February 6, 2014

SPARK IGNITE: An Inspiring Encounter in Segou

By Ruud van Soelen

In Segou, Mali, SPARK is establishing a new office and needs certain goods such as furniture for our new office. While searching for a furniture supplier, we came across Mr. Awa Lo’s shop, who is not only running a carpentry shop, but combines his work with an educational centre for handicapped youth, to train them to become carpenters and to have their own carpentry shop in the future. SPARK is delighted to do business with Mr. Lo in order to contribute to and support his initiative.

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The young men who work at the shop are deaf and communicate solely through sign language. They participate in a class of maximum 20 students where they learn the basics of carpentry and entrepreneurship. In the workshop they assist the carpenter in designing and manufacturing the furniture, ranging from closets, couches, beds and tables. Besides carpentry, they also learn to sew materials that are used for decorating couches.

 The name of the centre is “Centre de Formation Professionnelle et Technique (CFPTA) and the motto is “we can do everything except talking”. Mr. Lo explains: “A friend of mine is handicapped and he often asked me for assistance. I came to a conclusion that it was better to teach him certain skills to make a living. I convinced him to learn how to make furniture and so he did. Now he is a successful carpenter.”

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SPARK aims to support these initiatives by selecting such organisations as a preferred supplier for doing business with. The philosophy of Mr. Lo by providing training of skills to youth and supporting them to use their skills to establish their own business is the same as the philosophy of SPARK. Selecting Mr. Lo as a business partner is the best we can do in order to enable Mr. Lo to continue his good work.

SPARK aims to use local resources and suppliers for the daily operations. If possible, we buy goods and services locally in order to support the local economy, local entrepreneurs and local initiatives such as the initiative of Mr. Awa Lo.


* Ruud van Soelen is the Country Manager for SPARK Mali

SPARK IGNITE is SPARK’s blog of stories, updates and opinions by SPARK staff, on relevant topics in the news, stories from the fields, and what inspire us to do what we do.  We welcome external contributions; to contribute please contact media[at]