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Our Story

A Peace Corp volunteer who believed his time in Mali, Africa was not quite up yet returned a few years later to the small African village of Dissan to complete his dissertation in Anthropology. Determined to thank his African family for their hospitality 2 years later, Dr. Scott Lacy opted to donate a much needed well to the village; little did he know that in three month's time, this gesture would contribute a great deal more than just a local water source – it would in fact mark the beginning of African Sky, a 501(c)3 social profit organization with a dream of building and fostering friendships with rural Malian communities.

Raising money to install the well stemmed from the Ohio native's love of football. Christine Lacy would send videotapes of the Cleveland Browns games to her son, who would play the month-old tapes in the Peace Corps house. "He would also rent a small black and white TV and put it on the back of his bicycle and take it to the village and then they would play it with a car battery so the people in the village could watch," his mother explains. With consent from the Browns, the Lacy team went to work, designing and selling T-shirts in the states advertising the Browns to fund the well-installment project abroad: African Sky was born.

A short three months and an astounding $9,000 in fundraising later, Lacy presented his village with the money. Incredibly, it proved to be enough not only for a well, but also for the manifestation of the village's ideal vision: the construction of a schoolhouse.

Recognizing the invaluable existence of a single school in a village, Lacy was driven to contribute more, and to expand African Sky's reach to villages throughout Mali. "We're thinking job well done, and he's thinking job just started," Lacy's mother said.

But Lacy was not alone; members of the Ohio community felt their heartstrings pulling and wanted to continue contributing to the African Sky family with which they were beginning to feel so close, despite the thousands of miles between them.

"How do we keep it going?"

A premier silent auction in 2006, marked the commencement of community members becoming ambassadors for African Sky. And they're all volunteers. VPs of banks, teachers, children: "it's a community of people from young to old" Christine said. "You become part of the African Sky family."

In 2010 an exciting, life-changing piece of equipment for Malians and African Sky caught Lacy's attention: a machine that creates bricks using the earth. (The purchase of which was made possible through the annual auction).

There is a history of failed construction projects in Mali all of which have one similarity: the techniques and machinery used are foreign to the local people. Therefore, when the crews leave, so does the understanding of how to repair damages in the future.

African Sky's mission addresses this cyclic struggle.

In bringing the adaptable earthen-block construction technique to Mali, Malians may continue to build and repair themselves, providing them economic stimulus. The African Sky vision aims to ensure that the team of Malian men trained to use the machine will with time become brick makers – essentially, they will be capable of running their own brick-building business.

Enter Drew Jacoby, a Miami University (Oxford, OH) graduate with a degree in architecture, whose run-in with his preschool teacher in an Ohio grocery store arguably changed his life – and the lives of a number of Malians. His teacher, aware of Lacy's non-profit work, connected Drew's architectural passion and summer experience in designing schools in Ghana, with African Sky's work in Mali. Shortly after the cereal isle encounter, Drew and Scott had tickets booked to Mali. At 21 years old, Drew was appointed the architect of the "10 Schools, 1000 Lives" project.

"What ended up being built was a far cry from what I drew on that piece of paper," Jacoby reflects on the initial difficulties of design. "In that experience, putting a line on a piece of paper, having to hike 4 km into a jungle, cut down a tree, hike 4 km back with a huge sopping piece of really hard wood balanced on my head, you realize the repercussion of every single decision made."

"It was a natural connection for us to use earth materials," Jacoby explained. His design was rooted in paying close attention to and experiencing the culture while visiting Mali. Repetition stuck out to him – rather than ornamentation, however, he planned to use simple forms and shadows created from the building itself. Other constructional and design related decisions stemmed from surrounding elements. For example, planting trees could stabilize weakened porches outside of classrooms. Offering shade and support, trees are "a much more stable solution, and the idea of a tree being the first classroom ever makes it a nice formal meeting place," Jacoby said.

The design that persisted astounded Jacoby. "Those guys in Mali not only made it look exactly like it, but they were able to make it better." His sheer enthusiasm is evident in the blog he kept during the time of construction. Jacoby attributes his gushing excitement over the school's success to the dedication of the Malian workers: "I'm only as good as their hands, and their hands are something else," he said.

But the extent of the "10 Schools, 1000 Lives" project doesn't end when the last brick is laid on Mali soil. The mission is to build sister schools, cultivating lasting relationships between students who helped fundraise and the children in Mali.The idea surfaced when African Sky members visited Mali and witnessed the excitement of children seeing photographs for the first time, sticking them to their foreheads and grabbing a trusting hold of the visitors' hands. They were beaming with intellectual curiosity, "laughing and talking and pointing. And it's pure joy," Christine Lacy recalled.

A joy that will be sustained through pen-pals across the pond. "Being able to have that global vision is pretty exciting because it is certainly important for our young generation – it is hard for them to…even begin to comprehend how people live in other parts of the world." She continued, "And watching the kids listen to Scott talk… you can hear a pin drop. Kids are so drawn in."

African Sky's energy is contagious and its actions are far reaching, as is evident by the schools going up and the money being raised. "We'll never know how far some of those ripples reach. But we know they're there and that they've made a positive impact on a life. It makes your heart sing."

"This dream is alive and well and is going to grow," said Christine Lacy.


African Sky is an all volunteer organization devoted to building friendship and understanding between the people of Mali and the United States. We bridge US and Malian communities to confront some of the devastating symptoms and causes of endemic poverty and hunger. Our philosophy of community development is based on the belief that humanity's physical, ecological, and spiritual well-being are rooted in universal compassion and sustainable living.

African Sky projects are organized according to four thematic service programs: education, community health, food security, and community arts. In addition to community development work, African Sky presents educational and cultural programs for schools and community groups in the U.S. and Mali. We are a tax exempt, 501(c)3 organization (ID#20-1761327).