November 4, 2019
Burkina Faso is loosely translated to “land of honest men.” Robert Kabore, Senior IT Specialist at United Energy Trading (UET), certainly embodies that sentiment. Robert Kabore grew up in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa. He attended Dassasgho B, a school that has educated generations for decades within the community. After pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Burkina Faso and a Master’s in Colorado, Robert has settled into the UET working family for the past 6 years. He and his wife, Becky, have revisited Robert’s childhood home over the years, and 2018 was the year they decided to not only just visit, but also give back to the community they both hold close to their hearts.
Robert still stays in touch with many people in the area and is very aware of the struggles this institution faces. This school has been teaching children for over 50 years and educates over 500 students a year. Children travel from miles away to attend the year-round class schedule. Classes begin early in the morning and continue late into the night, with up to 90 children in each classroom. For these long hours that stretch over the majority of the year, the government of Burkina Faso provided around 300 pounds of rice and 200 pounds of beans for 2018/2019. This equates to about one pound of food per child for the entire year. To say that the school struggles to provide meals is an understatement.
In addition to the food shortages, the textbooks are severely outdated and school supplies are almost non-existent. Not every student receives a textbook for the school year and it is not uncommon for several students to have to share one textbook. Some students don’t have a choice and have to rely on the teacher to read aloud from the textbook to follow the curriculum. Classrooms are bare bones with simple, well-worn bench seating and old chalkboards. This is what the Kabore’s decided to focus on in their mission to improve lives in Robert’s hometown. Tom Williams, President of UET, and a close friend to the Kabore’s, had previously donated computers to Robert’s family, and was excited at the possibility of doing more.
Robert and Becky traveled to Ouagadougou in December of 2018, near the Christmas holiday, stocked with funds donated by Tom Williams to purchase food and school supplies for Dassasgho B. Once in the country, they loaded up with new textbooks, protractors, pens and pencils, notebooks, and every necessary material that each classroom desperately needed. In addition to these wonderful gifts, Robert’s former classmates were also able to purchase 33,000 pounds of food. This is over 100 times more food than the government supplies!
A few days before Christmas, the Kabore’s coordinated and threw a celebration for the community and invited the surrounding villages, including the respected elders of each tribe. During this party, the pair fed everyone and presented their generous donations. Becky describes how it felt to see, first hand, the reaction to the supplies. “They looked filled with such hope and excitement and it was completely overwhelming. All the kids and family were dressed in their Sunday best. As the ceremonies started, other community leaders started to filter in. I was in awe of the sense of community. This trip would have to be one of the most profound moments in my life at this point.”
Burkina Faso used to be a hub for art and culture, flooded with tourists from all over the world, but has recently suffered from political unrest, terrorist attacks on visitors, and droughts within the region. Unsurprisingly, the wonderful citizens have suffered financially, but through it all, they remain positive and welcoming. Becky Wells Kabore reflects on what it means to change a whole generation’s educational outlook: “Providing for these students is a step in the right direction and a true, pure example of what a difference even two people can make in a generation’s life. To know we made such a difference in not only a school but a whole community brings such a tremendous sense of pride. I cannot even begin to explain the feelings that Robert and I experienced that day. We can only hope that we are able to do this for more schools in that area in the future.”
United Energy Trading is a leader in the natural gas industry, providing services to both the United States and Canada. Partnering in local charities and pioneering green initiatives, UET shows that an energy company can shape the community in positive, powerful ways.