Maison de la Gare

Maison de la Gare's mission is to achieve integration of the begging talibe street children into formal schooling and productive participation in Senegalese society. Tens of thousands of talibe children beg on the streets of Senegal for 6 to 10 hours each day for their food and for money to give the "teacher" or Marabout who controls them. They live in unconscionable conditions in "daaras", without access to running water, rudimentary hygiene or nurture, often without shelter and subject to severe abuse. Human Rights Watch published a widely distributed description of this situation in 2010, "Off the Backs of the Children". Maison de la Gare is acting with t...
Dec 6, 2013

A Home for Talibe Children in Transition

Older talibes leaving their daara, needing a home
Older talibes leaving their daara, needing a home

Maison de la Gare's newest project - Please support us

Since Maison de la Gare's welcome center in Saint Louis opened its doors to the talibé children in late 2010, and addition of the infirmary in 2011, the center has become a second home to hundreds of children and a beacon of hope to 1000s more.  Our needs have evolved, and we now seek to complete the center with a new building that will help us to address three continuing problems:

  • Supporting integration of talibés who have become too old for the daaras - Kalidou, Abdoulaye, Mamadou and Arouna in the above photo are examples of talibé children who have grown up in Maison de la Gare's programs and are now ready to move on from their daaras.  We need to find a way to accommodate them while they complete their schooling or become established with small businesses or other employment.
  • Transitional accommodation for talibés in crisis - We regularly take charge of talibé children whom we have found sleeping on the streets at night, on the run from their daaras.  Working with the local office of the Ministry of Justice, we care for these children while arrangements are made for reintegrating them in their daaras, returning them to their home villages, or otherwise.  We need a place where they can be safely sheltered for a period of several days to several weeks.
  • Kitchen for food preparation - We need a food preparation space with a sink, an oven and counters to help us feed the talibé children whom we serve every day, with better nutrition and hygiene.  Our food is currently prepared in our office or a workshop, locations which are clearly not suited to this purpose.

To resolve these problems, we propose to use the west end of our centre next to the classrooms, which is now undeveloped.  Our vision is to build there a two-story building with a kitchen, apartments for older talibés and a dormitory for talibés in crisis.  We will define this project in detail, with full costing, over the coming months.  We are seeking financial support from every possible source to make it possible.

We have added two new donation categories for this project, and hope that you will consider helping to make it possible with your donations.


Arouna in school, and where he sleeps in his daara
Arouna in school, and where he sleeps in his daara
Run-away talibes found in "night runs"
Run-away talibes found in "night runs"
Preparing food on the floor of the center
Preparing food on the floor of the center's office
The project site within Maison de la Gare
The project site within Maison de la Gare's center

Links:

Nov 15, 2013

MDG Through the Eyes of an American Volunteer

Madison with her pictures of talilbe children
Madison with her pictures of talilbe children

Maison de la Gare's Heath Care and Hygiene Program

The inharmonious mumbling hum and smell of dirt and poor hygiene have become familiar to my senses.  As we set foot into each daara, the next resembles the last.  This became my reality over my three months volunteering with Maison de la Gare.

I was certain that my experience in Senegal would provide me with a unique viewpoint, but the scene unfolding before my eyes was surreal.  It may have taken a few days, but soon I was reassured that I was in the right place.  My initial feelings of fear and uncertainty quickly changed.  Instead I was spurred into action.  It became a necessity to help these young boys as much as I was able.  

I have been skeptical about the value of international aid, which is often tied to the interests of the donor country.  However, in volunteering with Maison de la Gare I witnessed the positive effects that international financial support can have.  I came to realize that no political strings were attached to the funding that this organization receives from international NGOs and other donors.  This allows Maison de la Gare to work effectively without fear of governmental influence.  

Maison de la Gare is making great efforts to stop the inhuman treatment of the begging talibé street children.  With only a small staff and global volunteers, its impact on the community is immense.  The organization works towards integrating talibé children into formal education and into the community while providing physical and emotional support.  Issa Kouyaté, the founder and president of Maison de la Gare who quickly became one of my greatest role models, is totally committed to improving the lives of the talibés.  I was inspired by his work, consistently embodying the hope and passion he wants to spread.  

Maison de la Gare has established an environment where health care, sanitation, emotional support and opportunities are made possible for these young boys.  Their center has a library, garden, health center, classrooms, showers, and workshops.  Bright hibiscus flowers crawl up the side of buildings that have been vibrantly painted.  Intricate and beautiful child-focussed murals surround the walls.

My days would begin with assembling first aid kits with sufficient materials to provide children with basic health care.  Common injuries include foot wounds due to lack of proper footwear, and infected head wounds.  Most could be treated with our first aid supplies.  Our small team of staff members and volunteers would walk or take taxis to nearby daaras, visiting two or three each day.  

Around five in the evening, talibé children would begin trickling into Maison de la Gare’s center.  Maison de la Gare continues to emphasize the importance of basic hygiene.  For most, the center's facilities provide their only opportunity to bathe their bodies.  Many talibés can go weeks without bathing, causing easily preventable skin irritations and infections.  Once showered, the boys are able to participate in activities such as playing soccer and other games, creating arts and crafts, reading books, and watering the garden.  Beginner and intermediate French classes are offered.  Once each child has washed their hands they are given a nutritious baguette, which may be their only dinner.

In one of my experiences, a large cluster of talibés sat before us as we treated an extremely contagious case of eye infection that had spread to 30 to 40 boys.  Unfortunately, we had only treated roughly half our patients when suddenly the remaining boys dispersed.  Their marabout had ordered them to return to the streets to resume begging. 

Throughout my experience with Maison de la Gare, the talibé children amazed me each and every day.  Despite the conditions they were are living in, the children still found the ability to smile and be happy.

In the United States, nothing is celebrated more than freedom.  But freedom is not a right; it is a responsibility.  Everyone on this planet should have an equal opportunity to achieve a quality of life including good healthcare, adequate housing, proper nutrition and emotional support.  We all must share in this responsibility.  I fully support the work of Issa Kouyaté and Maison de la Gare, but for the future my hope is that such organizations will no longer be needed.  

Madison with her Senegalese host family
Madison with her Senegalese host family
With MDG vision for the talibes: I am the future!
With MDG vision for the talibes: I am the future!
Treating a talibe youth injured in a soccer match
Treating a talibe youth injured in a soccer match
At play in MDG center, with talibes and volunteers
At play in MDG center, with talibes and volunteers
Teaching outdoor class in MDG center
Teaching outdoor class in MDG center
Madison animating games on "Talibe Day"
Madison animating games on "Talibe Day"

Links:

Oct 25, 2013

To Mongolia for the Talibe Children - an Amazing Fundraiser!

Successful arrival in Ulaanbaatar, 16,000 km later
Successful arrival in Ulaanbaatar, 16,000 km later

Former Maison de la Gare volunteer Dan Lawson and his friends Xan Wood, Tom Nelson and Ben Palmer have just completed an incredible trek from Bodiam Castle in southern England to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, raising £1,126 ($1,800 U.S.) for Maison de la Gare as part of the famed Mongol Rally. 

They successfully completed the 16,000 km challenge in 41 days and 2 hours, including 4 days crossing Mongolia.  Their route took them through 19 countries crossing a third of the world's land mass, three deserts and five mountain ranges.

Dan, Xan, Tom and Ben bought a trusty 1-litre-engine Skoda for this journey and, for the most part, and it never really failed them.  They had to have the car serviced on four occasions, each lasting about five hours of battling thoughts of failure.  The damage report: nine spark plugs, two fuel injectors, one tyre, and one window (which they smashed themselves with a rock to get the keys that were locked inside).

Their route took them through Europe to Istanbul, and then facing the Skoda's first real challenges in the mountains of northern Turkey.  On across Georgia and the Caspian Sea to the "Gates of Hell" gas craters in Turkmenistan, and the wonders of Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand in Uzbekistan.  They finally made it to Mongolia after a difficult nine hour border crossing from Kazakhstan into Russia.  This was their favorite part of the trip, with wild horses, camels, sleeping in a yurt, and frantically pushing the Skoda out of a wild river.

But their battle wagon made it!

"Why did we do it?  To put it simply we knew it would be a lot of fun, and it was.  If you can raise some money for a good cause on your travels then that’s a huge bonus as well!  Maison de la Gare is a really impressive charity and they use donations effectively, directly benefiting the kids by dramatically altering their life chances in every respect.”

This amazing journey joins two other memorable fundraisers by English supporters of Maison de la Gare and the talibé children, in the span of little over a year:

  • in mid 2012,Venetia Willis and three friends undertook the "Three-Peak Challenge", climbing the three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales in under 24 hours.  They raised over £1,100 ($1,750 U.S.) for MDG.
  • in the fall of 2012, Janek Seevaratnam sacrificed his beautiful dreadlocks, also raising over £1,100 for MDG from 66 donors.

 Please consider joining these exceptional contributors in making a donation in support of Maison de la Gare's work.


Dan with the Skoda, inscribed with MDG
Dan with the Skoda, inscribed with MDG's logo
Relaxing at the Hagia Sophia, then on to Asia!
Relaxing at the Hagia Sophia, then on to Asia!
Crossing the Caspian sea
Crossing the Caspian sea
At the "Gate of Hell" in Turkmenistan
At the "Gate of Hell" in Turkmenistan
Surmounting final challenges in Mongolia
Surmounting final challenges in Mongolia

Links:

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