A Mali where all children are afforded the tools necessary for a successful future.
I was born in Mali, West Africa, where I was raised by my single father. I experienced firsthand what it means to be an orphan in Mali. When I was 11 years old, my father had to leave my brother and I for work purposes, for over three years. It was then that I learned to:
- Hand wash clothes and air dry them. The traditionally made soap was saturated with potassium, which left rashes on my hands;
- Make six one-mile trips at 5:00AM transporting 8 gallons of water on each trip before going to school every morning;
- Pound Ginger with Lemon (both of which gave me rashes) to make Malian Gingerale, freeze it, and then transport it (on my head) to the market, ensuring that I made sales to bring some money home;
- Walk 2 miles each way to and from school in an over 90º F;
- Cook in a wood smoke saturated small kitchen with little ventilation.
As a result, I was held back one academic year in school. Three years later, upon my father's return, and under his supervision, I graduated from High School with the highest GPA in the entire country. This shows the importance of caring people monitoring children, guiding them, ensuring they are well fed, taken care of and their education properly monitored. These personal experiences have led to re-enforcing my willingness to realize my dream of bringing hope to Malian orphans. Hence, ACFA was founded.
Three years into this journey, I lost my father. Today I am honored and blessed to continue his legacy, by ensuring that opportunities are given to the most vulnerable children. As he liked to say, "All children of Mali are my children, except those who don't want to be".
Kadiatou Fatima Sidibe