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Ursula

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Review for The Tandana Foundation, Spring Valley, OH, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

In February 2009 I spent about 10 days with the Tandana Foundation in Mali. I had found this small charity looking through the entries of idealist.com trying to find an organisation I could do some voluntary work with rather than visit Mali just as a tourist. The Tandana Foundation offered exactly what I had been looking for. They are a small american charity, which is run by its founder a young woman called Anna Taft, who works with one village in Mali and another in South America. The journey with this small and very motivated group was truely amazing. The village we travelled to is called Kansongho, which is on the plateau of the Pays Dogon. Anna had helped to finance the rebuilding of their well and the village had put on a festival in honour of the Foundation. We had a huge welcome when we arrived, with a big crowd of the villagers walking with us chanting and playing drums. Ancient flint lock rifles were set off and I was fearing for my ears, it was that loud. A few days later we were shown, how they make the gun powder from raw ingredients. In fact most things are done from scratch. A huge amount of work goes into almost everything they do, from cooking to building. One day I observerd the couscous being made for a lunch time meal. I did not see the part when the millet is ground/pounded to the right consistency, but I saw the process of steaming it three times and always stirring it inbetween to keep it fluffy. All this is done in big amounts for many, many people on open fires, very hot work using big clay pots and wide enamel pans. All the women are physically very strong from carrying water and pounding millet every day. Our group had a go at all the different tasks that are done by the women each day and we noticed how quickly our strength faded in comparison. We carried water from the well, which is a few hundred meters. We carried stones that had already been cut in preparation for the building work from an area outside the village. We howed millet plants in preparation of the gathering of the stalks for animal feed and fire wood and to prepare the ground for the next sowing. We carried stones to build retaining walls that help keep the water and the top soil in the fields during the rains. A group of us went further afield to collect fire wood. The stones we moved for the construction of the grain bank were further cut with very simple tools by eye to exact sizes and a beautiful building was being constructed dry with these stones with great skill. We only looked on. The inside of the building was covered with banco, softish clay that was thrown onto the walls. We were able to help with this. In the evening there was dancing and during the day we arrived they did some special mask dances and the children did some theatrical skids fo us, the women a symbolic ceremony. We visited people in their homes and saw women spinning, men weaving and other types of textile work. We spent a truely wonderful week with the villagers. An experience I would not want to miss.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the way the whole village responded.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

Role:  Volunteer & I have talked about that in the review.