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."
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