Bambara Village Children Foundation

«Let’s do what we must. Today. »©

Our Story…

August 2018 while on vacation in Senegal Barbara met a Senegalese man familiarly known as Mara. Being proud of his heritage Mara offered to accompany her and her grandson to see the 800-year-old baobab tree in a nearby village. Along the way to this tourist location they stopped and bought a box of lollipops because Mara, her guide at that time, thought it most likely that there, children would be playing under the tree. And indeed, they found thirty or so young children around the massive tree. Accustomed to tourists, they stopped and approached them; their eyes gleaming with anticipation. Before long, patience gave way to chaos as they extended their arms in the air to reach for the pieces of candy that Barbara’s grandson handed them. She watched, amazed at how something so small as a lollypop satisfied these boys and girls. On the edge of the very animated crowd, something else unfolded―a girl, ten or eleven years old tapped Barbara on the arm and sheepishly asked for a pen. Anxious to satisfy the child’s request Barbara ransacked her backpack and finding neither a pen nor pencil she off-handedly promised to bring her a pen on her next visit to the baobab tree―a promise made is a promise kept―and at that moment the idea of adopting the village crossed her mind.

On the way back to the city, Mara and Barbara discussed the experience and soon, together they had an ad hoc plan to make this pipe dream of adopting the village a reality. It seemed the most that could be done while on a vacation was to take dry goods for the families; and yes, pens and writing materials, and footballs for the children. So, a week before Barbara left Senegal to return to Amsterdam they rented a small Opel and Lamine their reliable driver made our way back to the village to meet our first goal and to see the village up close. During that visit, it became clear that Barbara’s estimation of the number of families who lived in the village was inaccurate because the small crowd of children they had seen under the baobab tree had multiplied three-fold, and in actuality many more were at school.

Moussa Diop, the newly appointed chief of the village welcomed us and with Mara translating from Wolof (the Senegalese native language) to French, we were able to communicate with him what we hoped to offer him for his village. On this visit, we offered some bags of rice, sugar, and milk and explained our tentative plan to support them. The children were very happy to receive new balls because they enjoy playing football. During the discussion, Moussa informed us that while he knew 50 families lived in his village, he acknowledged that he had no idea how many children lived there. During the exchange, we determined Moussa’s aspirations for the families since regard and respect of his wishes is of top priority. In September, while I was no longer in Senegal I arranged with Mara to take more bags of rice, sugar, millet, and milk to the village. Mara has become a reliable and trustworthy partner on the ground, and a board member who is working tirelessly to affect change through Bambara Village Children Foundation. In meeting these families I understood that a few hundred euros a month would hardly make a difference. In fact, I understood that this undertaking needed to be well-funded in order to impact the deprivation I observed and to help the village chief realize his ambitions for the families who live in the village. On behalf of the women and children the soft-spoken chief expressed his appreciation. The impoverished conditions of the village were palpable―the thatched roofs of the dwellings were in disrepair, the fencing was falling over and on the ground, and the children were shoddily clothed. Even though the life-sustaining food items were needed it was clear that these hard-working families need so much more. 

Bambara Village Children Foundation was founded in Holland where much of its business could be conducted in English. Still, Henk Jan, a businessman and board member, ably navigates the system in his native language. With the synergy of these principals, Barbara, Henk Jan, and Mara working toward a common goal Bambara Village Children Foundation is banking on raising the funds needed to  offer the families and children the following:

  • refurbish and upgrade the village housing; 
  • access physical, mental and social services; 
  • provide computers and educational materials for the school; 
  • and address acute environmental conditions in and around the village.

The instrumental role played by the community’s women in boosting their children’s future success, amplifies the need for us to address the critical infrastructure issues and to simultaneously invest in training and entrepreneurship for these mothers and wives. These actions will thrust these women onto a sustainable path to self-sufficiency.

Board Members

Mara Lamè is a family man, who tailors his life around his religious beliefs and his passion for his country, Senegal. Even though he is seen as the “go to” man, when faced with a problem that he has no answer for he’s secure enough to seek the advice of a cohort. Not daunted by the challenge to meet our projected goals for BAMBARA VILLAGE CHILDREN FOUNDATION, Mara is a steady hand ready to pick up the pieces everyday. 

«Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.»

Kenyan proverb 

Barbara Wray has always had to spell her family name for strangers —the W is silent. An icebreaker, she readily uses it to her advantage. Her entrepreneurial spirit propels her to seek out change wherever she finds herself. Born in South America, she studied in the US as a young woman and remained there until moving to Holland four years ago. She embraces critical questioning and constantly considers ways of improvement. She is positive that Bambara Village Children Foundation will be confronted with innumerable challenges but they will hardly be insurmountable. At these times her approach to problem-solving will be advantageous even though unconventional. Most relevant is her belief that it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect and keep children safe.

«A child is a child of everyone. Sudanese.» Proverb

An artisanal farmer, Moussa Diop, toils and tills the field to feed his family. He recently inherited the title of the village chief after his uncle who had no sons passed away. With the support of Bambara Village Children Foundation Moussa will realize his ambition of lifting the women and children of the village out of abject poverty and leading them onto a sustainable path to self-sufficiency. 

«A single bracelet does not jingle.»

Congolese proverb
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