This story is about Leticia from Spain. She is the founder of KASSUMAY. We decided to publish her story as she narrated by her during a short interview.
How did you start your journey start?
“I studied Ancient History at the University of Valencia and through that I have always been interested in ancient culture, but I feel my true vocation is to help others. I have specialized in State and International Protocol at the Diplomatic School and have been working in this field for the last 30 years. I have worked in many areas, including institutional and sports protocol, I now work at the opera house in my home city of Valencia, having the fortune to work with such personalities of classical music as Maestro Zubin Mehta.”
I first visited Senegal twelve years ago full of excitement with what this experience would bring. My husband and I decided to go there first solely on holiday, but when I arrived I never imagined this journey would touch my heart and soul in such an extraordinary way. Senegal is a country rich in ancestral cultures, where a fusion with its people creates evolution and growth.
My vocation to help others and my passion for ancient cultures combined and led to the creation of KASSUMAY. KASSUMAY means in the Senegalese diola dialect “Peace be with you”
How do you help the community through your organization?
KASSUMAY is a Non-Governmental Organization, which arose from the interchange of experiences between the two cultures of Spain and Senegal. It develops its projects with two main objectives, with the dignity of the human spirit at the forefront and the efforts of individuals to give dignity to others. KASSUMAY assists the immigrants of Senegal and other African countries, especially women, in their process of integration in Spain. It also contributes to the improvement of the living conditions of the people in Senegal, paying special attention to the health of women and children living in conditions with virtually non existent levels of health care and to the needs of untrained and illiterate people.
It also helps fighting malaria regenerating the beach of Trypano in the suburb of Mbour Maures, organizes trips to raise awareness by promoting fair trading, provides decent housing and builds wells in suburbs with no water.
in addition to that the organization stands for gender equality. In Senegal the life expectancy is 50 years of age. Poverty and cultural taboo prevent women from exercising their rights. Women are the true bread winners of the family. KASSUMAY gets involved in their lives and learns from their solidarity and generosity. The organization also helps women to train as teachers and to learn about making good use of local crops.
To aid literacy, we provide schools with materials, especially in the islands of the south of the country where the transport system does not reach. In the suburb of Mbour Maures we have built an infant school for children between the ages of two and five where every two years 75 children and their mothers enroll to learn to read and write.
In 2017 we will start building a new school for children over five years old in the area of Sonatel.
Another important project in child assistance is the sponsoring of children. KASSUMAY aids literacy of children with a registration in the school and donation of school materials. 30 children will be sponsored during 2016-17. At the moment we are building two mills in Mbour Maures to make millet flour (the main local crop) which will improve the livelihood of the suburb’s population.
In Senegal, KASSUMAY has built a medical dispensary in an orphanage to provide medical assistance and care for 200 children with illnesses including malaria and to the population living within a 20km radius who have no health care. At the moment, we are extending the dispensary with the construction of delivery rooms for the protection of women´s health during child birth, there are many long and difficult births which put in danger the lives of the mother and baby. We intend to start this project after the rainy season.
It helps the women of Mbour Maures with the hiring of Senegalese products. The women do all the hiring work and share the profit among themselves. We promote fair trade through the creation of craft workshops, facilitating the creation of new workplaces where Senegalese women create crafts with fabrics and materials from their country. We are concerned about the water situation: in the poorest suburb of Mbour it has built a water well providing the area of this basic element. In 2017 another well will be built in a rural village.
In Valencia we organize activities such as workshops for sewing, dressmaking, handmade jewelry, clothes and other decorative products to raise funds and awareness about the life and culture of Senegal.
Senegal and its extraordinary meaning of life, its innate goodness when nothing means nothing, but everything is shared, maintains the spirit of KASSUMAY and encourages us to continue. What is the secret? My experience is based on trust, not being afraid and above all, in trusting the heart, the true lighthouse of human existence.
Kassumay…. Peace be with you.