As a leading NGO, it’s critical for our supporters to see for themselves the impact of their investment. It’s the right of each and every supporter to ask questions about how we’re spending their money. Likewise, it’s our duty as an organisation, to provide such a level of transparency and accountability.
That’s why, in late 2018, I headed to Mali with brother Asif Ansari (an Islamic Relief donor) and his son Rehan. They wanted to see for themselves the great work we’re doing in the area. And what a trip it was!
It was the first time any of us had been to Mali. Although I’ve travelled quite extensively and Asif had also visited charity projects in Senegal in previous years, each and every place of course has its unique charm. Sadly though, despite being a fantastically warm, hospitable place, you don’t often hear much about this African gem.
This however, is exactly why Asif had chosen to fund a project in Mali. Asif tragically lost his dear brother Abid to a brain tumour in 2003 and ever since he has passionately set up sadaqah jariyah projects in his memory. He’d told me that he wanted to work somewhere which didn’t usually make the headlines and where the needs of the local population needed to be highlighted. So what better place than Mali?
Happy children at our child-friendly village in Ouelessebougou, Mali
Despite being rich in minerals and in fact one of the biggest countries in Africa, Mali is one of the poorest nations worldwide. Almost half of the population live on less than $1.90 ($1.40) a day and around 18 million people are heavily reliant on agriculture. In an area feeling the increasing impact of climate change, this sadly means severe food shortages for local families and financial insecurity – particularly in the north of the country.
Our work across Mali is therefore critical in helping build brighter futures for local men, women and children. We’ve been working in the region since 1997, so it seemed like a good time to take a look for ourselves at our life-saving, life-transforming work in action, especially when it comes to sustainable solutions – which make up the backbone of our work over the long-term for communities worldwide.
Mali: Warm welcomes and life-changing care
Rehan receiving a warm welcome upon arrival!
Keen to show brother Asif and Rehan our work in action, we headed out to spend five days visiting a specially-designed child-safe village in Ouelessebougou funded by Islamic Relief donors back in 2014. This project offers a safe space for children to learn, grow and develop through the addition of a school, medical centre and microdam water project.
Established in an area where we support a number of orphans, this new safe and sustainable infrastructure is providing a nurturing environment for local children, whilst also benefitting other vulnerable members of the community. Alhamdulillah, thanks to the new school, medical centre and a microdam, the entire community can now look forward to a safe, more sustainable future!
SubhanAllah, we certainly saw the positive results for ourselves! When we arrived we were welcomed with such warmth and hospitality. People sang and danced, and upon meeting local mothers and children – including orphans and their mothers – I discovered that everyone was delighted with Islamic Relief’s work. This was such a joy to see as people here want to improve their own lives and I’m delighted we’ve been able to empower them to create positive change, whilst respecting their dignity and autonomy.
Spending time with some of the orphaned children supported by Islamic Relief donors was such a positive experience. They’re happy bubbly children and are truly positive about the future. How inspiring! As we sat and talked about the future, I learnt that they had strong aspirations – with many wanting to become doctors. This is where education is crucial.
During our trip, we visited the school and medical centre and saw for ourselves how these safe spaces are truly benefiting these children and the whole community. Whilst the school is providing high-quality education for local children, the medical centre is also saving lives. One child we met was being treated for malaria at the local medical centre – whom without treatment could have even died.
Keen to explore the local area, we then visited a nearby village where there was a desperate need for medical, education and water projects. Here, we saw for ourselves how such services are crucial. I heard the stories of children dying and of one lady in particular who whilst in labour had to be wheelbarrowed to the nearest medical centre miles away. Sadly, she had already lost a number of children due to the lack of maternal healthcare. This is truly heartbreaking. No one deserves to live like this and it’s critical that we continue to help communities to be able to seek the treatment and care they need.
With the current medical centre in the nearby village in fact run from someone’s home, it was in a very bad state. Decrepit, the walls were cracked and services being managed by part-time medical staff. The school was also incredibly run down. It was small, falling apart and became flooded during the rainy season – just as the medical centre. This village was sadly a world apart from the child-friendly village we’d created. This community were in desperate need of help.
In our child-friendly village, not only do families have a new medical centre and a revamped school but there are also crops everywhere and a plentiful harvest. This is, of course, thanks to the jewel in the crown of this sustainable village-wide project: the microdam.
Taking a break, watching the sun go down and reflecting on the impact of this life-saving project
The microdam is a real blessing. Before it was installed, flash flooding would destroy crops and even killed people. Alhamdulillah, this microdam now harnesses nature, creating a huger reservoir of water to provide water to the local community – water that would otherwise be lost within a few hours. What’s more, when the dry season now sets in, the community now has a safe plentiful source of water for months to come. This is enough to sustain the community and is literally saving lives, subhanAllah!
It was truly amazing to see this integrated project for myself in action and witness the value it is offering the entire community. Providing drinking water, a means of irrigation and sustenance for local cattle, this source of water is eradicating thirst and poverty. Alongside, specialised training, the microdam is also providing a source of income for widows and local farmers. Fish farming within the reservoir is helping local widows to earn a living, whilst as a source of irrigation, the microdam is ensuring that locals can build a livelihood from vegetable farming, securing a stable food source.
Walking through the fields of crops, we saw for ourselves how the village is able to sustain itself. All around the microdam you could see precious green life, masha’Allah. What’s more, the irrigation canals spread to other villages too, offering even more blessings for miles away. SubhanAllah!
Islamic Relief: Strengthened bonds and growing support
Brother Asif celebrating the success of the project with traditional music and dance
Islamic Relief’s work certainly does speak for itself and this field trip definitely reinforced the importance of our life-saving work. Brother Asif and Rehan were so delighted to see the impact of our work, that with the nearby village in need of the same level of care and sustainability, they both subsequently pledged to raise money to support this community, subhanAllah!
Alhamdulillah, not only have we strengthened our partnership with brother Asif who was inspired after seeing the integrated nature of our work, but after returning to the UK, Asif and Rehan organised a fundraising event back in London with friends and family and raised in excess of £600,000! This will now critically provide two microdams, two medical centres and two schools, meaning both the nearby village we visited, alongside other areas in Mali, can look forward to great changes to come, insha’Allah.
Now keen to visit our projects in Niger, brother Asif saw for himself how we’re transforming and saving lives. Alhamdulillah, it’s thanks to donors such as brother Asif and many more, that we’re able to create these safe sustainable villages and transform the lives of men, women and children across Mali and many more countries around the globe.
None of our work would be possible without you, so thank you for your ongoing support, commitment and enthusiasm. Jazakum Allah khairan – you really are lifesavers!
If you’d like to fund a local project like brother Asif, please contact Hasnain Syed, Major Gifts Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.