Recently, I have been reading critiques on international NGOS written by anthropologists, development experts, academics and other individuals intimately familiar with the field. I strongly believe that no individual or organization is above criticism, and for this reason I've been introspectively analyzing not only the Ouelessebougou Alliance, but the organizations that we partner with as well.
The strongest critique that I have consistently found in these papers, both academic and editorial, is the lack of sustainability in programs implemented by certain international non-profit organizations. Sometimes, programs have been designed by individuals that, while knowledgeable, are far removed from the daily struggles affecting their target populations.
Although the Alliance, like any other organization, certainly has room for improvement, we continue to pride ourselves in our model of development which emphasizes sustainability and villager involvement above all else. Unfortunately, countless stories exist of well-intentioned initiatives failing due to a lack of buy-in from the local populace. While we have problems like any other organization, this is not one of them. All Alliance programs are villager-initiated and emphasize sustainability - a fact we are very proud of.
Lastly, nearly all of the papers I read emphasized vaccinations as a simple but effective way to change lives. I know this to be true because I have heard of it first-hand from our field director. For the villagers of Ouelessebougou, vaccinations represent several additional years of life, as opposed to a routine visit to the doctor like it may be for many of us. Thank you for supporting our vaccination program. Thank you for caring about the people of Mali. Most importantly, thank you for saving lives.
We are now only a few thousand dollars away from our goal, which is incredibly exciting! Most importantly, we are grateful for your generous donations of $5 and $50, $100 and $10. $1 USD is currently equal to 533.88 CFA (Central African Francs), which means that any donation, even one that is seemingly "insignificant", will go a long way in Mali.
Over the last 25 years, the Alliance has helped to vaccinate 95,000 villagers. Our vaccination program reaches beyond the borders of the 25 villages where most of our work takes place. 95,000 people can seem like an overwhelming amount, it can make a $25 donation seem like a drop in the bucket. However, for the five people whose lives would be transformed or saved, a $25 donation would mean the world. For their families, it would be life-changing. For their communities, it would mean so much. For us, it would also mean the world.
I would like to sincerely thank you for your tireless support of the Alliance. There is no way we could do this without you. My hope and dream is that in three months, when it's time to do another report, I can be informing you all of the many ways that fully funding this project has touched and changed lives. Together, we can make this dream a reality.
A mother smiles with her recently-vaccinated child
According to the World Bank, Mali has the sixth-highest infant mortality rate in the world. Rural areas such as Ouelessebougou have rates that are even considerably lower than urban areas such as Bamako and Timbuktu. However, there is cause for optimism, as your donations are beginning to change that statistic.
Our 2016-2017 program year recently ended, and because of the philanthropic spirit and generosity of our donors, we were able to vaccinate 5,543 pregnant women and children over a 12-month span. That is an average of over 15 individuals every single day. In a country with an infant mortality rate of 68 deaths per 1,000 live births, this means that Alliance vaccinations are saving an average of one life every single day. In reality, it is not the Alliance that is responsible, but it is our generous donors with their contributions from $50 to $5,000, and from $10 to $10,000. Vaccination packages for one child cost approximately $5, meaning that a life can be saved for the cost of a cup of coffee.
We have already come so far with this project because of your genuine concern for humanity, even for those that reside far away from you. On behalf of the Ouelessebougou Alliance, our Mali and Salt Lake City staff, and the thousands of village children and women who call the Ouelessebougou region home, Happy Holidays and most importantly, thank you.
From July '16 to June '17, the Ouelessebougou Alliance was able to vaccinate 5,543 children and pregnant women, in partnership with our local health workers. For many villagers, these vaccinations can mean a literal difference between life and death, or the difference between a happy and comfortable life as opposed to one of disease and discomfort. For others, it is a necessary precautionary measure against nine diseases that threaten their life. However, for other villagers, these vaccinations mean much more.
The average individual in Mali lives on approximately $800 a year. This average is even somewhat skewed, when one considers that the earning power of those in Bamako and other metropolitan areas can be significantly higher than their village counterparts, such as those living in our sister villages in Ouelessebougou.
In other words, many residents of Ouelessebougou are up against much more than nine preventable diseases. They are proactively working to fight againt injustice, generational poverty, disenfranchisement, a lack of economic opportunity, or prejudice. When compared to these issues, the nine preventable diseases can begin to seem like less of an obstacle. However, sustainable change can often start with physical health improvements and education, the two areas which the Alliance has chosen to focus on through our health and education programs. This is why receiving these nine vaccinations is so important, and it is why the Alliance has chosen to focus on improving health and education, the roots of sustainable change. Your donation plays a huge role in creating this sustainable change. Iniche!
I recently took my 16-year-old daughter to her annual well check-up. At this appointment, she received the last of her childhood vaccinations. I couldn't help but feel gratitude for the routine immunizations she's had since she was a baby. An opportunity that I've often taken for granted. We can provide this same opportunity to the children of Ouelessebougou and give them the chance for a healthy life. We are saving thousands of lives -- one shot at a time!
The Mali government is able to provide vaccinations in and around the Ouelessebougou commune, but they are not able to reach the rural villages where we work. Thanks to generous donors like you, we are able to pay for the physician and provide the transportation and vaccination cards in these villages. Because of our relationship with the village health workers, this process is seamless and the villages can have even more of their children immunized from deadly diseases.
On the days we bring vaccinations to the village, women and children line up by the dozens because they understand the value and importance of these critical immunizations. This past program year, the Alliance provided over 4,000 vaccinations to infants and children ages 0 - 5. We owe our deepest gratitude to YOU for making that possible. Your donations continue to decrease the number of illnesses and deaths in the Ouelessebougou region. Iniche!
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