Fode Camara, Amy Lusk & Helen Bond
House in Sangbaralla Village
WBEZ World View: Global Activism
Solar Lights given to students at a School in Cimenterie, Conakry, Guinea
How we got started
After completing separate study trips to Guinea, West Africa, 20 years ago, Helen Bond and Amy Lusk met when they returned to the U.S. to talk about their experiences. They discovered they shared a love of the traditional West African music that had brought so much joy to their lives and also a desire to give back to the creators of the music.
Together, they established the Benkadi Project, which works to address the health, education and basic needs of children, families and communities in Guinea. The Benkadi Project is a partnership between long standing friends, musicians and community leaders in Guinea and hundreds of drummers, donors, and friends in the United States and other countries.
All of our work is infused with the spirit of our name -- in the Malinke language of Guinea, Benkadi translated means “To live together is very good.” We are all human beings, living together on our planet, sharing similar hopes, joys and sorrows as a human community. Over the years, we've found that the ties of friendship and creative expression we've established through our love of West African music have allowed us to come together across cultures and across the miles to make a difference in the face of ongoing suffering and seemingly intractable problems in Guinea.
People in Guinea struggle daily with deep and persistent poverty, rampant disease and malnutrition, high rates of infant mortality and limited educational and economic opportunities. Over the years, the Benkadi Project has launched a succession of successful projects that have improved the quality of life for many people and communities in the country. These have included:
Construction of a new school building and renovation of the existing school in Sangbaralla village in the Hamana Region
Building a Women’s Market facility where village women can sell their produce (including sanitation facilities for the building)
Distribution of the Universal Nut Sheller device to prevent exposure to toxins and support income generation for women and children shelling peanuts by hand
Construction of a Maison de la Jeunesse, a village youth center
Vehicles, tools and supplies for the collection and disposal of litter in villages
Drilling and repair of wells in rural and urban areas
Production and distribution of innovative Biosand Water Filters to provide clean water to hundreds of families, including public education supports in health and sanitation
Tuition and scholarships to individual students to advance their education in elementary, secondary and university programs
Funding of life saving medical treatments
Emergency food distribution to families in need
Our initiatives have gained the attention of government and international relief agencies in Guinea and other West African countries that are looking for effective and scalable solutions for pressing health, education and economic development challenges. They are often interested in not just what the Benkadi Project has accomplished, but how we do our work in communities in Guinea to support success and long term impact.
Most recently, our well established clean water and health projects have proven particularly essential during the current COVID-19 pandemic in Guinea. Clean water and soap for frequent hand washing are critical preventing transmission of the virus, but too many Guineans continue to lack access to these basic resources. The Benkadi Project has therefore stepped up our Biosand water initiative at this critical time. We have also expanded food support efforts as the economic effects of COVID-19 have strained residents ability to purchase food each day for their families.
The need remains great, but through the Benkadi Project, we will continue to improve lives and build a better future in Guinea, working together -- person to person, hand to hand and heart to heart.
Helen Bond and Amy Lusk