In December 1995, when I was only 12, I had the chance to travel to Burkina Faso and Benin with about 60 other children. We travelled a week long, from one village to the other, to donate school stuff. It was a unique experience, the chance of a lifetime! It probably changed me and helped me open up to other cultures.
Our first night was spent in a hotel in Ouagadougou, before camping every night somewhere else, surrounded by breathtaking landscapes. We were welcomed by a group of young musicians, singers and dancers from Ouagadougou. They were approximately our age. The first contact with the culture felt fantastic.
These young artists were from the ‘Wamdé’, a local music group. What I learned later is that the Wamdé was also a school and that most of these young boys and girls were from the street. One woman had sheltered them and offered them a future: Mama Kouyaté.
In 1988, Mama Kouyaté created the Wamdé in Ouagadougou. What started as a school and artistic center, has now become a village within the capital city of Burkina Faso, where some of the children live, while others just come during the day to acquire an education and be fed. Mama Kouyaté has dedicated her whole life to orphans and children who had little to nothing. She has taken them from the streets and taught them a profession: singing, dancing, playing music, but also sewing, or making music instruments. In 2012, Mama Kouyaté was talking about more than 300 children who had been helped and guided by the Wamdé. Taken under the wings of this strong and charismatic woman.
She has set an example for these children, but also for many other individuals. She sometimes tours Europe with the children. I even had the chance to see them again in France a few years after our first encounter.
Nowadays, years later, I am still impressed by Mama’s life achievement. She has been a mother and guardian to many children and I hope she will keep doing so for years and years.