The military coup in Mali, West Africa, has left the Fabric of Life’s trade school in the capital city of Bamako planning for worst case scenarios.
Dedicated to cooperative partnerships that improve people’s access to affordable credit, education and health care, the Fabric of Life is a DBA of the Schillios Development Foundation created by long-time credit union and development organizer Carol Schillios.
Schillios started the foundation in 2002 and in addition to the Hèrè jè Center, its projects include credit unions in Senegal and Vietnam; support for a credit union activist in Zimbabwe; and an online retail outlet which sells products produced by cooperative artisans from around the world.
The Hèrè jè Center was created to stop the cycle of begging for girls and provide sustainable income generating activities. It offers skills training, health and nutrition, family planning, AIDs prevention and literacy skills. The skills then lead to developing micro-entrepreneurs who can generate sustainable income for themselves and their families, the group said.
Schillios was able to connect with Kaaba, the volunteer program director, who reported that her family and Hèrè jè graduates are safe so far.
Initially, Kaaba and her family blockaded themselves in their home for safety. They feared being targeted by rebels because of her husband’s high-level government position in customs and her position as CEO of a micro-finance institution.
The coup has been widely condemned by both Western and African communities and international governments have closed embassies and suspended bi-lateral aid to Mali until democracy is restored.
With thousands fleeing the northern rebel-occupied cities and entering Bamako, the city has been ill prepared to manage the needs of refugees, reports said.
“We are hopeful the situation will not escalate and the safety of graduates is our priority given the present political situation,” said Schillios. “Kaaba tells me this week the airport has re-opened, however with borders closed, food and fuel prices are doubling in an area already steeped in poverty. Until we are assured the situation will not escalate, the safety of our graduates is our primary concern so all activity is being suspended. Because Kaaba has limited and potentially no access to cash, we are exploring how to get funds to her for Hèrè jè graduates and emergency provisions.”
Ways credit unions can help range from making a donation that goes directly for basic food and shelter needs of student graduates until the center can be reopened, to purchasing items from the online store and using “Goodsearch” as a search engine.