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...
Aug 14, 2014

Cultivating a Garden and a New Life

The produce of Maison de la Gare
The produce of Maison de la Gare's garden

Mamadou Kandé’s Road to Freedom

Talibé children are forced to beg by their marabouts, and rarely have the opportunity to be educated or to learn any practical skills which could eventually allow them to transition to an independent life. The garden at Maison de la Gare is changing that bleak future for several talibé children, including Mamadou Kandé.

Mamadou became a talibé later in life than is usual, as a young adult. He is from Kolda in the south of Senegal. Mamadou's family did not provide him with an education. When his father died, Mamadou's mother sent him to a daara in Saint Louis to learn the Koran. Unfortunately, his marabout in Saint Louis sent him out to beg instead of offering a Koranic education. Thus, Mamadou found himself working in the market hauling merchandise or in the harbour unloading fish to earn the required daily quota of money. And, his goal of learning the Koran or anything else remained elusive.

In 2012 a talibé at his daara convinced Mamadou to visit Maison de la Gare in the afternoons, after his quota had been earned, to learn some basic French and mathematics. Mamadou immediately saw Maison de la Gare for the opportunity it is: a chance for the education he sought, a place of friendship and encouragement, and a source of helping hands to support him in navigating his difficult life. Since his introduction to Maison de la Gare, Mamadou has diligently attended classes every day, and is making good progress.

Mamadou has a quiet and gentle spirit. Yet, he is fiercely loyal to Maison de la Gare. Mamadou also has keen interest in the garden. He spent all the time he could watching and learning the gardening techniques used, participating whenever the opportunity arose. It soon became apparent that Mamadou's love for the garden is underpinned by a natural affinity and true talent caring for plants and managing a garden.

Mamadou has the opportunity at Maison de la Gare to develop his horticulture skill and micro-gardening ability to the point of self-sufficiency. Once Mamadou's French language skill is better developed, Maison de la Gare hopes to find the funds to enrol him in a higher education course of horticulture to help him achieve his goals.

Mamadou intends to become one of the first to leave his daara and his marabout's influence and move into the new "Foyer de Transition" for talibés in transition to independence, planned for construction this year at Maison de la Gare. As he steps closer to a successful and productive life, he plans to continue to contribute his talents to Maison de la Gare and the young talibé children whom it serves.

Mamadou's path to independence needs support outside of Maison de la Gare. A donation through GlobalGiving can contribute to his continuing higher horticultural education or to the construction fund for the "Foyer de Transition".

Mamadou has already earned the primary responsibility for the care of the Maison de la Gare garden. And, he has the right to sell part of his harvest in the market, a far better way to earn his marabout's daily quota that develops his business skill even as he frees himself from the life of a beggar or heavy labourer. Mamadou takes his role in the garden very seriously. He knows it is his key to a better life. Mamadou can daily be found quietly watering, pruning, reorganizing beds, planting and harvesting the garden's bounty. He watches anxiously as the young talibes enjoy a game of football or wrestle closer than they should to his garden. But, he understands the children need to play. So, when a tender shoot's life is cut short by a soccer ball, or running feet, Mamadou does not admonish or complain. He simply replants. And, life in the garden carries on.

Sonia interviewing Mamadou for this article
Sonia interviewing Mamadou for this article
Mamadou listens intently in an MDG French class
Mamadou listens intently in an MDG French class
Mamadou removes the cover to show off his bananas
Mamadou removes the cover to show off his bananas
Watering the mint crop
Watering the mint crop
Mamadou connects with e-mail friend in Canada
Mamadou connects with e-mail friend in Canada
Preparing the soil for a new planting of beans
Preparing the soil for a new planting of beans

Links:

Jul 24, 2014

Night Time Struggle to Save the Talibes

Issa with a child found sleeping in the street
Issa with a child found sleeping in the street

Maison de la Gare needs your help to complete its new emergency shelter

"When they can no longer tolerate their lives as talibés, brutally exploited and subjected to forced labour, they flee their daaras and end up in the street.  There, they are exposed to all the dangers of life on the street...  To protect these children, activist Issa Kouyaté patrols the streets of this centuries old city, determined to offer them a better future.

They take advantage of the veil of darkness to escape the rigors of their daaras and to find quiet places where they can be at peace...  In Saint Louis, many talibés run to such stinking and dangerous places to escape the heavy hand of their marabout...  The brutal punishments that they are subjected to when they fall short on their begging or other duties drive them to abandon the marabout and his daara and to invent for themselves an alternative destiny, one which can be just as cruel as the one they escape from.

Unable to withstand the abuse and misery in their daaras or simply preferring abandoned alleyways, they run away and take shelter near the fishing district, Guet Ndar, in Saint Louis.  But here they are still at risk of being exploited and abused...  In this hostile environment, they are totally disconnected from their families and any support system.  

However, these children in crisis can count on a powerful ally.

Issa Kouyaté dedicates his life to this struggle.  He tries to keep the children away from the streets and offers a listening ear, an overnight shelter, and support for their lives.  He patrols the dark streets of Saint Louis himself, to wrest them from hostile environments.  Sometimes he finds them sleeping on fishing nets, and sometimes just on the sidewalk.

... Maison de la Gare offers these children psychological and medical support, access to good hygiene and clothing, food, and shelter for rest and warmth.  Here, they meet with friends to forget the harsh life on the streets for a few moments.  In this center, they do their laundry and take care of their oral hygiene by brushing with new toothbrushes offered by Issa Kouyaté.  This is the good life.  We see them laughing and running in the courtyard of the center.  They play football and djembe."

                                                         

These words are taken from a report published by journalist Ingrid Hägele in the Dakar-based newspaper Le Quotidien.  This picture that she paints was the driving force behind the decision Maison de la Gare took a few months ago, the decision to build inside its center in Saint Louis an emergency shelter for these children.  This decision was made possible by the generosity of the organization GO Campaign in the United States, GlobalGiving donors worldwide, and friends of Maison de la Gare in Canada through the Rev. C.F. Johnston Foundation.  We are profoundly grateful to everyone who has made this transformative project possible.

But we need your help to complete the job.  The total cost including furnishings will be $53,500, and we are about $10,000 short.  Will you help us to complete this project and meet this urgent need?  It is you who makes it all possible!  Thank you for your support.

Issa gently wakes 1 of 4 talilbes found by road
Issa gently wakes 1 of 4 talilbes found by road
Plans for new residence, from Civitas of Ottawa
Plans for new residence, from Civitas of Ottawa
May 2014 - the work begins
May 2014 - the work begins
Week 2 - the walls start to rise
Week 2 - the walls start to rise
Week 4 - the second floor takes shape
Week 4 - the second floor takes shape

Links:

Jul 3, 2014

Like it was yesterday...

Reunited in Montreal
Reunited in Montreal

Issa meets two of Maison de la Gare's first volunteers in Canada

"During the summer of 2008 in the early days of Maison de la Gare, I met two young people who were very committed to social justice.  They worked with me in a centre for the begging talibé street children in Saint Louis, meeting the children's needs for education, health care, arts and sport activities, and food.  This was at the time of the first steps of a project that would expand over the years to become a model for protection of vulnerable children in Saint Louis.

I recently met Lisa LeRoy and Zoë Richard-Fortier again six years later in Canada, their home country, and was able to thank them for the work that they had done in Saint Louis.

My meeting with these two young Canadians had a great impact on me, reinforcing my commitment to join those fighting for the rights of children and human rights in general.  Maison de la Gare was created by a group of young Senegalese who committed themselves body and soul to changing the fate of talibé children and to fighting against the exploitation and abuse that these children suffer.

Since the early days when Zoë and Lisa marked Maison de la Gare with their commitment and dedication, they have never stopped holding our work in their hearts.  Thanks to a trip that I made to participate in a fellowship program in New York, I was able to visit Canada to reconnect with these two people, and with many others who have supported our efforts over the years.  These meetings made me realize more than ever that real friends are for life, and that they continue to support us and our work with their persistent efforts in their own countries.

Zoë and Lisa, with their families, friends and people around the country, have organized events and support that generate substantial funds to allow us to respect our commitments to the talibé children.  Reinforcing their personal commitments to children in vulnerable situations, I'll share with you that Lisa has become a lawyer advocating for the rights of children, and Zoë a psychologist serving children affected by family breakdown and other challenges.

In Canada I made presentations at two churches, in Montreal and Ottawa.  Many people came to listen and to understand the situation of the talibé children.  They asked many questions and also suggested ideas about how to meet the needs of these children.  At Cedar Park United Church in Montreal, the community that has given so much support to Maison de la Gare over the years was warmly welcoming.  And, I finally got the chance to meet the Hornby/Desrochers family who have supported our initiatives for years and have inspired me with their unwavering commitment.

Two people touched me deeply with their emotional presentations, from their hearts, of the situation of the talibé street children.  At their church in Ottawa, Sonia LeRoy and Rowan Hughes spoke of their determination to never stop supporting our efforts until these children are no longer begging in the streets.  With her wisdom, Rowan affirmed that the place of the children is with their families.  She said that she had been lucky to have two parents who love her and care for her, but that she could just as easily been born into the situation of the talibés.  Her words touched the hearts of everyone in the church.

Zoë and Lisa were pioneers among the generations of volunteers who have come to Senegal and have made an enormous difference in the lives and prospects of the talibé street children. They both are planning to return, to share their skills and knowledge with us.

Thank you with all my heart, all our friends in Canada, for opening your doors to me and giving me strength and encouragement to continue this work!"

Lisa with talibe children in train station - 2008
Lisa with talibe children in train station - 2008
Zoe with her students in Saint Louis train station
Zoe with her students in Saint Louis train station
Henry, 8, gives Lisa donation for talibe children
Henry, 8, gives Lisa donation for talibe children
Reception hosted by Hornby/Desrochers family
Reception hosted by Hornby/Desrochers family
Rev. Gary Hauch welcomes Issa, in Ottawa
Rev. Gary Hauch welcomes Issa, in Ottawa
Rowan presents Maison de la Gare and its mission
Rowan presents Maison de la Gare and its mission
Yassa poulet with LeRoy family, at Sonia
Yassa poulet with LeRoy family, at Sonia's home

Links:

donate now:

Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $25
    give
  • $45
    give
  • $60
    give
  • $75
    give
  • $85
    give
  • $100
    give
  • $25
    each month
    give
  • $45
    each month
    give
  • $60
    each month
    give
  • $75
    each month
    give
  • $85
    each month
    give
  • $100
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?