The Big Birthday Wish
An Inspiring Example of a Community’s Giving
This is the story of a heartwarming educational project created by TurtleWill for two amazing and generous women with huge hearts, minds and connections: Eileen Rogers and Debbie Hill of Phoenix, Arizona.
In March, 2009 Eileen joined me in Mali on one of TurtleWill’s Volunteer Funded Medical Programs. While we were there I took Eileen and the other volunteers to visit some of the small primary bush schools founded by TurtleWill in the very remote Timbuktu region. Without these TurtleWill schools primary education would have been an impossibility for the children in these areas as the nearest schools were 8-20 miles away.
Eileen was so moved by the desperate need for more primary education that she decided that for her upcoming 50th birthday celebration she would make a difference in Mali. She shared the idea with her friend Debbie and the two joined together in celebration of their 50th and 55th birthdays. They chose to create a Big Birthday Wish Project to fund another primary school for TurtleWill in Mali.
I presented a detailed list and a budget of what would be needed to start a small school with two brick classrooms for the tiny overlooked community of about 100 Bela tribe families at Tourari, in the Timbuktu region.
Eileen and Debbie then contacted all their friends with a goal to raise the needed $43,800. They created a great brochure detailing the project and mailed it to everyone they knew.
Their large communities of friends rallied generously to their cause. TurtleWill received 364 donations totaling $79,000. Several of their friends even formed small donor groups of their own to adopt specific parts of the project to fund, like the latrines, the well, and the goat herd.
What began in 2009 as a dream of a two-room school project with an anticipated 100 students quickly became a fully equipped school complete with 5 classrooms, teachers, school supplies and books, meals, uniforms, latrines, water well, goat herd, garden, community millet grinders to liberate girls to do their homework instead of house work, and adult education classes at night.
School began in November, 2009 with 180 students eagerly waiting to begin Grade One! During the course of the year news about the new school circulated further and further into the bush. 2010/11, Tourari’s school’s second scholastic year, launched with a record total for TurtleWill of 270 students.
What a difference this school has made, thanks to Eileen and Debbie and all their remarkably generous friends! TurtleWill now funds the yearly ongoing operation of Tourari school.
It has been overwhelmingly rewarding for TurtleWill as the designers and implementers of this wonderful project to be on the receiving end of this monumental wave of compassion and generosity pouring in from all over Arizona and other states.
Educating children gives them the tools for growth, to articulate their needs and to protect themselves from outside exploitation.
Educating children means educating the entire family.
TurtleWill’s goals in educating nomadic children include:
If you would like to celebrate your birthday in a similar way or are part of a circle of friends or community looking for a way to make an impact together in the remote African bush, contact us!
We’ll gladly help you make it happen!
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