Post 15: The most productive day!

This update is long over due. My second week in Guinea with Forrest and Fode Lavia was very productive and eventful! I am so excited to share the progress that has been made on the land and what a cultural and connecting experience ir was for me. Fode and I traveled to the Forecariah on Thursday, Dec. 28th. It was wonderful to see all the supplies we had already purchased laid out in neat, organized piles along the east side of our land. Fode A. and Seni have been working hard to make sure work continues. Dakino has also done a great job of traveling back and forth with and without us to maintain communication with Fode A. and Seni.

On Thursday, Dakino also undertook the task of purchasing the all white sacrificial ram for the blessing of the land. Being a part of those prayers and the blessing was powerful. As a foreigner to the experience of animal sacrifice, it was extremely emotional. The anticipation of that moment was intense. I wasn’t sure how I would feel when the time came. It wasn’t easy for me, but I can say that I felt a unique connection to the land, the ram, all those who we are working with and prayed together with in that moment. It was very humbling.

To my amazement, the minute the blessing ceremony was done, the construction workers got right to it and the first drops of cement were poured. So much progress was made in just that one evening. Even more beautiful was that Thursday night we were joined by Greg Jones, Jean M Solomon-Candelario and Cande Candelario. It meant a lot to share our meal made with the meat of our sacrificial ram with fellow members of our American drumming community as well as our close friends and family in Guinea.

There is so much more to share about our progress and our 3rd annual KALOUM DJEMBE festival that took place the following Friday and Saturday. Stay tuned! Pictures of the land will be posted on If you want to see photos from the land blessing ceremony, visit They will be posted in a few days.

There is still so much work to do. Forrest, Fode, all the locally employed workers building on our land, the local materials suppliers and I are all thankful for the financial support everyone has provided so far. Please join those who have already donated and support our cause here on GoFundMe or via our ‘fee free’ donations link at

Post 14: The pains of buying supplies…

There’s no Home Depot in Guinea, so buying supplies isn’t as simple as grabbing a shopping    cart and going down the list.  On Friday, we all started on our property.  Then, Dakino and Fode A. went out to negotiate the prices for the materials we need.

While they were out, the rest of us stayed to receive the sand and blocks for the wall foundation.  After that, we joined Fode A. and Dakino.  We went through each item on the list and pulled out cash to pay for each one by one.  In the end, we didn’t have enough money to buy everything.  We sold some cement back to but other materials that are needed immediately.

The money that was donated this past Monday  by the Helgager-Huges family, Susan Natalie, and Palms of Fire is going to be wired to us this Tuesday and will be enough to get most of the remaining materials needed.

Right now,  the water reservoir is being built.  When we go back on Wednesday,  we will buy as much of the remaining supplies and possible.  We also hope to conduct the ceremony for the blessing of the land.  No official construction can begin until this is done.


Getting the land cleared.

Fresh sand for the wall foundation.

Fode A. describing our water challenges.


Post 13: Contacting Suppliers

We went out to Forecariah yesterday and had a productive meeting with Fode A. and Seni.  They are doing a great job overseeing the management of the property and the construction.  Everything is just as we left from last year, except the grass which has grown back from the rainy season.   Fode A. made several phone calls for us, contacting suppliers for our construction materials.  We’ve coordinated for the larger items that need to be dropped off by truck, such as the sand, bricks, rocks, and water.  Our well needs to be dug much deeper for us to get to the ground water.

Our plan is to have the large items dropped off Friday morning.  I will stay on the land with Seni to receive the delivery while Fode Lavia and Fode A. go to purchase the rest of the materials and tools together.

Inshah allah, all will go well tomorrow!

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Post 12: We do this for you Bayiby!

Forrest, Fode and I are all here now. It is so nice to see Fode’s dad and all of his family. We are getting ready today to head out to our land early Wednesday morning. There is a lot to do to get ready for our 3rd annual KALOUM DJEMBE festival and to get construction started.

Bayiby and his dance choreographer, Sakoba Bangoura, selecting costumes for Gbassikolo to wear for their performance in the festival. I love this process they go through for each show, pulling all the costumes out of Bayiby’s giant trunk, laying them all out in front of the house and going through them with the dancers.



Post 11: It’s already been 1 year!

One year ago, Fode Lavia Camara, Forrest Fodé Matthews, and I left for Guinea to begin the process of creating Bayiby Cultural Arts Academy. This year, Fode Lavia Camara and Forrest Fodé Matthews just arrived in Conakry and I will be arriving next weekend. Planning is already in the works for the KALOUM Djembe festival and construction will begin on the school once I arrive!! I can’t wait to get out there and see the fruits of our fundraising this year!

Post 10: Cultural Education Essential

Dear Friends and Family - Thank you so much for your continued support for International Inspiration's educational projects abroad. The work we do is so important. While there is much to be done even in the education system in America, which our board members also support, there is even more work that needs to be done abroad; where access to information, funding, and resources are exponentially more limited. Children and adults around the world should have access to quality education as well as exposure to a range of cultural experiences. Education and culture are two key components to being human and coexisting peacefully.

While it is rainy season in Guinea, much work continues behind the scenes. Fundraising during this time is vital so that we have enough money to kick off construction this December. Please help us out by donating or by spreading the word that we need donations.

Post 9: Rainy Season

With rainy season moving into full effect, work on the land will be on hold for the next few months. Mobility is difficult during the rainy season and construction is impossible. Over the summer we will be focusing on fundraising and raising awareness for our project. Our hope is to be able to dive into construction and hit the ground running after rainy season is over.

We had a wonderful time raising awareness for our project at the Kumandi Drum and Dance camp and now we are planning a summer tour. In August, Forrest and Fode will be traveling to different states in the southeast offering a variety of classes. Proceeds from these classes will be donated to our construction fund. If you would like to host us in your city, contact Forrest or Erica!

Based on our research last winter, we will need approximately $10,000 to complete the entire school. This is our fundraising goal for 2017. Please donate today or shop in our store to help us reach that goal!!

Post 8: Connecting Communities

As a teacher, one thing I love to do is connect my classroom to my non-profit work in other communities. I am constantly teaching my students to be good citizens and it is important for me to exemplify that expectation. Every project I have done through International Inspiration has been connected to my workplace in one way or another. In this case, since I have been back from Guinea, I have been working with the teachers and students in the 4th grade French Track at my current school, The GLOBE Academy.

The initial plan was to establish penpals between students here and there, however, things do not always work out the way we envision them. Upon my return to America, teachers began a strike in Guinea. Because of these strikes, schools were forced to close. Our French teacher, Amy Bingham, and I used this as an opportunity to open up a conversation with our students about challenges faced by different communities. We talked about the strikes in Guinea and we talked about how there have been teacher strikes in America too. We put ourselves in the shoes of those students and thought about how we would feel if the strikes in Guinea happened here in our country.

We've also spent time learning about the culture of Guinea. One great question the students asked me was how I communicate when I go to Guinea. I explained to them that people always find a way of connecting and communicating. They learned how Guinea's French is mixed with ethnic languages as well. I shared with them the handful of phrases I know in Susu and they loved learning these new foreign expressions. Students also had the opportunity to research Guinea, learning about their flag, food, geography, customs, and more!

It has been a lot of fun connecting my students here to my work in another community I care about, in a different country, across the great Atlantic Ocean.

Check out more pictures at or
@internatlinspir on twitter!

Post 7: Tangled in paperwork

** Hi Everyone! **

-- So we haven’t had an update in awhile because we got stuck in a paperwork limbo for a while and I (Erica) didn’t think paperwork was too exciting. However, it has been brought to my attention that people want to hear what is going on even if it just boring paperwork ☺

-- I start by saying that we have many people looking out for us as we endeavor on this project and without them our work wouldn’t be possible! Thank you to all who have supported and are currently supporting us in many different ways!

Now, rather than just take our money and begin construction, our construction manager, Fode Abdoulay Camara, asked us if we had obtained a “Titre Foncier” (a land title that permits construction). Of course, we didn’t know what this was at the time. We learned that if we did not obtain this document from the government, they would have the right to come to our property and bulldoze any construction that was completed without it. We have been told that the government is strict about this process and enforce it regularly. Others have unfortunately learned this the hard way. Therefore, we are very grateful to have been told that we need to have this paperwork done before any construction can begin.

-- Obtaining this document has been a tedious process because it included getting more paperwork done in the local area where the land is located. The local area has had to validate the proper sale of the land to us and verify that the land that is listed on our paperwork matches the physical location of the land. This took some time because one family owned the land for a very long time, long before there were clear, official records kept. This meant that it also had to be verified that the owners were selling land that was theirs to sell, which could only be done by working with the chief, land surveyors, and other village elders.

-- Many document and processing fees and transportation costs later, we have finally completed the process for our local paperwork and all of it has been dropped off at the ministère de l'habitat. We are now waiting to receive the Titre Foncier. While this process has used up most of the money we had planned to use for construction materials, we are glad to have this done right the first time! So, this is where we are for now. We await our Titre Foncier!

-- Please continue to donate and share our cause with others who may be able to support us in anyway. Our work hasn’t stopped; it is just in a less exciting paperwork phase at the moment!

A special thanks to Ibrahima Dakino Camara for traveling back and forth, helping us take care of this paperwork!