Project #10140

Conserving Senegal's Chimpanzees through Education

by Neighbor Ape
Presenting school supplies in Djendji village 2015
Presenting school supplies in Djendji village 2015

We have a few items of news to share here at Neighbor Ape! Pharmacy school student Anna successfully completed her program and is completing her residency at the Acacia Pharmacy in Dakar. She is pictured here proudly holding her diploma!

We delivered our annual gift of school supplies to Djendji village, also shown here in a photo. The Fongoli chimpanzees have been spending a lot of time around Djendji village this month, enjoying the Cissus fruit and other foods that grow in fallow fields that are regenerating into savanna woodland. One of the reasons they are comfortable with spending so much time in close proximity to the village (sometimes within 20 meters of a field or dirt track) is that Djendji has been here for more than 100 years, and the Diahanke people that live in the village do not hunt or otherwise harm the chimpanzees. 

Finally, we are sponsoring several students at various levels in schools in Kedougou and Dakar. We are sponsoring two elementary school children (a boy and a girl) in Dakar and two pre-high school students (2 young men) in Kedougou.

Our educational programs are one of the main areas of focus at Neighbor Ape, and we could not provide such valuable opportunities for young people without your continued support. Thank you so much!

Anna (& daughter) with her pharmacy school diploma
Anna (& daughter) with her pharmacy school diploma
Chimps drink at a mining excavation.
Chimps drink at a mining excavation.

The school year in Senegal has just wrapped up, and students have finished their exams and are off on "vacance" until next October. The OBARAR dormitory housed about 15 students, fewer than last year, but a good number nonetheless. We are hoping to have more students in the dorm next year again.

In terms of our education projects, we again contributed a year's worth of supplies to the village of Djendji's school. This has been one of our longest traditions at Neighbor Ape, and it is fitting that Djendji is also the village that the chimpanzees in the area have been living near for the longest period of time - Djendji village was established over 100 years ago. 

Neighbor Ape continues to support Kedougou area children in various schools in the area, including covering the room and board for several students at the OBARAR dormitory. These students come from Kedougou as well as the Fongoli area, including the Bassari village of Petit Oubadji. We also help fund girls who attend a private school in Tambacounda as well as a young boy attending school in Dakar. 

Finally, we hope to reinstate our conservation-education workshops in late 2015 or in 2016. In discussions with the local branch of the Forestry Department of Senegal, we have made plans to further our reach in terms of our 3-pronged approach to educating people about chimpanzees. After an informational presentation by Project Manager Dondo Kante, he returns and has informal conversations with villagers over tea (Dondo drinks lots of tea at this time!) and, ultimately, he returns to give a more conservation-oriented presentation. He stresses the fact that many of the problems chimpanzees face are the same ones local people also face, such as health concerns brought about by the use of mercury in gold mining (see photo of Fongoli chimps drinking at a mining site where water has collected during the dry season when water is scarce) and forest destruction (see photo of Fongoli chimps examining a logger's camp). 

With the generous gifts of donors, we are secure in being able to continue our education-related programs, which also serve to assist in our efforts to conserve chimpanzees in Senegal. 

Fongoli chimps examine tree cut for boards.
Fongoli chimps examine tree cut for boards.
Sponsored student (Nadege) with parents
Sponsored student (Nadege) with parents

Celebrating the New Year is a big event in Senegal, and it looks like this year will be a great one for Neighbor Ape because of wonderful donors and the amazing people that we work with!

With the new dormitory up and running, Neighbor Ape is thinking about future projects - perhaps the dispensary in Djendji village can be established this year! But, we are also happy to say that we are supporting more students than ever - in various venues!

We support relatively few students, but we try to afford particular students some of the best opportunities available to them in terms of education. This year, we are supporting returning students in Kedougou public high school (Allamouta) and private schools (Nadege, Alex), a private Tambacounda boarding school for young women (Katherine, Natalie), and a Dakar elementary school (Phillipe). We are also supporting three students that live in Bandafassi village at the OBARAR dormitory that Neighbor Ape helped build so that they can live in Kedougou and attend school there.

Even though public school is technically free in Senegal, most students cannot afford school supplies or boarding if they live outside of towns like Kedougou, and schools in towns are significantly better in terms of the quality of education in most circumstances. Neighbor Ape helps offset costs for children attending public schools and helps pay school fees for students attending private schools. We've also visited these various schools and are happy to report that all of our students are often involved in working on homework at times when we've made home visits! (Though they might not be as happy about that!)

We would like to again thank all our donors and wish everyone the best for the New Year - we hope that 2015 will bring some exciting developments all around!

Girls' & boys' residences at the dormitory

All of us at Neighbor Ape are thrilled to announce that the dormitory for village children, built in conjunction with the Senegalese organization OBARAR, is now open to students! 

Students were able to move into the dorm late last spring, and they finished their school year there. Most of these children are Beudick, from the village of Thiobo and other nearby villages.

Several Bassari children from Djendji-Bassari (also called Petit Oubadji) also live in the OBARAR dormitory and receive funding for their room and board via Neighbor Ape.

While the dorm is functional, several buildings are in the process of being finished, including a visitor's room and an extra chaperone room so that the dorm houses both a male and female house parent.

This project stems largely from the very generous donation of Drs. Jewel Slesnick and Harold Marder, but numerous smaller contributions to Neighbor Ape made such a feat possible!

Continued funding of schoolchildren that live within the Fongoli chimpanzees' home range means that good relations are maintained in our efforts to conserve these endangered great apes in addition to the equally important goal of enabling rural children to receive the best possible education. 

We plan on having a grand opening in October for the upcoming school year, and we are now going to be raising funds to complete the dispensary on site at the dormitory.

Thank you again for all your support!

Showers & toilets (very important!) at the dorm
Showers & toilets (very important!) at the dorm
Rooms for the dormitory chaperones (& the well)
Rooms for the dormitory chaperones (& the well)
Visitors' rooms & kitchen are almost done
Dondo in front of the chaperone
Dondo in front of the chaperone's rooms

Paige is GlobalGiving's Champion for Customer Bliss in our office in Washington, DC. During a trip to Senegal, she had the chance to visit some of GlobalGiving's projects. Here is her postcard from the field. 

After 15 hours in a sept-place from Dakar (7-passenger peugots that are a common form of transportation in Senegal and often carry goats and chickens along with their human passengers), and a blissful night’s sleep, I woke up to meet with Dondo. He is Neighbor Ape’s team member on the ground in Kedougou, Senegal. He is one of the co-founders of OBARAR, the village association working with Neighbor Ape.

Our first stop was the the new dormitory being built! I was lucky enough to have not only the company of Dondo, but also of one of his fellow OBARAR co-founders, and a missionary who had worked in their village for 30 years. “They’re patrons now!” he told me, proud of how these young men have become leaders in their community.

It’s easy to see the improvement this dorm will bring to the kids’ education – a safe, new home away from home! The average number of years a student stays in school in Senegal is 8, meaning most children leave school before going into high school. To battle this statistic, OBARAR is building the dormitory so that students won’t need to travel back and forth daily on the miles of asphalt, dirt and bush separating their homes from their schools. This makes going to, and staying in, school much easier for these students.

They were well on their way to having the students in the dorms for the school year ended – it appeared their biggest project was getting the fence finished (which they were working on at the visit). This will also involve the community members, as they’ll help to create the bamboo-grass half of the fence, giving the parents in the community ownership over this big project.

It’s is inspiring to watch the OBARAR team get excited about the progress. “This will be a place for all students who need a place to stay in Kedougou,” he friends continues, “no matter what village they are from. If they do not have family here, they may stay here with us.”  

To finish off our day, I was invited to visit the house where the kids are currently staying, a clean and nice rented home that they’re quickly outgrowing. Putting laughing smiling faces to this project, really drives home the point: these kids want to learn, and this project is allowing them to do so. 

Dondo let
Dondo let's me take a look at the dorm plans
Kids from the community at Primary School
Kids from the community at Primary School
Me visiting the kids staying in Kedougou!
Me visiting the kids staying in Kedougou!

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Organization Information

Neighbor Ape

Location: Ames, Iowa - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Jill Pruetz
Ames, IA United States