Maison de la Gare

Maison de la Gare's mission is to achieve integration of the begging talibe street children into formal schooling and productive participation in Senegalese society. Tens of thousands of talibe children beg on the streets of Senegal for 6 to 10 hours each day for their food and for money to give the "teacher" or Marabout who controls them. They live in unconscionable conditions in "daaras", without access to running water, rudimentary hygiene or nurture, often without shelter and subject to severe abuse. Human Rights Watch published a widely distributed description of this situation in 2010, "Off the Backs of the Children". Maison de la Gare is acting wi...
Aug 6, 2015

A Key Relationship in Fighting Talibe Begging

Ambassador Zumwalt visits a Saint-Louis daara
Ambassador Zumwalt visits a Saint-Louis daara

James Zumwalt, the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, visits Maison de la Gare

On Thursday, May 21, 2015, the American ambassador to Senegal continued a tradition.  As his predecessor Louis Lukens had done in 2014, Ambassador James P. Zumwalt honored Maison de la Gare with his presence, deeply concerned as Ambassador Lukens had been about the situation of the begging talibé street children.  This visit reinforces a cooperative relationship that has developed over the years with the strong involvement of Peace Corps volunteers in support of Maison de la Gare efforts, especially agricultural apprenticeship and recovering children sleeping in the streets in "night rounds".  Maison de la Gare's president, Issa Kouyaté, had previously been invited to participate in the U.S. State Department's International Visitors Leadership Program during the month of May, and so could not be present during the ambassador's visit.

The tour was organized by Ms Ndeye Diodio Calloga, a legal intern with Maison de la Gare.  It began with a visit to the daara Thierno Yoro Ba in the Diamagueune district of Saint Louis.  Once at the daara, the ambassador and his delegation were able to see the reality the talibé children's everyday life.  Maison de la Gare team members like Bathe Ndong and Abou Sy make regular tours of local daaras for cleaning, disinfection and repair.  The Thierno Yoro Ba daara has benefited from these services.

The Ambassador had an extensive discussion with the marabout, the person responsible for the daara, who explained that for him what is important is the children's well-being.  That is why he is not opposed to the help and the activities that Maison de la Gare provides for the children. The ambassador also spoke with the marabout at length about his working methods, his helpers and how he cares for the children, to better understand the daara system and the marabouts' perspective.

The tour continued in Maison de la Gare's center in Balacos.  Nurse Binta Coly presented the infirmary to the ambassador describing the services it offers to children, the most common diseases that are encountered and some of the more serious cases.  The ambassador then visited the library and computer room, the different classrooms and the emergency shelter.

To complete the visit, the ambassador and his delegation met with the entire Maison de la Gare staff.  Noël Coly made a presentation of the situation of talibé children in the Saint Louis region and of Maison de la Gare's work.  He also described the worst forms of abuse suffered by children.  Then the other team members presented the short and long-term projects which Maison de la Gare has planned to improve the lives of the talibé children and give them hope.

The talibé children were all very touched that the ambassador of the United States wanted to visit them, despite his busy schedule.  They expressed their pleasure and thanked Ambassador Zumwalt by their innocent smiles, full of life.  The discussions were very emotional, and the ambassador and his delegation were moved by the questions that were raised and by the drawings that they were given as a gesture of appreciation.

A sincere thank you to everyone who makes this work possible by your faithful financial support.

Nurse Binta presents Maison de la Gare
Nurse Binta presents Maison de la Gare's infirmary
The ambassador visits the new emergency shelter
The ambassador visits the new emergency shelter
Diodio presents senior talibe staff members
Diodio presents senior talibe staff members
Diodio presents teacher Bouri to the ambassador
Diodio presents teacher Bouri to the ambassador
Bathe shows MDG
Bathe shows MDG's garden to the ambassador
Ambassador Zumwalt with MDG team members
Ambassador Zumwalt with MDG team members

Links:

Jul 16, 2015

Amadou - from Begging to a Promising Future

Amadou celebrating with victorious MDG soccer team
Amadou celebrating with victorious MDG soccer team

A smile in adversity to inspire us all

Rod LeRoy recalls: "I first met Amadou in Maison de la Gare's then-new library in January of 2012.  He, in common with many young talibés, was enthralled by the pictures in the books and by the stories read to them by staff and volunteers.  Amadou stood out, however ... he was intently studying a book held upside down.  Taken with his beaming smile, I had no idea at that moment of the difficult life that he had endured."

The youngest of eight siblings, with four sisters and three brothers, Amadou was entrusted to a Saint-Louis daara by his family in Kolda, in Casamance in the south of Senegal.  This was in 2005 when he was only five years old.  Issa Kouyaté, Maison de la Gare's president, first became aware of Amadou's situation in 2010 through other children from his daara.  He reports that Amadou "lived in a daara where the Koranic teacher demanded, in addition to the money which had to be paid each day, charcoal, rice and sugar as well as water needed for the daara.  After running away and living on the streets for six months, Amadou was found in Dakar and returned to his parents in Casamance.  However, they sent him back to Saint Louis to another daara that was equally bad.  Amadou ran away for another two months and began to get into serious trouble associating with children living in the streets."

It was in January 2012 that Amadou, then 12 years old, committed himself fully to Maison de la Gare's programs.  He explored the books in the library, participated enthusiastically in regular soccer matches, and involved himself in all of Maison de la Gare's other activities.  Many of Maison de la Gare's international volunteers got to know him well, and their caring and support helped him enormously on his way.

Most importantly, Amadou began attending French literacy classes regularly.  He applied himself diligently for three years working with teacher Bouri Mbodj, progressing from a base of no spoken French and no written language skills to an impressive level of competence in both reading and writing.  Bouri writes "Amadou is a brilliant student.  Despite his experience subjected to extreme exploitation, he studied for three years at Maison de la Gare.  Now he has returned to his home village to continue his studies.  He is in the sixth level and is a disciplined and courageous student."

It was on October 13th, 2014 that Amadou left Saint Louis to return to his family in Kolda.  His father had registered him in formal schooling there, with Maison de la Gare's help.  After brave farewells and a final spin on Arouna's bicycle, Amadou walked away to catch the bus home.

Issa stays in regular contact with Amadou and his family.  To no one's surprise, he is thriving in school and has finished his first year at the top of his class.  Speaking with Amadou just before he left, it was clear that this move was his personal decision.  He hopes to complete his education, and then return to Saint Louis to live and work.  There is no doubt that this exceptionally kind, gifted and determined young man will succeed in realizing his potential and making a major contribution to his community.

Discovering books when first at MDG in Jan. 2012
Discovering books when first at MDG in Jan. 2012
An eager participant in Francesca
An eager participant in Francesca's art classes
With Issa and Swedish volunteer Oscar in 2013
With Issa and Swedish volunteer Oscar in 2013
Always a warm smile
Always a warm smile
Bittersweet farewell to MDG, Arouna and Sonia
Bittersweet farewell to MDG, Arouna and Sonia
Amadou
Amadou's life has been enriched by MDG volunteers

Links:

Jun 25, 2015

Soccer - a Magical Outlet for the Talibe Children

An MDG soccer team, newly outfitted by Ottawa Fury
An MDG soccer team, newly outfitted by Ottawa Fury

A motivating gift to the talibés from Ottawa Fury FC

The Ottawa Fury FC soccer team of Ottawa, Canada recently advanced to the North American Soccer League (NASL).  To celebrate they updated their logo and, as a result, had to find a home for much of their older uniforms and equipment.  When team members learned about the talibé children's passionate love of soccer from their equipment manager and former player Adrian LeRoy, they decided to donate all of their surplus equipment to these children.  In April 2015, bags loaded with over 125 kilos of jerseys, team vests, goalie gloves and deflated soccer balls were delivered to Saint Louis, Senegal.  This is a report of the first outing of some of this equipment.  

Maison de la Gare's sports animator Kalidou, who is himself a talibé, organizes soccer tournaments one or two mornings a week.  This is a highlight for the talibé children who spend much of their lives begging on the street and have very little space in their lives to simply be children.  They adore soccer, and forget everything else while they are playing.

Thursday mornings, the children know that there is a good chance of a soccer match, and they drift into Maison de la Gare's welcoming center between 9 and about 10:30 in the morning.  On this occasion Kalidou organized the teams and, with the help of staff members Abdou, Bathe and Noël, distributed coloured vests to the different team members.  The children were thrilled with this linkage to a professional soccer team, and very proud to be dressed in team colours.  The designated goalies were very happy with their professional goalie gloves, and displayed these proudly.

Over 100 children left the center at around 10:30 a.m. parading through the streets to a nearby sandy lot, many of them still carrying their begging bowls.  Once there, Kalidou and Abdou organized the younger children into four teams, each with 11 players and four to ten replacements.  Two teams, red and blue, were in the junior category, with the boys typically between 4 and 8 years old.  Few of the boys know their age or birthday exactly, so these groupings always involve a bit of guesswork.  The boys 9 to 12 years old were organized into green and blue teams.  Older boys age 13 and above played in the full-size pitch at the other end of the lot.

The play is marvelous to see.  In bare feet, the children commit themselves totally to the game, playing with energy and skill that you would expect of much older youth.  There are many exciting and even passionate moments but, under Kalidou's watchful eye, the rules of the game are pretty well respected.  In the junior category, it was a clear win for blue over red, with a score of 1 to 0.  In the intermediate category, however, regular time ended in a tie, and the winner was settled in a best of five shoot-out.  The result was a blue victory over yellow, 4 to 3.

The reality of these boys' cruel lives is indicated by the prizes.  The winning team in each of the junior and intermediate categories receives a prize of 10,000 CFA francs to distribute among the 20 or so team members.  To put this in perspective, these boys are typically required to pay their marabout 500 francs each a day (about $1), money that they must obtain by begging.  When they play soccer, they have to take several hours from begging and the resulting shortfall can earn them severe beatings.  The incentive allows many of them to have a slight respite from begging, helping to open more and more of them to some of the possibilities of a normal childhood.

Thank you to Ottawa Fury FC for your contribution, and to everyone whose support makes possible Maison de la Gare's programs for these children.

Adrian with jersey signed by Fury players for MDG
Adrian with jersey signed by Fury players for MDG
Kalidou organizing distribution of jerseys
Kalidou organizing distribution of jerseys
Noel registering children of one of the teams
Noel registering children of one of the teams
Kalidou and Abdou positioning red and blue teams
Kalidou and Abdou positioning red and blue teams
... proud to wear Ottawa Fury FC colors
... proud to wear Ottawa Fury FC colors
Red versus blue, passionately into the game
Red versus blue, passionately into the game
Some talibe spectators find a great viewpoint
Some talibe spectators find a great viewpoint
Blue vs green, middle group, equally passionate
Blue vs green, middle group, equally passionate
A shoot-out determines the victor
A shoot-out determines the victor

Links:

 
   

donate now:

An anonymous donor will match all new monthly recurring donations, but only if 75% of donors upgrade to a recurring donation today.
Terms and conditions apply.
Make a monthly recurring donation on your credit card. You can cancel at any time.
Make a donation in honor or memory of:
What kind of card would you like to send?
How much would you like to donate?
  • $24
    give
  • $45
    give
  • $59
    give
  • $85
    give
  • $89
    give
  • $99
    give
  • $24
    each month
    give
  • $45
    each month
    give
  • $59
    each month
    give
  • $85
    each month
    give
  • $89
    each month
    give
  • $99
    each month
    give
  • $
    give
gift Make this donation a gift, in honor of, or in memory of someone?
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.