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Local man's mission: Save lives in Prince's Town
Spotsylvania man leads effort to protect sister city from malaria

 A villager carries malaria-fighting mosquito nets in Prince's Town. The World Health Organization estimates the disease kills 200,000 African infants each year.
Frank Delano/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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RELATED: Village clinic tackles heavy demand

Date published: 8/28/2007

BY FRANK DELANO

VIDEO: Scenes from Ghana: a multimedia presentation

PHOTOS: View dozens of BONUS IMAGES from Ghana

PRINCE'S TOWN, Ghana--Late one night in July, three exhausted travelers reached this remote village to deliver a life-saving cargo from Fredericksburg.

They had traveled hundreds of miles across West Africa in crowded buses, vans and, finally, a four-wheel-drive vehicle to bring three heavy bales containing 250 insecticidal bed nets to Prince's Town.

Darius Coulibaly, a 30-year-old special-education teacher at Chancellor High School in Spotsylvania County, led the team that included his physician sister and an assistant from their native Ivory Coast.

Coulibaly's mission began in April in Fredericksburg. He organized a Walk/Run Against Malaria that raised about $2,000 to buy and deliver the insecticide-treated nets that help prevent malaria.

But it was not "Mission Accomplished" for Coulibaly when he delivered the bed nets to Fredericksburg's sister city. It was "Mission Begun."

He talked the next morning with leaders of the town under an acacia tree, which he recognized as "a good herbal remedy for malaria."

He told them that the bed nets were just the start of a long-term effort to challenge and help the people of Prince's Town find their own solutions to their own problems.

Governments and large nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) use "top-down" approaches to help solve problems, he said. Coulibaly's approach is decidedly "bottom-up."

He believes that no one from outside--no government, no NGO, no foreign experts, not even himself--can understand and change an African community as well as the people who live there.

"The people with the problems are the ones who have the solutions. You can't sit in a glass office and make it happen," he said.

helping his homeland

Coulibaly experienced poverty and disease firsthand growing up in his native village in Ivory Coast. He eventually grew to 7 feet tall. His height and ambition led to basketball scholarships and degrees from U.S. schools.

He founded his one-man charity Empowering the Poor in 2005 to put his philosophy into action.


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Reporter Frank Delano visited Prince's Town, Fredericksburg's new sister city, during a July trip to Ghana, where he served in the Peace Corps 40 years ago.

SUNDAY: Sister cities Prince's Town and Fredericksburg are world's apart.

YESTERDAY: Sister-city relationship shines a beacon of hope into Prince's Town. and Tale of two soccer balls illustrates town's need, and obsession.

TOMORROW: Profile of Fredericksburg's Pamela Bridgewater, ambassador to Ghana.

THURSDAY: What is the future of the sister-city relationship?

FRIDAY: Forty years later, reporters' return to Ghana is bittersweet. In LIFE

SATURDAY: Remembering Prince's Town's Golden Age, and a photo essay on a traditional burial. In TOWN & COUNTY