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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My journey to a new friendship

Have you ever gotten up early in the morning because you got inspired to do something?

This is what just happened to me (it's almost 3.30 am on Boxing day)
For a while now I have been hesitating to write about this story because I am still emotional about it. I guess it was not the right time yet. But now, at 3.30 am on Boxing day, I am going to share the story (and I am selling it at half price lol).
Yes I know, it's again about my trip to Mali (I can hear you saying “get over it” as Dr. Phil always does).

My old friend Ken just read my blog and his comment was “Patrick, you are an INCREDIBLE and INSPIRING writer”; and just like that, by reading this comment, I got inspired to talk about my new friend Yacouba (and at the same time promote myself by using Ken's comment).

Yacouba is my new friend. He is just 11 years old. But what a friend!!! He is the kind of friend who reminds you of your purpose.

My trip to Mali (see previous blogs) was full of surprises which included my meeting with Yacouba. He is one of the 24 kids who participated in our project.. The ladies who designed the project had this amazing idea of working with kids in Canada and in Mali. The kids in Canada would write letters about what is important them and address them to the kids in Africa.. The African kids would then do the same in response. Once they identified what was important to them, the kids were asked to make a drawing or take a photograph that would represent what was important to them.. I thought this was brilliant.

Inspired, I got the idea to create a documentary film about the project. It was a simple project. All I had to do was follow the life of one kid in Canada, highlighting what was important to him. I would then do the same with one kid in Mali.

Collin was my guy in Toronto. For him, his family and playing hockey were the important things. I wondered how we were going to explain hockey to our African kids (I, myself, didn't know the rules). I followed Collin as the main character of my movie.

Once we got to Mali, each kid would chose a friend from Canada and read his or her letter. I waited to see who would get Collin's letter and then I would follow him as the other character of my movie. Yes, you guessed it, Yacouba got the letter and from that moment on he became my superstar. I followed him for the rest of the trip with his friends while they played soccer and had fun with the other kids in the program. It was great. I loved it.

Each kid in Mali was given a camera, which they used to take 27 pictures each. Once we got all the pictures, the kids had to choose one picture that would represent what was important to them, and say why. The kids took amazing pictures (and of course there was no hockey involved). Needless to say I was eager to see what was important to my friend Yacouba.

On the day that the kids had to choose their favourite picture, I was downtown with Papa Koné (see the blog about my new family). By the time I returned to school all the work was completed. The kids had taken amazing pictures. I went to see what Yacouba was up to. What a great suprise!!! Yacouba had chosen a picture Yes you got it right. I did not even remember him taking a picture of me.

Beneath the picture, Yacouba had written: “Patrick is important to me because he is my friend, he takes pictures of me and he plays soccer with me”. I couldn't believe it. First of all, I am not a good soccer player. Second, I could not believe how this kid could have chosen me. He only knew me for two weeks!!! How about that???

On the last day of our project, the kids performed in a show. It was a great show that even got covered by local media. At the end of the show, Yacouba came to me and introduced me to his aunt. He was proud to show me his family. I decided to do an interview with her asking her about my friend Yacouba. He is a great kid according to his aunt.

At the end of the interview, I told Yacouba that it was my last day in Mali. I had to return to Canada. He started crying. The kid cried a lot. He held my hand and wouldn't let me go. Guess what? I started crying too. All the kids watched us. I took Yacouba to a quiet spot away from the other kids. I didn't know what to say to him. I held him in my arms, and told him that he was my friend and that I would never forget him. The kid cried even more. I asked him to be a good boy, and above all to study hard and become something.

Right there, I decided to do something for this kid. I decided to pay for his education. Before leaving Mali, I made sure that I had all the contacts I needed to keep in touch with Yacouba. The Koné family would be my main contact to send money for Yacouba's education (and it doesn't cost a lot). I'd like to see this kid become the Prime Minister or become like me and writes blogs…. lol.

Moral of the story? Do you want a new friend? Just write to me and I will give you Yacouba's contacts. He will become your friend too.

Always a pleasure
The Journeyman

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