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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ossian Hall Park shows are overseen by Annandale activist Lassine Doumbia

Lassine Doumbia serves as the MC at Indonesian Cultural Night July 6.

If you’ve been to a cultural heritage performance at Ossian Hall Park in Annandale in the past few years, you might have noticed a tall guy setting up the equipment, introducing the artists, and generally overseeing the show.

That’s Lassine Doumbia, a nearby resident who’s been involved with the Friends of Mason District Park for years and has been helping put on the summer concerts at Ossian Hall Park since 2007, when the series was called Braddock Nights and held in the parking lot. He got involved because, “I wanted to make an impact on my own community.” 

When the park was renovated in 2010, a small concert plaza was built, and when the park was shifted from the Braddock District to Mason, the Ossian shows were incorporated into the Spotlight by Starlight series.

Doumbia helps the Fairfax County Park Authority plan the summer concerts at Ossian, which generally showcase the music of a particular culture, helps with fundraising, and provides suggestions for musical groups. He also serves as all-around caretaker at the park, reporting fallen trees and picking up stray branches.

“For me, happiness is coming here, seeing people getting up and dancing to the music,” Doumbia says. “These are the kinds of things that bring me joy.”

Doumbia’s sense of community spirit goes back to his youth in a small farming village in the North African nation of Mali. It was a 16-mile bike ride to the nearest school, with two of his sisters on board, too, but it was well worth the journey. Many of the villagers couldn’t read or write, so they began asking Doumbia to read documents for them. “Right away I saw the benefit of going to school. I felt I could do more,” he recalls.

In rural Mali, the oldest son is usually expected to quit school after the fifth-grade to work on the family’s farm. Doumbia persuaded his father to let him continue his education in Mali’s capital, Bamako, where he got a job as a dispatcher at the U.S. embassy and then worked for USAID while completing a degree in accounting.

Doumbia immigrated to the United States in 1981 and became a U.S. citizen in 1986. Although he now works as a financial analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he has remained committed to community involvement—with regard to his current home and his roots in Mali.

Soon after immigrating, he co-founded a nonprofit organization called Jah Kente International, which brings African art, performances, and education programs to schools and churches in Washington D.C.

And remembering the long trip to his school every day, he began a project to build a school in his home village of Koungodjah. It started with three mud-brick classrooms and has since grown to six classrooms built of concrete, serving about 125 boys and girls ages 5 to 12.

His next project was building the Sibiry Doumbia Community Memorial Health Center in Koungodjah, and he’s now starting a micro-financing program to help villagers get loans to start small businesses.

“Going to an office and making money isn’t enough,” Doumbia says. “I want more than that. I want to do more for the community.”

The free shows at Ossian Hall Park are every Saturday at 7:30 through Aug. 31. Next week’s show is Russian Cultural Heritage Night, and the July 27 show features the culture of Bolivia. Bring a chair or a blanket and enjoy the region’s artistic diversity.


  1. What a fabulous example of giving back to the community! Thank you, Lassine!

  2. Current Projects

    Mali is a large landlocked Sahelian country with a per capita income of about $850 and a population of 11.6 million, Mali's economy is based on activities linked to agriculture (cotton, livestock, and cereals) and mining (gold). About 10% of the population is nomadic and some 80% of the labor force is engaged in farming and fishing. Less than 4% of Mali's land area is arable; its arid northern half is largely unproductive Saharan desert. The Niger and Senegal river basins in the eastern and western portions of the country, respectively, support a variety of cash and subsistence crops. Large, vibrant, informal trading and commercial sectors characterize the few urban centers. Industrial activity is concentrated on processing farm commodities. Mali is heavily dependent on foreign aid and vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices for cotton, its main export, along with gold. Mali's chief development challenges are: a high growth rate (3.1% per year), a young, poorly educated population (66% illiterate); a largely subsistence level of agricultural production with limited infrastructure; an agriculture economy dependent on rain fall, and an inadequate health care delivery system (one doctor per 20,000). Child mortality and morbidity have reached crisis proportions.


    DIHS was established out of passion: The "Sibiry Doumbia Memorial Health Center" is in the Commune of Moutougoula in the Village of Kougodjan. The outpatient clinic is the site where DIHS's clinical personnel, health agents and traditional birth attendants are based administratively. The services provided by the clinic include an expanded program of immunization of children less than 5 years of age to protect them against diseases, pre and post natal health care for women of reproductive age, family planning services and counseling, and nutritional recuperation for severely malnourished children. Soon we will incorporate micro-nutrient supplements, HIV/AIDS and STD education, prevention, counseling and testing. In addition to one Medical Doctors who oversee the clinic, the clinic has a staff of two nurses, a nurse's aide and two traditional birth attendants, access to a laboratory technician, and a pharmacist. In coming months we expect to train 20-40 health agents and traditional birth attendants.

    Many of the health issues faced by the Malian population can be ameliorated through changes in behavior. DIHS recognizes that an essential element to changing behavior is to apply a variety of techniques to make the general population aware of health risks. Special focus has been, therefore, given to children, young adults and women in the communities served. In December 2004, DIHS organized a workshop for the inhabitants of Koungodjan and neighboring villages to address the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, the importance of breast feeding, and the promotion of family planning. DIHS has commenced preventive care activities in the area of HIV/AIDS with youth retreats and follow-up sessions with youth clubs. In addition to promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, our clinic soon will begin testing individuals and provide counseling for those who are infected and affected by the deadly disease.

    DIHS promotes Safe Drinking Water. As part of the program in Mali, a village mobilization component is being implemented to promote community dialogue and collective action around safe water and water treatment. DIHS is leading the implementation of this component. A major activity of this component includes community and household monitoring for water treatment behaviors and practices.