By Merritt Frey, Executive Director
And we have a winner! As part of fundraising for our 21st school in the small village of Sebela, we promised that everyone who donated $100 or more would be entered to win naming rights for the school.
We’re happy to announce the winner is Tim Gibson of Brooklyn, New York. Tim has decided to name the school Tim Gibson Middle School and the brand new sign is in the works for the school’s first day of classes in October.
Tim’s connection to Mali goes back years for a period of about 18 years, when Mali was a dramatic stop on a regular, 24-day tourist luxury travel tour he helped coordinate around Africa. While he never lived in Mali, Tim visited time and again and grew to know the country and its people well. He is humbled to think his name will live on in Mali.
We asked Tim to tell us a little about what made him support the school campaign and his connection with Mali. Here is what we learned:
Mali Rising: What inspired you to give to the campaign for a school for Sebela’s kids?
Tim: I’ve stood in enough villages in Mali, while saying to myself, “What can I DO?” It always felt so overwhelming – that it seemed there was nothing just a single person could achieve to help, when there was so much that was lacking. I looked around and saw the need for clean water, for schools, for health programming, for just about everything that we take for granted. Seeing what Mali Rising does, I knew it addressed a real need and I recognized that this was one incredible way a single person, by teaming up with many others, could help.
Mali Rising: When you think about the fact that each year a hundred or more kids will walk into Tim Gibson Middle School each morning to change their lives for the better, how does that feel?
Tim: You know, I think that it will be just like here in the U.S. Many of the kids will be ordinary students, but I know every year some of them will pick up the ball and run. It feels like we’re just giving all these kids the same chance they would have had elsewhere to make good with their education. With tuition in Bambara, French and English, the world will be at their feet, but without this school, that opportunity would never have been available to them.
Mali Rising: We know you’re planning on visiting Sebela and your new school with us in November. Knowing what you do about village culture in Mali, what are you looking forward to the most about that visit?
Tim: Just seeing a lot of smiling faces and enjoying the fact that they will appreciate the opportunity of the new school, gives me enormous hope for the future. Although I do wonder if some kids might just groan, as they would anywhere “Now I have to go to school!” I know through this help, that the visit will be very much forward-looking and that we shall get to share in the enthusiasm of the village and the kids for this new school. When they see some faces from the USA, who they know have invested in their future, hopefully this will be an inspiration for them to carry through on our part in their future.
Tim’s school will open for classes in early October. The celebratory opening – with Tim as part of the crowd – will be held in mid-November. Stay tuned for more updates on the school, its kids, and even Tim’s travels this fall!