The following comes from Erica Trauba, a founding member of Mali Health, as part of Mali Health’s 10th anniversary celebration.

Last month at a friend’s going away party in Abidjan, I met a woman who works in both Mali and Côte d’Ivoire. We struck up a conversation, and I told her that I lived in Bamako several years ago. Invariably, I also mentioned Mali Health. Right away, the woman’s face lit up and she exclaimed that she already knew the national director, Mariam, and was familiar with the organization’s work. To me, this was more than a serendipitous interaction – I took it as an encouraging sign that Mali Health is on the right path and that it continues to be successful in expanding its reach.

Back in the earliest days of Mali Health, I don’t think I ever fully visualized the potential extent of the organization’s longevity or its impact. In 2005, Mali Health was just a budding idea. In the fall of 2006, the team focused mostly on accomplishing tedious, yet essential first steps that would set the stage for all the action to come, like getting permission and buy-in from key local leaders, finding and cleaning a meeting space, and figuring out exactly which paperwork was needed to turn an idea into an official NGO. There were no offices or official programs yet, but no matter! We optimistically fumbled forward.

All those pieces gradually fell into place, amazing people came onboard, and through the dedication of staff, volunteers, board members, and local residents over the years, Mali Health became a full-fledged organization that has since established a strong track record of improving community health in Bamako. Thousands of people have since benefitted from the organization’s services. Now that is something to celebrate!

I left that party in Abidjan feeling encouraged about the power of grassroots development and interpersonal connection. I also felt proud to be part of a group of people who have come together to improve health outcomes for some of Mali’s most vulnerable populations. Now, as we celebrate Mali Health’s 10th anniversary, I feel even more motivated to help bolster this community as we embark on the next 10 years together.