By Brianne Johnson, Mali Rising Inspiration Intern
It’s halfway through my Malian trip and I found myself in the rural village of Lofine. Mali Rising’s team is tucked away under the shade of a huge gnarled tree for the opening of a new school. The ceremony is chaotic, but beautiful. There were traditional dances intertwined through speeches of the village dignitaries as well as the board members of Mali Rising.
I slowly lost interest during the painstaking translations from English to Bambara and reverted to studying the faces of those in the large crowd circled around us. I’m soon thinking about how hot I am and when I can sneak away to eat a pack of goldfish on our bus. In fact, I lost interest to the point where I didn’t realize that the man who is up front is speaking on behalf of the village chief. At one point the feeling of the ceremony changed and the entire crowd shifted to look at me. My translator, Falto, perked up and said “Oh wow. That’s great! This man just announced that the chief is going to name his three-year-old daughter Brianne and you will then take her name, ‘Kegnoro’.”
I was reduced to the cheesiest happy-cry and because I had so many eyes on me I turned bright red. If only these people knew that I was only a 16-year-old girl from Bountiful, Utah who worked slinging sandwiches at Subway and watched crummy reality TV in her free time then maybe I wouldn’t have been worthy of such a high honor.
After the ceremony I was met with many congratulations and learned that Kegnoro means “May God let us keep you.” They explained how the village chief’s wife had many children but most of them passed away at a young age, so when little Brianne was born they named her that. To this day I have never met little Brianne but I know that thousands of miles away in a small village is a little girl who not only beat the odds of living, but also beat the odds of getting an education due to the work of Mali Rising.
I’m so honored to have been able to meet those whom Mali Rising serves because their communities are so humble, friendly, and welcoming. They may not have much to give to thank Mali Rising for the schools, but what they are able to give they give with genuine intent and full hearts. They gave us chickens, dancing, handmade xylophones, and to me- a new Malian name which is a reminder of what’s important in the world and what to be grateful for.
So guys, just call me Kegnoro.