About Us: Creating Powerful and Lasting Senegal Community Partnerships
Who We are, What We Do, and Where We Work
What makes CREATE!’s approach to development special and sustainable is the emphasis that we place on building strong Senegal community partnerships. We provide training and support that enables communities to take ownership of their self-development projects, and continue to sustain and grow the programs that CREATE! establishes, according to their own needs and motivations. Our model is highly participatory, requiring commitment, collaboration, and hard work on the part of our partner communities.
CREATE! is implementing our initial country program in Senegal, West Africa, with future plans to expand to other villages and countries as funding and resources permit. Many Sub-Saharan African countries, including Senegal, are experiencing the increasingly disastrous effects of global climate change, which particularly impact the lives of the rural poor. CREATE! seeks to address this challenge and assist these populations through community partnerships using small-scale, accessible “appropriate” technologies – technologies that are adapted to, and fit, their local conditions — and with human needs-based strategies that can better the lives of men and women in rural communities and build their capacity to meet these interconnected challenges.
The founders of CREATE! bring decades of experience in humanitarian assistance, appropriate technology, community partnerships, social services, education, training, business, nonprofit management, and fundraising to our nonsectarian, nongovernmental organization. We share a passionate commitment to the mission of CREATE! and to working with rural village populations in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the developing world to alleviate the impact of global warming on their lives and livelihoods.
CREATE! is a tax exempt nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status. We are unaffiliated with any governmental or religious organizations.
The Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology for the Environment (CREATE!) was established in 2008 with the mission of helping rural populations in the developing world cope with water, food, and fuel shortages resulting from the impact of climate change on their communities. Using a participatory approach and appropriate technologies, CREATE! works with communities in rural Senegal to identify and meet their needs in four primary sectors: water, cooperative community gardens, renewable energy, and income generation.
Who We Are
Barry R. Wheeler — Founder and Board Member
Barry is the dynamic force behind CREATE! and its impassioned and inspiring leader. As CREATE! Founder, he now works as a mentor to the field team in Senegal, advising in the implementation of appropriate technologies, community partnerships, training programs, and organizing. He also serves on CREATE!’s board, working with the US staff and board members to support and carry out CREATE!’s mission.
Louise Ruhr — Executive Director
Louise has had the honor of being part of CREATE! since the organization’s beginning. As a member of CREATE!’s founding team she served as Development Director and then Chief Operating Officer before being promoted to Executive Director in 2016. Since 2010, she has spent months in the field, getting to know the communities where we work, mentoring our Senegal team, and learning a bit of the Wolof language.
Louise came to CREATE! with more than 30 years of experience as a manager, leader, and executive in for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Following a marketing career at General Mills, Inc., Ruhr/Paragon Advertising and the Minnesota Orchestral Association she found her way to the green hills of Rwanda where she joined the American Refugee Committee International team empowering and training women to start small businesses and self-managed savings groups in the refugee camps where they lived.
Louise is an alumna of Princeton University and earned an MBA at Harvard Business School. She is a member of Rotary International and serves on the Board of Harvard Alumni for Global Women’s Empowerment.
Kaitlyn Grigsby-Hall — Grants Manager
As Grants Manager, Kaitlyn writes and manages foundation grants for CREATE!. She also works with individual donors and handles CREATE!’s projects on GlobalGiving.
Kaitlyn has been interested in sustainable, grassroots, and participatory development projects in Africa since she spent six months studying abroad in the Gambia in 2009. For her master’s thesis, Kaitlyn studied participatory development theory, using CREATE! as a case study.
Kaitlyn has a BA in environmental studies, biology, and public policy from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She also earned a MS in environmental studies and a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from the University of Oregon.
Andrea Willingham — Communications Coordinator
As Communications Coordinator, Andrea develops and implements local and online outreach, as well as manages CREATE!‘s social media presence and website. She produces CREATE!‘s weekly blog posts, monthly newsletters, and publications.
Andrea earned her MS in Environmental Studies, Media, and Geography from the University of Oregon, and her BA in Environmental Studies and Anthropology from Eckerd College in Florida. Her explorations have taken her from studying in London, to volunteering in Puerto Rico, Honduras, and Iceland, to working as a multimedia intern and park ranger in rural Alaska. She is interested in using multimedia, visual storytelling, and creative communications to promote greater awareness of and responsibility toward our natural world and global communities as we face the growing challenges of climate change.
Omar Ndiaye Seck — Country Director
As Country Director for CREATE!’s Senegal program, Seck oversees and manages CREATE!’s in-country operations and program activities in all sectors. He is responsible for the training, supervision, and coordination of CREATE!’s staff to implement programming in water acquisition, community gardens, Voluntary Savings and Lending Associations, and fuel-efficient cookstove construction. Seck also works with community members to identify and respond to felt needs at the community level.
The social value and moral dimensions of work are very important to Seck. In his work with CREATE!, he says, “I appreciate and enjoy working for a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that uses appropriate technologies to help rural populations improve their lives.”
Seck has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Cheikh Anta DIOP University, and a professional certificate in Accounting from Center for Applied Management and Computing in Dakar. In his off time, he enjoys cheering on his favorite soccer teams Senegal and Barcelona, listening to music, and studying accounting.
Mame Souka Diouf — Senegal Program Administrator
Mame manages CREATE!’s financial transactions in Senegal: getting money from the bank; managing the safe; paying salaries and taxes; preparing monthly financial reports; and maintaining relationships with vendors and banks. He is also responsible for purchasing materials; managing materials going in and out of the stockroom; and supervising household staff and guards.
He likes working for a nonprofit organization that focuses on preserving the environment and helping people improve their lives. He says, “I appreciate the team spirit among CREATE! staff, and I find the direct contact I have with participating community members especially motivating.”
Mame holds a diploma as a Senior Technician in Management Science as well as a Specialized Diploma in Computer Science. In his leisure time, Mame follows European soccer and basketball teams, and enjoys listening to his favorite musician, Youssou N’Dour.
Amadou Diouf — Agricultural Technician
Amadou Diouf trains community members in year-round, sustainable crop cultivation and improved cookstove construction. He appreciates working for a nonprofit organization that provides rural populations with skills and knowledge that will help them meet their needs and improve their lives.
Amadou holds a professional certificate in Horticulture from the Professional Horticulture Training Center in Camberene, Senegal. He was inspired to follow this career because of his life-long love of plants and animals, and he learned during his training that rural populations really needed the kind of help he would be able to provide. He says, “With CREATE!, I am now doing the work I have always wanted to do!”
In his leisure time, Amadou likes to watch or play soccer, visit friends, watch action films, and connect with long-distance friends on Facebook and Skype.
Codou Gadji — Agricultural Technician
As an Agricultural Technician, Codou trains community members in sustainable vegetable and tree cultivation, and crop management. She also teaches women to construct improved cookstoves and assists with Voluntary Savings and Lending Association meetings.
After three years of training, Codou received her diploma in Horticulture from the Professional Horticulture Training Center in Camberene, Senegal. She was inspired to follow her career by her father who is an agriculture engineer.
She loves her work and says, “With CREATE!, I have learned that you can fight back against poverty and food insecurity. My objectives are to fight poverty by helping others and to create employment opportunities for young people.” In her leisure time, Codou likes to cook and spend time with her husband.
Abdou Ba — Driver and Field Assistant
As CREATE!’s driver, Abdou Ba ensures the safe transportation of staff and materials to each of CREATE!’s program sites. As Field Assistant, he assists with installing solar pumping systems and maintains the solar panels.
Abdou loves his work with CREATE! and gives his job his all. He appreciates each of CREATE!’s sectors and has used skills and knowledge he learned through CREATE!’s trainings to cultivate a year-round vegetable garden and build an improved cookstove for cooking household meals at his home in Kaolock. He says, “With CREATE!, I have learned to fly with my own wings.”
In his free time Abdou loves to play soccer, spend time with his daughter, listen to the music of Youssou N’Dour, and watch the Senegal National Team play soccer.
Mohamed Diagne — Agricultural Technician
As an Agricultural Technician for CREATE!, Mohamed Diagne trains community members in sustainable crop cultivation, improved cookstove construction and poultry production. He also monitors the solar pumping and gravity-fed irrigation systems in the gardens.
Motivated by his desire to protect nature and the environment, Mohamed received his diploma in horticulture and farm management from the Center for Vocational Training in Camberene, Senegal.
Mohamed appreciates working as a team and finds direct contact with community members to be especially motivating. “With CREATE!’s programs, we teach agricultural techniques and the use of appropriate technologies to help people improve their lives and preserve the environment.”
In his free time, Mohamed likes to watch European league soccer and basketball, and Senegalese wrestling. He also enjoys reading, researching on the internet, and listening to the music of Omar Bolt.
Ousmane Diallo — Agricultural Technician
Ousmane Diallo trains CREATE! community members in year-round, sustainable crop cultivation, poultry production and improved cookstove construction. He also supervises Voluntary Saving and Lending Associations.
A love of plants and geography inspired Ousmane to study agriculture in Bignona, Senegal, where he received his diploma in Leadership and Management of Agricultural Operations.
Ousmane likes working as a team and connecting with community members. He appreciates CREATE!’s use of appropriate technologies and says, “CREATE! came along at just the right time. Rural communities and the environment need the programs offered by CREATE!.” He hopes that CREATE! can continue to expand to other communities in rural Senegal.
In his leisure time, Ousmane likes to participate in sports and spend time on the internet.
Ndeye Fatou Thiam — Communications Assistant
As CREATE!’s Communications Assistant, Ndeye Fatou Thiam conducts monthly interviews with men and women in each of our partner communities. Fatou also documents CREATE!’s programs through photography and film. As our Senegal team’s sole English speaker, Fatou also serves as a translator for English-speaking visitors.
Fatou, who is from Dakar, enjoys working with rural communities to help residents meet their needs and build self-sufficiency. She says, “I’ve always wanted to help people in need. Working with CREATE! gives me the opportunity and means to do so.” Fatou also appreciates the additional knowledge that she has gained by working with CREATE!. She says, “For me, CREATE! is like a school. I’m always learning new skills from my colleagues.”
Fatou earned a BA in English from Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar. She also holds an Advanced English Level from the Dakar-based English Resource Center. In her free time, Fatou enjoys reading books in English to practice her language skills.
Abdou Aziz Sow — Agricultural Technician
Originally from St. Louis, Senegal, Abdou Aziz Sow trains community members in all of CREATE!’s programs, as an agricultural technician. With a professional diploma in Horticulture from the Professional Horticulture Training Center in Camberene, Dakar, Senegal, he was drawn to CREATE!’s integrated approach of natural resource management and sustainable development. He sees his work with CREATE! as an important way to connect his background in agriculture with his education in the sciences.
Sow says he enjoys helping communities improve their living conditions and developing sustainable sources of income, while also respecting the environment. He’s been inspired by CREATE!’s integrated model of natural resource management and the use of appropriate technologies. On weekends, Sow enjoys spending time with his family, and playing sports.
Oumar Aw — Horticultural Field Technician
As a horticultural field technician, Oumar Aw mainly supervises partner communities in vegetable cultivation, as well as poultry production, the construction of improved cookstoves, and VSLAs. Originally from Fouta in northern Senegal, he earned his professional certificate in horticulture from the Professional Horticulture Training Center in Camberene, Dakar.
In many ways, it was Aw’s love of nature that brought him to CREATE!. “What motivated me about this career is that I love nature, and agricultural activities in the rural community has always been my dream since I was a little child,” he says. He enjoys working with the other CREATE! team members because they are young and dynamic, as well as directly with community members and sharing knowledge with them.
Barry R. Wheeler — Founder and Board Member
Barry has spent the past 25 years working to alleviate suffering and provide basic human needs for poor rural villagers, displaced persons and refugees in several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. He finds in CREATE! the culmination of his life’s work and the opportunity to share with others what he has learned about building the capacity of people to solve their own problems.
After serving in the Peace Corps for six years as an Appropriate Technology volunteer, trainer, and technical advisor in Togo, West Africa, Barry earned a Master’s degree in International Agriculture and Rural Development from Cornell University, focusing on project planning and management, local capacity building, and sustainable community rural development in developing countries.
He has served as Country Director for the American Refugee Committee International programs in Uganda/Sudan and in Rwanda; as a consultant for UNICEF and UNHCR; and as a team leader and training coordinator in local capacity building, renewable and appropriate technology and sustainable rural development. Barry has designed and taught graduate and undergraduate courses in international community development, sustainable development, and project planning at the University of Oregon.
Ron Taylor — Founding Board Member
Ron describes himself as a “structural engineer with an MBA, building contractor, business owner, entrepreneur, Canadian.” Having retired from a 35+ year career in the construction business, he was looking for an opportunity to use his ideas, energy, effort and experiences to help make a better life for some very poor people, somewhere in the world.
In CREATE! Ron has found just such an opportunity. He has spread the word among colleagues, family, and friends and has inspired them and us with his enthusiasm and generosity.
Ron has traveled to Rwanda and Senegal to see firsthand what is possible when appropriate technologies are applied in a participatory fashion through sensitization, mobilization, training, and teamwork among the poorest of the poor, and in the most challenging of environments. This experience has made him a believer in CREATE! and one of our most ardent supporters.
Dr. Susan Briggs — Board Member
Dr. Susan Briggs is a General and Trauma Surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Briggs completed her surgical training at MGH and her Masters in International Health at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Dr. Briggs has been active nationally and internationally in trauma and disaster relief activities with the United States Government and non-governmental agencies such as Project Hope and the American Refugee Committee. Currently, she is Director of the International Trauma and Disaster Institute at MGH, as well as the Supervising Medical Officer of the Department of Health and Human Services Specialty Medical Teams, including the Medical Surgical Response Teams.
Ambassador Joyce E. Leader — Board Member
Joyce Leader is an Africa Specialist and retired diplomat who capped her career in the United States Foreign Service as Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea in West Africa. She was Deputy Director of the Office of West African Affairs and served in Burkina Faso and Nigeria. She was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. embassy in Rwanda when the genocide broke out in 1994. A decade later, she represented the U.S. in multiple attempts to resolve recurring threats to peace and human rights in the Great Lakes regions of Africa.
Since retiring from the Foreign Service in 2003, Ambassador Leader has directed a graduate seminar on Development in Africa for Syracuse University, been a consultant to the Brookings Institution’s Project on Internal Displacement, and is a Senior Associate at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University.
Fred D. Raley — Board Member
Fred Raley is the former chairman of SpawGlass, a 100 percent employee-owned construction company headquartered in Texas. Before stepping into an executive leadership role, Fred worked in the construction field as a superintendent and project manager, supervising and managing large construction projects.
Fred participates actively in construction industry and community organizations, serving as a loaned executive for United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County in 2011 and 2012, past president of the Associated Builders and Contractors South Texas Chapter, past chair of the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and past president of the Construction Industry Advisory Council (CIAC) at Texas A&M University.
Fred graduated from the University of Houston in 1972 and completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University in 2000.
Mary-Kay Miller — Board Member
Mary-Kay Miller’s initial interest in Senegal was literary and cultural; she studied in Senegal and was especially drawn to Senegalese women authors, Aminata Sow Fall and Mariam Ba. During a visit to CREATE!’s field sites in Senegal in 2012 with fellow Board member, Dr. Susan Briggs, Mary-Kay was deeply impressed by CREATE!’s work in rural villages and noted: “When given access to appropriate training, Senegalese women from rural villages make ground-breaking advances in local, sustainable food production.” As a result, Mary-Kay is delighted by the opportunity to join the CREATE! Board and contribute to the ground-breaking work that CREATE! is doing in Senegal.
Mary-Kay has been a French language, writing, and literature instructor at several Universities since 1987 and is currently teaching French and Continental European Literature at Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts. She has a BA in French Literature from Mt. Holyoke College, and an MA and PhD in French Literature from Yale.
In her free time, Mary-Kay enjoys traveling with family and friends, reading French literature, and gardening.
Emily Edwards — Board Member
Emily Edwards is a recent graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Management program at University of Oregon. Her research focuses on women’s empowerment and international community development. As a Graduate Teaching Fellow, Emily helped to teach several undergraduate courses. She is also a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She is serving on CREATE!’s Board of Directors as part of the Scholars on Board Program, sponsored by the University of Oregon and Pacific Continental Bank.
Emily has a BA in Political Science, with a focus on International Relations, from the University of Hawai’i. Her goal is to work either internationally or domestically with nonprofit organizations that utilize participatory approaches to development.
Mina’s interest in Africa and the Caribbean began as a result of friendships in college and eventually led to a career path with twists and turns, including serving as a rural health volunteer in Benin. She is excited about CREATE!’s village-level engagement in climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Mina currently works at Grassroots International where she began managing the organization’s grantmaking portfolio in the Middle East and Haiti. She is now the Solidarity Program Officer for West Africa and Haiti. Additionally, she advises organizations in Africa and Haiti on an ad-hoc basis on organizational development, capacity building, and strategic partnerships. Mina is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Boston College Law School.