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...
Sep 13, 2013

Who are the Talibe Children of Saint Louis?

Gwen questioning a talibe child for the census
Gwen questioning a talibe child for the census

Census campaign led by Gwen Gueguen, volunteer from France

Maison de la Gare has undertaken a census of the talibé children of Saint Louis and its surrounding region.  Contact is made with the marabout of each daara where the talibé children live, and a comprehensive list of the children is prepared. Then each child is questioned and photographed .

We have created a database containing all the information necessary for identification of the children: their name, year of birth (approximate because children do not usually know their age), village or region of origin, and their date of arrival in the daara.  We also collect information about the marabout (name, identity card number, telephone number) and the daara (GPS coordinates) .

All this information helps to:

- identify children who run away, and find them more easily thanks to their photograph.

- allow the talibés to have improved access to health care through reductions in hospital costs offered on presentation of census records created for each daara and validated by the social services of Saint Louis.

- identify the children coming to the center, to be able to better monitor each of them (frequency of participation,  grade,  class attendance, behavior,  ... ).

- allow some children to be registered in formal government schooling.

- to create a map of Koranic schools (daaras) in Saint Louis .

As an example, we were able to trace the recent history of one little boy, Ibrahim Diallo , aged 6.  He is from Guinea, and was sent away to Saint Louis by his family when he was only five years old.  Ibrahim now lives in a daara where he studies the Koran.  He spends a lot of time each day on the streets to beg for food and for money for his marabout .  Every day Ibrahim comes to Maison de la Gare's centre.  He works hard in class, knows his alphabet, can write a few syllables and can count.  Most of the time, he has a smile on his lips !

Who are these children? They come from daaras around Saint Louis .  They come to Maison de la Gare's center to regain their sense of childhood.  In general, their origins and their families are far, far away .

This is why Maison de la Gare works to learn about the children's origins, and to help the children themselves to understand so that they can keep alive the dream of one day returning home and reuniting with their families.  It is vital that every talibé child feel completely at home in the centre, to learn and enjoy reading, writing, creative activities , gardening and even playing sports or going on excursions.  We encourage the children by posting their photos and identity information in the centre, and letting them post it in their daaras where they live, so that they can themselves follow their development.

We strive at Maison de la Gare to open places for all of these talibé children in our lives, by accommodating and welcoming them as our own children and brothers.

Daaras where the children live
Daaras where the children live
Talibe children awaiting their turn to be counted
Talibe children awaiting their turn to be counted
Identity photos, marabout and child, from a daara
Identity photos, marabout and child, from a daara
Ibrahima Diallo, 6, talibe from Guinea
Ibrahima Diallo, 6, talibe from Guinea

Links:

Aug 23, 2013

Spotlight on a Talibe - Kalidou Balde

Kalidou at Maison de la Gare, 2008 to present
Kalidou at Maison de la Gare, 2008 to present

Since its beginnings in 2008, Maison de la Gare has seen many talibé children return to their families, while many others stay with their marabouts.  Trying to understand this phenomenon, we have studied the situations of children whom we have seen grow up on the streets, in their daaras and in Maison de la Gare's center.  These children in search of a better life have entrusted themselves to us in their quest for improved health and hygiene, the assurance of being respected in the community, and the hope of a positive future.

Some of these children in our care have touched us deeply, becoming responsible young adults in their daily lives and in the Maison de la Gare center.  These talibé children started from nothing, but with confidence that their heath and lives would be cared for as they worked within the center's educational and development programs.

Among these children one name stands out, of a child who has made enormous efforts to satisfy his marabout while taking full advantage of what Maison de la Gare has to offer.  This child attended the first literacy classes offered in the old railway station in 2008, and he is still attending classes in the new center.  He is one of the talibés who have succeeded in building a successful life blending the obligations of his daara with education at the center, including recently computer skills and communication with Canadian pen pals.  He is also one of the children whom Maison de la Gare is assisting with developing small business opportunities to generate some revenue.  This boy is in regular contact with his family in Casamance in the south of Senegal, calling them every Friday with news of his life in the daara and the center.

Volunteers who have taught this child in French or computer classes have felt strongly that he should be in formal schooling, with Maison de la Gare's support.  To arrange this, as we have for so many others, we discuss with the child's marabout and his family.  However, the final decision is always taken by the child himself ... this youth has declined the opportunity out of fear of losing his new place in life in the center and in society.  In this situation, Maison de la Gare will support this child until he can be a successful independent contributor in society.  In spite of his lack of formal schooling, we have no fears for the future of this exceptional young man, who is enormously appreciated by the staff, volunteers and other talibés at Maison de la Gare.  His name is Kalidou Baldé.

Maison de la Gare is very happy to have been able to serve as a caring family for so many talibé children like Kalidou, over many years.

Kalidou in class at old railway station, June 2008
Kalidou in class at old railway station, June 2008
Kalidou helps at new MDG site clean-up - June 2009
Kalidou helps at new MDG site clean-up - June 2009
Kalidou with Issa Kouyate - July 2009
Kalidou with Issa Kouyate - July 2009
Kalidou learns tailoring at MDG center - Dec. 2011
Kalidou learns tailoring at MDG center - Dec. 2011
Kalidou - August 2013
Kalidou - August 2013

Links:

Aug 2, 2013

Launch of Maison de la Gare's New Web Site

Top of the English welcome page of the new website
Top of the English welcome page of the new website

Maison de la Gare has just launched its totally renewed website, now in both French and English.  Volunteer Michaël Gobert of France developed the new site while he was in Saint Louis, working with Issa Kouyaté, Aladji Gaye, Mapaté Bousso and other volunteers and members of the Maison de la Gare team.  The result is spectacular, a wonderful resource for learning about this organization dedicated to improving the lives of the begging talibé street children.

The sliding window on the welcome page is a magical entry into Maison de la Gare’s many activities ... clicking here is an opening to the myriad ways in which this organization is changing lives.  New entries will be added regularly to this page, so regular visits can be very rewarding!  We have added linkages with social networks so that you can easily share these exciting developments with your friends, and play your role in promoting Maison de la Gare’s activities.

Other pages introduce Maison de la Gare, its origins, its aspirations and people.  A page is dedicated to the talibé children themselves, and provides links to the most current developments in understanding and addressing this unconscionable human rights abuse.

For those who want to contribute, a large section of the site presents Maison de la Gare’s volunteer program, and the many different roles that volunteers can play.  A comprehensive volunteer manual, developed with the help of earlier volunteers, provides all the information needed for a safe and rewarding experience working with the talibé street children.

This new site is a rich resource for everyone wishing to understand, and change, the lives of the talibé street children.


Links to MDG
Links to MDG's new website, in English and French
In-depth information on the talibe problem
In-depth information on the talibe problem
MDG
MDG's amazing volunteer program - your chance!

Links:

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