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Diallo Ibrahima
Mohamed Lamine Camara
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The history of the Yaguine & Fodé Study Project

THE SAGA OF IBRAHIME DIALLO AND MOHAMED CAMARA

Chronological account of all that happened to Ibrahime Diallo and subsequently to Mohamed Camara:

THE BEGINNING: THE FILM

It all started in 2000 with the documentary (for the Dutch KRO-network) Dear Europe . It tells the story of two boys from Conakry, capital of Guinea -- a decrepit poste-restante-of-the-devil-country, squeezed between Sierra Leone and Liberia -- who tried to escape their fate and in search of a dream, but found death instead.

Yaguine Koïta was only 14 years old and his friend Fodé Tounkara had just turned 15 when their bodies were discovered in the landing gear of a Sabena Airbus. Place of departure: Guinea. Destination: paradise, a.k.a. Europe.

A desperate attempt to flee the misery of West-Africa was turned into a sensationalized news item, which immediately created a political and media- hype. Briefly the kids were world news, not so much because they were frozen to death, nor because they were flown back and forth between Europe and Africa several times before being discovered. But mostly because they had a letter on them addressed to Your excellencies leaders and members of Europe in which Yaguine and Fodé begged for help in the name of all African children. Of course they wanted food and healthcare, but they pleaded most of all for education. A chance to study: an opening, however slight, to a better future.

A year later, reporters Ingeborg Beugel and Cees Overgaauw made an acclaimed documentary on the life-story of Yaguine and Fodé for KROs current affairs magazine Netwerk.

(This documentary (54 minutes) call still be seen on the internet (English subtitled): the documentary film Dear Europe

THE DISCOVERY & ADOPTION OF IBRAHIME

Since it was hard to make a film about two dead teenagers, the makers looked for a live guide: a boy who led an equally unpromising life as the two young heros. Eventually they found Ibrahime Diallo, nineteen at the time, but looking the part, because malnutrition made him look like fifteen.

He not only exceeded all expectations performing as their stand-in, but he deeply impressed both reporters and the camera-crew, who all fell in love with him. Ibrahime was brave, for it takes guts to be critical in front of a camera when living in a military dictatorship. He was smart, diligent, helpful, funny, flexible and ambitious. His dream: to study in Europe - Yaguine and Fodés dream, before it was buried with them. In the film he says:

If possible I would have gone with them. Then Id be dead now. But all is better than staying and doing nothing.

That remark hit the mark. Reporters and crew decided to financially adopt Ibrahime, and, once back home, started sending him money once a month.

Soon Ibrahime grew into a small private development-project. It involved modest amounts and the donors knew every cent reached their African protégé. He had promised never to spend money on his forty-five deprived relatives. The Libanese woman manager, Loubna Hachem, of the hotel in which the crew stayed, made sure he didnt. She checked on the progress of his high-school studies and reported back to the contributors. Would he screw-up, the modest flow of money would stop immediately. Such was the closely supervised deal.

NEAR DEATH OF MOTHER

Only once, over a difficult phone-connection, Ibrahime asks whether for once he may spend his monthly allowance on his mother. Mamma Diallo has an acute appendicitis, just as once Yaguine once had. The boy almost died because his father couldnt afford the operation. He lived because the doctor - as a very rare exception - did it for free. The donors understand Ibrahimes mother will die if her doctor, who will not make exceptions, isnt paid. So: the request was granted, mother lived, and an extra allowance was wired.

FINAL EXAMS

Ibrahime wants to graduate from high school as soon as possible, because paradise is waiting. A tall order in a country such as Guinea. The enormous influx of refugees form neighboring warzone countries drives Guinea into chaos: with local uprisings, mismanagement and corruption on the part of the government, along with paralyzing strikes by the desperate population. So schools shut their doors, sometimes for years on end. Many students give up. Not so Ibrahime. Because of these delays, he finally graduates - with honors - from high school, in October 1999, one day before his 20th birthday, which may be late for European standards, but is quite an accomplishment in Ibrahimes circumstances.

NEAR CATASTROFIC VISIT TO GENEVA

Le Lynx is a satirical newspaper in Conakry, the only news medium which, now and then, voices some veiled criticism of the regime and therefore is under continuous threat. The editor in chief gives Ibrahime, along with another boy and girl, the opportunity to represent Guinean youth at the special three-day Millennium-conference of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Migration and hope for African youth. Ibrahime is almost bursting with excitement over his mission. Since he owns no more than shorts and a few T-shirts, he has to buy some winter-clothes and some sort of bag. When he arrives in Geneva in March, he is freezing because he has no coat. He is flabbergasted: the airport, the roads, the city, the UN-building, traffic, all the lights, luxury and riches. All this overwhelms him, hes dazzled and literally looses his balance several times. But then, he also loves all these impressions and new contacts. He and other students from all over the world have discussions deep into the night.

Alone in his tiny hotel room, he makes a decision, all on his own: he will request political asylum. But from the inquiries he makes the next day he learns its more complicated than he expected. He doesnt dare to call Ingeborg Beugel - she wouldnt let him - and becomes more and more apprehensive. When he realizes he most probably will not be granted asylum in Switzerland and will probably be sent back, and his chances to travel to Europe will be lost forever, he drops his plan. Staying illegally is no option either, since then no school will ever accept him. Saddened and in fear of the future, he returns meekly to Conakry. Only years later will he tell Beugel about his escape-plans in Geneva.

SWEETS

Throughout that period the Ibrahime-project is being coordinated by Ingeborg Beugel, who has the most contact with him.

(About Ingeborg Beugel: see Wikipedia (in Dutch) and consult:

Right after his graduation, she tries to find a scholarship for him in either Belgium or France - as a former French colony, the official language in Guinea is French. His benefactors dont have the funds to finance a full education and living expenses. A scholarship proves all but impossible, because official scholarships arent given to prospective students but to African presidents, many of them corrupt. They, in turn, distribute such sweets only among the children of their political and military friends.

PLAN B

Soon it becomes apparent Ibrahime doesnt have a chance at all. Ingeborg comes up with Plan B: Ibrahime will better his chances to be individually accepted by a Belgian or French university after he has completed four years at a local university. A Guinean high school certificate is not sufficient to be accepted by a European university; a local university grade is considered to be equivalent to a European high-school certificate.

A Guinean state university wont do, since these degrees are for sale and European universities dont accept them anyway. So in 2002 Ibrahime enters the small private University International College in Conakry and enrolls in Law. Three out of the four original contributors continue their monthly donations.

SURPRISE

Ibrahime is deeply disappointed for having to wait so much longer, but doesnt show it. He studies very hard. In September 2005 he acquires his license in Business Law and his Masters a year later. During that period Guinea is in political turmoil and all but stable: not an easy time for students to concentrate. Ingeborg and he are on the phone quite a bit, she sends him presents among which an Assimile language course in English (those with the old-fashioned cassette-tapes) and a mobile phone, so she can reach him more easily, since land-lines are a time-consuming disaster.

One day Ibrahime calls her, which is highly unusual, so Ingeborg is alarmed. Something wrong with his family? No not at all on the contrary, he replies in near-perfect English. Alongside his regular studies hed taught himself English. They weep for joy. His new e-mail makes communication even more easy.

FELLOW STUDENT MURDERED

Reporter Ingeborg Beugel continues searching for possibilities to get him to Europe after graduating, but finds only dead-ends. In the course of 2005 it becomes more and more apparent its virtually impossible to realize Ibrahimes dream, since France and Belgium have hardened their immigration policies, while in the Dutch government the infamous and heartless minister Rita Verdonk has slowed immigration to a trickle. The three benefactors dont know how to bring him this news and decide to wait until May 2006, when his last exams are due.

Yet, a few months earlier Ingeborg wants to soften the blow at least a little by calling him on the phone - instead of using e-mail - to tell him that even September 2006 will be too early for him to be accepted anywhere in France or Belgium since all universities require the necessary papers before the end of May. He will officially receive his in July, at best. So Beugel must break the news that hell have to stay another whole year in Guinea and will have to find a job too. Jobs in Guinea are extremely scarce, especially for the locally educated who are not connected to people in high places.

She calls him with a heavy heart, realizing she will have to tell him its more than likely he wont be able to study in Europe at all, ever. She reaches him in an extreme situation: on the street, close to his little hut, a protest-march is going on. Angry students and other protesters are expressing their discontent. They want better education and a new president. Ibrahime is emotional and wants to join them. Ingeborg immediately imagines a horror-scenario in which the military police beat him up so badly he is seriously injured, cant finish school and all will have been in vain. She musters all her powers of persuasion and forbids him to leave the house. He holds his phone by the window so she can witness live as the situation turns for the worst: escalating violence, police and army clubbing the protesters, people getting hurt badly. Because shes afraid Ibrahime will join as soon as she hangs up, she keeps him busy for an hour. Ibrahime watches through the cracks of his self-built wooden shack and witnesses the killing of a student right in front of him. Its a traumatic experience which haunts him for months. He feels like a traitor: he let a fellow student be clubbed to death. Why? For a higher cause: studying in Europe, a dream, that now seems more distant than ever.

Ibrahime studying in a hut on the ground

IBRAHIME GETS HIS DEGREE & ANOTHER NEW PLAN

Ibrahime is plagued by guilt. The civic unrest continues; following courses is often impossible. Yet he keeps at it. In July 2006 he finishes his final exams in business law, again with marvelous grades. Since the infrastructure is down and institutions hardly function at all, he doesnt receive his university diploma until the end of October. Because he fought his guilt - and won - and because he persevered against all odds, Ingeborg has become even more anxious about telling him that she has no idea how to get him to Europe. She procrastinates and postpones telling him the bad news day after day. Ibrahime is unaware of the dark cloud over his head there is plenty of bad weather right around him anyway. Meanwhile in Ingeborgs head a new plan is taking shape. Through her work and also on the Greek island - where she lived when she was a correspondent in the Yugoslav war - she knows a number of very wealthy people. So she has copies made of her documentary DEAR EUROPE and writes a story about Ibrahime.

She organizes viewings in her Greek house, visits locals and talks to others over the phone. She wants to persuade these wealthy people to donate money for Ibrahime to study in France. Some sob as they watch the movie, others are just touched by hearing the story. Most of them promise to help out and Beugel arranges to get in touch as soon as the moment arises. Ibrahimes three benefactors are content and feel encouraged and Ibrahime is euphoric. The three main sponsors continue their support, although the amounts are a little less since Ibrahime now has a job. He helps small businesses by installing computers, by illegally copying dvds and cds which he sells in the streets, while at night he works as a night-watchman at a law firm. That is, until his law expertise is discovered. Then he is promoted to legal advisor. Its a promotion of sorts, because the office-manager gives him more and more work, but no pay. In spite of him being exploited hes delighted by his new status and considers it an investment in his future.

ANOTHER DISAPPOPINTMENT - AND CONDOMS TOO

Over the winter of 2006 Ibrahime works on the completion of his file for admission to a French university (Belgium is dropped in favor of targeting only one country.) To a westerner the terribly difficult and complicated admission-procedure an African student has to go through is hard to imagine. One has to apply to several universities in order to raise the odds for admission somewhere. It appears impossible to communicate with the French Consulate; the only source of - usually confusing - information being a website. Among the required documents are: a local birth-certificate (virtually impossible to come by in any official way), passport, another proof of identity (and another near mission impossible) all of ones diplomas, with an impossible number of stamps which several ministries will only issue in exchange for money - i.e. a bribe -, proof of financial independence, a guarantee he will return instead of staying on in France, a motivated request, references - to name just a few. Hes given the run-around, is confronted with local corruption at every turn and is faced with unfeasible demands from the French immigration authorities.

Now and then desperation gets the upper hand. Ingeborg continues to encourage him. Meanwhile he also has the support of his new girlfriend: Nana, who works as a secretary in a small law firm in Conakry.

She helps him to get through all of this, well aware that - if he succeeds - she will have to do without her loved one for a long time. Ingeborg is happy for him, but shes also fearful Nana will get pregnant. She knows Ibrahime well enough to realize hed never leave a woman and a child. She impresses upon him the need to use condoms and to be extremely cautious. Once she goes as far as to send him a large family-size box of condoms, something which Ibrahime finds extremely funny, because, in contrast to most other articles, there is an abundance of them in Guinea.

In January 2007 time has come for Beugel to approach the potential wealthy benefactors in order to get the necessary financial guarantees. Meanwhile Ingeborg will officially, personally guarantee his financial reliability, sending her work-contract, wage slips, bank duplicates, and sign a document as a EU citizen of 'solvabilité bancaire' and a personal letter that Ibrahime will not go illegal and she will be responsible for any costs he might incur.

In February 2007 Ibrahime sends a splendid threefold file (170 each!) to three French universities for a study of international law: to Limoges, La Rochelle and Poitiers. This should finally feel as a victory, if not another major set-back occurred: the wealthy Ingeborg approached in the summer of 2006 do not honor their promises. Some simply dont react, others say they rather prefer not to support one individual, but rather a project or at least several students. The most important argument for not giving anything is that their gift should be tax deductable. This means one only wants to donate to an officially registered foundation and not to some amateurish private bank account for Ibrahime.

THE LATEST NEW NEW PLAN: NIMBA FOUNDATION

Ingeborg is at her wits end. Erecting a foundation in the Netherlands is a costly and time-consuming affair, involving lots of formalities (board-appointees, registration at the Chamber of Commerce, a notary, a proper financial annual report). Now what? Suddenly Ingeborg remembers the sisters Marijke Clabbers and Nelly Klein, the founding mothers of a foundation for disabled children in Conakry: NIMBA Foundation (this website!) .In 2000, Marijke and Nelly had helped Ingeborg enormously around making the film.

The NIMBA-ladies found a driver for the crew, organized the contact with the satirical newspaper Le lynx and gave very useful information on how to behave in Guinea, especially towards official agencies. Moreover, in Guinea she had visited Centre Nimba - an educational center in which physically handicapped children are given free general and vocational education - which had impressed her greatly. She had been very touched by the success and the perseverance of these two upright Dutch women - because it was clear to her that setting up such an educational center in a country such as Guinea is an admirable feat. Ingeborg approached NIMBA requesting this foundation to serve as an umbrella for the Ibrahime study project. The NIMBA board the costs approved immediately. So the next plan arose: under the umbrella of NIMBA Foundation - which meets all official requirements - the Yaguine & Fodé Study Project was born. It gets its own webpage on the NIMBA site and its own bank account. Its donors can require justification of the expenditure and they can remain strictly anonymous.

MOHAMED CAMARA

Apart from Ibrahime, five other candidates were found, who were selected by NIMBA. All of them boys, since girls are favored enormously in Guinea by NGOs (and Oprah), NIMBA favors boys. One other candidate towers over all others: Mohamed Camara, who was twenty-nine years old at the time.

He is the only other one to finish a local university: university General Lansane Conté de Sofonia in Conakry, where he received a Masters in Civil Law.

Diploma Mohamed Camara 2006

In order to be serious with regard to future donors, now Mohamed too will compose a file to be sent to three French universities. The costs of Mohameds files are paid by Marijke Clabbers, even though not a cent has been collected yet. Ingeborg, who is terrified Ibrahimes chances are lessened, agrees with NIMBA that Ibrahim will get priority: only after enough money comes in for Ibrahimes voyage, registration fees and his first year of living expenses, Mohamed will get his chance. After seven years of fighting for Ibrahim, Ingeborg wont have it any other way.

NO MONEY ONCE AGAIN

In June 2007 the big news arrives: Ibrahime has been enthusiastically accepted by no less than two French universities! One in Limoges, the other in Poitiers. No verdict on Mohamed just yet. Ibrahime is elated. It is as if he can smell France and can touch his dream. Again Ingeborg approaches her millionaires. Now all their requirements are met, it all will certainly succeed, shes convinced. However, once more its niente, nada, tipota or domani, mañana, avrio.

So there is Ingeborg, at the beginning of July 2007, sitting behind her computer in tears. All requirements have been met. Getting Ibrahime accepted by a French university was a huge success, but now that the dream is ready to become reality, all fails once again. There just isnt any money.

She is desperate, ready to give up. Shes unable to devise yet-another-new-plan. Her imagination and she too is exhausted. Scolding the unreliable millionaires, raging and in tears she wanders around the house.

THE BEGGING LETTER OF FLIP SCHRAMEIJER

Ingeborgs partner at the time, Flip Schrameijer, writer and sociologist, cannot bear this anymore.

All these years he has been witnessing the fight for Ibrahime from up close and has established a relationship with Ibrahime, to whom he has given advice on writing about the political situation in his country. He makes a fundamental decision: he wants to compose a letter, begging for money, to be sent to all of Ingeborgs and his friends and relations. Ingeborg doesnt like the idea.

Pessimistically she predicts people will be indifferent, everyone gets all kinds of requests through e-mail, of which most are dumped. Flip is determined however. He writes a splendid, moving, serene letter - quite in contrast with Ingeborg's pushy manner which sometimes rubs people the wrong way. So she approves - what is there to loose? They spend hours on a list which should contain 130 people but grows to more than 450 people: first begging letter, July 2007

GREAT SUCCES BECAUSE OF FLIPS LETTER

For days Flip and Ingeborg sit and wait in Amsterdam. Across the globe

Ibrahim sits and waits, tension rising. Now and then he calls, sometimes in the middle of the night: Any response yet? Any money coming in? After a week a miracle happens: LOTS OF PEOPLE RESPOND POSITIVELY!

The response is often heart wrenching. All sorts of people of different walks of life - friends, acquaintances, businessmen, journalists, academics, young and old, rich and poor, with and without jobs, decide to send money. Flip asked for 50 to 150 euro per person. Donations vary between 10 and 1200 euro - even some of the millionaires belatedly chip in. A nurse out of a job puts her camera on eBay, a teacher couple gives 500 euros, a teenager 15. It just doesnt stop. Ingeborg and Flip are deeply moved. His mother prefers to send 30 a month. A former colleague who is the editor of Internet magazine Africa News (in Dutch) (also see: Africa News) puts the entire letter and some background-information on the Internet, a member of the upperhouse of Parliament repeats the request on her weblog. And so on, people theyve never heard about send money.

By the end of August 2007 no less than 13.615,78 has come in, and who knows maybe more is coming. Ibrahime has a party with his friends on a hill overlooking Conakry. Not only is he in tears, but so are his friends, both men and women, as if suddenly he embodies their hopes and dreams as well. His joy merges with theirs. Never before has the saying save one and you save the world rung so true. And Ingeborg and Flip for the first time in a long while believe again in the goodness of humanity.

Dear Ibrahime, realizing more than the projected 10.000 for the first year had come in, immediately thought of Mohamed: Then I will do with less, I can take a job, but he must come, I would feel awful if I could and he could not come. Around the middle of October the stream of money was down to a trickle, on the NIIMBA-account there was a whopping 16.557!

THE VISA REQUEST

There isnt much time for this euphoria - which isnt quite shared by Mohamed, who still hasnt heard form his French universities. Ibrahime urgently has to get into his next bureaucratic itinerary. He has to get a visa for France as soon as possible at the French Consulate in Conakry. Officially he has to be in Limoges on the 14th of August, but the 14th of September 2007 at the latest for the introductory days -- and also to find him a room.

He calls in bewilderment: its chaotic in front of the gates of the consulate, which is in the same building as the embassy. Hundreds of desperately yelling Guineans are around the entrance waving their passports and other documents.

Behind the bars, heavily armed guards are watching the mob stoically. Every now and again men in nice suits call out a number, upon which a few outsiders may enter. Theres no opportunity to speak to anyone, and one cannot enter, unless an appointment has been made through e-mail. This being a cunning manner of selection: illiterates and people without access to a computer are ruled out automatically. On the French consulates website a long list with requirements is posted, which are even more complicated than the ones form the university earlier that year. The original university file has to be delivered through DHL to Conakry, along with a letter from the university of Limoges dean as proof he is accepted there. Apart from Ingeborgs personal guarantee, now the papers from Nimba foundation and proof Ibrahim has the support of some 450 sponsors. If anyone ever fulfilled all French requirements it must be Ibrahim. Flip and Ingeborg can relax, finally.

Ibrahim applies for an appointment in which he will have to hand over his file and will be questioned by the consulate people. He has to wait for a number. Then with this number in hand hell have to wait in front of the consulate, each day, from seven in the morning. Until the moment his number is called. This can happen until noon. If by then the number isnt called, one is supposed to return the next morning. In case youre not there when its ones turn, all has to start again from the beginning. For days on end, from 7 tot 12 AM, Ibrahim stands in front of the consulate in the blazing sun between the heated aspiring emigrants. Hes getting more desperate all the time. He sees people faint whos emigration request is denied, he sees people going crazy and hears the most discouraging stories. Some have been there for more than three weeks, every single day, and never hear their number. He talks to someone, seemingly in the know, who claims there is a way to buy a visa for a pretty sum of money, success guaranteed. (As he presents this solution Ingeborg refuses adamantly to go along with it.) Ibrahim is in luck, however: in the second week already, his number is called. After the conversation he calls and tells Ingeborg he talked to two Guineans who took his extensive files, but were all but impressed, they routinely asked questions and didnt show any interest in Nimba, his unique story, nor in him. He was coldly informed he had to hand over his passport and would be called at some later time. As he left, from the corner of his eye, he noticed a sign saying tout refus the visa nest pas argumenté (no visa refusals will be explained)

TOTAL DISASTER

Waiting for news from the French consulate is insufferable for Amsterdam - and for Conakry. Time trickles away, heavy drop after heavy tantalizing drop. A plane ticket cannot be bought as long as Ibrahim has no visa. Its taking much, much too long. In an attempt to speed things up Ingeborg mails to the French consul, whos mail-address shes been able to locate after a lot of effort. The response (September 11th 2007) is glacial.

Some donors inquire how their protégé is doing: has he arrived yet, did he start his studies? Ingeborg and Flip dont dare reply.

Meanwhile theres a shimmer of light: Mohamed too is accepted by no less than three French universities: in Montpellier, Valencienne and Chambéry. Now its his turn to put in his visa application. The Ibrahime-saga times two

Tuesday 11 September - as if not enough had collapsed on that date - the Consul mails to Ingeborg announcing Ibrahim is denied a visa. No justification whatsoever. For the details: mail and response consul, read from bottom to top.

Ingeborg and Flip are defeated and are unable to reach Ibrahim. Sleeplessly they wander around the house with their knowledge of the inexplicable French verdict - not daring to mail Ibrahim, grasping at the possibility somehow, somewhere a mistake has been made and he will be called and granted his visa after all.

That same evening Ibrahim calls Ingeborg. At first she only hears his voice: broken, raw, pain. He cannot speak. He shouts like a lion, wails like a hyena, sobs for the first time, he is totally unintelligible. No words needed. She understands the unimaginable, the impossible has happened: Ibrahim, the ambassador of Yaguine and Fodé, the ideal student-candidate, who thanks to 450 sponsors has met all the impossible xenophobic demands of the French state, will get no visa.

Ingeborg and Flip are dumbfounded, paralyzed. (What now? Why this? How is this possible? What to DO in heavens name?) They succeed, with great effort, each in turn, to calm him down and let him tell his story in an intelligible way.

He was summoned by mail to come to the French consulate, again with a number, which he succeeds in giving to the suit behind the frightful fence. Now however hes herded, along with some thirty other men in front of a closed door. In it a small square hatch opens, out of which appears a hand, dealing out passports. Then the hatch is shut again. The assembled group of desperados collectively leaf through their passports: stamped or no? - because after all of this, this IS THE miserable visa. Two men cheer, the others, one by one, start lamenting. Ibrahim leafs and leafs, a hundred times. No stamp, nothing. His brand-new passport is just as pristine as when he submitted it. And, indeed, just like the notice suggests, nobody, absolutely no one explains why.

And, o yes, says Ibrahim in between sobs, meanwhile Mohamed is summoned too to collect his passport.

THE UMPTEENTH NEW PLAN

That night its too late to call professor Helene Pauliat, Limoges dean. The next day, on the phone Ingeborg, out of frustration, bursts out in tears. Would the dean, please, sil vous plait madame, put pressure, personally on the consul with an e-mail? This is the full extent of umpteenth the New Plan Ingeborg and Flip can muster. Dean Pauliat is moved and indignant. On September 12th she writes a magnificent e-mail:

Mail of dean Pauliat to consul, cc-ed to Ingeborg, who is upset. In exquisitely diplomatic French, discernible only to the trained eye, Madame slaps the consul in the face. Hopes rise again in Amsterdam and Conakry: now the consul MUST reverse his - based on what? - decision.

Ibrahime too writes a moving letter, imploring the consul to give him a visa.

WAR

Once more, everyone has to wait, waiting for Consul Godot. On Thursday night, the dean calls: she found a reply, cold and conceited. It is a definite NO: negative reply from consul. Ingeborg freezes. She can barely stammer, can she, if necessary, show this mail to the press? The dean approves, but warns this will most probably be in vain, nobody will care for this lost cause. Flip and Ingeborg decide then and there: the WAR is on. At war with France, for Ibrahim, war - if a bit late - for Yaguine and Fodé. No one knows at that moment what the poor dean is in for.

AMSTERDAM BECOMES PRESS CENTER

Both Flip and Ingeborg take time off - what they have in mind cannot be done in their spare time during the usual small hours of the night. Their house changes overnight in make-do press center, friends and colleagues appear to help out. Four computers, six gsms, one landline. In total chaos all and everyone they know is being mobilized: The French and Dutch press, diplomats, retired elders statesmen and active politicians, name it. Almost everyone remembers the sad story of Yaguine and Fodé, Ibrahim their ambassador works and the message is understood. Without theirs deaths it would have been impossible to raise any interest into the case of Ibrahim, the organizers realize full well.

SUICIDE PHANTASIES AND AN INCREDIBLE COINCIDENCE

Apathetically Ibrahim lays on his bed. He is prone to suicidal ideas. Every now and again he calls Ingeborg, repeating hoarsely and over and over: what did I do wrong - why is this happening - what was the purpose of all these years of work, waiting, hoping, despairing? Ingeborg puts herself in his place and imagines either wanting to die or join Al Qaida. This suddenly seems the sane thing to do if a, so called, superior western democracy preaches to inferior African dictatorships, lays down rules, demands all kinds of things and, in so doing, instills the absolute faith that íf one conforms to those inhuman demands, ones requests will be honored in a respectably western correctness - even though its just a puny visa.

(Whoever kept reading up till here, may have grown tired. Imagine the fatigue of Ibrahim & friends at the time)

Then it happens - some call it coincidence, others cosmic support, yet others would speak of divine intervention. Just before the weekend - Ingeborg, Flip & friends have been behind their computers in their pajamas, no time to get dressed, much too little sleep, the house filled with cigarette smoke, phones continuously busy, adrenaline, combativeness, powerlessness, anger - the incredible coincidence - or is it? - happens.

The self-made press team learns the Dutch Secretary of State, Maxime Verhagen will meet with his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, in Paris at the Quai d´Orsay this coming Monday September 17th. The two distinguished gentlemen will discuss the Iranian nuclear danger and their rendez-vous was fixed three months in advance - as if written in the stars.

FRENCH MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS LOOKS INTO DIALLO CASE

On Saturday French and Dutch journalists engage in a telephone tsunami, aimed at their respective ministries of foreign affairs. The unanimous question being: Apart form the Iranian atom bomb, will the case of Ibrahim Diallo be on the agenda?

The ministerial personnel who take calls on Saturdays, is clueless, but duly take notes, as prescribed by protocol.

Early on Monday morning the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs flies to Paris, the Dutch morning paper De Volkskrant on his lap. Both he and his French colleague are brought up to date on the case of an African student who, for some obscure reason, was refused a visa, while being supported by 450 Dutch and other sponsors and satisfying all immigration requirements. Meetings between foreign ministers are always followed by press conferences. Generally, a handful of journalists are routinely present. This time, however, the room is filled. Both ministers hardly get the opportunity to talk about Iran and the bomb, because all questions are about Ibrahime. Kouchner takes the initiative and says he will personally look into Ibrahims file, saying: I suppose somewhere there must have been a derailment, something went wrong and I will see what I can do. direct quote Kouchner. The press team in Amsterdam holds its breath. As soon as the declaration of the French minister reaches them, its party time, champagne Only last Thursday all seemed totally hopeless, while next Monday around noon Ibrahims case has been elevated to the highest possible French political level. There is hope again. Even Ibrahime dries his tears.

IBRAHIMES FILE APPEARS TO BE EMPTY

Following the ministerial meeting, lots of things happen. A few consecutive days The Dutch and French press report - sometimes indignantly - about the inexplicable visa refusal of Ibrahime, the ambassador of Yaguine and Fodé , the two boys who died in the plane, whom everybody remembers. Many articles put his age at 24 instead of 27, which creates some confusion - which is strange, because all journalists were informed about his birth date: 6 October 1979. Former politician Hans van Mierlo and Euro parliamentarian Thijs Bermann (read the letter Bermann) and some other heavyweights write letters of support. Politically theres another piece of good luck: on a visit to Mali in the summer, the then new French president Sarkozy appears to have declared France will only accept well-educated elite-emigrants from Africa. He wants 'immigration choisie' (selective immigration) and so Ibrahime is the ideal student candidate according to Sarkozys own standards.

Limoges dean, Helene Pauliat, doesnt know what hit her: her office is flooded by interview requests - meanwhile French TV has joined too. Madame Pauliat has never experienced anything like this, shes overwhelmed, and she disconnects her gsm. She is taken aback, she never expected this amount of attention from the press.

Meanwhile Mohamed went through the same visa procedure in Conakry: his is also refused without explanation. He is desperate which brings Ibrahime back into his former mood.

In fact Kouchners office now should also be made aware of Mohamed, but Ingeborg is afraid this will endanger Ibrahims case - two refused visas is more complicated than one - so she postpones doing this. The French minister Kouchner keeps his word: he personally instructs his staff to go after Ibrahimes file. After thorough investigation - Madame Pauliat declares again Ibrahime is selected as one of the most promising students - Kouchners office is convinced Ibrahime does indeed deserve a visa. After much ado it finally becomes clear which mysterious argument to refuse the visa is employed by the consulate in Conakry: Ibrahime has graduated form high school much too late at his 22nd (Which isnt true, he was only just still 19). Because he is already 27 now, he would be too old to start studying in France anyway. The fact that the university of Limoges has no problem with that at all, that many African students can only begin their university education abroad after their 27th or even 30est, because many local schools and universities dont function for years because of wars and political instability, all of this seems not to have been taken into consideration. Likewise the fact that Ibrahime is supported by a foundation with more than 450 contributors and that Ingeborg officially vouched for him is totally ignored: it appears the Ibrahimes file is awfully empty, all the documents which were so painstakingly prepared and handed over to the consulate are absent. The file only contains one leaf, on which nothing is written but that Ibrahime doesnt qualify for a visa. Period. Ibrahime and Mohamed are in shock. Now they understand they were never taken seriously and that all the demands by the French consulate were meaningless and pointless, that they were bidon: a lie. Their appreciation of western democracy, of which they had such high regard receives a merciless blow. On the phone, when Ingeborg asks him how he feels, Ibrahime says: My heart is empty, just like my file.

A VISA, AT LAST

What now? Days and weeks drag along. The Ibrahime-team (journalists, friends, supporter) in Amsterdam and Paris cannot continuously call Kouchners ministry. French universities have already started, and still Ibrahime doesnt have his sacred stamps. That Mohamed is going through the same ordeal, the ministry in Paris doesnt even know yet. Precious time is wasted, tickets cannot be bought, plans not made, until the actual visa is there.

Suddenly Ibrahime receives a call on his gsm from the French embassy. His heart jumps, no one who is refused a visa is ever called on the phone personally, so this has to be something special. He is left in the dark: he has to present himself on Thursday next at the embassy.

Waiting has become even more killing. No one dares to hope all will go smoothly from now on, because each time there was light at the end of the tunnel, another insurmountable obstacle appeared. Every one is on hold. Right after his visit at the French embassy Ibrahime calls. He can barely breath from excitement and, his speech is unintelligible, it sounds like he is singing. At last Ingeborg understands that this morning the big iron gates opened at once for him - for me alone, just for me! - and h was led to the room of the secretary of the ambassador, whom he wont meet, just like the consul. He gets coffee and the secretary asks him airily for when the visa is needed. Baffled he stammers: Thursday October 11th. For then, he just has a chance of catching the Saturday plane to Paris!

Very friendly the lady says No problem. Once out on the street, he looks up at the sun, at the street, the crowd of yelling visa-applicants, the soldiers - it is as if they are invisible and he is removed from them in some parallel universe.

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THE TRIP

Traumatized by all the hardship, Ibrahime still doesnt dare to buy a ticket before he holds the visa in his hands. Meanwhile NIMBA sent him all the money: for the ticket, a suitcase, a pair of shoes, because he didnt have any anymore. He is told not to buy any clothes, that will all be done once he is in Paris. The Guinean press by now has woken up too. Ibrahime is being interviewed extensively by local papers and radio stations. He is on his way to becoming a small national hero.

Ibrahime gets his visa on Thursday afternoon. At first he can only look at it, caress it, kiss the dearly desired stamps. Next Saturday, the 13th of October Ibrahime boards an Air France plane to Paris. More than 20 people came to wave him goodbye: relatives, fellow-students, friends and his girlfriend, a professor from his university and journalists. Speeches are held and numerous good wishes expressed. Ibrahime is regarded as an example, as a national role-model, proof that some dreams can come true, if only one perseveres and the necessary support is given.

Ibrahims company impress upon him not to fail: he cannot fail, for this would be a failure for all of Guinea. Ibrahime is very aware of his heavy task. Before he wasnt, but now he is getting nervous. He boards the plane with a heavy heart. During the whole journey he thinks of Yaguine and Fodé, who almost exactly eight years ago were on a plane, with the same intention, underneath his feet, between monstrously large landing-tires, while slowly freezing to death. He doesnt know how long something like that takes. Somewhere over the Mediterranean he decides they must have been dead by now. He goes to the lavatory and weeps, over the two dead teenagers, over his family whom he will miss terribly, over the burden he carries because of his answered prayers . (As Truman Capote once said: more tears are shed over answered prayers than over unanswered ones )

ARRIVAL

Ingeborg and Flip take the train to Paris and on Sunday morning at seven they are at Charles de Gaulle airport, together with a few journalists and photographers. Unbeknownst to everyone waiting, the plane has landed and moored at different gate than the one announced. The journalists and photographers become restless. Are they too late? Did Ibrahime go out through the glass sliding doors and is he wandering around, lost on the grounds of this gigantic airport? Through the electrical doors more and more black men come out, but nobody resembles Ibrahime, nor seems to be searching for Ingeborg. Flip and Ingeborg start panicking: what if they have missed him? His Guinean phone doesnt work in Paris, so how can they get in touch? Ingeborg blames herself for not having agreed on a plan B with Ibrahime, in case they would miss each other and they will keep looking out for a shy and bashful boy with a nervous demeanor - that is at least what she thinks Ibrahime will be like, especially now that they are unable to find each other. It was the 10th of May 2000 when she saw him last: he sat on the floor of her hotel room in Conakry and watched quietly how she packed her giant suitcase. The filming was done, the crew would leave that afternoon. He had brought her presents, strongly colored African fabrics, from his mother. He folded them for her and put them one by one between her clothes. With a small voice he said I wish I could hide in your suitcase and travel with you.

Ibrahime wants into suitcase

Neither had any idea it would take eight more years before they would see each other again. Then Ibrahime was a puny fellow, a sweet teenager with a delicate look in his eyes. Ingeborg assumes hell have grown a lot by now - in a recent photo he sent over the mail, he looks like a big man - so she watches big guys, big men who seem to be in distress. Suddenly a small, coole, super relaxed and self-assured boy with a small cabin bag on wheels strolls towards her. He smiles. Laughs a laugh she can tell from thousands: it is Ibrahime. He didnt grow at all. Still puny Ibrahime. No trace of stress. As she embraces him she finds he has grown more muscular - and wears a beard.

PARIS AND THE PRESS

arrival Ibrahime in Paris

© Ilse Frech

Ibrahime realizes he has to talk to the press right away and comes prepared.

He refers endlessly to Yaguine and Fodé and emphasizes he may have been lucky to have gotten a French visa, but is just an exception while thousands of African students dont get this chance, that French consulates mislead serious and ambitious candidates with impossible demands. He asserts that western democracies deceitfully give students in Africa false hope, so they shouldnt be surprised if these youths and their families turn against them. He is doing great. He talks quietly, formulates well and is incredibly charming. Barely half an hour on French soil, he impresses everyone greatly.


PARIS SHOPPING

As Flip puts Ibrahims suitcase into the car, it nearly flies up in the air: its all but empty. Apart from an embroidered sheet, made by his female relatives and some small, strange looking, home made, wooden musical instrument - presents he has brought to Ingeborg and Flip. Other than that he has nothing, but what the clothes on his back: a shirt, pants, shoes, no socks.

Ibrahime keeps up appearances, but is exhausted and shivering from the cold. Ingeborg found him an extremely cheap little hotel in Pigalle (29 euro a night!), close to their friends apartment where they stay. Ibrahime should sleep, then give a few interviews and then go out and shop with an advance which Nimba gave to Ingeborg. By the end of the afternoon Ingeborg and Flip drag Ibrahime along to a couple of department stores on the Boulevard de Clichy. He is extremely happy with his brand-new wardrobe, both for summer and winter, so he is alright for a while. When Ingeborg glances into his fitting room to judge a pair of pants he covers himself quickly. Rather ashamed because he wears no shorts. It appears he doesnt have any but was afraid to say so. Ingeborg impresses upon him to say things like this and pulls ten boxer shorts from a rack.

Later, at dinner at a restaurant, Ibrahime slides somewhat under the table from fatigue. He remarks that at home in Guinea he never eats at a table, with chairs and cutlery. The first and last time was eight years ago when Ingeborg during the shooting of the film had invited him for lunch in her hotel. Ibrahime has trouble with the menu, even though all is in French. Fatigue, she assumes, without giving it another thought.

LEAVING FOR LIMOGES

It would have been fun to enjoy Ibrahime in Paris a few more days, but theres no time. Already so much too late because of the visa drama, he has to get to the university in Limoges as soon as possible. The next day, Tuesday October 16th at 9 oclock he has to go to Limoges by train.

Ingeborg and Flip cant come with him, because they really should go back to work. Ingeborg worries at first: what will it be like for a young African man to arrive all by himself in a university town? How should he go about this? Where should he start? How to find a place to stay on ones own? Presumably the campus is full by now. Through the dean Ingeborg has the phone number of a very nice Française, Madame Sylviane Dutray. She has started a small organization which gives shelter and guidance to lonely African students. Ingeborg has been in contact with her for a week and she and her husband have agreed to pick up Ibrahime at the Limoges train station. The first few nights he can spend at their place and then they will help him find a room. She knows exactly where he should register at the university, in which buildings different departments are situated and how to get a student card asap.

DRAMA ON THE STATION

Ingeborg and Flip take Ibrahime to Gare dAusterlitz, point of departure of all trains to the French countryside. It is a cold, damp day, with a watery sun. The station isnt renovated yet - as is Gare du Nord for all international destinations. The architecture of wrought iron arcs, the old lanterns, the bird nests in the glass dome: one I thrown back into the 19th century and Ibrahime is duly impressed. Ingeborg and Flip brought a small camcorder to film the arrival at the airport and now they also want to record his departure by train. Because a few French morning papers carry a story on him, Ingeborg proposes he buy Libération at a booth at the station and to have him read it aloud. To her surprise Ibrahime doesnt feel like it, he would rather read it on the train. Ingeborg insists and somewhat awkwardly he buys the paper, which he puts in his bag without reading it. Camera in hand she directs him to look for his article, find it and read it. Reluctantly he brings out the paper again. He brings it very close to his face and finds the headline with some difficulty. He reads just that and again crumples the paper into his bag. Ingeborg stiffens, she feels something very strange is going on. She insists again, he read aloud the fine print. Ibrahime is petrified. Suddenly a big tear slides down his right cheek. Ingeborg panics: Ibrahime cannot read? Is all one big fake? Did she bring an illiterate student to Europe? Have his e-mails been written by someone else all this time? No, she concludes, he did read the headline. So what in heavens name is going on? Ibrahime runs away. He turns a corner at a pharmacy and disappears from sight. Ingeborg runs after him. She finds him somewhere against a wall, his face in a corner, back turned. He is crying. Ingeborg takes him in her arms and sobbing the whole story comes out: from his 21st his eyesight has suddenly deteriorated. Now his eyes are very bad and he doesnt have any glasses. There is no optometrist in Guinea, and the family doctor prescribed the wrong medication, which only caused headaches. All these years he didnt dare mention this to Ingeborg or Flip.

Reluctantly he mutters: I thought if you knew I wasnt perfect, that I have a handicap, you wouldnt want me anymore. Who would want to bring a student to Europe with bad eyesight? I was afraid you would pick someone else, with good eyes. So I kept it a secret. Ive been so afraid you would discover it, this was my biggest fear, my nightmare. And now it has happened.

Ingeborg doesnt understand how he could study, but he explains he Xeroxed all books in a large letter. That was one of the reasons he often stayed late at the law firm. He uses extremely large type to write his mails, which he would shrink before sending, so nobody noticed. Ingeborg consoles him and asks him urgently never to keep things like this a secret anymore. Is this all, she asks: tell me now if there is anything else we should know He laughs as he wipes his tears: No, this is really all, he half laughs and cries. At the pharmacy a pair of glasses is bought: plus 4, a large fashionable pair of mens glasses with a thick grey frame, it looks quite weird, but that doesnt matter.

Along with his lunch, a bottle of water and a full suitcase Ibrahime boards the train. Ingeborg did not succeed in acquiring a free laptop, because of the different French keyboard (azerty instead of qwerty). So he should get one soon, preferably second hand, at Limoges.

Ingeborg accompanies him into the train. As she embraces him, she says he carries a big responsibility, but this shouldnt weigh him down, he is allowed to make mistakes - such as failing an exam - as long as he is truthful about it. Hew nods and says he has never felt as relieved and happy and will never hide anything anymore. Just before the train starts moving she shouts at him: dont forget to party every now and then, having fun, dance and drink as all the other students: Tu vas voir que la vie est belle! (Youll discover life is beautiful!) Then the train departs, into the sun, into Ibrahims future.

ARRIVAL AT LIMOGES

That night Ibrahime is on the phone and ecstatic: a whole crowd had been waiting in Limoges: TV-crews, journalists both from the written press and from radio, students, the president of the university and monsieur et Madame Dutray. He had a heros welcome and was on national television - TV3. Two other students took him in, giving him a room until he would find his own place. He was given bedding, towels and plates, cups and such. He felt welcome and is in good spirits to tackle the university bureaucracy the next day.

It appears to be difficult to get a student pass: something with his passport for which he has to go to the county offices. As long as he doesnt have a pass, he cant get insurance and as long as he doesnt have insurance he cannot make an appointment with an optometrist. Without a pass one cannot follow courses, for him however, an exception is made. A tutor is arranged so he can catch up with the courses he missed. Finding a room this late into the year is extremely difficult, but he is being helped marvelously by the Dutray couple. In good spirits he undergoes all these setbacks. Nothing can spoil his mood. He misses his family in Guinea very much - and his girlfriend - but he calls them now and then. After a week, just before their conversation ends, he says: I think I am happy for the first time in my life. You were right la vie ést belle!

WHAT ABOUT MOHAMED?

Right after the return from Paris, Ingeborg is being pressured to also - again through the office of Kouchner - arrange a visa for Mohamed who stayed behind, miserably and is getting more and more nervous, as his university at Chambéry has started the year already too. With Ibrahime safely in Limoges, she finally dares to call her contact at the ministerial office. To put it mildly, he is not amused. Why didnt she mention Mohamed before? Then he could have included him right away. Now all has to be done all over. Ingeborg is apologizes profusely, he will try once more, but doesnt give any guarantees.

Meanwhile Ibrahime found a room and bought a laptop. His courses are difficult, but he keeps on studying. He has to get used to the French system he sighs.

[[ Mohamed Camara just arrived at Grenoble]]]

To make a long story a little shorter: Mohamed gets a visa too and arrives in Paris on December 2nd . He takes the train to Grenoble, where he is met by friends from Guinea.

Mohamed Camara en Marijke Clabbers in Grenoble

Marijke and her husband visit him there and she is pleasantly surprised the family remembers her from Guinea Conakry. Marijke supports him privately with 5000 euro, for a deposit demanded by Chambéry. Because of Ibrahims start-up-money there is not enough left in the Nimba-fund. Mohamed takes a train to his university on the same day and he too is very warmly met. He doesnt have to talk to the press, since Ibrahime was carrying the story. That a second student has made it to Europe, so now both Yaguine and Fodé have their ambassador apparently isnt found worth mentioning.

A LONG YEAR PASSES

Both young men study very hard and for a while there are no phone calls. In November and December of 2007 Ingeborg goes to Rwanda for a month to make another IKON-documentary.

Rwanda project

As Flip sees her off at the airport he says: You make another beautiful film, but please dont adopt another African, yet another Ibrahime is more than we can carry.

It is the first time after Guinea that she works in Africa again and once more she is deeply impressed by the suffering she finds in front of her lens and what-do-you-know, its stronger than her: the crew and she adopt someone else and Flip joins them. Two people this time: Beatrice, a Rwandese social worker - who is a genocide victim herself, who does marvelous reconciliation work with children who partook in it and the mothers of their victims - who was fired because of her collaboration with Ingeborg and her team. So then she found herself, with three mouths to feed and no income. Ánd they support Shyaka, a 13-year old boy, born out of rape during the genocide whos mother mistreats him - hes the main character in the film. This time Nimba has nothing to do with it and their are no plans to get anyone to Europe

Just before Christmas, Ingeborg is back from Kigali. In time to have Ibrahime over - on her expense of course - to Amsterdam. He wants to know all about the land of his elders as he calls Rwanda. They talk until deep into the night. The horror-stories from Rwanda strengthen his plan to specialize in international law. He sleeps in Ingeborgs daughters room, and is being taking out by her children. He accompanies the family to Christmas dinner parties and sees fireworks for the first time on New Years in Amsterdam.

Ibrahime and Ingeborg, Christmas

The notion that the Dutch spend millions each year on light and noise which dissolves into the sky, he finds ludicrous. The 1st of January he has to return right away for his first big exams.

Spring and winter of 2008 pass uneventfully, the boys have to work so terribly hard, the hardly have time for anything else. Their workload is extra large, since both of them have been accepted for a Master 1, instead of Bachelor 1, which is the usual entry after a Guinean diploma. Stepping in on a higher level than their countrymen means they skip the Bachelor study-years of which they are painfully aware. By July 2008 the study results of that year are out:

Ibrahime had to do 18 exams of which he passes 11. So seven exams to be done again. Because Mohamed arrived in France only in December he was too late for the first semester and could start with the second one in January. He had 12 exams of which he passes 7, so he has 5 more to go.

Mohamed and other students in Chambery

After some negotiations with the universities it is decided they dont have to do the first year again, just the exams they failed, to which another three subjects are added. If they manage this by July 2009, they can move on to Master 2. Ibrahime and Mohamed both receive exceptional treatment from their deans once more, because - in spite of their understandable delays - they are doing exceptionally well.

Ibrahime would love to spend the summer holidays home with his family and his beloved girlfriend Nana. Ingeborg, however, sternly decides against this: no money for sentimental journeys. First he has to pass all his exams.

FALL 2008: PAINFUL LACK OF MONEY

Both guys spend their summers with studying and some other activities. Ibrahime becomes chairman of the Guinean student body in Limoges and starts taking trips through all of France. He attends conferences and symposia, gets into contact with students in other towns and enjoys his new life immensely. During the holidays Mohamed studies and works both in a restaurant and as a security guard. In the holidays he makes trips to nearby Grenoble to meet his compatriots.

Mohamed Camara

It is almost September 2008 and theres just no money left for both guys.

Many of the 450 benefactors who spontaneously responded to Flips begging letter', made it clear they are willing to support Ibrahime throughout all of his studies. Flip can always call on their help, they wrote.

It definitively is time for a second begging letter, to collect new money for the year 2008-2009. Ingeborg and Flip however have a serious time-management problem: Flip is writing a book and Ingeborg is in the middle of a complicated editing process for her second series Geloof Seks & ( Wan) hoop. Moreover their relationship of 14 years suddenly ends and they are in the middle of divorce. So both privately and professionally its a demanding period and nothing comes of the urgently needed second round of begging.

NIMBA and Flip put Ingeborg under heavy pressure but she is simply not up to it and keeps putting off finding all the addresses, writing this for the Nimba-site, its days of work she knows by now.

A number of donors are curious to know how Ibrahime is doing. Mohameds participation in the Yaguine & Fodé Study Project wasnt communicated to them. Ingeborg and Flip have promised to keep the donors up to date about Ibrahime on the NIMBA-site. Neither has found the time to write this extensive text, to retrieve all the details and stages of this Odyssey and to check all the dates and quotes.

The weblogs both guys have started dont get off the ground much: their study is too time consuming. Ingeborg and Flip are deeply ashamed, despite the NIMBA-ladies despair nothing happens.

In October things only get busier: Flips books deadline is pressing, Ingeborgs series which will be broadcasted in November demands all her attention and energy.

The situation is untenable: new money HAS TO COME. Ingeborg decides to spend part of her inheritance to fill the yawning hole. She gives 9000 Euros out of her own pocket.

WINTER 2008-2009

Ibrahime and Mohamed manage to spend their money very prudently. The understand the delays and hide their unease very well - but not completely. Ibrahime had to wait three months for an appointment with an optometrist.

Apparently a lot of Frenchmen cans see very well, or there wouldnt be such long waiting-lists, he remarked laconically. It is as if this makes him feel better. When he finally gets the results, they dont help him at all. The specialist doesnt know exactly what it is he has. It would be macular degeneration, which is hereditary and incurable. Now he has better glasses, his eyes are stable, they dont deteriorate, but it is unclear if he might turn blind eventually. Ingeborg is furious and wants him to find another eye-specialist. At the moment another one isnt found yet, most probably hell have to wait another few months for his second opinion.

After the press-interest around Ingeborgs new series has diminished somewhat, Ingeborg leaves for her house on the Greek island Hydra. Now its Christmas 2008 and still no second beggar-letter, still no website-text, still no money. The plan is for Ingeborg to stay on Hydra until July 2009 so she can finish her novel for Nijgh & van Ditmar. First she has to rest and start her writing. Only in February 2009, after a stormy new year and the most bizarre logistical and infrastructural island problems, she finally starts this unending up date for the NIMBA-site.

Right now, March 3rd the situation is:

  • Ibrahime and Mohamed are both confident they will pass their exams next July.
  • The Yaguine en Fodé Study Project (for Ibrahime en Mohamed) is totally exhausted.
  • Money is urgently needed!

WHAT IS NEEDED NOW

Ibrahime and Mohamed so far have lived on 800 euros a month, which was just too little. They both need 850 euros a month for four more years, from which they have to do everything: not only pay for their livelihood and clothes, but also things like tuition and study-books. Roughly:

10.200 per student a year, so 40.800 for the next four years, together: 81.600 euros.

(This is the bare minimum, without tickets, in case of dramas at home, including books, university fees, clothing, rent everything.)

EPILOGUE: WE NEED YOU

On March 15th 2009, as this saga was finished, the situation was: Ibrahime and Mohammed are optimistic they will both pass their Master I exams in that summer. And: no money at all!

Now, December 21-st 2009, we know how the second begging-letter went: in the three months following March 4.920 came in: less than needed for those three months!

Mohamed passed his Masters I in the summer, but had to compete for a place in the Masters II-program with 150 others for just 30 places. In order to better his chances he also applied at other universities and was accepted at the university of Nice. Ibrahime passed his Masters I after redoing some of his exams and was accepted for Masters II at Limoge. Both are far behind and have to work really, really hard for each exam. Not only are they academically behind, they also lack general knowledge for which they have to compensate as they go along. Apart from Summer vacations provided they dont have to redo any exams it is impossible to make some money on the side (which is hard anyway when youre from Africa in France in an economic crisis).

Concerning the money, in June Ingeborg en Flip were where they started. Although not quite, since two women, organization advisors Marret Kramer and Margriet Verweij were so moved by this story, they offered to establish a Project Group with Ingeborg, Flip and Marijke, which would try to find structural funding. However, writing a project plan, doing research, getting support, making applications and waiting for responses all take time. So money remained an acute problem.

A well-to-do friend of Ingeborgs' offered to bridge half a year, together with three of his friends: each would contribute 2000. Two out of three didnt make good on their promise, so this friend gave close to six thousand euros. After half a year this money too was used up. Sending back Ibrahime and Mohamed to a country in which a new dictator would organize a bloodbath among protestors, was no option. So Ingeborg decided to sacrifice another five thousand of her small inheritance, hoping some of it would be repaid some day. The result: mid October only 95 euro remained. The Project Group-members chipped in and once again several hundreds were urged strongly by email to contribute, which resulted in a mere 2000. Begging mails apparently had lost their effectiveness, although a few still give each month to a total of 280. The invitation to take part in a think-tank yielded only two responses.

Mohamed lives with three other Africans in a very small apartment in Nice. No money to pay an extra month of rent up front. In November his laptop broke down. Flip gave him half the money to buy a new one.

THE 25 EURO-A-MONTH-ACTION

By the end of November once more a new plan HAD TO BE conceived. Out came the 25 euro-a-month-action: the Project group members would have to find 60 people in all within their own circles who would be willing to contribute 25 euros each month for a year.

Now, December 20th, 26 people have committed themselves. But two more little miracles happened. One of the 25-euro partakers is on the board of a foundation which will contribute 6.800, so now only eleven more contributors have to be found to get through 2010. The other miracle is that the local newspaper Haarlems Dagblad is publishing an interview with Project group-initiator Marret Kramer in the Christmas issue. She is originally from the old, Calvinist fishing village Urk, which is the most generous community of The Netherlands. She herself always gives away 10% of her income. So now we hope, of course, readers of the Haarlems Dagblad will read this story and will join the 25 euro-action. And, who knows, will bring other sponsor-possibilities or will join the think-tank which will have its first meeting by the end of January.

WHAT IS NEEDED?

Ibrahime and Mohamed live on 900 euros a month. Also each month 100 euros in total are saved for bigger expenses, such as tuition, books and unforeseen. From these 900 they have to do EVERYTHING: living expenses, clothing, rent. They have 50 a month for pocket money. (Mohamed has none for half a year paying off half of his new laptop.)

If the monthly contributors keep contributing and everybody who said so will indeed transfer 25 a month, we have a shortage 3.300 for 2010.

For the first half of 2011 11.400 is necessary.

In September 2011 they will start their year of apprenticeship. We hope they will get a training period compensation of 500 pp⁄pm, so another 5.400 is necessary. In total 20.000. is needed. From the summer of 2012 they will have to make their own money for job-applications and a ticket to wherever in the world. In order to be able to fulfill their hearts desire: to contribute what they can to their country and Africa

LATEST NEWS: On December 21st a UN-report was published about the extreme violence during a festival of protest in a stadium in Conakry, the capital, on Sept. 28. The attacks left at least 156 people dead or missing and about 109 women raped or sexually abused, but most likely many more. Soldiers, burst into the stadium and fired at close range on the thousands of people who had gathered there in a carnival-like atmosphere, dancing and praying. Once the troops ran out of ammunition, they attacked the unarmed civilians with daggers, bayonets, bludgeons and even catapults, the report said. The investigating committee said that the nations military ruler and some of his adjutants should be referred to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. (See: article New York Times ) Ibrahime and Mohamed cant go back to Guinea and are very worried about their friends and relatives among whom there were no victims so far.

December 22, 2009

Ingeborg Beugel and Flip Schrameijer

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