“Ugly Betty” Art Auction Raises Money for School in Mali


Michelle Morrison, Save the Children, internet communications intern

New York, New York 

April 12, 2010 

 It was nothing short of magical.

America_ferrera At the request of America Ferrera, a roomful of people quietly knelt to the floor to watch a video depicting the small village in Mali, Africa where America is working with Save the Children to build a school. 

“We’re talking about four walls,” she said to the crowd, as she told the story of the people she met and the things she saw on her trip to Mali. 

America stood tall on a small platform, looking over the crowd and insisting that every child has the right to an education, especially in Mali, where more than nearly 800,000 children do not attend school. (Pictured at right, America at the auction. Photo Credit: Susan Warner / Save the Children)

Her voice swelled and cracked as she described how much the people of Mali have done for themselves already, and how simple it is to give them the hand up they need: four walls, desks, teachers, sanitation facilities. 

Nearly 200 people were at the Axelle Fine Arts Gallerie in New York City on Monday night for an art auction of paintings featured in an episode of ABC’s “Ugly Betty.” The money raised by the event will go to support a school that America and Save the Children are working to build in Mali. 

America, a Save the Children Artist Ambassador for education, was joined by fellow cast members Daniel Eric Gold, Mark Indelicato, Judith Light, Ana Ortiz and Vanessa Williams. 

America_ferrera_auction Cast members stood atop a small platform and played auctioneers, joking with the crowd and egging on the bidders.  

Pictured at right, Mark Indelicato and Ana Ortiz, who play Betty’s nephew Justin and sister Hilda on the show, played to the bidders, saying, “Ten years from now, when we’re doing the second Ugly Betty movie, this will be worth a lot!” (Photo Credit: Susan Warner / Save the Children)

By the end of the night, nine paintings were sold by live and silent auction. Some cast members lingered afterward, mingling with guests, signing autographs and nibbling on the hors d’oeuvres donated by KGFare Catering & Events. 

From where I stood near the entrance, it was easy to see and feel the enthusiasm and generosity of everyone who attended. Even the coat room attendants donated their tips to Save the Children at the end of the evening. As the room emptied, I looked around at all the iconic images of America as Betty Suarez and I thought to myself, “This is what it really means to be a star.”

View the slideshow below featuring photos from America Ferrera's visit to Mali.


Nafy’s Story: Kangaroo Mother Care in Mali

R10-MA__-70a Dr. Nialen Kaba, Save the Children, project assistant for newborn survival and health

Bamako, Mali

April 14, 2010

I met Nafy on a visit to the Kangaroo Mother Care unit at Gabriel Toure Hospital in Bamako, Mali this past December. She was proud to be carrying her newborn son on her chest.

At delivery, Nafy was upset when the midwife told her that her baby was very small, weighing only 1200 grams (2.6 pounds). When her husband Adama learned of the baby’s condition, his joy quickly faded and he decided not to give the child a name. So, Nafy named him Ismael.

The day after Ismael was born, he was transferred to the pediatrics unit of the hospital. Expecting the worst, Nafy was relieved to learn that her baby had no abnormalities. However, because he was born premature, he would need to be kept warm to help him gain weight and grow.

She was told about Kangaroo Mother Care, a recently accepted practice in Mali that when coupled with a mother’s determination could help Ismael survive. 

View a photo essay featuring moms and babies in the Kangaroo Mother Care ward at Gabriel Toure Hospital in Bamako, Mali.

Nafy quickly adopted the Kangaroo Mother Care method in hopes of seeing her baby survive. She was forced to cope with Ismael alone because her husband Adama and his family were convinced that her efforts would be in vain. 

Their reaction only reinforced Nafy’s resolve. She practiced Kangaroo Mother Care and Ismael gained weight day by day. 

Her slogan was, “She who gives birth to a snake, attaches him to her waist.” The slogan means: Whatever the physical and mental condition of her baby, a mother is always ready to do whatever it takes to help her child survive. 

Each year, about 900,000 newborns worldwide die due to premature births. In Mali, more than 14 percent of newborns are born premature, according to the 2006 Mali Demographic Health Survey. But since the kangaroo care center opened 20 months ago, sover 550 babies have benefitted.

Learn how more than 50 percent of newborn deaths could be saved through Kangaroo Mother Care.

On the day I visited Nafy, Ismael was entering his third week of life.  He weighed 2800 grams (6 pounds) and wiggled to break free from the chest of his mother, who never stopped smiling.

Learn more about Survive to 5, Save the Children's campaign to save the lives of children under 5.