplies for the construction.
  3. From what Hamadou, head of our local NGO partner, NorDev, tells me the government has set up an area, not far from Tourari, but closer to the Niger river, for cultivating rice, the preferred food staple in the area. It is an area of roughly 1,500 acres where farmers can join a cooperative to cultivate small plots of rice. A number of Tourari villagers are employed as day laborers in this project.

I want to end by expressing my gratitude for your support. I know there are so many important and worthy causes around the world. Our hope, at Caravan to Class, if for you to feel connected enough to this population of incredibly worth, but underserved children in Tourari to share the dream of the opportunities in life that may come to these children by helping them along the path to literacy. Thank you again for your support and please consider spreading the word.


Barry Hoffner, Founder and Executive Director, Caravan to Class

Girls at Recess
Girls at Recess
Running in the Desert
Running in the Desert


Sep 6, 2013

Thank you for your very generous support

Dear Donors of the Big Birthday Wish to Rebuild the Tourari School in Timbuktu, Mali:

First, as the Founder and Executive Director of Caravan to Class, I would like to thank you for your generous support for literacy in one of the world's most underserved areas. It has been roughly two months since Eileen and Debbie launched their fundraising campaign to restore school in Tourari.

While Tourari is one of eight schools that Caravan to Class supports, it is a special place that I visited in March 2012. Tourari's Village Chief Mr. Ibrahim Ag Moha and the school's principal, Mr. Mahalmoudou Ousmane, are two of the most engaging people I have met in Mali and incredibly committed to education. This, coupled with the fact that Tourari's school was badly damaged due to the Islamic militants using the school to store weapons, lead Caravan to Class to decide to focus its infrastructure budget on helping Tourari first. When we are finished, Tourari will have a completely new cement building that we are sure you will agree creates a very accommodating school environment.

A number of donors have asked us why we don't focus all of our resources on building schools and letting the villages and the Ministry of Education take responsibility for operational support, paying teachers' salaries, providing food, books and school supplies, the way a number of large NGO base their education model in developing countries. My response is always that our main focus is helping young children, ages 6 - 12 years, achieve the dream of literacy. We believe that the best way to do this is to stay engaged in the school for a number of years and we do this by helping pay for operational support. We also believe that this is the best way to ensure the return on the social investment we are making. I attach a link to an article entitle "More Food Means More Girls in School" (http://allafrica.com/stories/201309041307.html). We are proud to call the UN World Food Program a partner of Caravan to Class and they provide basic nutrition to all the schools we support. We supplement the Sorghum they provide with some rice (the preferred grain) and some occasional meat. In addition, we are working on a contract to be signed by both the Ministry of Education and the Village Chief that spells out how Caravan to Class will reduce its operational support for the schools over time so that by the latest, at the end of five years, they will be self-sufficient.

Finally, I wanted to attach a link to a Youtube video that we just posted on Caravan to Class' work, narrated by the actor, writer, and human rights activist, Peter Coyote. You will see the Tourari chlldren in the last video footage towards the end.


We hope you will consider forwarding this letter to your friends. Every donation, no matter how small, gets us closer to our goal.

Thank you again for your support.


With Gratitude,


Barry Hoffner, Founder and Executive Director, Caravan to Class

Aug 19, 2013

Update: Timbuktu Refugee Children in Burkina Faso

Dear Donors to the Caravan to Class project “Educate Timbuktu Refugee Children in Burkina Faso” 

Thank you for your donation, through Caravan to Class, to this project. Your generosity has has provided for teaching, food and school supplies to more than 40 war-torn refugees from Timbuktu currently living in Burkina Faso.

These children are among the most marginalized in the world, coming from one of the world poorest and least literate places in the world, the Sahara Desert region of Northern Mali. They were forced from their villages in early 2012, after a group of Al Qaida-linked militants took over Timbuktu and forced all school to close in additional to terrorizing an already underserved population. Refugees fled the area, going to the neighboring countries of Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

With Caravan to Class having been forced to close our schools in villages near Timbuktu, we decided to continue supporting the people from the villages where we were supporting schools in their refugee countries. As a result, we have continued to support Moussa Elmoctar and the children of his village while in Burkina Faso as refugees.

Since the French liberation of Timbuktu in late January 2013, Caravan to Class has been able to reopen a few of our schools in Timbuktu. Moreover after the recent elections in Mali, stability has been restored to the region and many refugees have begun to return to Timbuktu.

Thank you again for your support. Without your support, the children of Moussa’s village would not have been able to continue receiving education.


Barry Hoffner

Founder, and Executive Director Caravan to Class


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