NEWSLETTER - May 1, 2014
Dear Friends of Caravan to Class,
Greetings from Timbuktu where I feel fortunate to be able to return. Much has happened here since my last trip in late March 2012, when, only days after I left the town fell to a very militant group named Ansar Dine, closely linked to Al Qaida. Today, a little more than one year after the French intervened militarily, the residents in Timbuktu are still trying to restore their lives and refugees are still returning to their villages.
Timbuktu is now very hard to get to, with only UN Humanitarian Aid flights (see plane I took below) and movement is heavily restricted by UN Peacekeepers.
Thank you for your interest in Caravan to Class and for those of you who have been able to support our work in bringing literacy to villages outside of Timbuktu, I once again, thank you.
Thankfully, the situation has stabilized here, though the city remains heavily militarized with both French forces and UN Peace-keepers. Residents are still trying to recover from the devastation many of them faced during the occupation by militants of the Ansar Dine, who are closely linked with Al Qaida. The good news is that the world community has responded and helped these incredibly hospitable, but vulnerable people, to restore their ancient city. I have seen a number of new aid organizations that were not here before the crisis. However, there is still a long way to go!
It was very powerful to visit a number of the villages where Caravan to Class operates and even scope out a few new villages for potential school building projects. In Tombouz, where we should be finished with our new school in a few months, the children had prepared some dialogues for me and were as cute as ever. The parent-school administration and village head were incredibly grateful for our help in building them a new school. The director of the school has done a great job. This is probably the strongest school in the group of schools that Caravan to Class supports. Our local NGO partner, Nord et Development, has done a terrific job growing the network of foreign charitable organizations, like Caravan to Class, which have specific concentrations.
I am happy to report that one of these network partners, the German NGO Arche Nova, is drilling wells and repairing or building new latrines at each school where Caravan to Class operates (using German government funding). I was lucky enough to witness one of these wells being drilled in the village of Tourari. This type of help allows Caravan to Class to concentrate on building schools and supporting these schools until they become self sufficient. From the schools visited and from scoping out new potential projects, it remains obvious that there is tremendous need. There were villages where students were sitting on the sand in a crowded make-shift tent just to have an opportunity to learn to read.
Literacy is a fundamental human right, and Caravan to Class is as energized as ever to do our part in this distant but historically significant city of Timbuktu, to make the investment in education for these deserving children.
A video about Caravan to Class, narrated by Peter Coyote
Barry Hoffner, Founder and Executive Director of Caravan to Class