UA Little Rock student-athlete launches GoFundMe to give parents a home

May 9-15, 2022

By Angelita Faller


Sali Kourouma’s path to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Little Rock and to achieving her aspirations of playing Division I basketball has seen its share of bumps in the road.


When she arrived at Little Rock last August, it took all of a month before finding out her world had been upended yet again, learning that her parents’ home had been destroyed by a severe storm in her native Mali.


After finally thinking she had reached stability in her life, she was settling into the routine of being a student-athlete at Little Rock last September when her parents delivered a bombshell: they’re home was destroyed.


Not only that, but they had also been homeless for over two years. 


Now Kourouma has launched a GoFundMe drive in order to help her parents rebuild their house and reclaim something they can call home.


Kourouma, who hasn’t seen her native country in almost five years had no idea until her mom, Fatoumata Guiro, finally disclosed their situation to her.


“She didn’t want me to worry,” Kourouma said of her mother’s intentions. “She wanted me focused on school and on basketball, but I knew she was not saying something. Once they told me what happened, they told me to not worry about it and to keep working hard on school and basketball.”


The storm hit back in 2019 as heavy rains and wind pounded the small, humble structure they proudly called home in Kati, Mali. Walls caved in, the roof collapsed and possessions were destroyed.


“It was really tough hearing that, especially with basketball practice beginning soon after,” Kourouma said of hearing the news. “At first I thought someone might be hurt. Thank God no one was. But I think about my parents not having a home every single day.”


While constantly thinking about it but helpless to do anything, Kourouma took out her frustrations on opponents. In her first season in a Little Rock uniform, she averaged 18.4 points per game (ranking 48th in the nation) and led the Trojans to the semifinals of the Sun Belt Tournament, surpassing 20 points in 11 of her 22 games including every game of the conference tournament.


But as flashy as high scoring totals can be it doesn’t generate much income, even in the newly-spawned Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) days.  


“As an international student, I am limited in my work opportunities due to American laws,” Kourouma explained. “I’m hoping this GoFundMe will allow me to help my parents rebuilt their house.”


Her dad, Souamane Kourouma, sells soft drinks in what can most adequately be compared to a bodega, but much smaller. Her mother does not work. In Mali, it’s an honest living that brings home a livable wage, if you have a home to bring it to.


According to U.S. Department of State, the average annual income of a Malian is around $1,500 (USD) and is one of the 15 poorest countries in the world. Compare that with an average U.S. income of $51,916.


This summer, for the first time in five years, Kourouma will return to her home continent and country in order to renew her student visa. She will see her family for the first time in five years, see her friends for the first time in five years and, for the first time in person, see the dilapidated structure and rubble she used to call home.


“I didn’t even know I would go five years without seeing my family. And then knowing my parents have been without a home, relying on others for a bed to sleep on … I cannot explain how hard it has been and how excited I am to see them,” Kourouma said.


She hopes to return home with a gift of money that can help return her parents to their own place to call home. And she will use her time back in Mali helping to teach basketball to many of the young kids eager to learn the sport on the asphalt courts she grew up playing on.


Kourouma is something of a celebrity to those children. They go to the community court daily, some of them homeless and nearly all of them impoverished, just for a place to go but excited for the opportunity to participate in an activity. They regularly hear of Kourouma’s success with Little Rock’s Team as her former coaches and managers with Team Cfbk de Kati relay recent news of her leading Little Rock’s Team.


She credits the incomparable basketball knowledge that head coach Joe Foley has of the game as a primary reason for her success, the same success the kids in her home community hear about weekly.


“I have learned so much from Coach Foley after just one year,” Kourouma said of the nation’s third-winningest active head coach. “I was not a shooter at my junior college, but he saw one practice of mine and told me I could be a very good player. He just has so much knowledge of the game and he always knows where I can score on the court.


Coach Foley, Coach Bobby [Brasel] and all the coaches are just like family to me. When I was being recruited, I never had a school talk to me like that, like I was already part of their family.”


You can help Kourouma raise money by donating through her GoFundMe page by going to