My best friend from Côte d’Ivoire, Véronique, is aging.
We met back in 1979, when my husband and I lived among the Beng people, a minority ethnic group of east-central Ivory Coast. Véronique was one of only three women in the region who’d attended a few years of elementary school and knew the colonial language of French. She happily took me under her wing and offered to tell me everything she knew about her life as a school-educated Beng woman living in the rain forest.
At first, we communicated exclusively in French, our common language. But Véronique loved teaching me her language, and through her thoughtful lessons, she taught me to think in Beng, her first language. Véronique’s vast knowledge and wise words permeate all the books and articles I’ve written about the Beng people.
When my husband and I returned in 1985, and again (with our young son) in 1993, Véronique opened up her home to us, and we lived with her family. The photo of the two of us was taken in 1993 in her village.
Véronique remains in my mind daily, with a photo of her as a young mother occupying pride of place in my home office.
A non-profit organization that my husband and I established from the proceeds of our writings, the Beng Community Fund, has supported several village projects, including water pump repairs and construction of teachers’ housing. Over the years, my husband and I have also privately helped Véronique and other Beng families in need. Recently, I sent funds for medicines that Véronique needed because of a severe sinus/ear infection. Although her active infections are gone, she now needs to be under a doctor’s care, because of other chronic health problems.
Her youngest daughter, Lucie, wants to bring Véronique to come live with her in the modern city of Bouaké. Here's a photo of Lucie (standing) and her mom Véronique (seated), taken recently.
In Bouaké, Lucie can better manage her mom’s medications and take care of her. But, currently, Lucie lacks the financial means to have her mom join her household.
To support her mom and her ongoing medical needs, Lucie plans to open up a shop selling wholesale traditional African fabrics to small-scale traders. Lucie calculates that she needs at least $4,000 (in local currency: 274,1364 CFA francs) to open the shop. At current currency conversion rates, her estimated initial expenses will include:
$ 438 (300,000 CFA)— to pay the required five months of rent in advance, necessary to secure a lease in the local market
$ 47 (32,000 CFA)— fees and initial deposit to open up a bank account
$ 3,515 (240,8974 CFA)— to buy an initial set of fabrics with which to stock her shop
This is the sort of fabric store Lucie hopes to open:
I have promised to help Lucie find the means to launch her shop. As an anthropologist, I have always committed to giving back to the communities with whom I conduct my research. My commitment to Véronique and her family is lifelong. So I have set up this online fundraiser for Lucie, who will keep Véronique healthy into her senior years, while not sacrificing her ability to raise her children.
Since GoFundMe does not operate directly in Côte d’Ivoire, every time the balance on this fund reaches $100, I will immediately transfer the funds electronically to Lucie via MoneyGram, and she will be able to pick up the funds at a nearby MoneyGram office in Bouaké. The transfer process works easily and quickly.
I will post updates of Lucie’s shop once she is open for business.
Thank you in advance!