April 2014 Project Update

It’s been a while since we posted an update on the Dokotoro Project. But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening behind the scenes! Here’s a run-down of what happened in the last couple of months, plus some exciting news about upcoming events.

Upcoming May Fundraiser! We’re planning a Peanut Sauce Cook-Off in May, in partnership with the Northern California Peace Corps Association. So dust off your recipe for sauce arachide or tigadɛgɛna. It will likely take place on one of the first two weekends in May, in Berkeley. This will be open to the general public, and recipes from all over the world are welcome! Details coming soon!

Our translators just finished their first draft of the First Aid chapter. This is a long, complicated chapter, with information on dozens of medicines. Because of this, it’s undergoing an additional round of proofreading to make sure everything is accurate.

There is exciting some news regarding new French-language publications from our parent organization, Hesperian Health Guides. A new French-language edition of A Book for Midwives is forthcoming. This was partially funded by the African Birth Collective in Eugene, Oregon, and translated by the nonprofit ENDA in Senegal. In addition to the print edition to be distributed in West Africa, Hesperian is planning to make this freely available as a PDF document and as web pages on their “health wiki,” and also for purchase via “print-on-demand.” The layout is being finalized, but they still need money to pay for printing, so there is a fundraising campaign online at Global Giving.

Please join me in saying a big thank you to Anh Ly, who is be stepping down from the Steering Committee after more than a year of dedicated service. I’m extremely grateful for all of Anh’s time, energy, ideas, and very generous donations to the project.

Next, please join me in welcoming Lyle Hansen to the Steering Committee, who will be taking over soon as treasurer. Lyle’s been a steadfast volunteer at our hackathons, and he’s also a talented photographer who conducted a successful Kickstarter campaign to travel to Mali and document development projects and every day life.

We’ve recently received news about a sizable donation… I’ll say more when the check is in the bank! We still need about $15,000 to finish having Where There is No Doctor translated into Bambara. Please consider making a gift online via First Giving, or tell a friend about us!

Lastly, our taxes are done! (Are yours?) We don’t owe anything to Uncle Sam, because we don’t make a profit (all the income is earmarked to be spent on translation) but we do have to submit paperwork to the IRS. A huge thank you to tax preparer Bruce A. Sahs of in Rochester, New York who volunteered to do our taxes free of charge.

Friday Film! The Masons of Djenné

From the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibit on the architecture of Mali, meet five master masons of Mali in this series of short videos. Click through to watch a set of interviews (in Bambara, with English subtitles). I learned a lot about this ancient craft, and was struck by the incredible amount of pride these men take in their work. Plus, I learned a new proverb:

Kɔgɔ t’a fɔ a yɛrɛ ka di. -Salt shouldn’t brag that it’s tasty.


Weekend Bambara Lesson

In honor of this past week’s Mardi Gras festivities, how do you say “Laissez les bons temps rouler,” or “Let the good times roll” in Bambara?

A y’a to kodumanw k’u tile kɛ u fɛrɛ ma!


A ye waati dumanw to u ka tɛmɛn u fɛrɛ ma!

Note: In Bambara you would add fɛrɛ ma meaning “librement” or “freely.”

Thanks for this translation go to Djibril Coulibaly, our fantastic editor. Djibril was one of my Bambara teachers when I was a Peace Corps trainee 15 years ago, and now teaches French in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

How about you? Would you like to see more Bambara lessons on the blog?

March Volunteer Hackathon!

Hello all Dokotoro friends,

Next weekend, on Sunday March 9th, we will be having our next Dokotoro Project Hackathon, or volunteer party. And we need YOUR help! No special language or technical skills necessary (although if you speak French or Bambara, that’s a plus).

Please let us know if you can join us, either in person in downtown Oakland, California or virtually (for example, one of our volunteers will be working from her own computer that afternoon).

If you are joining in person, please bring a laptop if you have one. Afterwards, we’ll have food and drinks and plenty of time to hang out and socialize.

Dokotoro Project Hackathon
Sunday, March 9, 2014, 1:00 – 4:00 pm
RSVP to Matt for details

February 2014 Project Update

Our volunteers may have taken a few weeks off over the holidays, but things are still happening behind the scenes at the Dokotoro Project!

The dust has settled from our November fundraiser, and we’re delighted to announce that we raised nearly $11,000 by the end 2013. We extend a big, heart-felt thank you to everyone who donated or volunteered to make this such a big success. And we owe a special thanks to the anonymous donor who gave a $5,000 matching grant. Not only did we meet the match, we exceeded it by nearly $1,000.

Translation - We’re just past the half-way mark in translating Where There is No Doctor into Bambara. Our Bamako-based translation team is working on the First Aid chapter right now, which is one of the longest and most complicated chapters in the book, with nearly 80 pages of material. There is a lot of challenging material, with many new medicines, and lots of detailed figures and captions. The translators should finish a draft sometime in March, at which point we’ll pass it on to our editor/proofreader for correction. Continue reading

Friday Party – Tiécoro Sissoko

Tiécoro Sissoko is a griot from the Kayes region in western Mali, and a skilled storyteller, singer, and guitar player. He has played and recorded with some of Mali’s finest musicians, and until recently, he played a weekly gig with Toumani Diabaté at The Diplomat in Bamako. Tiécoro passed away in May 2012, before the California-based record company, KSK, would released his first album Keme Borama. Enjoy this great video.

Some new photos…

Have you noticed the photos that grace the “masthead” at the top of dokotoro.org? We’re using a WordPress feature where it posts a random photo each time you re-load the page. For a long time, we’ve had the same two photos–both of which I love–but I’ve been looking for new ones to add for a while.

Our friend and Dokotoro Project volunteer Lyle Hansen has graciously agreed to contribute a few photos for our site. Lyle recently returned from a month in Mali, where he took loads of photos, and visited several projects run by African Sky, our fiscal sponsor. His trip was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign called Jarabi: C’est la joie de vivre.

Please join me in thanking Lyle! Better yet, go check out his website lylehansen.com for great pictures of everyday life in Mali.

Who should use “Where There is No Doctor?”

This post is the first in a series of “FAQs,” or frequently-asked questions about the project.

People often ask us, “Who is the intended audience for the book?” From our perspective, there are two main answers to this question. The first audience we have in mind are community health workers who are working in cities and villages in Mali. In Mali, there are rural health clinics called Centres de Santé Communautaire, or CSCOMs. The level of staffing at CSCOMs varies widely, with some headed by doctors or nurses. Others are headed by Agents de Santé Communautaire, or by volunteers called relais. These volunteers often have not completed high school, have little formal training, and many do not speak French well. We believe that will be a big help to these individuals to have access to accurate, up-to-date information in their native language.

Beyond this, the book is intended for anyone who cares about the health of their family or community. Here is an excerpt from the English-language edition of Where There is No Doctor:

This is more than a book on first aid. It covers a wide range of things that affect the health of people from diarrhea to tuberculosis, from helpful and harmful home remedies to the cautious use of modern medicines. Special importance is placed on cleanliness, a healthy diet, and vaccinations. The book also covers in detail both childbirth and family planning. Not only does it help readers realize what they can do for themselves, but it helps them recognize which problems need the attention of an experienced health worker.

This new revised edition includes updated information about malaria, TB, sexually transmitted infections, drug addiction, HIV and AIDs including antiretroviral therapy, and many other topics.


THE VILLAGER who lives far from medical centers. It explains in simple words and drawings what he can do to prevent, recognize, and treat many common sicknesses.

THE VILLAGE STOREKEEPER OR PHARMACIST who sells medicines and health care supplies. The book explains which medicines are most useful for specific sicknesses and warns against ones that are useless or dangerous. Risks and precautions are carefully explained. Guidelines are given for the sensible use of both traditional and modern medicines.

THE TEACHER in a rural school. The book will help her give practical advice and care to the sick and injured. It also gives guidelines for teaching children and adults in her community about the problems of health, cleanliness, and nutrition.

THE VILLAGE HEALTH WORKER, or anyone who is concerned about the health and well-being of those in her community. An introductory section for the village health worker discusses ways to determine needs, share knowledge, and involve the community in activities that can better people’s health.

MOTHERS AND MIDWIVES will find useful the clear, easy-to-understand information for home birth, care of the mother, and child health.

“A Book for Midwives” available soon in French

Great news recently from Hesperian Health Guides, the publisher of Where There is No Doctor and many other wonderful books and resources.

A Book for Midwives

As many have noted, if it was men who gave birth, the kind of safe, accessible and compassionate treatment advocated [...]  in Hesperian’s Book for Midwives would have been achieved years ago. You can help women achieve safe motherhood by supporting midwifery, and by supporting the gratis distribution of Hesperian’s Book for Midwives. Hesperian partners ENDA in Sengal and the African Birth Collective (Senegal and Oregon) are preparing to release a French for Africa edition of A Book for Midwives which we anticipate making available before the end of this year in the Hesperian Digital Commons.