How the project came about

Article in the Mittelbayerische Zeitung from 03.07.2012 (pdf)
Article in the Mittelbayerische Zeitung from 27.06.2014 (pdf)

What led to the founding of the after-school daycare center?

For many years, Susanne Heckmann has been spending the winter with friends in Mauritania because the warm and dry climate is good for her old bones. There, she met a wonderful woman: Mame Sy (pronounced Mam-si), the quiet, gentle wife of a police officer.

In the mornings, Mame Sy worked in a P.M.I. (protection maternelle et infantile), and in the afternoons she made the rounds in her neighborhood, visiting the poorest families and quietly asking where the need was greatest. Discarded clothing or the occasional small bag of rice donated by tourists supporting her – because with her 5 children, Mamsi herself barely makes ends meet – were the cause of great joy.

When Susanne Heckmann accompanied her again one day, she was introduced to a little boy who was playing with his friends in the dusty street. A handsome tyke who seemed very bright. But he wasn’t in school, even though school is obligatory! Only when Mamsi discreetly pointed it out did she notice: the fingers on the boys little hands were only rudimentary stubs. Amadou had inherited this genetic defect from his father, and on his first day of school he had been ridiculed so mercilessly that he preferred to stay at home ever since. Mame Sy is taking care of the boy and his family, as she does with other children living on the street, hungry and malnourished. But she wanted to help in a more sustainable way.

Her dream was an after-school daycare center. After the end of school at 2 p.m. and a break, she wanted to collect some of the poorest children and look after them from 4 to 6 p.m. – helping with homework and tutoring them; afterwards a good meal – for many of them the only meal of the day – so that the children could go to sleep with a full stomach. The two women decided to take it on, and the daycare center was established.


Of course we know that many of you already support your own ‘projects’, like sponsoring children around the world.

We are not asking for large amounts. It is rather the little things that help. The ideal would be a constant trickle of small amounts Mame Sy could rely on. A standing order of Euro10 could ensure a child’s meal for 10 days, (20 Euro 20 meals, 30 Euro 30 meals…).

The number of children that can be looked after therefore directly depends on the available funds. You can therefore already do a lot with little money! We are convinced there are some of you who can spare 5 or 10 euros a month (or as much as you like!) for Mame Sy’s after-school daycare center. Of course, one-time donations are also very welcome! Thank you so much in advance!

Each Euro is kept in an account for donations and transferred free of charge every month. The account holder is Susanne Heckmann, and she hopes that you will simply trust her. She would give the shirt off her back for her long-time friend Mame Sy and guarantees that she will put every cent and all her energy and love into this project.

The situation in Mauritania:

Susanne Heckmann reports about her many trips over many years to Mauritania:

“Mauritania is one of the poorest countries, about 3 times the size of Germany, and consists almost entirely of desert. Since 2005, I have been there at least once a year, first on desert tours with friends, then staying in Atar the last winters.

Atar, the regional capital of the Adrar region, has about 25,000 inhabitants, many of whom live in poverty. Over the years we have seen the gradual development of a very modest prosperity, or better still: a slight decrease in poverty. This was largely owed to an airline whose aim was to promote tourism in this region (Adrar), which is practically the only way the local population can earn a living. Every Sunday this Airline, the only one to fly to Atar and the tourist centers of the Adrar region, flew about 150 mostly French tourists into the country, groups that wanted to go through the desert on foot or on camel back or visit the ancient World Heritage cities of Chinguetti and Ouadane with their famous libraries. For the local people, this meant employment for many guides, opportunities for women’s cooperatives and boutiques to sell their arts and crafts and customers for hotels and hostels, restaurants and grocery stores.

Until the French in their infinite wisdom decided to put their strict travel warning, which had existed in the Internet since 2008, in more concrete terms by specifying a particularly dangerous ‘Red Zone’ which included these two ancient cities as well as a wide range of the most beautiful sand dunes – the ‘tourist attractions’ per se. The result: the French tourism companies were no longer allowed to offer group tours in these areas and the airline had to suspend their flights in early January of 2011 –the last plane transported all of 9 passengers. As a result, there were no longer any tourists in the cities and many shops and hostels had to be closed again …

The fact is that the Adrar region is the most secure area in what is probably the most peaceful country of northwest Africa anyway, and that the French are drilling deep for oil and other mineral wealth (gold, uranium) in this ‘dangerous zone’. But after several incidents in Niger and Mali, AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb) had declared France the enemy No.1. Apparently the Quai d’Orsay is now driving 10,000 people into destitution who almost exclusively used to live from tourism only to preempt the hypothetical danger that a French tourist could be kidnapped – which, as I said before, is highly unlikely.

It is of course primarily the children, a large number of which are malnourished, who are affected. There are also many orphans among them, some of which are living permanently on the streets. Many people die early because they cannot afford the costs for hospitals and medication when they fall ill.
Mame Sy gets involved, and I’m asking you nicely, “please, pretty please!” with my best regards.”
Help me to keep the small door to hope open!