Posts Tagged ‘Senegal’

Senegal: ‘Daytime Disco’ Promotes Proper Nutrition

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Sengal baby

A young Mom with her baby girl at a nutrition education event in Dindefelo village, Eastern Senegal. Photo by Helen Blakesley/CRS

By Helen Blakesley,

Only yesterday I was under the British rain, bidding farewell to my nearest and dearest. Today I’m back to my francophone, sun-filled Dakar days, catching up on the latest political intrigue as Senegal heads towards a contentious Presidential election. That, and trying to work out why my water’s been turned off.

The trick, as I see it, is to try to exist in the moment, to connect with the places and people around you. Let your several lives and worlds mingle to make a space where certain universal truths exist: we all laugh, we all cry, we all need love, we all need God’s grace. Not always an easy feat.

But sometimes, a trip to “another world” can be the eye opener you need when your status quo seems to leave something to be desired. A mini adventure into the Senegalese outback just before Christmas (otherwise known as my latest work trip) served to transport me—in mind, body and spirit.

I’d been feeling rather flat since returning from Benin after the Pope’s visit (hey, it’s a hard act to follow.), so getting back on the road was just the ticket for restoring my joie de vivre. A 12-hour car journey took us first past the urban sprawl of Dakar, through dusty savannah landscapes, and then—way out East—we reached the hills, the forests, the monkeys and the wild boar.

Young Senegalese Woman Wrestles With HIV ‘Secret’

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

CRS Regional Information Officer Lane Hartill was in southern Senegal and Gambia last week,interviewing people who are HIV positive. He sent in this post.

Babinette wants to talk about her love life. There’s this guy, you see. I’ll call him Abdul. And he’s interested in her. Very interested. He’s ready to pop the question.

An American Lawyer Finds Inspiration in a Senegalese Social Worker

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Most Rev. George Thomas and Constance Proctor, members of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) board of directors, visited CRS Senegal last week. They visited SIDA Service on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day. SIDA Service is a CRS partner that works with HIV-positive Senegalese (SIDA is the French acronym for AIDS). Lane Hartill, the CRS regional information officer for West Africa, filed this dispatch:


Bishop George Thomas and Connie Proctor talk with Paul Sagna, the executive secretary of SIDA Service. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS

In a spotless Dakar apartment, decorated with photos of beaming children and plastic flowers, a Senegalese social worker won the heart of an American lawyer.

These two women come from different worlds: one graduated cum laude from Vassar College; the other has never set foot in such lofty institutions.

The lawyer spends her days representing influential clients in the Pacific Northwest. She lectures budding law students with the crisp elocution and precision required of her profession. She sits on boards with some of America’s most accomplished women and men.

The social worker spends her days scuffing through Dakar’s streets, working her way through forgotten neighborhoods that smell of sewage and warm sand. She dodges bleating sheep and dusty kids and hikes up her skirt to step over sludgy canals. She ducks into dank apartments and drinks tea with people who look forward to her visit all day.


Harvesting Hope in Senegal Through Microfinance

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

Most Rev. George Thomas and Constance Proctor, members of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) board of directors, have been visiting CRS Senegal this past week. They recently visited a microfinance lending institution and the women it helps. Lane Hartill, the CRS regional information officer for West Africa, filed this dispatch:


Bishop George Thomas and Constance Proctor talk with a member of a village bank in Thies, Senegal. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS

Maybe it was the explosion of color. Or the lizard skin drums. But Constance Proctor, a member of CRS’ board of directors, couldn’t help herself. She just had to dance.

She wasn’t alone. A gaggle of women, their smiling leader with henna-painted hand and a set of pipes Aretha Franklin would have been proud of, moved rhythmically to the music. Covered in sequins with babies bucking on their backs, these women — members of a village banking group in the town of Tivaouane — had something to celebrate: an organization that lent them money so they could lift themselves and their families out of the slow economic vortex that sucks in so many Senegalese.

They were celebrating Caisse Autonome pour le Renforcement des Initiatives Economique par la Micro Finance (CAURIE-MF), a microfinance institution. CAURIE-MF grew out of a microfinance program that CRS has nurtured since 1999. It became autonomous in 2005. It’s no Bank of America or Chase Manhattan. CAURIE-MF isn’t interested in credit ratings or cash flow. All of its 13,500 borrowers are women. Most of them have never had a bank account.

CAURIE-MF benefits poor women, those who sit on buckets in the sand, under a relentless African sun, selling everything from millet porridge and melons to peanuts and whisk brooms. They lend money to women who really need it. An infusion of cash — loans range from $50 to $3000 — is like a shot of pure adrenaline into their businesses. They take off, humming with possibility.

Angel Diédhiou is an elegant lady with perfectly painted eyebrows and a gentle voice. Her loans from CAURIE-MF have allowed her to grow her chicken business from 50 birds to, at its peak, close to 300. That’s not all. She now takes orders for beauty products from local businesses and travels to neighboring Gambia and Mauritania, loads up, and then sells them at a profit. Call it Avon, Senegal style. Business is booming, she says, and it’s only going to get better.

“It really does change their life,” says Mrs. Proctor. “It’s huge for them.”

After visiting with members of a village banking group, Mrs. Proctor takes the microphone and addresses the crowd. Some of the women nurse babies. Others embroider cloth while she speaks.

“Because you are doing so well, it is going to allow other women in Africa to have similar experiences and to have the possibility to do what you are doing,” she says.


Constance Proctor sits among village banking members in Thies, Senegal. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS

The women cheer. Drums erupt. The women know it’s true.

The essence of CAURIE-MF’s lending theory is ingeniously tied to African culture. Village banking groups select their own members. Most women start out by contributing around $4. Instead of putting up collateral for a loan, group cohesion and trust is leveraged. When your sisters, friends and neighbors are part of your lending group, you repay. You can’t let them down. That has led to a zero default rate on loans.

“The modest amount of money that CRS and Caritas spend is producing an abundant harvest of hope in these villages,” says Bishop Thomas.

Women who received loans proudly display their wares to the board members. Some hold up sticky fish, grinning as they dangle them under their chins. One lady balances a bowling ball sized melon on her palm. She can’t stop smiling.

Neither can Bishop Thomas. Or Mrs. Proctor. Microfinance works. You can, as Bishop Thomas puts it, see the success “written on the women’s faces.”