Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal

Dec 10, 2012

Maison de la Gare Soccer Tournament

Tension is high at the final shoot-out
Tension is high at the final shoot-out

Sports are pretty well the most popular activity for talibé children, contributing to both their physical and emotional development.  They also support development of bonds of comradeship with other talibés and provide them with rare and precious moments of relaxation.

For these reasons, Maison de la Gare organizes soccer tournaments each week on Thursday and Friday for talibé children from the different daaras that it works with.  Besides being valued very highly by the children, these tournaments serve to reinforce their linkages with the Maison de la Gare’s centre and its other programs.

In this tradition, Maison de la Gare organized a tournament on Thursday, November 22nd and Friday the 23rd.  The showdown took place in the mythical Wembley stadium located in the Diawlingua area of Sor in Saint Louis.  Six daaras participated: Daara Serigne Diamanka, Daara Serigne Arona Kandé, Daara Serigne Arona Baldé, Daara Serigne Ousmane Sow, Daara Serigne Mansour Baldé and Daara Serigne Mamadou Baldé.  In total, close to two hundred talibé children were involved, divided into twelve teams with each of them representing a daara.

The teams competed in two categories:

- The junior category for younger ages, typically 10 to 14, representing six daaras in Balacoss, Diawlingua and Darou.  After the elimination rounds, the daaras of Serigne Ousmane Sow (Diawlingua) and Serigne Mansour Baldé (Balacoss) qualified for the final.  Serigne Ousmane Sow was victorious, winning by a score of 5 to 4 in a final shoot-out.

- In the senior category, typically 15 years and older, six daaras again competed.  Only Serigne Ousmane Sow (Diawlingua) and Serigne Arona Baldé (Balacoss) reached the finals.  It was again Serigne Ousmane Sow that took the championship, by a score of 2 to 0.

Each of the finalist teams was recognized with a small prize, to help them meet their obligations to their daaras for the day and also to reinforce their enormous sense of satisfaction in enjoying their favorite sport.

Maison de la Gare is working to establish more and more activities of this sort to occupy the talibé children so that they have less time and incentive to return to the streets.

Daara Ousmane Sow, victor in the junior category
Daara Ousmane Sow, victor in the junior category
Daara Ousmane Sow
Daara Ousmane Sow's victorious senior team
Daara Arona Balde
Daara Arona Balde's disappointed runner-up seniors
Nov 27, 2012

A Small Step for Technology - A Giant Step for the Talibes

Rowan opens talibe Aliou Balde
Rowan opens talibe Aliou Balde's gmail account

A grade 9 student volunteer has been successful in establishing one-on-one e-mail linkages between talibé children involved in Maison de la Gare’s programs and students in her high school, Ashbury College in Ottawa, Canada.

The student, Rowan Hughes, guided 12 talibé boys and their teachers in each establishing a personal gmail account, and then helped them to compose and send their first ever emails to their correspondents in Canada - also students of French as a second language - and to their teachers who were waiting to receive these messages and reply in kind.  The email exchanges were followed up with a Facebook video chat, in which the pairs of correspondents were able to introduce themselves to one another in person.  The younger class of talibé students was also invited to Skype video chat with a class of students of similar ages from Manor Park Public School in Ottawa.

All of the talibés who participated in these exchanges were astonished and very excited to be able to see and speak with students in Canada who were clearly interested in getting to know them.  As the conversations progressed, the confidence of the talibés soared.  A Canadian student asked his talibé friend if he understood English.  The talibé replied, with a brilliant smile and a laugh, “No.  Do you understand Wolof?”  And, a sense of happiness and wonder spread among the Maison de la Gare boys as it became apparent that they had interests in common with their new Canadian friends, and that both groups of students were similarly challenged and yet undaunted by learning the French language.

The exchanges were a great success.  The experience was all the Maison de la Gare boys talked about afterward.  Being involved in such a way with Canadian students via computer captured their interest and instilled a sense of pride and awe.  As word about the computer exchanges spreads among the talibés, more are becoming keen to visit the centre regularly to attend classes and eventually advance to become “email talibés” as well.  Email exchanges among the talibés and Canadian students will continue, opening a window on a much wider world to the talibé and Canadian students alike, and enriching the lives of all involved.


* The title of this report is taken from a comment by a visitor to Maison de la Gare’s Facebook page, commenting on a photo and description of this initiative: “Un petit pas pour la technologie, un bond de géant pour les talibés”, an allusion to Neil Armstrong’s words as he took his first steps on the moon.

Talibes Fode and Boubacar meet Ottawa students
Talibes Fode and Boubacar meet Ottawa students
Rowan connecting talibes with Ottawa students
Rowan connecting talibes with Ottawa students
Nov 21, 2012

New Donation Suggestions and Financing Objective

Maison de la Gare has received donations totalling more than $8,000 (or £5,000) from over 180 donors since joining GlobalGiving and GlobalGiving UK in the spring of this year (2012).  A very gratifying recent spurt of donations from the UK in response to Janek Seevaratnam’s sacrifice of his magnificent and much-admired dreadlocks has brought total givings close to our current objective of $10,000 (£6,375).  This has stimulated us to reevaluate our suggested donation amounts and the overall financial objective.

Our many donors have responded generously to some proposed contributions, and less to others.  Our redesigned donation suggestions reflect this, while at the same time representing five of Maison de la Gare’s major strategic thrusts.  The five proposed donations are:

-  Nutritious baguettes for talibé students, an essential requirement to make it possible for children to be able to attend classes or sporting and other activities for a few hours instead of begging for their food on the street.

- Clothing, including a shirt, shorts and simple shoes, to replace or upgrade the single outfit of heavily worn clothes that each boy has.

- Medical care for malaria, skin diseases, eye infections and much more, from which so many talibé children suffer.  This includes resources for supply of mosquito nets, compresses, bandages, cotton, alcohol, betadine soap, sutures and much more.

- Funding of soccer tournaments for up to 200 talibé boys, a unique opportunity to bring some fun and healthy physical activity to their very difficult lives.  The funds cover the costs of water, photos and prizes.

- Registration of talibé children in formal schooling, including the cost of school fees, notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, books and school bags.

Your donations through GlobalGiving are making a very important contribution to financing Maison de la Gare’s activities.  However, the project is on-going, and we will have to increase the financial objective from time to time as donations are received.  At this time, we are increasing our objective to a total of $12,500 or approximately £7,900.

We are enormously grateful for your generous response to this opportunity to make life better for the talibé street children, and hope that we can count on your continued support.

Nov 19, 2012

Janek's Haircut - Amazing Fundraiser Inspires Many

Janek with his "dreads" before his remarkable gift
Janek with his "dreads" before his remarkable gift

Over the past few weeks, Janek Seevaratnam in England has obtained 66 donations to Maison de la Gare through GlobalGiving, with a moving personal sacrifice.  Donations totaled £1,021 plus $138 US.  The donations were
designated for nutritious baguettes for talibé students (15x), for registration and support of talibé students in formal schooling (4x), for monthly soccer tournaments (5x), for emergency hospitalization (1x), for a djembe drum for the music program (1x), and for general program needs (39x).

This is the Janek’s account of the story behind this amazing initiative:  “I first met Issa Kouyate in 2006.  He was working in Saint Louis, Senegal for a UK company that sent volunteers around to work at various work placements.  Issa was the lifeblood of the project but was not satisfied that he was doing enough, and he told me about his dream of opening a centre for the talibés.  I stayed in touch with Issa and met him again in Senegal in 2007 when he had just set up Maison de la Gare.  During my second year of university, I began to raise some funds for the project by making t-shirts and putting on events, and I visited Maison de la Gare properly in 2008.

Towards the end of 2008, I became involved with a social project in Peru and spent a cumulative 18 months working there.  Issa was a friend but also a role model for me in his selfless attitude, tireless determination and huge heart, and I often thought of him and Maison de la Gare.  I arranged with Issa for a couple of my friends to do some volunteer work with him, and I was encouraged by the progress the project was making.  After returning to the UK I was keen to raise some more funds.  The right opportunity never came along until I was talking to my brother about finally cutting my hair, and he suggested that, if I did it, I should raise some funds at the same time.

'Janek's Haircut.' seemed like a fun and simple enough idea, and I expected that people would like to be a part of it.  I think that people initially showed an interest because I've had dreads (or have been growing my hair for dreads!) for the last six years - longer than I have known some of them!  My first volunteering experience was in Senegal, and I have been doing volunteer work for the seven years that followed.  I have met a lot of like-minded people who are interested in community work and specifically working with youth and children, so I suppose I had a strong network for the haircut stunt.  However, all kinds of people from outside my 'not-for-profit sector network' have donated and have really shown passion for the cause.  Though I thought people would be interested in the event, I could have never expected the level of generosity that donors have shown.  I've been really touched by who has given and what they have given - not only people with huge hearts making huge donations, but others who don't earn a lot of money or are students but still give the most they can afford.  Whatever their reasons for donating, the feedback is always the same - that it is for an excellent cause.

Whether you cut your dreads, make t-shirts or free fall from space for Maison de la Gare, people will always be happy to give because of the great work it does, and they know that a dedicated team is giving their all to enrich the difficult lives of these young boys.”

After-contemplating how to cover for the UK winter
After-contemplating how to cover for the UK winter
Lost dreads, worth MUCH more than 5 pounds each!
Lost dreads, worth MUCH more than 5 pounds each!
Nov 5, 2012

A Sensitive Health Campaign

Children treated at MDG, ready to return home
Children treated at MDG, ready to return home

Circumcision of boys in Senegal is culturally sensitive and potentially a serious health issue.  Circumcision is seen as a rite of passage from one stage of life to another more important one.  In Muslim West Africa, it is essential that the procedure be performed before adulthood, and it is absolutely required before marriage.  Maison de la Gare does what it can to support the children that it serves in this process, while respecting the traditions that surround it.

 When families have the necessary means, boys are usually circumcised at birth in the hospital.  For other boys, their opportunities to become circumcised are limited and not particularly safe.  Many boys, particularly older ones, get enormously disabling infections due to this procedure, a consequence of the unsterile environment in which the procedure is carried out and where they have to recover.

 This September, Maison de la Gare selected 30 boys to undergo the procedure and to recover safely from it in the MDG centre in Saint Louis.  The boys ranged in age from 4 to 17 years old.  A local doctor volunteered to do the procedures, and then followed the boys’ healing over the following week.  Canadian nurse Karen Hornby supported by volunteer Ann Pille managed their pain during this week, with the help of Tylenol and some antibiotics provide by Health Partners International of Canada.  They found it enormously satisfying to be able to support the boys through such a critical time in their lives.

Children during their 15 day recuperation at MDG
Children during their 15 day recuperation at MDG
Karen Hornby and Ann Pille caring for the children
Karen Hornby and Ann Pille caring for the children

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Project Leader

Rod LeRoy

Saint Louis, Senegal

Where is this project located?

Map of Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal