Walking & Thinking With Miles for Mali

By Merritt Frey, Executive Director

This month as part of our Miles for Mali campaign, I’ve pledged to walk (and run) 160 miles. Miles for Mali is using this virtual walking event to raise funds to build a school for the children of the little village of Sankama in southern Mali.

 Long walks to school are a challenge for Mali's kids, but that doesn't mean there isn't some fun to be had on the road.

Long walks to school are a challenge for Mali's kids, but that doesn't mean there isn't some fun to be had on the road.

I’m pretty active (and I have a young border collie to keep me motivated), so the actual distance hasn’t been too much of a challenge thus far. I think my body actually really likes walking, so physically it has been all positive. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally drop those 5 pounds I gained when I took this job!

But timewise fitting in the distance has been more of a challenge. Squeezing in time in a busy day for a good walk is an on-going pressure. I’ve used Miles for Mali to motivate me to get out of bed on a Saturday and go for a good hike or to take an evening stroll with the dogs instead of zoning out with Netflix.

Those are small life adjustments, but it has really made me think about the reality for our students in Mali, who have to find the time to do these walks every school day, all school year long.

On average, before Mali Rising builds a school with a partner village, the nearest school is 3 to 5 miles away on average – making for a 6 to 10 mile round-trip each day. And to fit that in around a school day that runs from 8am to 5pm, extensive chores at home, and finding a bit of time to actually do homework…well, you can see where students struggle.

Building a school for the kids of Sankama will make their commute easy so they can focus their time on learning, and on being a kid. Currently, about 90 percent of students in Sankama drop out after elementary school because they just can’t do the long walk to the nearest middle school.

Want to help? Support a school for Sankama! You can donate here or support one of our great Miles for Mali walkers here.