May 2nd will be engraved in the memories of the talibé children of Saint Louis for many years. The talibés face daily challenges no child ever should and live in unimaginable conditions which violate all of the provisions of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of The Child. Yet, children they are, with a love of play and fun. Talibé Day, organized by the volunteers and staff of Maison de la Gare, was all about the fun!
Designed to be a day off from begging and the daily challenges simply to live, Talibé Day was for the kids. Many children arrived early to help tidy up the centre and convert the classrooms into play places. There was an awareness that something special was about to unfold. Activities began around 11 a.m., with around 100 talibés arriving along with Maison de la Gare’s international volunteers, representatives of other associations and some marabouts.
Volunteers organized hours of games the kids had never played before - sac races, water balloon, blind man's bluff, tag games and wheelbarrow races. There was also soccer, of course, and table tennis (without the table). The games were enjoyed enormously by all, big and small. The little ones, in particular, loved dancing to the music of a live D.J., and did they have the moves!
Two classrooms were full to overflowing with children colouring and finger painting. It was apparent that this was the first time doing so for many of the boys, who have missed out on a normal childhood. Some older teenage boys were as intent on colouring dinosaurs inside the lines in their colouring books as were the young ones. It was enough to break one's heart and make it leap for joy all at once.
Massive quantities of Senegalese roasted rice with chicken, bags of water and orange juice were presented just in time to revive the exhausted children. This was a feast far beyond the normal experience of the talibé children, and every last scrap of it was enjoyed. After the meal, new clothes and shoes (a first pair for many) were distributed to the children.
After hours upon hours of games and fun the volunteers were exhausted, but the children clearly did not want the day or the opportunity to truly experience childhood, if only for a day, to end. The children danced, sang, played and coloured until the long, wonderful day drew to a close.
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