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.
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.
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.
Maison de la Gare has benefited enormously from its association with GlobalGiving over the past year. Donations have totaled over $9,900 from 210 donors. We are grateful for your support of hope for a new life for the begging talibé street children of Senegal.
Thanks to your caring, Maison de la Gare’s projects in Saint Louis are flourishing and changing children’s lives. The five pictures in this report were taken in the past weeks by two volunteers from France, Gwen Gueguen and Michael Gobert. They represent well five core programs for the children:
- Sports, giving hundreds of boys an opportunity for a break from their daily hours of begging, to simply play and be children.
- Providing nutritious food, allowing the talibés to take time from their usual begging for this food, and to participate in literacy and arts classes, sports, gardening and other Maison de la Gare programs.
- Arts activities and excursions, an enormous enrichment for a life of begging and abuse.
- Health care and hygiene instruction, both in the infirmary in Maison de la Gare’s centre and in the daaras where the children live.
- Working in the productive garden in Maison de la Gare’s centre, and selling its produce in the market.
TODAY is a perfect opportunity to renew your commitment to Maison de la Gare, and support the continuation of this incredibly valuable work.
Today only, Wednesday, March 13th starting at 9:00 a.m. E.D.T., GlobalGiving will add 30% to your donation, until the available funds run out.
Please, seize this opportunity. Thank you.
A 16-year-old Canadian high school student from Montreal, Ann Pille, spent a week with Maison de la Gare in September of 2012 with her aunt Karen Hornby, a registered nurse. Ann has prepared a moving report on her experiences, her understanding of the situation of the talibé street children of Senegal, and Maison de la Gare's work to improve their lives. Her full report is attached. Here are three excepts:
Maison de la Gare: A Ray of Hope - "Maison de La Gare is a non-profit organization, a political and secular, founded in 2007 by ten Senegalese to help the talibés of St-Louis. They provide medical care, food, education, clothes, emotional help, lessons on hygiene, access to showers and hope to the boys living in this terrible situation. They help boys who have run away return to their families and investigate claims of child abuse. The most important thing that they do is provide a safe place for the talibés to come and just be kids for a while. They give them hope for a better future where their life is not spent begging for the person who is supposed to protect them."
A Story of Hope - "Now I have a message to pass on. It is a message from one of the marabouts that we met. It is a message of good will. Not all marabouts are the same, however they get painted with the same brush. This particular marabout did not choose this profession to make money. It was handed down to him by his father. He does not make his boys beg for money and he does not beat them. In fact, all he asks that they do is go to their “maraines” houses to get the food that they leave out. He is always calm and willing to ask for help in order to improve the boys’ lives. He is letting his boys be enrolled in school and has taught them about the importance of good hygiene. He is really doing his best considering the situation. He has said that if the government were able to give him enough money to move all of the boys, then he would go back to the country. This would mean that the boys would be able to live with their families and only come to him for classes. I think that this message is important because it shows that in some cases the marabouts are also victims of the system."
Something Truly Amazing - "There is one thing that I noticed on this trip that will stick with me, no matter where I go. This thing is the amazing spirit of the boys. They live in a situation that we cannot even imagine. Every day they face beatings, lack of food, injuries and diseases. In this situation many of us would give up hope, but they are the complete opposite of hopeless. They are filled with curiosity and a genuine willingness to learn. They are incredibly smart and creative. They find a way to be happy, which I found incredible considering that those of us who are fortunate enough to live in industrialized countries are so unhappy with everything. These boys gave me a gift, even if they didn’t know it. I went to Senegal with the goal of discovering how I could help them, but I think that they helped me more then I was able to help them. They showed me that if they can be happy with so little, than I should be happy with everything I have. They showed me that it’s not what you have that makes you happy but rather who you’re with and your attitude towards the world. I will always be thankful for that. This experience has definitely changed for the better the way that I look at my life."
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.