Monday, August 18, 2008

Traveling to Senegal and The Gambia

By Cynthia Price, Director of Communications
My name is Cynthia Price and I am the new Director of Communications for CCF. One of my first assignments is to travel to Africa to see first hand CCF's programs. This is my first trip to Africa and I am looking forward to the experience. On this trip I am visiting two countries in West Africa – Senegal and The Gambia. I’m adjusting to the French language, the heat and humidity and the time zone difference. Everyone with whom I have met is friendly and helpful, which has made the trip easy. I arrived a few days in advance of CCF President Anne Goddard. On our first day together we met with the CCF Senegal National Office. Anne shared how she understands the challenges of operating a national office since she previously ran one.

We are both looking forward to traveling to the field to see CCF programs at work. As Anne notes, "I understand the challenges of children in poor areas. But there is a common theme in any culture – and that is that parents want their children to have a better life. "

She adds, "Childhood is a one-time opportunity. Children need the confidence that they can take charge of their lives. That gives us a big responsibility. They deserve the very best that we can do. Change has to come from the inside, from people who feel empowered and confident. If we can help nurture the next generation who feel empowered, that’s what excites me."

It’s a strong message and one that I will see repeated in the programs that we visit. The youth are empowered and are making a difference. But before we visit programs, we first meet with Madam Awaw Ndiaye of the Ministry of Family, National Solidarity, Women Entrepreneurship and Micro-Finance. What a title!

Somehow government buildings, no matter what city they are in, all look alike. The difference here is that the women walking through the hall are dressed traditionally and the bright colors of their clothing stand in strong contrast to the stark, institutional walls.

Mrs. Awa Ndiaye was appointed minister June 19, 2007. Before that she was the private secretary of Moustapha Niasse, former Minister of Foreign Affairs under President Abdou Diouf. She later joined the consulate of Senegal in the United States before being appointed as President Wade’s adviser in culture and education.

She cleared her calendar for the CCF visit and spent about an hour with our group. The minister talked about her mission, which is the protection of children. But it comes down to having the money and the means to do something. Considerable time was spent discussing children who live on the street. The minister emphasized the need for children centers or safe shelters. “The children are the main priority,” the minister said.

Many families do not have money to keep their children in school. The actual education may be free, but uniforms, books, and materials all cost the family, many of whom can’t afford those fees. This concerns the minister.

The conversation also turned to food security. The minister said it is an issue. “It is very difficult.” She said there is not money to address the problem. And the country does not have the rainfalls to guarantee crops. “We want to help people to have something to eat.” She said a few weeks ago the government bought $10 million worth of rice to distribute, “but the need is so great, it’s nothing.”

When asked about priorities, she said, “When you are in an undeveloped country everything is an issue.” Some of the priorities include the role of women, food security and child protection.
“Every day when I wake up I say, ‘What can I do?’ ”

The minister added, “One success story is not enough.” But Anne provided encouragement adding: “Small drops together make a difference.” In Senegal many of those small drops are adding up and CCF is now helping more than 100,000 children. All together these small successes will make a difference.

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