By Jessica Voigts
Book: How to Make an African Quilt: The Story of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali by Bonnie Lee Black
Mali is the 5th poorest country in the world (UN Human Development Index), and has one of the world’s lowest literacy rates.
This year’s Passports with Purpose project is to raise $115,00 for buildOn to construct three schools and fund three adult literacy programs in southern Mali. Steadfast in their commitment to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy in Mali, buildOn has sustained their school construction program in the country amidst the current civil unrest north of the capital.
Passports with Purpose is an annual event; a fundraiser by travel bloggers to help communities in need. Created in 2008, it has changed lives around the world, by building wells in Haiti with water.org, libraries in Zambia with Room to Read, houses for families in India with Land for Tillers Freedom, a school in rural Cambodia with American Assistance for Cambodia, and donations to Heifer International.
Bonnie Lee Black, picture used with permission of Bonnie Lee black and Wandering Educators.
But Mali is so far away, one might note. How can we get involved? Here’s a personal story, of living in Mali and helping others. It’s an inspiration to get involved, to support Passports with Purpose and other philanthropic organizations working in Mali…
It’s one of THOSE books. You tear through it, unable to put it down. Read while cooking, eating, even postponing sleep until you just can’t keep your eyes open any more. I’m very happy to share my latest read, one of THOSE books. Yes, it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year. Written by Bonnie Lee Black, How to Make an African Quilt: The Story of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali is an incredible read.
A former Peace Corps volunteer, Bonnie headed to Mali and changed lives (her own, included). If you’ve ever wondered if your NGO or Peace Corps or volunteer work has made a difference, this is a book to dive into and savor. For you will recognize many common truths about working overseas – the joys and challenges, the amazing people, the interest and hard work of some to better their lives, and the powerful role that educators play in this transformation.
Women in Mali quilting, Photo used with permission of Bonnie Lee Black and Wandering Educators
In this book, Bonnie shares the inspiration and tracks the progress of an unusual project to help people help themselves. After working with the Peace Corps in Gabon, she headed to Mali to build a welcoming home, peaceful garden, wondrous community. She worked with young girls to teach them how to crochet plastic bags into something useful, in a class that taught hard work, crafting, and ways to make money from their work.
Teaching Mali girls to crochet. Photo used with permission of Bonnie Lee Black and Wandering Educators.
These Malian women’s new skills can – and will – make a difference in their lives. It’s the power of education to better lives; it’s the vision, strength, and hard work of one woman to implement change and empowerment. I can honestly say that Bonnie Lee Black is a hero – in more than one sense of the word. She knows her SELF. She works tirelessly to educate and assist others, all with a sense of humor and grace. And yes, she changes lives. As you can surmise, I highly recommend this book – it’s a treasure.
Read more about Bonnie Lee Black and her Mali project at Wandering Educators.
And see A Traveler’s Library review of her first book, How to Cook a Crocodile, here.
Don’t forget to check out the page where you can contribute $10 to build schools in Mali and get a chance on a fabulous prize at Passports With Purpose.
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