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More Information on the Hèrè jè Center
Hèrè jè Center, Bamako, Mali, West Africa
A center to help begging girls learn income generating skills

Click to read student bios

Assa, is 10. She walks her blind uncle around the city begging. She and her uncle came to Bamako to beg because of poverty in their village. They live on the streets wherever they drop at night.

Kadia is 15. Her mother and father both died and she lives with her aunt who is responsible for a family of 8. Kadia's Aunt "rents" 4 year old twins from another beggar and Kadia walks the streets with the children. Twins are good luck and bring in more handouts.


Mali, a country about twice the size of Texas, is one of the poorest countries in the world with 70% of rural population below the poverty line. Only 39% of women are literate. With deforestation, soil erosion, and desertification there is an inadequate supply of potable water. Mali is heavily dependent on foreign aid and vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices for cotton, its main export and gold. The continued unrest in neighboring Cote d'Ivoire has jeopardized external trade routes.

Symptomatic of the country's poverty, throughout the capital city of Bamako are over 70,000 beggars. Begging passes from generation to generation: beggars marry beggars, produce children who beg, who marry beggars.

It is our vision to break the cycle of begging on the streets of Bamako for girls between the ages of 10 -25. The Hèrè jè Center opened in March 2005 as a skills training, education and marketing cooperative. Here, young girls from the streets learn skills to help them generate income and become micro-entrepreneurs.

To date, we have remodeled a building, paid rent for 2 years, recruited 6 trainers, and furnished the center with equipment and supplies.

Kaaba is presently CEO of the PIYELI micro-finance institution and takes her own vacation time and weekends to manage the development of the project and oversee its day to day operation.

Susan Moore, at her own expense, came to Mali to research the addition of a health clinic and/or infirmary for a later phase of the project. While at Heremakono, Susan taught the girls exercises that build and strengthen muscles to prevent injury and repetitive motion stress.

Presently 10 girls are enrolled in the pilot program. Three of the girls are disabled. The remodel included modifications to assist disabled members in each task area (lowered tables, access to bathrooms, ramps, etc.)

In this photo of Hèrè jè Center is Mme Kaaba Soumare, President of Heremakono with volunteer Susan Moore, Seattle acupuncturist.

In this photo, Mme Aissata Sacko Kane is teaching health, nutrition and AIDs prevention.
  During the apprentice phase, each girl receives $20 a week stipend to provide for food, transportation and clothing. At this point, because the 6 local African trainers believe in the project, they each volunteer their time for a small stipend that covers food and transportation. Some are entrepreneurs in their own right; some are employed by others; most are considered below the poverty line themselves.

The 6-day a week training program includes seven modules: (1) Fabric cutting and sewing, (2) fabric design: wax printing & tying, (3) Traditional dyeing, (4) Beading; jewelry making, (5) Weaving, (6) Health and Family Life and (7) Literacy.

As of January 2006, the girls are organized in two groups of 5 as a solidarity group to form their own business. These groups of five will be granted a loan to provide inputs to their micro-enterprises. Each girl has opened a savings account at the local micro-credit institution and regularly deposits part of her weekly stipend into the account.

Hèrè jè Center also serves as the training and marketing center through which the products these entrepreneurs produce, will be sold. Both a local (Mali) market and an export market are projected that will generate adequate income to reach sustainability for the training center and the entrepreneurs.

We ask each girl we recruit, "What is your dream?" Here are some of their comments:

"To not have to put my hand out to strangers."

"To eat until I am full."

"To have a job so I don't have to beg."

"To do something meaningful."

"I don't have the luxury of a dream."

It is our goal to create an environment in which these girls not only learn skills, but empower themselves, gain self dignity, build self esteem and have the luxury of not just dreaming but of fulfilling their dreams.


Since the beginning, financing for the project has been funded privately by Carol Schillios with contributions from friends, colleagues, clients and individual donations to the Fabric of Life, formed in 2002.

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