Freshly Returned From Guinea, W. Africa!







Hi Everyone!
I have just returned from Guinea and have much to share. This journey was one of the most rich and rewarding experiences of my life.

These photos are of some of the children who are receiving the scholarship money to attend school. And photos of the school they will attend and that will also benefit from the funds raised.

Below I have included 3 excerpts from the emails I sent while travelling. I have attempted to edit and correct the punctuation and capitalization on them (since they were written on a French keyboard and in a hurry as the internet cafe time was ticking and the connection was so slow) but please forgive any poor grammer or missed corrections.

12/13/07
“Karim said that he and his brother, Alya, found a school and some children in his neighborhood that will receive the fundraiser money. I hope to visit there but our time here is so packed and doing anything takes forever!!!!”

12/26/07
“Today I had a meeting with Sarah Lee and Karim, our hosts, and Karim’s brother Alya, the man who will be managing the school funds that we raised. I felt so happy after the meeting. I have complete confidence in Alya and being able to meet him and spend these weeks seeing the kind of person he is has put my mind at rest about trusting that our plans will be carried out. He is more than capable and is such a sturdy person. Basically, I adore him. Sarah Lee and I cried our way through the meeting as we went over the list of items the school needs. One text book in each subject is used for the entire school of 300+ students, 9 classes, of children ages 3 to 16. So the whole school has one math book, or rather, thats what they are asking for. They have no idea the amount of money we have to give them. And there are about 20 children in Karim’s neighborhood who will receive the funds to go to this school. The plan is to hopefully meet with the founder of the school tomorrow after we go to the market to buy and price school supplies and uniforms. School is not in session right now so i won’t see the students but we will try to arrange a meeting with one of the children who will receive the funds before I leave.”

12/31/07
“The last day in Guinea felt as surreal as the first. I couldn´t believe I had to leave this place and these people who became imbedded in my heart within the first few days and were my constant companions and caretakers for three weeks. I felt like i was leaving a piece of myself behind. Guinea remains with me in spirit sometimes like a warm breeze and other times it feels haunting.

In the last few days many intense things happened. We went to visit the school. I can hardly begin to describe what this experience was like. It was so heart warming and fulfilling in a way that i have never felt before in my life. Tears come just as I even think about it. I believe I have never before done something so great or meaningful. maybe, in different ways I have, but the feeling of the impact that we were making all because of this little thought that I had so many months ago and having no idea really what would become of it.

The school, Groupe Scolaire Sabadou, was founded by a beautiful, strong and fiercely committed woman, Madame Aminata Kourouma, nearly 10 years ago. She somehow funds the school to keep it going. If a child´s family can´t pay for a month, she lets it slide. She told us you won´t see any of these kids on the street. She has vision and believes firmly in the power of the women.

We met the founder, the director,Mr. Mamadou Saidou Diallo, and all the teachers and they gave us a tour. The school is on holiday break right now so the kids weren´t in class. But after the tour, many of the children from the neighborhood who go there came in and spent time with us. They stood before us and upon their teacher’s request performed recitations for us. Even before we told them how much money we were giving them, they presented me with a gift of three huge peices of beautiful fabric. One I gave to Sarah Lee, Karim and his brother Alya, who is managing the project in Guinea. One I used to have gifts made for all the children in my class, and one I am keeping for my home. I couldn´t believe that they were giving us gifts! Sarah Lee said, “Its not important.” And the founder said, “It is to us. Its our way.”

Sarah Lee was amazing in how she conducted the meeting and I am eternally grateful to her for her eloquence and generous spirit. We decided to use the money first to send 20 students to school for 2 full years, completely supplied for each year with uniforms, shoes, and a backpack full of supplies.

Then we told the school that they would be receiving $1500 and converted the sum to Guinea Francs. When they heard that number, the looks on their faces were priceless. They all split into huge smiles and got up and started shaking our hands and saying “merci beaucoup, merci beaucoup.” And then, immediately, they all knew what they wanted to do with the money. They will add a second story and more classrooms so that their school can offer a complete education. They said they want the children who are there now to be able to continue their educations and complete them. I don´t fully understand the education system there but this would add college level classes to the program and room for 100 more students.

I´ll just wrap up by saying that this experience deeply impacted me in the best sort of way. I really feel that this school is a good school and a good place to create a lasting relationship with. Alya told us the school is the 2nd best school in Enco-5.

Finally, the money will also be used to employ Alya , Karim’s brother, to manage the project, handle the funds, and oversee the children´s attendance at school. Not a small job. I am overjoyed that we can pay him for this. He so deserves it.”

Thank you all so much for helping to make this all possible. These peopl
e were so thrilled by this unexpected gift to them and their community. You are all a part of having created this. Please know that your contributions are being well received and fruitfull and let’s do it again next year!

Please keep checking this blog page as I hope to have more info and photos posted.

Thank you again,
Wonawali,
Marissa Baratian

One Response

01.05.08

A very nice undertaking.
May God bless you. As I consider retiring from Government, I would be interested in finding opportunities in serving the people of Guinea, through your Organization.
I hold a teaching credential, from the Massachusetts Dept of Education, a Harvard degree , a degree from UMASS and an M. Div.

My name is Patrick
My contact is : olafaux@yahoo.com
617 304 3432

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