Butterfly Benefit and the Spirit of Service

In late February, the Montessori School of Louisville (MSL) presented a check for $5,000 to Amman Imman. The funds represented part of the proceeds from the school's first annual Butterfly Benefit auction on February 21st, 2009, held in tribute to the shared values of Dr. Maria Montessori and Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The school chose to support Amman Imman in keeping with Montessori's global community ideals and spirit of service.

"This unique event brings together many wonderful and synergistic elements - Amman Imman's mission to bring water to the nomadic peoples of Africa; the legacy and ideals of Muhammad Ali as depicted in the amazing exhibits of the Ali Center; and the Montessori community ideals, including peace, service, and respect, which we work each day to instill in our students," said MSL Director Cynthia M. M. Gonzalez.

A phone conversation from Niger, Africa, where Ariane Kirtley was working in the field with the Amman Imman team, highlighted the event, as did a letter from His Excellency Aziz Mekouar, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to the USA, read by Michael Kirtley, president of the Friendship Caravan who attended the event as a representative of Amman Imman. Ariane attended a Montessori school in Bardstown Kentucky as a child when she was not traveling in Africa with her parents, making the connection with the Kentucky school all the more relevant.

Montessori School of Louisville is the first school in Kentucky to join the Amman Imman effort.

Following is the letter read by Michael Kirtley at the Butterfly Benefit:

February 19, 2009

Ms. Cynthia M. Gonzalez
Director, Montessori School of Louisville
Louisville, KY 40206

Dear Ms. Gonzalez:
I thank you for inviting me to participate in the first annual Butterfly Gala at the Ali Center. I deeply regret not being able to join you, for I am a great believer in the work of Montessori Schools, and I am a fan of Ariane Kirtley's humanitarian work in Africa. Moreover, ever since I was a young man I have been an admirer of the boxing champion Muhammad Ali, and it would have been a special pleaslure to visit the Ali Center in his honor. Hopefully I will be able to greet all of you soon in Kentucky.

I have asked my friend Michael Kirtley to read this letter on my behalf. As Ariane's father, Michael is well aware of the sacrifice that a parent must experience, to help his child follow her dreams. Although few of our children will endure the hardships of Ariane to save lives among the poorest of the poor, we all hope that, like her, they will choose pathways that leave the world a better place than they found it. Montessori cducatioli is particularly suited to shaping these model citizens of the future. Over the past year 1 have become better acquainted with the creative, personalized approach they provide, and I congratulate the parents for sending their children to such a fine institution as Montessori School of Louisville. I feel sure that they are in good hands.

Ariane Kirtley herself is a shining example of the impact of Montessori education. I have met her several times, and am always amazed that a young mother, graduate of Yale, would give up monetary success to bring water to children who otherwise might perish from thirst. At great personal risk, she braves heat and other harsh conditions to offer hope to people who are ignored by the outside world. Your generosity towards her work will not only save lives, it will inspire others to give.

Finally, I will close by inviting all of you to come to Morocco, my beautiful country. You may not know that we were the first nation to recognize America's independence, in 1777, and the first nation to sign a Treaty of Friendship with America, in 1756. In this spirit, Moroccans consider Americans as family, so please take advantage of our hospitality. Moreover, we are in the process of preparing a major educational initiative of friendship between Morocco and American Montessori Schools, and 1 sincerely hope your school will participate. That way perhaps your students will become Ambassadors of Friendship between our two great cultures.

Very sincerely yours,
Aziz Mekouar
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to the USA

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