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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 07:36 GMT
Plan to improve life in twin city
Donkey and cart
Timbuktu is one of the poorest cities in Mali

Improving education and health care provisions in Timbuktu is the aim of a group of doctors and teachers from its Welsh twin town, Hay-on-Wye.

The Powys town was twinned with the city in the west African country of Mali, last year.

Three doctors and three teachers have now returned to Wales from a fact-finding visit to the city.

Their long-term plans include trying to open a new health centre, as well as provide basic education equipment.

Dr Julie Grigg, a GP at Hay-on-Wye Medical Centre, and her husband Steve Williams, a teacher, both went to Timbuktu to see for themselves what could be done.

"They've got a hospital there but it's not well equipped," said Dr Grigg.

"They've only got one full-time consultant as far as we could see.

"I want to raise enough money for another health centre out there."

The health centre would cost around 60,000 to 100,000 and Dr Grigg admits it is more of a long-term aim.

But there is also a desperate need for basic health equipment in a city that is one of the poorest in Mali, which itself is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Equipment

"We're going to send them some equipment such as stethoscopes and blood pressure machines," said Dr Grigg.

Similarly, the Hay-on-Wye teachers have plans to equip schools in Timbuktu with computer equipment but, while that will take time, they can at least provide basic resources such as textbooks.

Steve Williams, a teacher Gwernyfed High School in Powys, said there were usually up to 100 pupils in each class in Timbuktu and there were very few resources for teachers.

"The need is so great there, the question is where to start really," he said.

"Another reason for doing this is to inform our pupils that this is what it's like for most people on the planet."

Another twinning scheme involves selling crafts made in Timbuktu locally in Hay-on-Wye.

Sue Campbell-Felgate, a member of the twinning committee, said craftsmen were paid a fair price for their work with profits from the sales then put back into other projects that would benefit Timbuktu.

Hay-on-Wye certainly raised eyebrows when it twinned with the city, beating off stiff competition.

Timbuktu is already twinned with places in Germany, France, Morocco, Tunisia and the USA but officials also wanted a UK connection.

Villages, towns and cities from across the UK were invited to nominate themselves online.

And the twinning has certainly motivated many Hay-on-Wye residents to do their bit for Timbuktu.

Dr Grigg said: "We're totally fired up about it. We just can't let these people down."



SEE ALSO
Timbuktu 'twins' make first visit
24 Oct 07 |  Mid Wales
From Hay to Timbuktu
25 Oct 07 |  Mid Wales
Hay twins with Africa's Timbuktu
07 Feb 07 |  Mid Wales
Book town on Timbuktu shortlist
13 Nov 06 |  Mid Wales
Country profile: Mali
29 Feb 08 |  Country profiles

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