11/10/2011 06:15 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

One Woman's Work to Bring Hope (And Drinking Water) to a Senegalese High School

As part of an internship during her graduate studies in public policy, Yasmin Diallo Turk traveled to her husband's hometown of Thies, Senegal. She spent the summer working with an organization encouraging education in the local communities through volunteerism.

As part of her trip, she toured her husband's former high school, Lycee Malick Sy. With a student population of over 4,000, it remains one of the largest schools in the area. While on her tour, she stopped at the nurse's office, which had a line of students out the door. In Thies, the poverty and limited nature of healthcare means that the school nurse is often the primary healthcare provider for many of the students. The nurse had no supplies, not even aspirin or bandaids. As she spoke to Yasmin, the nurse gestured to the students waiting to see her. "Now you've seen. Now you know," the nurse said. "Now what are you going to do?"

During that same visit, Yasmin met with students from the English Club and asked them about their experiences at school. They explained that many of the students had to walk long distances to reach the school, often in very hot weather. At the school there was no free drinking water and many of the students did not have money to buy it. Because of this, students often fainted during class from dehydration. With further investigation, Yasmin found out that the school had connections to water pipes, but simply lacked a drinking fountain to make water accessible.

Yasmin told herself, "Ok, that is one small, tangible thing I can do in the world. I can't change all the hardship around me, but there is one place where a little bit can go a long way." Yasmin posted on Facebook about her goal to raise money for the school nurse and she gathered over $1200. Among other things, the money went towards antibiotics, malaria treatment and parasite medication. "Without clean drinking water, it's easy for the students to get parasites. Add to that the complication of limited nourishment," Yasmin explained.

Yasmin also raised money for the much needed drinking fountain. "It was a few hundred dollar fix to put in a drinking fountain," Yasmin said. "Something so small can make a big change."

Inspired by the success of her fundraising efforts, Yasmin decided to continue her efforts to support the students of her husband's alma mater. "This year I wanted to do something bigger."

So after talking to the faculty, students, administration and parents' association about their needs, Yasmin came up with three goals for helping Lycee Malick Sy. The first is to raise money to buy additional medical supplies for the nurse and school infirmary. The second is to provide 10 scholarships of $50 each for female students. Each scholarship will pay for one-year tuition and additional costs such as books or transportation. (Only three out of 10 Senegalese women can read and the Parents' Association specifically asked for more support for female students). The third, and most ambitious, goal is to equip a science lab in which the students can conduct hands-on scientific experiments.

"Colonization in Senegal just ended in 1960," Yasmin said. "There is currently a huge population of young students. If there is going to be change and innovation in the country, now is the time. Having a science lab at the school will give the students the tools and educational experience they need to innovate in their communities."

To raise the $15,000 necessary to complete these three goals, Yasmin partnered with a non-profit called the HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Campaign to create HOPE for Senegal. The group's motto is the proverb, "If you think you are too small to make a difference, you've never spent the night with a mosquito." The group is entirely made up of volunteers and has almost no overhead, so all money raised goes directly to Lycee Malick Sy.

The group has created holiday cards that will be sent when you make a donation. The cards can be purchased by emailing You can read more about the projects and donate through, Project: Lycee Malick Sy.

Yasmin's husband remains one of her inspirations for raising money for Lycee Malick Sy. "Emballo is one of 17 kids," Yasmin explains. "His mom never learned to read, so he was the one who read for her. He came from an environment with so many challenges, and he is a man who speaks five languages and has a Master's degree from the University of Texas. When I went to Lycee Malick Sy and saw those kids, I thought, they're just like him. They fought to make it all the way to high school. I want to do anything I can to help them have the opportunity to meet their potential."

To donate to HOPE FOR SENEGAL go to:

To send a personalized holiday card that includes a donation to HOPE FOR SENEGAL send an email to: