For Immediate Release
9th Annual “A Walk for Water” Draws Newly-Named Nigerien Ambassador
~ A Walk for Water Engages Youth as Global Leaders ~
Silver Spring, MD – The new Ambassador of Niger, Her Excellency Professor Hassana Alidou
marked history by attending a grassroots
event with American students and families. “A Walk for Water” on May 16, 2015
was one of Her Excellency’s first public appearances since she established her
office the week prior at the Nigerien embassy in Washington DC. Alphadi, famous
Nigerien fashion designer known as the “Magician of the Desert”, accompanied
Her Excellency. The event raises funds to benefit Niger’s most vulnerable
populations. It links students of the global north and the global south,
offering a hand of friendship to Muslim populations in danger of falling under
the influence of extremists.
|(l-r) Mr. Rilla, Alphadi, Lucy Billings, Hadesh Walet, Kamel Zennia,|
Her Excellency Ambassador Alidou, Ariane Kirtley, Debra Kahn
|Getting ready to Walk for Water!|
Attended by about 200 people, “A Walk for Water” was co-sponsored by nonprofit Amman Imman and the John F. Kennedy HS in Silver Spring, Maryland. Amman Imman: Water is Life, based in Silver Spring, hosts Walk for Water events annually in collaboration with the many schools with which it partners. The grassroots organization is one of the only humanitarian groups working in the Azawak Valley, a region the size of Florida that straddles Mali and Niger. For the past decade, a severe and lengthening drought, extreme poverty, and growing insecurity has continued to erode communities in the Azawak, one of West Africa’s most inaccessible and impoverished regions.
|Our special guests enjoy the nomad tent|
The 5K Walk events symbolize the long journeys—up to 35 miles daily for some—that many children in the Azawak have had to take to find water for their families. Since 2006, Amman Imman has drilled five sustainable sources of clean water called borehole wells in Niger. The organization also works with villages to lead other essential development activities, such as setting up cereal banks and community gardens, managing vaccination campaigns, distributing mosquito nets, providing school supplies, building community stores, and offering food aid and training in a variety of relevant income-generating skills especially focused on empowering women.
This 9th edition of “A Walk for Water” was framed by an African cultural festival with live music
from Africa and hands-on activities. Participants had the unique
experience of visiting a nomad’s tent and sipping Tuareg tea. They heard the
sound of the tende, a traditional Tuareg drum played by women. Children wrote
their names in the ancient alphabet of Tiffinagh and made friendship bracelets
for the children of the Azawak. Festival go-ers visited the marketplace where
regional artisan’s jewelry and crafts were sold.
Ambassador Alidou emphasized the students’ impact, “For us it is an honor to be with you again celebrating another year of solidarity with the people of Niger. Water is about life. So you can imagine what you give to so many people through the work that Amman Imman does in Niger. Each time that you see youth reaching out to other youth…it is very, very powerful -- we know that peace is going to sink in across the rivers, across the desert, and across the ocean.”
Ariane Kirtley, Amman Imman’s founder and director, in the United States directly from Niger, also
attended the event as the keynote speaker. Ms. Kirtley encouraged
the students to continue developing their compassion and leadership because the
word needs them: “You are powerful…Not only do you save lives, you also bring
peace….Children in the Azawak understand that students in America care about
them. And that’s a huge powerful message
in this time when extremism undermines the security of so many nations.”
|Ariane, Debbie and students|
Although Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett who was scheduled to attend the event could not be there, his proclamation declaring May 16 “A Walk for Water Day” in Montgomery County was read. “I urge our residents to learn about the suffering caused by water scarcity and the efforts to alleviate that condition,” proclaimed Mr. Leggett.
Musicians Kamel Zennia from Algeria and Hadesh Walet from Mali shared their music.
Kutt sang his hit, “May the Water
Flow” written for the people of the Azawak. Singer/songwriter Lucy Billings traveled from Tennessee
to sing “Carry the Water”, highlighting the plight of women and girls
worldwide. Ghanian Michael Kweku Owusu of Drumming Up From Poverty lead
a drum circle. Other partners included the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.
|Playing the tende|
|On "A Walk for Water"|
|Hadesh Walet sings a song|
for the Azawak