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Press Release: march 25, 2009


Walpole, NH (February 4, 2009) — The Tuareg, Woodabe, and Fulani people, desert nomads of the Sahel and Sahara, will be brought to life in the Restaurant at Burdick Chocolate during a photography exhibit and event titled “Chocolate for Water” on Sunday, March 29th at 5pm. The event showcases photographs taken in the Republic of Niger by Ariane Kirtley—a former Fulbright scholar who has made it her mission to help save the lives of these desert dwellers. Part photographer, part activist, Kirtley has not only taken a collage of impressive photographs, but has also started a borehole well-drilling program called Amman Imman, or "water is life," to help people living in the Azawak Valley of Niger. A donation of $15 or more at the door gives you entry to this exquisite reception to benefit a life-saving project.

The event highlights a rich, artistic, poetic culture now struggling for survival. Kirtley's photographs reflect the vibrancy of these people as well as the harsh conditions that they face. The daughter of two National Geographic photographers, Kirtley spent parts of her childhood traveling throughout Africa. Although she witnessed poverty and hardship in her travels as a young girl, when she returned decades later, what she saw in parts of this West African desert alarmed her. "I thought I knew about water problems in Niger," said Kirtley, referring to her travels through the Azawak Valley, a region of the southern Sahara Desert stretching through Niger and Mali. "I had no idea… I had never before seen people literally dying of thirst.”

What she photographed in the Azawak were 500,000 people who suffer from severe water shortages in a region largely abandoned by the world. What she witnessed was little girls—9, 10 and 11 years old—traveling up to 35 miles roundtrip just to get to the nearest source of water. What she is trying to save is a dignified and generous community—severely affected by a warming climate—currently dying of thirst.

In this remote region with no roads or trails, health centers or schools nearby, Amman Imman is the only organization working to dig deep, permanent, sustainable wells called boreholes. Last summer the organization dug its first 600-foot deep borehole well, which serves the needs of up to 25,000 people and their animals. They are currently constructing the second borehole, and aim to complete 25 boreholes over the next 10 years.

Although currently half of children born in the Azawak die before they turn five, with one quarter dying from dehydration alone, Kirtley hopes that by building more borehole wells, Amman Imman will act as an impetus to change all of this. "Until there is a permanent and sustainable flow of water in the region, no organization will come to the Azawak," she said. "I hope that our work will serve as a catalyst for humanitarian organizations to bring much-needed developmental aid, such food aid, health care, education and gender equity to the region."

The “Chocolate for Water” reception and photo exhibition is a testimony to the need for this change. The photographs will be on display in Burdick’s restaurant throughout the month of March. All proceeds from “Chocolate for Water” will go directly to building the next borehole well in the Azawak Valley, Niger. Julie Snorek, who lived and worked with Tuareg nomads in Niger for nearly 3 years will be present to answer questions and provide information about Amman Imman's work and the cultures depicted in the exhibit.
Amman Imman is a Washington, D.C.-based program, working in partnership with the American non-profit The Friendship Caravan. For more information, visit or contact Julie Snorek at or 802-275-7983.

For more information about Amman Imman, please visit To read about student efforts to help, visit:



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