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...
May 10, 2013

Five (!) Volunteers at Maison de la Gare

The 5: Michael, Madison, Christine, Tommaso & Gwen
The 5: Michael, Madison, Christine, Tommaso & Gwen

Three volunteers arrived at Maison de la Gare at the beginning of February 2013, a French couple (Michael Gobert and Gwen Gueguen) and an American student from Oregon, Madison Burgdorfer.  All three chose to contribute in the health and education activities defined in Maison de la Gare’s volunteer program.  The volunteer's mornings are taken with health care in the daaras where the children live, and with a myriad of other tasks.  Then every day beginning at 5 p.m. there is a rush at Maison de la Gare’s center, as the talibé children arrive to meet with the volunteers.  The volunteers first identify any children who need medical attention, and then they gather in the classrooms with the children for French, Math and English instruction.  The children are making great progress from a very low base, many of them reading, writing and performing simple calculations.

After school hours, volunteer Michael Gobert brings his students to the library to continue their introduction to computers.  With his help, their skills have improved greatly and many of them are communicating regularly with Canadian school children, the program launched in November by a Canadian student.  Michael has taught the children to prepare better messages so as to be able to better communicate with their Canadian friends.

Madison, Gwen and Michael have now been joined by Christine Thuault of France and Tommaso Arosio of Italy.  All five live with Senegalese host families, and greatly appreciate their introduction to Senegalese life.  Working with one of Maison de la Gare’s teachers, Aida Dieng, Christine initiated literacy classes for talibé children in Daara Serigne Thiam; more than fifty children attend this twice-weekly introduction to French education.  Tommaso supports all of Maison de la Gare’s activities, but he is making his greatest contribution in his field of choice ... animating the sports program.  Tommaso organizes tournaments between teams of talibé children, and he is much appreciated as a referee.

With their gentle and respectful approach, the volunteers change the lives of talibé children with whom they are working.  But they will also be changed themselves.  They are all making invaluable contributions to Maison de la Gare and to the talibé children it serves, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Tommaso,Madison & Michael care for talibe children
Tommaso,Madison & Michael care for talibe children
Michael shows students the continents, in library
Michael shows students the continents, in library

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May 3, 2013

For the Love of the Beautiful Game

Victorious MDG team celebrates its win
Victorious MDG team celebrates its win

Maison de la Gare organizes regular football (soccer) tournaments for the talibes of Saint Louis. Football is universally adored, and the talibe children demonstrate an impressive level of skill as they play, despite poor nutrition and hydration and a lack of shoes on their feet. What they have no shortage of is determination, competitive spirit, and love for the beautiful game.

As the children waited for the bus that would transport them to the Senegol Field in Gandon, about 15 km from Saint Louis, they got pumped-up with djembe drumming, dancing, and a general spirit of celebration.  On the bus, which was packed to its limit with excited children, the celebrations continued with clapping, drumming, and chanting.

The tournament included three games, played among the teams fielded by associations dedicated to improving the talibes' lives, Maison de la Gare, Taliberte and Claire Enfance. Younger talibes, hopeful of a future spot on a team, watched attentively from the sidelines.

All the talibe players demonstrated heart and skill. But, Maison de la Gare's team was triumphant, winning both matches, 2-0 and 3-0, emerging as the victors for the day overall. The proud spirit of victory and sense of happiness clung to the Maison de la Gare children, staff, and international volunteers alike for the rest of the day, and beyond.

Djembe drumming, pumping up for the match
Djembe drumming, pumping up for the match
Young talibes dream of a future position on a team
Young talibes dream of a future position on a team
Lamine, team captain, proudly hoists the trophy
Lamine, team captain, proudly hoists the trophy
Apr 26, 2013

Talibe Children Discover their African Heritage

Young talibe fascinated by his first African oryx
Young talibe fascinated by his first African oryx

Maison de la Gare staff and international volunteers accompagnied thirty talibe children on a field trip to the Guembeul Natural Fauna Reserve, a half hour drive from Saint Louis in northern Senegal.  The excursion was a welcome holiday from the regime of forced begging that the boys live with every day. For some the talibes, it was the first time they had left the city in over five years and, for many, it was their first exposure to the rich natural environment that is part of their African heritage.

Young talibes were fascinated to hold baby sulcata turtles in their hands and they were astonished at the size of the turtles' 72-year-old father.  The children enjoyed searching for and spotting scimitar-horned onyx and dama gazelles, now all extinct in the African wild. 

The day was a delight for the children and adults alike.  It was a day of freedom to play, explore and simply enjoy being a child.  And, it sure beats begging.

30 excited talibes arrive at Guembeul Reserve
30 excited talibes arrive at Guembeul Reserve
Talibe children marvelling at a turtle
Talibe children marvelling at a turtle
The talibes happily gather for a photo souvenir
The talibes happily gather for a photo souvenir
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