Ariane Alzhara Kirtley
Founder and Executive Director
Ariane, joined by her husband, Denis and children, Fassely, Soriya and Indima, as well as other fabulously committed family and friends, has devoted her life to improving the living conditions of the Azawak Valley of Niger. She founded Amman Imman: Water is Life in February 2006 to bring life giving water to her brothers and sisters in the Azawak.
Ariane’s name mirrors her roots, planted firmly on three continents: Kirtley, the American born; Ariane, the daughter of a French mother; and Alzhara, “desert flower” in Arabic, signalling that she blossomed in Africa, the continent she loves above all others. Ariane crossed the Sahara Desert for the first time when she was six months old — in a basket tied to the back seat of her family’s Land-Cruiser. From those earliest months until she turned ten, her home was in North and West Africa, including the country of Niger.
A 2001 graduate of Yale University, in 2004 she also earned her Masters in Public Health from Yale. In summer of 2003, she returned to Niger to intern for CARE International on a public health initiative which culminated in her Master’s thesis on the subject for Yale. In May of 2004 Ariane was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to return to Niger in order to research the special health needs of women and minority indigenous populations in the Sahel.
As a Fulbright Scholar, Ariane travelled to the pastoral region of the Azawak, Niger’s most remote and unknown region. In the Azawak, Ariane discovered the human face of climate change: people literally dying of thirst because of their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. These were the most generous and dignified, as well as the most vulnerable populations of her travels throughout West Africa. She had never before witnessed an area with so few resources and infrastructure, where individuals live on the brink of disaster on a daily basis due to circumstances beyond their control. Most importantly, she had never seen half a million people in such distress receiving so little assistance from the rest of the world.
She rapidly grew to love and consider her new found Touareg and Fulani friends of the Azawak as family. Thanks to the tremendous encouragement of her family and friends, as well as the initial financial contribution of Reverend Janet Cornelius, Ariane founded Amman Imman:Water is Life for the children of the Azawak.
Associate Director and Program Director
Debra Kahn founded Wells of Love, the service-learning component of Amman Imman, upon meeting Ariane Kirtley in October, 2006. Deeply moved by Arianes plea to save the lives of the people of the Azawak by bringing them water, Debbies own life took a new direction. She began uniting Montessori schools after Ariane presented Amman Imman at a Montessori conference where many schools made commitments to be part of the project. Writing blog posts that shared stories between the schools, conducting weekly conferences calls, organizing collaborative fundraising campaigns such as A Walk for Water, and using social networking tools such as YouTube and Facebook, Debbie led the growth of the schools movement from 10 schools in 2006 to over 50 schools in the Spring of 2009. Debbie traveled to the Azawak with the Amman Imman team in February 2009, conducting a Friendship Exchange that connected over 200 children in America with their African brothers and sisters. It was then that Debbie made the decision to follow her passion to provide an opportunity for students to bring real change to the world as compassionate philanthropists. She left her position as associate director of the Oneness-Family School and began working as Amman Imman Associate Director and Wells of Love Program Director full-time.
Debbie contributes 17 years of educational and administrative experience to Amman Imman: Water is Life and the Wells of Love program. A skilled educator and communicator through her former work as teacher and associate director, Debbie brings expertise in organizational management, systems thinking, leadership skills and employee supervision. Debbie is also a writer, poet and big picture thinker. Through the Wells of Love program, Debbie embraces possibility and implements practical action, providing a venue for students around the world to engage in grassroots activism that changes lives.
Debbie enjoys following her passion and initiating change. She received her Montessori teaching certification in 1992, after working as a computer programmer in the biotech and banking industries for 14 years. In 2007, she earned her B.A. in Education from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont.
Staff in Niger:
- Riskouwa Mamane
- Sidi Mohamed
- Hadiza Habibou
- Moctar Chamsou
Moctar Issa Chamsou