Hear what Malian families and workshop participants have to say about Ko-Falen

From Dognoumé Diarra:

I was in 2nd grade the first time that Ko-Falen people came to my village of Soni Tieni and visited our small school. It was very exciting, as you had brought school supplies. This has been a great help to the students. Not only did we each receive supplies, but each classroom had a dictionary. I especially benefited from these dictionaries. Also, the presence of Americans inspired me to focus as an English major.

At that time, our school went from the 1st to 6th grade. I had to move to a larger town to complete my education. We now have classrooms up to 9th grade in Soni Tieni, so others can stay at home longer before moving to a city to continue their education.

Now that I have finished high school, I have moved to Bamako. I am looking forward to continuing my education in English, as I want to become a journalist. At this time, I volunteer at a newspaper office in Bamako to gain more experience in my field.

I welcome all of you to come to Ko-Falen Cultural Center so that I may practice my English, and I can repay Ko-Falen by introducing you to my country.

From Abdoulaye Coulibaly:

I am one of the masons that worked on this center from the beginning. Since then, I have gone from construction site to construction site searching for a job. I had a hard time paying my children’s school tuition. Then to make matters worse, I got sick for three months. In the end, my kids got kicked out of school as I could not pay for the fee. It is only when we discovered this program at Ko-Falen that things got better for us. Thank you for your help.

From Jessica Stern:

During my first days in Mali, I was immediately struck by a realization that continues to last today. I learned that no matter how different our cultures, when we make art together, all the other stuff seems inconsequential. Traveling to a place that is so vastly different from your own home can be disorienting. We know American cultural and societal cues, and what people mean when they say things with a certain inflection. This is the very essence of culture. When we place ourselves in another culture, how do we reconcile the differences?

My humble answer? A strong sense of humor, a few large grains of salt and a curiosity that drives one to learn as much as one can from the people you encounter. When you let go of your assumptions about how things should work, cross-cultural exchanges are truly magical as both parties realize that we’re all just people, with families and basic needs.

Ko-Falen brings people together and lets art work its magic on us—opening us up to new experiences and connecting with people who, on the surface, seem so different. My experience at Ko-Falen taught me the inherent beauty of places and people who may lack even basic services. Malians love to laugh, sing, dance and make beautiful things. The best part— they love to share it and as long as we are open to receive, the possibilities for learning are endless.

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