Rain for the Sahel started with Bess Palmisciano, a Newmarket resident, who first met the Tuareg when she traveled as a tourist to Niger in January, 2000. She was impressed with their independence and resilience, as well as their eagerness to share with her their food, music -- and hopes for their children. Those hopes include education. Once shunned by the Tuareg, parents now see schooling as vital. However, the state-run schools lack even the bare necessities, such as sleeping mats and adequate food, for the children who live there while their parents are in the desert with their herds. (See the video above.)
Back home in New Hampshire, Bess raised a modest amount of money to help rebuild one school in one Tuareg community. She wanted to do more. she returned to Niger to explore with people ways they could work together. Rain for the Sahel and Sahara, Inc. (RAIN) was created to support the projects resulting from those talks. Soon, with RAIN’s help, parents were digging wells and planting gardens for the schools. Money made by selling excess crops is put back into the gardens and the schools.
Besides market school gardens, RAIN helps with AIDS education programs and women’s artisan cooperatives. Existing programs continue to grow and new projects are under discussion. But all programs, whether new or modeled after existing ones, are initiated and administered locally -- an essential factor for long-term change among the Tuareg.
Today, RAIN provides school supplies to 1,000 students, while about 250 volunteer parents tutor students, manage gardens, teach children about health and raise funds for schools through community businesses the sale of traditional crafts. RAIN is responding to requests to increase its scope and now works with both Wodaabe and Tuareg nomadic people.
View Bambino play the guitar above. He is considered one of the great guitar players of the Sahara and Sahel region of Africa.
The Newmarket Farmers' Market is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in The Stone Church parking lot through October 10th. The vendors offer local wine, goat cheese, baked goods, organic produce and meats.
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