In memoriam: Papa Derk

In memoriam: Papa Derk

News item
17 Oct 2022

“A ray of sunshine for Sudanese women in Chad”

After a life full of energy, initiator Derk Rijks of the ‘Solar cookers for refugees’ project has passed away. FairClimateFund took over the project in 2019.

‘I first met Derk a few years ago. His son Herman and daughter Jolianne had contacted me and told me that their father had set up a project in Chad with solar cookers. We asked if we were interested in taking over this. Derk was now elderly and regularly traveling to Chad and managing the project was difficult for him. A few weeks later, the Rijks family came to our office in Utrecht for an introduction.

For his work as an agroclimatologist, Derk first visited the camps in Eastern Chad in the aftermath of the Darfur war. He told me how women had to travel long distances every day, risking their lives, to gather wood for cooking. He was visibly still touched by the situation the women were in. Solar cooking is not only a better way of cooking, he continued, with tears in his eyes, but a life-saver!

Since 2005, Derk, together with local and international partners, has succeeded in having more than 40,000 Cookits made and supplying a number of large refugee camps with solar cookers. It had cost him everything to continue this project, privately, financially, health, the project had become his life’s work. I now know from experience what incredible perseverance this must have taken. Meeting Derk made a very deep impression on me.

In 2019, FairClimateFund took over the project and since then we have been trying to continue the life’s work of dad Derk, as the people in Chad affectionately call him there, in his spirit. With the involvement and well-being of the women in the camps first. Naturally, this project never left him, after the first meetings we contacted Derk and his children several times about the further progress of the project. On September 29, we received the sad news that Derk had passed away in his hometown of Geneva. We wish everyone who knows Derk and of course in particular his dear family a lot of strength.’ – Gert Crielaard, Fund manager, FairClimateFund