December Project Update

During November, our focus was on planning our big Launch Party and Fundraiser, which was by all accounts a big success. After a month off, the Dokotoro Project Steering Committee held its monthly meeting on December 2. Here’s a short wrap-up.

General updates

The group welcomed Zach Matheson to the steering committee. We extended our thanks to Anh Ly, who is leaving the steering committee due to other commitments.


Fundraising update

We raised around $6,000 from the fundraiser, including donations that came in immediately before and after the event. There are a few loose ends, e.g. checks written to the wrong organization, bad credit card numbers, that need to be taken care of. For anyone who gave us an address, you should have already gotten a donor acknowledgment from African Sky, and a personal thank you note from us.

We have clarified our policy regarding cash donations. Our fiscal sponsor African Sky will not be able to send out donor acknowledgments for cash donations given to us directly. So if you need a receipt for your taxes, give us a check or donate online. All cash donations will be directly deposited in the Dokotoro Project account at Mechanics Bank.

Also, the website where we accept donations, First Giving, takes privacy very seriously. If you check the “anonymous” box, we will not get your address. The only acknowledgment you’ll get will be an email from First Giving.


The Friends of Mali organization, which started as an alumni group for Peace Corps volunteers, is currently defunct, but they have a website and their webmaster is willing to send out a “Special edition of the Friends of Mali newsletter” to their email list. We’ll be putting together a few articles for this “special edition” over the next month, with a goal of sending it out in January. Any ideas or contributions are welcome. We also hope that someone will step up to help re-invigorate the organization. If ever Mali needed friends, now is the time.


We had planneed to post PDF versions of the first two chapters on our website immediately after the party, but there are still minor edits and formatting that have to be made to Chapter 18. We will post these files soon!

We learned a lot from our experience in translating the two chapters. From now on, we will keep everything in Microsoft Word throughout the process of translating, proofreading, editing, and collecting comments and feedback. Only when the text is reasonably finalized will we do the layout in Adobe InDesign. This will, hopefully, make it easier to manage comments and revisions. We considered a platform like Google Docs, but these require a constant connection to the internet, impractical for our partners in Mali.

We are still looking for more volunteers to help with various parts of the preparing the source text files in Word. We also realized that “volunteer management” is a fairly big job that takes time and dedication!

We briefly discussed a proposal to break the book into multiple volumes. The English edition of Where There is No Doctor is 450 pages, and the French-language edition 600, a daunting size, especially for novice readers. We see pros and cons to either approach. We agreed however, that it doesn’t really matter what we think; what matters is what will be most useful to users, community health workers in Mali. Tabled pending discussions with les partenaires sur le terrain.

We also discussed the need to develop a style guide for the book, to cover such matters as alternate spellings of words, punctuation (English style or French?), when to use contractions, etc. Matt will set up a series of questions to prompt the translation team in Bamako, and help develop something collaboratively.

Next steps: The group agreed to start translating from the beginning of the book, starting with “Words to the Health Worker.” We will cross walk the English and French editions while the team does their style sheet. The committee also discussed the creation of an index. Opinions varied on the difficulty of creating one, but all agreed it is important. We also discussed a glossary. The English edition has one, but the French does not. What form should it take? Bambara-to-Bambara definitions of words? A French-to-Bambara vocabulary? A hybrid of the two?

The committee also discussed the need for further independent editing of the translated text. Should this be one person, an executive editor, or crowd sourced? I.e. post materials online and solicit feedback from Bambara speakers, perhaps using some system of micropayments to create incentives. We agreed this would be unwieldy and difficult to manage. One suggestion is to ask one of the Bambara-language newspapers (Kibaru and Jekabaara are the ones we know about) for help, either by providing feedback or referring us to capable writers and editors.

We also discussed the very important issue of reviewing the medical information in the source text prior to translation, for example to make sure recommended medicines are available in Mali and work effectively for diseases in the region, ensure that local practices and attitudes are taken into account, etc. We will do more outreach to health NGOs or medical professionals in Mali, looking for volunteers to help with this.

Finance and admin

The group discussed whether it would like to do a simple annual report, and decided to do one by Aug 1, 2013 per fiscal sponsorship agreement with African Sky.

In the next month, we’ll seek bids from printers in Mali, so we can get a more accurate project budget.

We’re well on our way to our initial $25,000 fundraising goal, which was our initial estimate of the cost to translate, edit, and proofread the text. This sum will pay for our team of profressional translators and editors in Bamako. We rely heavily on volunteers for all other tasks. Based on the generosity of our donors, it has recently dawned on us that we could, just maybe, fund the whole project through individual donations.

No one wants to throw another big fundraiser (for at least a year!), but we’ll continue efforts and crowdfunding. It would be amazing for the book to be people-to-people, a gift from the citizens of the US to Mali. However, we’re still planning to work on institutional fundraising, i.e. grants from charitable foundations. Opinions vary on whether to request funds from governments, but we noted that many of the foreign-language editions of WTIND were funded by European governments. We worry that the requirements may be overly burdensome, or that they will not recognize us as a small upstart organization.