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Reintroducing a Malian to Mali


Ibrahim Kanté and friend in Dagabo

Ibrahim Kanté and friend in Dagabo

Ibrahim Kanté was a new – and fantastic – addition to our small team this year. Ibrahim is a Malian native who left Mali as a teenager to follow his brother to France and then to the US. Ibrahim was playing professional soccer for the Missouri Comets indoor soccer team when he met Abby Hayo’s brother, who when he learned that Ibrahim was from Mali, immediately connected him to Abby. In our astonishingly small and interconnected world, we soon discovered that Ibrahim’s oldest brother had gone to school with Dr. Oumar!  After hearing many times from several friends about Medical Missions Foundation work in Mali, Ibrahim signed on as a mission participant. A Bamako native, Ibrahim had little prior experience outside that city. We teased him that we would show him “our Mali” and introduce him to this wonderful country.


Each day involved Ibrahim in a wide range of endeavors. Fluent in English, French, and Bambara, he was a natural translator, and soon proved himself to have an easy and positive way of interacting with patients, families, and hospital staff. RN Kay Johnson, a veteran Medical Missions Foundation volunteer, complimented him on his stellar “bedside manner.”  He translated for the doctors as they screened patients, for the team in the marketplace, for the clinic we ran in Dagabo. He spoke to the children in Siraba School about the importance of education, of dedication, of having a dream – and illustrated his words by the inspiring example of his own life. Ibrahim worked alongside Jackson Pomeroy in the pharmacy, dispensing medicines with the help of a seasoned pharmacy worker/translator Adama. He brought his skills and passion to a Wash Cup game, and shared coaching tips with Tieblecoro who runs that program. A “gentle giant” from a family of giants, he and his equally strapping nephew drove a truck piled high with all our luggage and equipment bags, loading and unloading them with ease. He led a soccer clinic in Dagabo and gave t-shirts to the winning team. His whole family supported us – his brother Oumar and his wife Mariam hosted an amazing spread and extended family gathering for us in their beautiful home on our last night in Bamako. He participated in just about every action completed by the Medical Missions Foundation team (other than surgery, of course!). And yes, he saw sides of Mali that he had never seen before.

On our last surgery day, Ibrahim shared that this had been a “life-changing experience” for him. He was amazed at how easily our team – both regular Mali mission participants and Medical Missions Foundation veterans who were in Mali for the first time – would jump into experiences, try new things, be open to interacting with people and sights and tastes we’d never known before. How committed we are to helping his country and its people. He felt inspired, awed, and determined – this was his first Medical Missions Foundation mission to Mali, but it will not be his last.