How we started
Carol has a full life. She shares a modest home with a less than modest vegetable garden in Chadds Ford, PA with a hard working husband. She has a married daughter who is an anaesthesiologist resident, a son working in Biotechnology, elderly parents in England, and a gaggle of close friends and neighbours.
Professionally, Carol is a globally recognized expert in Cross-Cultural Communications. She is President of her own firm-Cunningham Consulting, which focuses on supporting global growth through understanding the intricacies and impact of culture and cultural differences. For over 20 years and across five continents, she has provided consulting, training, and coaching services to 100’s of managers and executives in multinational and global companies.
Carol has been active development issues for many years. With her daughter, Kathryn, and an ever-increasing circle of like-minded people, Carol & Kathryn created on non-profit, Power Up Gambia, (PUG). While many people wrote checks, Carol and Kathryn led Power Up Gambia from concept to the goal of providing a large hospital in The Gambia with solar power and associated water pumping systems. The project continues and the team is now working to power outlying clinics in The Gambia countryside. It was during this program and time frame, and while in The Gambia, Carol met an amazing woman who inspired her to start a new prefect, The Gambian Women’s Initiative.
CO-FOUNDER, CONSULTANT & DIRECTOR, GWI
During the many trips she’s made to Africa for Power Up Gambia to ensure that the solar panels were properly installed and maintained, Carol’s connections with Gambians deepened. A Gambian women named Isatou Ceesay particularly impressed her. Isatou started the Njau Women’s Group, a cooperative of about 80 women that makes and sells dried fruit, batik fabric, handbags made of plastic, and other products. “Isatou dynamism and ability to get things done in a chaotic, resources poor environment has empowered many many women.” Carol says.
As well as being entrepreneurial, Isatou is very well organized. She has refined the cooperative structure and organized the women with schedules and systems to keep the endeavour running smoothly. “She’s a very hard worker,” Carol confirms, “She makes things happen, She’s both extroverted and highly respected”
GAMBIA WOMEN'S INITIATIVE LAUNCH
In 2009, Carol and Isatou co-founded The Gambian Women’s Initiative (GWI). From Carol’s perspective, she drew on her cross-cultural business background, ability to mobilize funds, and general passion for helping women. Isatou brought with her: her passion, knowledge of The Gambia, and desire to help her own people. The combination of talents proved an ideal team to found GWI.
The Gambia Women’s Initiative exists to support financially poor women in The Gambia with a stated goal of increasing their income, and thus improving the standard of living for their families and communities. Each project builds on existing or expanded rural women’s groups to give them an expanded voice in their own development. As part of each program, women are trained on not only the specific prefect, but on income generating basic activities, such as investment and decision making skills.
In the first Phase of The Gambia Women’s Initiative (in 2009) Isatou Ceesay can vassed villages to both publicize the process and the potential, as well as identify appropriate Women’s groups which might serve as a nucleus for project leadership. “It’s a Gambian helping Gambians,” with a “soft culturally sensitive touch from the outside” Carol says.
The Gambia Women’s Initiative is guided by three main values: empowerment, cooperation and growth. Each Project ensures the participation of the women and considers their views regarding ways of improving income generation and welfare specific to local needs. GWI funded projects are intentionally of limited scope but requires that they receive significant village support (not in kind). Each project must have prospects for impact and sustainability as judged by both the Women’s group as well as the outside donor’s perspective. We learn from the results of each project activities regarding the relative viability and the prospects for future project interventions.