Timbuktu, Mali, is clearly like no other city in the world. There is a famous quote that says “only in Timbuktu is the water not wet”. When you land in Timbuktu you can clearly understand why quotes like that are famous. Timbuktu is a large, sandy village surrounded by a desert that feels endless. The days are hot. The conditions are hard. Poverty is everywhere you look. But you would never know that by the people who live there. Never have I met a more resilient group of people than the people who live in this region…they are truly amazing.
“Everywhere we looked we saw Malaria”
The main purpose of our trip was to serve as many people as possible in Timbuktu and the desert communities that surrounded the city through a medical clinic. We had two nurses and a nursing student who traveled from the US, along with an American medic who lives and serves in Mali who had the noble task of treating individuals who most likely will never see medical attention in their entire lives. We also worked alongside a native Malian doctor who took the job of treating his people very seriously. The rest of us served in the pharmacy busily filling the many prescriptions that came our way.
Over the course of our 14 days in Mali, we would serve 1500 men, women, and children in six medical clinics. Several of the clinics were in nomadic Tuareg camps in the Sahara Desert. People were coming for miles just to be served, and the lines to see a doctor/nurse were just unreal. The poverty and malnutrition was staggering. It seemed as if every child, every mother and every father had malaria.
“Water, water under us but rarely a drop to drink”
One of the most prominent issues that poor people face in the desert is the lack of access to clean drinking water. The strange part of Timbuktu is that due to its close proximity to the Niger River they are standing above one of the biggest water tables in all of Western Africa. The people there know that the water is right below their feet but the cost to drill down to this water is beyond their reach. Imagine generations of people whose lives will be completely different if they had access to some of the most basic needs you and I share.
Two of the villages that were served by our medical team were also the recipients of two new well caps & pumps. These communities have had access to water through an existing well but have not had the benefit of purely clean water. These wells had no cover, no protection from the elements, and no ability to keep sand, debris and rocks from falling into the drinking water. The women did not have buckets with which they could properly draw water. They would use a bag made of animal skin to pull the water up the well to the surface. The bags were broken and dysfunctional. The water that was retrieved was commonly full of mud, sticks and rocks. Imagine working for hours just for water, then having to clean all of the contaminants out before you can provide it for your family. This is the daily struggle of most Malian women. One of the highlights of the trip surely was seeing the women, particularly at Ala Amgalalay, dance & clap & sing at the well when they saw us coming.
It is for reasons like these that partners like yourselves are invaluable. With your support we were able to serve a very large number of people both with temporary medical care and with a pump and cover for each well. Not only have we saved women hours of time each day but we have also provided a system through the re-fitted wells to provide clean drinking water for those who have none. Without your love, care, and support none of this would be possible.
You can see from this excerpt of Chris’ trip report that the work of Compassion Corps continues to affect the lives of North Americans as well as bring hope & relief to many in Africa. He told us it was the best trip he’s ever been on!