Link to the Past
“I would like to wish you (Africare) a Happy Anniversary; it is also ours because we are one of the primary beneficiaries of your work. I would like to express my gratitude and thanks for contributing to make life easier and better for the entire population.”
During Black History Month, we celebrate the Africare Story-- made possible by the united efforts of Africans and Americans working together to improve the lives of families and communities across every region of the African continent. Our feature Pass it On! story this month highlights the important role of African governments in our programs and the unique relationship that we share. It’s told directly by an official who remembers Africare when our work first began four decades ago.
The year was 1970. A severe drought was spreading across Western Africa in the nations of Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso. Crops could not grow; people and animals were dying; thousands of villagers fled their homes in search of water. As famine swept the Sahel, President Hamani Diori of Niger saw the need for a new kind of assistance organization which would link Africa and America and be a means by which African-Americans, in particular, could become directly connected with their motherland.
President Diori’s initiative, in collaboration with four American volunteers, gave birth to Africare: a leader in development assistance on the African continent. Among the four Americans who answered President Diori’s call was Dr. William Kirker, a medical doctor who had been working in Niger. His practice was well known throughout the area – even by a young boy at the time, Ibrahim Tidjani Katiella, who now serves as Prefet of the District of Tera.
“I met William Kirker in 1972,” Prefet Katiella recalls with a smile. “He was a great friend of my father and came by the house every other day. He renovated the entire District’s health clinics. The population was able to receive free consultation because of William Kirker. This is a great man and a great example of involvement that every partnership should follow in order to help the population. He’s more than a partner to us. He’s family.”
From the very beginning, Africare’s relationship with African governments was unique, born out of a direct appeal by the first President of Niger to help end suffering in his country. It remains to this day a reason that Africare calls for the active participation of government in all its programs, and the reason Africare will not begin work in a country without receiving an invitation first. This is one of the organization’s top priorities – knowing strong, sustainable communities require strong and dependable governments who are involved from the very beginning stages of development.
Prefet Katiella has watched the relationship between Africare and his country grow since his first introduction to it as a small boy. He’s come to appreciate the relationship on a whole new level now that he is an active member of his District government.
“Back in 2007, Tera was underwater due to rain,” Prefet Katiella explained. “Too many people were affected. And Africare came to the rescue—just as they did for our nation in 1970 when we were facing a great drought. Africare brought help to the victims, help such as food. Later, they introduced new forms of technology, which allow the population to plant more seeds and produce more food. The seeds helped the villagers be self sufficient. They were able to keep the soil nutrients intact. Africare’s help boosted the people’s morale and helped them focus on recovery efforts.”
Such detailed accounts of Africare’s work and its impact are shared by government officials across some 25 nations where Africare works. It is a unique relationship and one of the reasons Africare’s programs are so successful.
“I would like to wish you [Africare] a Happy Anniversary; it is also ours because we are one of the primary beneficiaries of your work. We witnessed all their involvement in Niger and specifically in our town. I would like to express my gratitude and thanks for contributing to make life easier and better for the entire population.”
Strong communities are the foundation of Africare development activities, and government participation will remain an integral part of that work.
Where do you fit in? Keep the Africare story going. Pass It On!