A man from Mali, West Africa is visiting Kodiak this month. It’s the second time he’s been on the island.
The first time in 2012 helped him establish a connection between Mali and Kodiak that the guest hopes to strengthen before he flies off island again.
Mahim Toure reads from a prepared statement. He speaks French and several Mali languages, but he’s still learning English. His friend, local pediatric dietician Heather Preece, translates for him.
Preece grew up in Canada, where she says she learned French in school.
“But I couldn’t speak French very well until I went and lived in West Africa for a year. So then, when I came back home to Canada, I don’t speak French like a Canadian, I don’t speak French like a Quebecois. I actually speak French like a West African.”
West Africa is where she met Toure in the 90s. At the time she was working on a nutrition project in
Mali as part of Canadian Crossroads International, which she defines as a “multicultural exchange program.” Preece says she and Toure formed a strong friendship and they kept in contact over the years.
She had hoped he would one day visit Kodiak.
“I saved airline miles for years, and I finally had enough, and I brought Mahim to visit Kodiak for a month.”
But not until wading through a lot of governmental bureaucracy first.
Toure is no stranger to that. Preece says he was a journalist in Mali during the government’s transition between the country’s military dictatorship and a Democratic Republic.
Before 1991, Preece translates, there had not been a free press.
“He acted like a correspondent, he said… so all it was was reporting what the government was doing.”
But after 1991 media grew.
“A lot of journalists then started coming to Mali and opening different news agencies and operating more like a democracy would.”
After his time in journalism, Toure became a social worker, which he what he was doing when he met Preece. She says he’s worked for both governmental and non-governmental aid projects for roughly 30 years. Preece explains Toure has enabled Kodiak families and students to donate to those in need in Mali.
“He talks about Kodiak in Mali to his friend and his family and especially this family that has been – their little girl is benefitting from this sponsorship from the Kodiak family. They were very excited to hear Mahim was coming here so that he could take photos and that he could see and connect with people in person with his own eyes and then bring stories back.”
Toure arrived on October 10 and leaves the island on October 25.