The CREATE! family is made up of diligent, kind-hearted staff and supporters who believe in peace and prosperity for all through community-led development. As said in Wolof, “saabu du foot boppam” which translates to “soap does not do laundry alone.” In other words, it takes a village. Our “village” is full of supporters who come from a multitude of backgrounds around the world, and we are so grateful for what each and every person brings to the table. We believe that there is always something to learn from each other.
Recently, two of our board members, Dr. Susan Briggs and Mary-Kay Miller, traveled to Senegal and met with the CREATE! team to visit both new and old partner communities. Susan has supported and worked with CREATE! for ten years and Mary-Kay for eight. They have both had the pleasure of assisting and watching the organization’s sustainable programs, renewable technologies, staff, and partner communities grow. Learn about CREATE!‘s growth and impact through the eyes of these two board members in a Q&A session below:
What has inspired you to continuously support CREATE!?
“I have been privileged to work with CREATE! since its founding 10 years ago. I worked with many of the early supporters of CREATE! from Senegal in the refugee camps in Rwanda. I was so impressed with their determination to help their own villages in Senegal that I joined the initiative and now see the amazing results of their determination.”
“First and foremost, the women in the communities. They have seized this opportunity to develop skills that will allow them to feed and provide for their families, as well as leadership skills. But I hasten to add that men in the communities have absolutely supported and helped to advance the projects in very significant ways. I have a deep respect for everyone who helps to transform these geographically isolated yet socially vibrant communities into sustainable spaces with abundant food and water.”
How have you seen CREATE!’s work grow since you joined as a Board Member?
“CREATE!’s initiatives devoted to making communities self-sufficient have been incredibly successful, with 1-2 new villages joining each year and a long waiting list of communities wanting to partner in the future when funding is available. I attribute this to a real focus on sustainable living utilizing the expertise of the country director Seck and extremely well-trained technicians from the Senegal schools of Agriculture and Forestry.”
“In practical terms, we started out with programs in 5 communities, and currently, we have worked in 17, with many more on the horizon. On a substantive level, I’ve watched the US and Senegal staff strive to perfect the processes in the various areas of operation, with great success. The quality of the programs and the well-being of the communities continue to increase. It’s an amazing experience to go back to communities such as Gagnick Mack that we visited 3 or 4 years earlier and to see how well the community members work together; how much pride they have in what they have produced; how beautiful the sites are, with their leafy trees and lush vegetable gardens.”
Is there anything that surprised you about this recent trip?
“Having been to Senegal several times with CREATE!, I was very impressed with having a Country Director like Omar Ndiaye Seck who is from Senegal. His knowledge of other organizations in Senegal whose expertise CREATE! can utilize has allowed the villages to become self-sufficient and very productive in much short times. Also I noticed more involvement of the village leaders and members in making decisions as to what would work best in their villages. I sense increasing communication between the staff of CREATE! and the villages.”
“A number of things: the larger garden site in Mbossedji with its two water tanks for the drip irrigation systems, and the progress they had made in such a short time. It was surprising and delightful to see what a large and cohesive group they are and how much they have accomplished. And the CREATE! management team and field technicians are such an exceptional group—I guess this doesn’t come under the heading of ‘surprised’, more like ‘impressed’. They are amazing: close-knit, talented, so hard-working, and kind. It’s a real privilege to have them share their work with us. In more general terms, Dakar and the surrounding regions have undergone a lot of changes in the past several years, and it was amazing to see all of the new buildings, roads, etc.”
In your opinion, what is the biggest need that CREATE! is fulfilling in the communities?
“A sense of pride from becoming self-sufficient and engaging in programs that generate income that allow them to provide a better life for themselves and families.”
“CREATE! has understood from the beginning that people in rural communities in Senegal need access to water, nutritious food, and economic activities so that they are not forced to flee to urban areas or to other countries in order to survive. As the communities become more and more self-sufficient in fulfilling these essential needs, they will identify their next level of needs and goals, and have strategies and resources to achieve them. Helping them get to that point is one of the most important things we can do.”
“CREATE! offers communities in Senegal a chance to not only become more self-sufficient in their own lives but also to provide needed services for the community. Programs such as the voluntary savings initiative offer them a chance to expand to other programs of their choosing in a meaningful manner. To me CREATE! represents the BEST OF THE BEST, and I will continue to be an enthusiastic Board Member and spread the word to others.”
“As a board member, I’m always focused on our sustainability as an organization, so on that level, my hope is to continue to find individuals and foundations who share CREATE!’s vision, and want to support and advance the work. I’m inspired by the commitment of the Senegal team, their vision of how CREATE! can grow, and their dedication to community-led development. I’m equally inspired by the determination of the community members to make earth-friendly, sustainable livelihoods for themselves. I hope and believe that, with the proper support, that passion will be transformative on a large scale.”