(Important note: All of the text on this website was written before the killing and kidnapping of white tourists in Timbuktu in Nov 2011; before the military coup in March 2012, occupation of the North Mali in April 2012 by various militant groups, and liberation of the town in January 2013. Please read the updates, as some aspects of our organization had to change and some of our plans had to be modified. Our hope for a speedy return to normalcy in Timbuktu was fulfilled. But the continuation of our original program is less certain. We had to mothball the project until we raise enough funds to resurrect it. Most of the original text was untouched to give the visitors a better picture of our original plans and generate a support for its reopening.)
We are a charitable organization registered in Timbuktu – North Mali, in Western Africa – the very place the rest of the world calls “The Ends of the Earth” a place of myths and legends since the 12th century. We started training the first group of visually impaired locals late in August 2011. The massage centre opened for business on Mali’s Independence Day 22 Sept 2011. We were offering relaxing massages, employing only visually impaired masseurs and masseuses. There was one masseuse with healthy vision, whose main function was being a receptionist, administrator, to help out with massages during very busy times and to help training new students during quiet times. A physiotherapist was on call any time for clients whose problems were beyond the capabilities and qualifications of our masseurs.
The tourist and local clientele grew steadily until the 24/11/2011, when in Hombore there were two white French nationals kidnapped. The next day a German was killed and three other white tourists were kidnapped in Timbuktu. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for it and wowed that they will try to kidnap for ransom any non-Muslims venturing into the area. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time for us – it was the start of the tourist season, which was promising, but after the killing and kidnapping the tourist traffic ceased completely. Those countries where most of Mali’s tourists come from declared about 80% of Mali to be a red zone and out of bounds for tourists The desert festival in January used to attract up to 25,000 visitors and famous performers from all over the world. In January 2012 there were only a handful of foreign white reporters and tourists. In the clips on YouTube There are seen only about 6 white faces and African performers. The big surprise of the festival was a 15 minute performance on the stage by U2 front man Bono, who flew in and out in his own private jet.
We had to moth-ball the massage and training centre late in February – there was simply not enough income to pay for the rent, electricity and all the other items. Even after the military coup on 22 March and occupation of the three Northern region (Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu by early April), we still hoped for a speedy return to normalcy and continuation of our original programs. Our prayers were heard and Ansar Dine was expelled from the main towns in January 2013. All the personel would love to see the massage centre reopen, but the finances are not available. Our founder is trying to raise some funds, but he expects it will take a while. It won’t be possible to maintain some elements of our program in Timbuktu, but they will be used in our centers in other 3rd world countries.
A short video of the work done in the training centre in Timbuktu: