This weekend, the Mali Water Project's Executive Board elected to postpone its first site assessment trip to Konilo-Coura until May 2011.   Although the organization has raised over $19,000 to date, the majority of these funds, including those obtained from the Public Engagement Grant (see below), are restricted to the summer site assessment trip.   In addition, the team believes that making one longer trip during the summer will be a more efficient use of these funds, and allow more money to be used for the projects that we are developing with the community of Konilo-Coura.   We believe that next semester's class can make major progress on the garden project, conduct valuable research on water and health and further develop the organization.   In addition, we have an opportunity to collaborate with Malian students as Dr. Sanogo is currently working out arrangements to have Malian students conduct a preliminary assessment of the site for us.
The Mali Water Project has won a grant of $11,987 from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.   This grant will be used to revitalize the community garden project in Konilo-Coura that has struggled due to the difficulty of accessing water from two relatively deep wells without any pumping system.   The project will aim to equip the garden with a pumping system as well as a storage tank and irrigation system.   In addition, the grant includes funds for numerous projects aimed at engaging the Champaign-Urbana community, including the development of curriculum for local schools and the establishment of a partner garden relationship with the Douglass Park Community Garden in north Champaign in collaboration with C-U Garden, another student organization at UIUC. 
A mountain bike, a football autographed by Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears, a basketball and practice jersey autographed by Bruce Weber (head coach of the Illinois basketball team) were among the prizes at a raffle that the project held during Dad's Weekend at UIUC.   The new fundraising committee on the Executive Board did a tremendous job organizing the event. 
The Mali Water Project just received its first large grant today.   Dean Collette Niland in the College of Business allocated $2,500 for travel funds from a grant that she obtained for the Social Entrepreneurship Institute that she directs.   This grant is restricted to students in the College of Business, College of Education or students who can otherwise demonstrate that they are on track to having a teaching career.   It provides the project with yet another incentive to recruit students from a diversity of majors on campus.
Yesterday, students held elections for the new Executive Board members.  Board members will work with all students on the Mali Water Project team to create more fundraising events, plan the site assessment trip, and research the tools needed to assess and improve water conditions in Konilo-Coura.  The following students were elected to the board:

President-- Shikhank Sharma
Treasurer-- Ambreeka Jain
Secretary -- Tamlin Matthews
Fundraising Managers -- Ambreeka Jain and Alexis Sokol
Trip and Field Coordinator -- Kamil Stelmach
Website and Publications Coordinators -- Randy Genau and Kelsey Watson
The Mali Water Project has just launched an extensive letter campaign to raise funds for a possible site assessment trip in December.  Students have identified many potential donors, ranging from engineering companies and local businesses to private, individual donors with whom they have personal connections.   Students are also investigating on-campus and external funding sources and planning many other fundraisers, ranging from food sales, canning events and raffles to raise money for this trip.  We will post regular updates on our fundraising efforts and make an announcement on the status of our site assessment trip on October 15.  If you would like to be added to the mailing for this campaign, please send an e-mail to 
Today, students capped off the semester with a presentation to an instructor from the Learning in Community (LINC) service learning course, a professor and graduate students in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, students from other LINC projects and student members of Engineers Without Borders.   The audience gave the students a unanimous Excellent rating, and Dr. Sanogo spent a few minutes praising the students and managers for their work this semester.  
Today, the Mali Water Project was on display at the Explore Illinois event, which showcases numerous activities at the university during its annual Mom's Weekend.  Students put together an exhibit that included an interactive tour through the day in the life of residents of Konilo-Coura. This activity allowed the project team to become further connected with members of the University of Illinois community, receive donations for the site assessment trip and recruit students for next semester's LINC course.   Two members of the Mom's Association also invited the team to give a presentation at their next board meeting.
Today, students participated in an hour-long conference call with six members of the village of Konilo-Coura, including representatives of its water committee.   Dr. Osee Sanogo spent weeks coordinating the conference call with members of his village and a cybercafe in the nearby city of San that had previously never used Skype for a conference call.   This phone call gave students an opportunity to ask the community about their water problems as well as the solutions that they desired.   Moreover, it made the project come alive for both the project team and the community.  

Through Dr. Sanogo's translations from Bwamu to English and back, the students learned  that the village was very concerned  about the poor quality of water during the rainy season in many of their hand-dug wells.   These wells do not have proper casing and screens that prevent sediment particles and other contaminants from entering their water.   Previously, the team had focused on developing new, clean water supply sources due to the supply problem.  However, since the community emphasized water quality issues, more attention will now be paid to the possibility of treating existing sources.

In addition, the village residents described their dream system, which would feature a solar-powered pump that would convey well water into a storage tank where water would not spoil as easily and then transfer it to numerous public standpipes throughout the village.  Industrial design majors skilled in product development are now teaming up with engineering students to produce a concept-level design of this system.

Finally, the team expressed its desire to make a site assessment trip in December and the village agreed to host the team.   If enough money can be raised, the team hopes to further strengthen their relationship with the village with its first visit to the village!
Today, three students from the Mali Water Project are representing the Learning in Community (LINC) class at UIUC's 2010 Public Engagement Symposium poster session.   This event will mark the first time students on the project team have shared information about the project at a public event.  This event will also expose to students to many community service endeavors that other members of the campus and local community are conducting.  For more information about the event, please visit the following website: