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.
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