Care in Kaolack, Senegal

My sister Kim Mahling works all around the world helping to bring democracy to places that need an open and civil society. In the course of her work she has met some really cool people and so by extension, traveling with her, I have also been able to meet amazing people. One of those people is Viola Vaughn in Kaolack, Senegal. Viola is from Detroit and she moved to Africa for love, but when her husband passed away she was able to cure her grief by helping others.

Viola Vaughn, a Detroit Michigan native first went to Africa in 1972 where she married a Senegalese Man. Over the years she went back and forth until she moved to Senegal permanently in the year 2000. The 10,000 Girls Foundation program was started in 2001 when one young girl came to Viola after the girl failed her school exams for the first time. In Senegal if a child fails twice they are automatically and permanently expelled from school system. She is trying to reinforce to her community the fact that there is nothing wrong with being female.

This young girl asked Viola to help her with her studies and at first Viola declined to help but eventually she said yes after speaking with girls mother. The girl arrived with three of her girlfriends and after a week there were 20 girls. Now Vaughn has 1500 enrolled in the 10,000 Girls project in six different areas. In Kaolack, a city of 300,000 people located 120 kilometers South of Dakar, Senegal.

Viola was a CNN hero the year I met her.

I am preparing to travel so am looking back!

Viola Vaughn in her office in rural Senegal, West Africa. Viola Vaughn, a Detroit Michigan native first went to Africa in 1972 where she married a Senegalese Man. Over the years she went back and forth until she moved to Senegal permanently in the year 2000. The 10,000 Girls Foundation program was started in 2001 when one young girl came to Viola after the girl failed her school exams for the first time. In Senegal if a child fails twice they are automatically and permanently expelled from school system. She is trying to reinforce to her community the fact that there is nothing wrong with being female. This young girl asked Viola to help her with her studies and at first Viola declined to help but eventually she said yes after speaking with girls mother. The girl arrived with three of her girlfriends and after a week there were 20 girls. Now Vaughn has 1500 enrolled in the 10,000 Girls project in six different areas. In Kaolack, a city of 300,000 people located 120 kilometers South of Dakar, Senegal.

Viola Vaughn in her office in rural Senegal, West Africa.

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Keri Pickett

Keri Pickett is an author, photographer and filmmaker telling the stories of life, family and community with intimacy, honesty and impact. Pickett is Producer, Director and Camera for the award-winning feature documentary film ‘The Fabulous Ice Age’, about the rise and fall of the great American touring ice shows and one man’s quest to save the history, available on Netflix and Amazon. Her short film, 'Steel // Spirit' premiered at MSPIFF and won certificate of excellence in India. Her award-winning books include Love in the 90s; BB and Jo, The Story of a Lifelong Love, A Granddaughter’s Portrait (Warner Books, 1995); Faeries; Visions, Voices & Pretty Dresses (Aperture, 2000); Saving Body & Soul, The Mission of Mary Jo Copeland (WaterBrook, 2004). The recipient of a Jerome and Minnesota State Arts Board grants, three McKnight Foundation Photography fellowships, a National Endowment for the Arts award, and a Bush Foundation Fellow, Pickett’s work is in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.