To Every Mother

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by Katie Kilroy

Katie's mother, Ellen Kilroy and her Senegalese mother, Ndieye Khar Fall.
A mother holds a special place in the heart. She is someone you cherish and admire, call for any silly reason and trust without fail. Culture to culture, place to place, a mother’s dedication and zeal remains the same. When I embarked on my journey to Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I was unable to shake the empty feeling that consumed me at the thought of leaving my mother behind. Unbeknownst to me, however, I had a rare gem waiting for me across the sea.

by Katie Kilroy
Katie's mother, Ellen Kilroy and her Senegalese mother, Ndieye Khar Fall.

A MOTHER HOLDS A SPECIAL PLACE IN THE HEART. She is someone you cherish and admire, call for any silly reason and trust without fail. Culture to culture, place to place, a mother’s dedication and zeal remains the same. When I embarked on my journey to Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I was unable to shake the empty feeling that consumed me at the thought of leaving my mother behind. Unbeknownst to me, however, I had a rare gem waiting for me across the sea.

Despite the fact that I am a grown woman, not having my mother with me in Senegal gravely worried me. When I was told by the Peace Corps that every volunteer would have a family in their new villages, the place we were to live and work for two years, I waved the thought aside and hesitantly accepted my existence alone. After 2 months of training, the Peace Corps car drove me to my site of Kébémer, introduced me to my Senegalese family and left after 10 minutes. Frightened, all I could think of was how much I wanted my mom.


The moment when my mother met my Senegalese mother was more gratifying than I imagined.

Katie, her two mothers and Senegalese sisters.From the moment I arrived in Kébémer until my departure from Africa just a few short weeks ago, there was one woman who transformed my experience. She force fed me when I was sick, batted snakes out from under my bed, threw chicken in front of my place at the bowl*constantly and literally threw aggressors out of the house when they harassed me. From the moment I arrived, Ndieye Khar Fall was a shining light and someone I could trust. Not only did she make me feel like a loved member of my Senegalese family, she did it all from the bottom of her heart.

Illiterate and financially dependent on her husband, my “yaay”** had the most sagacious and amiable core of any woman I knew in Senegal. Determined for her children to lead a better life than she, I was made an example for her daughters to follow. She encouraged them to study and tried to give them all that she did not have. Women are the backbone of Senegal, and my mother was a true testament to this.

The moment when my mother met my Senegalese mother was more gratifying than I imagined. My mother was pleased to meet the woman she had heard so many wonderful stories about. Tears were shed and gifts were exchanged. Most of all, the two were united by their grandiose duties as mothers. The sheer good fortune of landing another wonderful person to call my mother is the most incredible event of my life in Africa.

*In Senegal, meal time is comprised of eating around a common bowl(usually around 10 people) and sharing. Broken off pieces of fish and meat from the middle are taken and mixed with rice, but the woman of the house always throws meat into her children/guests sections to ensure they get a full meal.
**“Mother” in Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal.

by & filed under Health & Humanity, World.