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Utahns with Ouelessebougou Alliance had reservations for hotel attacked by terrorists

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Posted at 6:11 PM, Nov 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-20 20:11:33-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Angie Roberts expected a quiet Friday at work, but that notion was dispelled while she was still half-asleep.

"My 17-year-old son woke me up at 6:15 and said, 'Mom have you seen the news?'"

The news, a terrorist assault on the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Mali. Roberts had reservations in the hotel for a trip this January.

Roberts is executive director of the Ouelessebougou Alliance.

In 1985, a group of Utahns decided they wanted to find a place that had been overlooked when world attention turned to a historic drought in Africa.

Cameras and pop stars focused on Ethiopia and other East African countries as Americans gave millions to the USA for Africa "We Are the World" campaign.

Utahns learned that Mali was also suffering, but in silence.

They started the Ouelessebougou Alliance as an outreach effort between Utah and a rural part of Mali about 50 miles outside of Bamako, Mali's biggest city.

Today, the Alliance still funds staff in Mali, and organizes support from a small office in Salt Lake City.

"Our travel plans were to be there for the first three weeks of January, and we were really looking forward to it because our trip last year was cancelled because of the ebola crisis," Roberts said.

Roberts and members of the non-profit's board of directors planned to deliver feminine hygiene packs that are stacked in boxes around the desks in the Alliance offices.

But Roberts says the important thing is that none of her staff in Mali were near the attack, and their mission can continue.

"We are going to be there until the villages no longer need us," Roberts said.