by Sue Ann Rybak
Ed. Note: Last week’s front page story in Local Life was about Chestnut Hill native (not Mt. Airy resident) Luke Klein, who founded Kids of Kadiogne, Inc., which provides several forms of aid to children in the village of Kadiogne in the west African nation of Senegal, a peaceful, stable democracy but one of the poorest countries in the world. Here is the second and last part of the story:
Phyllis Taylor, a longtime resident of Mt. Airy who co-chairs Kids of Kadiogne, Inc., said one of the things she loves about the program is how direct and locally-based it is. “Luke spends a huge amount of time as the executive director and gets zero salary,” she explained. “The board isn’t paid, unlike some other nonprofit organizations. So people can be assured that if they make a donation, it’s going to go directly to the program. It’s not going to be siphoned off by a CEO who is making $400,000 a year.
“The reality of what is happening in Africa just seared my soul,” said Taylor, a registered nurse. She said one of the things that really appealed to her about “Kids” was that “such a little amount of money and investment of time has an impact for generations. If you help one child become literate in the family, then often their siblings learn to read. It’s an investment in the here and now, but it’s also an investment in the region because it needs to stay stable.”
Taylor said while literacy rates in Senegal are improving, only about 50 percent of the population can read, and only a third of children graduate from secondary school. Klein said the community education center the organization built in the village of Kadiogne includes two classrooms that provide additional space for the elementary school, which has often had to turn away children because of a lack of space.
Currently, the organization is in the process of building the Emily D’Ancona Resource Center. Upon completion, the resource center will have the only print library in the region with resources in French, English, Pulaar and Wolof. In addition, it will have the only internet-connected computer lab in the region. The resource center is named after a beloved member of the Germantown Friends School class of 1993 and a native of Chestnut Hill, who died tragically in a car accident in 2008.
Taylor said $10 can literally save a child’s life by putting a mosquito net in his/her hands, thus preventing malaria. A recent article in the National Geographic said that “some 3,000 children die of malaria each day in Africa, one every 30 seconds.” That’s more than one million children a year. One of the most cost-effective ways to prevent malaria is by using a mosquito net. The article went on to to say that using a mosquito net can “cut infections by half and child deaths by a third.”
“One of the reasons I have supported this organization is because it is making a profound difference,” said Taylor, who has worked on issues concerning social justice for decades. “It is also sending a message to the Muslim world that we are not all ugly Americans. In terms of world relations, Senegal is really important. Here is an example of a Muslim country that values education, women and democracy.”
She said people will often ask “Why Senegal?” Taylor said although it’s among the poorest countries in the world, Senegal is a peaceful, stable democracy in a troubled region. While our programs are aimed at meeting the needs of children today, it’s with the goal of helping to create a brighter future for them and thus, contributing to the stability of the region as well. And despite its poverty, Senegal is fortunate to have more modern transportation and communication infrastructures than most countries in the region.
Klein added that when Senegal found itself on the border of the recent Ebola outbreak, the government mobilized the entire country in prevention efforts, and Senegal was the first country to be cleared by the World Health Organization as free of Ebola.
But it was the words of Coumba Djenaba Bâ, a mother in the village of Diamel, that Klein particularly recalled: “We see change and development taking place around the world, but in the village nothing has changed. We work hard, and we do all we can with what we have, but we need assistance from the developed world if we are to improve conditions here.”
Taylor said that Kids of Kadiogne, Inc. offers people a chance to make a significant difference in the life of many children.
For more information or to make a donation to Kids of Kadiogne, Inc. go to www.kidsofkadiogne.org or call 1-844-KADIOGNE. Checks can also be mailed to P.O. Box 18983, Philadelphia, Pa. 19119.