My destiny has been forged around the meanings of my name: Ariane Alzhara Kirtley. Ariane, the woman in Greek mythology who led Theseus to safety. Alzhara, Arabic for a rare, ephemeral flower of the Sahara. Kirtley, “over those hills” in Old Gaelic. Like the Alzhara flower I blossomed in the wondrous wastelands of the Sahara, where I also nourished my passion for helping others to safety. All the while, my inner compass steers me “over those hills” and beyond, propelled by an irresistible compulsion to walk, seeking new worlds of adventure, discovery, and meaning.
In a photo taken in 2005 when I first traveled to the Azawak as a Fulbright scholar, I am sitting with my friends Zeinabou, Hassitou, and Sadouan. These women hosted me, shared their tents and food, and cared for me as if I had been one of their own. For several months, I traveled with them from one pasture to another, setting up a new camp every four or five days. During the day, I witnessed their hardship securing water for their children, often walking over 30 miles a day just to obtain a few drops of brackish liquid. In the evenings, we rested together underneath the Milky Way and shooting stars, while recounting tales of different worlds.
Their kindness and challenges inspired me to found Amman Imman: Water is Life in 2006. In 2007, Amman Imman built the Tangarwashane borehole for their community, which has provided pristine and abundant water ever since.