March 28, 2022

Rising to the Challenge

David Weeks

A portrait photograph of Aicha Keita.


Each morning at 4 am, nine-year-old Fatou would start her day by walking from her village in the West African country of Guinea to a distant water source to fill her container and bring it back to her family. Due to the distance she traveled, Fatou was often late to school. Sometimes, her teacher punished her for her lateness, and on other occasions, she was denied entrance, especially after classes started. These water and school responsibilities were challenging for Fatou to bear at a young age.


Aicha Keita ’24 and her family have their roots in Guinea. Before the pandemic, they traveled to Guinea, making their way to Fatou’s village of Nienouyah. There, the nine-year-old greeted them and touched the heart of Keita as she shared her love for learning in school and the disappointment she experienced when she was unable to attend school because of her early morning duties. Inspired by the girl’s positive energy, acceptance of her family responsibility, and determination to learn, Keita wanted to help Fatou have a better quality of life. As a result, Keita launched Wells of Hope in Africa, a project to raise funds for a well in Fatou’s village and beyond. 


Enter the Ashai Changemaker Challenge. Established by the Ashais, which includes Glenelg Country School (GCS) alumni Zaid ’95 and Sehla ’97, the competition allows the family to support promising community service projects financially.


In competition with two other GCS finalists, Keita shared Fatou’s story and her goal of drilling a well in the Nienouyah village with the school community and won the competition. With winnings from the challenge and additional financial support from the Washington, DC-based non-profit Fund for the Future of Our Children, her mother, and other donors, Keita raised $4,500 for the well’s construction.


Joy has now come to the village of Nienouyah. Since its installation in 2021, the promise of bringing a better quality of life to Fatou and everyone in the village has been realized. Villagers have healthier water to drink, businesses thrive, and children can focus on their studies. 


“You don’t realize how much privilege you have until you experience what it is like not to have the necessities of life. I’ve personally had the privilege to travel outside the United States. In Guinea, I saw first-hand how difficult life was for the villagers. It was heart-breaking. I was able to impact someone dear to me positively,” reflects Keita. 


The unsung hero of her village and the success of Wells of Hope is Fatou, who inspired Keita and all who seek to better the lives of others. 

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