IMALOLE – A Voyage of the Heart

by dfdadmin


A Voyage of the Heart – by Jill Townsend-Sorel

I got hooked. We had talked about going, but it wasn’t a reality for me until Leslie showed me the photos she took after the drought in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world.

The suffering of the Tuareg nomads tore at me.

How can I help?

The Tuareg nomads are beautiful people .. ancient people…..

Leslie and I agreed to meet in Agadez, Niger, in November 2006. We were to leave from there to check on 9 repaired wells that had collapsed during the drought. It would take a month … 1800 miles … and the going was not always easy!

The third night out we arrived at a place called Imalole.. pronounced eemaalowlay. All I could see were a few acacia trees, children, women, goats and a dog. No houses, no buildings.. just the few acacia trees without leaves.

We set up camp and had dinner cooked in a cast iron pot over a fire in the sand. Until late at night, the women sang songs in beautiful harmonies. The songs were all about having courage .. that tomorrow will be a better day..

The next day I saw this courage in action. The women – mostly grandmothers – were digging up sand, making bricks and constructing a small building to store the grain for their new cereal bank.

The children supplied the water for the bricks. They walked 10 miles to the nearest well and back, carrying 5-gallon jerry-cans to fill with water. The goats accompanied them. I couldn’t see any men about.. just children and women….

Such gentle people … the drought dried up the wells which then collapsed; the livestock died of starvation and the children died… the women died and the Tuareg men were committing suicide as they couldn’t save their families and their animals.

Funds were raised to repair the wells with metal cylinders to keep their sides from collapsing. Leslie and I were there to check and see that the 9 wells were all working.

I barely spoke the whole time I was in Imalole…. The inbalance of how much we have that we take for granted, just at our fingertips…. And here, in the middle of ‘nowhere’ there was a monumental struggle for existence for the women, the grandmothers, the children, the animals … But they had each other and they had their songs of courage.Goats are their bank account. They do not use money. They trade for what they need. If they have a lot of goats, they can afford nourishment. I have so much – I am so fortunate – and yet I had nothing that could help them as I stood there in the sand getting ready to go.. deeper into the desert. Through Sidi, who is our Tuareg leader, I asked if there was something they felt they needed that I could help with… Thinking they would ask for a well as the nearest was so far away … But right away – no hesitation – the grandmothers said they wanted a school so that the children would learn ‘numbers and letters’. I said I would see what I could do…. Maybe I could do this…

I learned that a school is a resource for many things: with a school you have a teacher…. a person who can also dispense vitamins… the women and children will have the vitamins so needed for health in a place where people die daily of malaria and yellow fever, and women die in childbirth only for lack of iron. And a medicine chest to aid those will eye ailments and headaches, cuts and fevers. And lunch every day for the children and teacher… A teacher is a connection to many things but his heart is with the children he teaches. The school is the beginning of a better chance in life.

The grandmothers in Imalole are so grateful not to be forgotten. I told them I was a Grandmother and Grandmothers do not forget.

We have a great opportunity now to change the lives of many children. And many generations to come.

Grandmothers know that all children are our children…

… and that every penny counts…

There are several ways to help, if you would like to:


Goats are the banking system. Goats are traded for what is needed. Buy a goat for Imalole or give a goat as a gift to a loved one and you will receive a gift certificate… (the goat goes to Imalole!)


This provides school supplies and lunches for a student for one year.


* Teachers salary: $120 per month; $1200 per annum

* Vitamins for the children: $300 per year

* School expenses: $4000 per annum

* A well for the school: $8000.

Any donation can be made to the Nomad Foundation by contacting Jill:

or at: The Council of Grandmothers
P.O. Box 970
Ojai, CA. 93024

or at: NOMAD Gallery
307 E. Ojai Ave.
Ojai, CA. 93023
Tel: 805 646 1706

or online:

The Nomad Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization

On my voyage, I saw many things… extreme poverty, terrible diseases like yellow fever and malaria, dying children….

I also saw joy, pride respect, care, laughter, curiosity, friendship and yes, happiness…

A voyage to the Sahara and its people is to experience a powerful force that has left its tracks on my soul. They will remain, unlike my footprints in the sand.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Caren Samuels, RN, BSN, PHN December 3, 2010 at 11:19 pm

I stand in awe. I never knew conditions like these existed in the world. This indeed is poverty in its worse sense. I am in the initial process of Short term Mission work with the Tuareg people but if I go I might never return home. This is a people that I came across on the internet and I am really interested to make a dent in the lives of these women, as and RN. With much love and prayers.
Caren Samuels

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: