Above: CREATE! Executive Director Louise Ruhr chats with Diender cooperative president Ndaga in the community garden.

CREATE! Executive Director Louise Ruhr has been in Senegal traveling through CREATE!’s partner communities between January and March this year. In this week’s blog post, she reflects on some of her recent experiences.

Experiencing Senegal

Over the past several weeks I have been living at the CREATE! residence in Gossas, Senegal, spending time with our amazing team, being inspired by our beneficiaries, and hosting visits from people who have come to see and to appreciate the work of our staff and communities. Having had the privilege of working alongside our team and community members since 2010, I continue to be inspired by the impact of CREATE! programs across rural Senegal year after year.

Betty, president of the Fass Kane cooperative, chats with Louise in her home. Betty has been president of the cooperative from the beginning of their establishment, and has known Louise since their start as well.

Leadership in CREATE!‘s Partner Communities

During this year’s visit I have especially enjoyed talking one-on-one with leaders of the cooperative groups in CREATE!’s graduated—or soon to graduate–partner communities and learning more about their lives. Having seen these women develop as leaders over the years, I appreciate this wonderful opportunity to get to know them better and to learn more about CREATE!’s impact on a more personal level.

Louise and Fass Koffe cooperative president Khady Kebe chatting at a group gathering in the Fass Koffe garden site

Khady Kebe, President of the Fass Koffe Cooperative, talked about what life was like before she got involved with CREATE!. “I was born in Fass, grew up in Fass, got married in Fass, and have never left Fass,” she said. “I live with my co-wives and seven children.” She has never been to school. Nonetheless, she rose to become a leader in her community and ultimately president of the garden cooperative. “Leading is not easy, but the women respect me and look to me for advice. We will never give up working because CREATE! has helped women in our community earn money, get access to water, and get involved in activities that help to develop our community.” Having seen such big changes in her lifelong village has given Khady Kebe a unique perspective on the importance of the work that her cooperative group is doing.

Louise with the women of the Thienaba community and a newly built improved cookstove. Thienaba will be graduating from the CREATE! program next week.

Finding Inspiration in the Communities

Getting a chance to talk with women like Khady Kebe about what it was like to grow up in rural Senegal, how they raised their children, and what daily life is like in their communities has been deeply moving and inspiring. To understand the full breadth of the human experience in rural Senegal is central to being able to help communities find culturally and technologically appropriate solutions to the challenges they face, at the local level.

And working side by side with our team here over the past several weeks has only increased my appreciation for their professionalism, their dedication to the mission of CREATE!, and their genuine heart for the communities that they serve.

To all who have been so kind, patient and hardworking throughout my time here, I say “Jerejef, merci, and thank you so very much!”