Former New York Times journalist Alan Riding joins us in Senegal
Mar 03, 2020
From Nick Weber, Founder and President of Le Korsa
For the past six years, Le Korsa has been graced in having Alan Riding as a devoted friend and supporter. He has now made three trips to Senegal with us; he regularly writes his friends asking them to support our work; he gives his time and energy unstintingly; he provides both insights and enthusiasm.
To have Alan writing about Le Korsa is no small thing. Alan joined The New York Times in Mexico in 1978 and, in the following years, he covered the Nicaraguan Revolution and the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala.
At the end of his assignment in Mexico, he wrote Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans (Knopf/Vintage), which has sold over 450,000 copies worldwide and is now considered a classic about modern Mexico. Following that, he spent five years as The New York Times’s bureau chief in Paris, before becoming the newspaper’s European Cultural Correspondent. While in this post, he co-authored Essential Shakespeare Handbook and Opera, two illustrated reference books . His most recent book is And The Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris, now published in several languages, and while he is no longer a New York Times staffer, he often has book reviews in the paper and leads trips organized by the Times. And he has recently become a playwright of distinction.
Alan returned from a trip with Team Le Korsa at the start of last week. What follows is a letter he intended initially for Le Korsa’s Paris-based community; when I read it, I realized that it is so rich, succinct, and vivid that it should be disseminated as widely as possible. All of you should have the pleasure of seeing our work through Alan’s eyes. (Not only are the words his, but so are the photographs; while Alan has written a lot about photography, few people knew of his hidden talent in that direction.)
I am sure that you will relish this beautiful report.
Le Korsa in Senegal
I’m just back from a week-long trip visiting Le Korsa’s projects in the Tambacounda region of south-east Senegal and, as promised, here’s a brief report on how they’re faring. In one word, well! Given the entrenched poverty of the area, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but I believe our “from-the-bottom-up” approach is making a difference.
Please read below and, if so inspired, do please consider supporting our work. To donate and learn more about Le Korsa and our French NGO, Les Amis du Korsa, please click on aflk.org (for US tax deductions) or lamko.org (for French tax deductions).
Thank you for caring.
I’ll just focus on four projects:
The most ambitious is construction of a new $1.3 m. maternity and pediatric center for the Tambacounda hospital. Shocked by existing conditions, Le Korsa decided three years ago that a modern extension was absolutely vital. Now, with an ingenious S-shaped design by the Swiss-based firm of Manuel Herz Architects, the center is rapidly taking shape and should be inaugurated early 2021… with luck and with money!
Indeed, to turn the shell into a working hospital will cost as much as construction of the building itself. And we’re not there yet, so we still need help!
The Foyer des Jeunes Filles is a secure hostel financed by Le Korsa that enables girls from surrounding villages to receive a secondary education in Tambacounda. Now housing 140 young women aged 11 to 23, it is wonderfully run by its director, Maimouna Ka Sow, who supervises both their welfare and education.
This includes “reinforcement classes” provided every afternoon by hired teachers to insure no student falls behind at school (above left) while others are kept busy doing homework (above right). I gave a writing workshop for a group of them and sensed their determination to prepare for a future so unlike that of village life, where early marriage and motherhood awaited them. They have reason to feel optimistic since over a dozen alumni of the foyer are now studying at universities in Dakar. And there too, Le Korsa is providing their housing.
Sinthian is the village south-east of Tambacounda where five years ago Le Korsa and the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation built a stunning cultural center which has since become the social heart of the community as well as a temporary “residence” for a succession of artists. We’re involved in other programs there, such as bee-keeping, vegetable farming, the local medical center and a kindergarten. On this visit, scores of infants in little uniforms helped Le Korsa inaugurate a second classroom for the kindergarten while entertainment was provided by a popular rap artist, Negga Dou.
We forded the Gambia River to reach another village, Fass, where Le Korsa opened the community’s first–ever primary school a year ago. I was keen to visit it because it offers 200 children – girls as well as boys – their first opportunity to learn French – the official language of Senegal’s educational system – as well as to engage in Koranic studies.
In Fass, as in other villages, by providing wells and advice, Le Korsa has enabled local women to assume responsibility for farming vegetables, providing better nutrition for their families and a welcome splash of green in the otherwise arid landscape.