Maison de la Gare’s karate program offers a vital opportunity for many begging talibé children in Saint Louis. These children typically have no access to education at home and are sent to the city to learn the Quran. Unfortunately, all too often, they are instead forced to spend most of their time on the streets begging or working to earn money for their marabout. It is a difficult and precarious life for these young people, but thanks to the caring staff and innovative programs at Maison de la Gare, many children have found a safe haven where they can learn, play and grow.
The Maison de la Gare karate program is overseen by partner, Sensei Ignéty Ba of Sor-Karate and the classes at the Maison de la Gare center are run by Bouaro, a karate student of Sensei Ba’s and a former talibé himself, and now an important addition to Maison de la Gare’s staff. Bouaro’s personal story was featured in an earlier Report, titled: Bouaro: A Possible Dream. His mission is to help children through their difficult time as talibés, and to offer them a future that includes an alternative to begging. Children are encouraged to pursue their dreams and learn new skills, while developing their self-confidence and ability to defend themselves.
Among the many children who attend Maison de la Gare are Amadou and Aliou, two regular young karate students who participate in the morning classes with Bouaro. To fully understand the impact of Maison de la Gare on the lives of Amadou and Aliou, you need to know their history.
Amadou was born into a poor family and was sent to a Koranic school at the age of six. However, the daara turned out to be a place where children were exploited and forced to beg in the streets for their marabout. For Amadou, life was very difficult and living conditions were precarious.
Aliou, aged 12, was also sent to St. Louis by his family in the hope that he would obtain a Koranic education. However, he soon discovered that life at the daara where he was sent to live was very different from what he expected. He was forced to spend all day to find food, and money to give his marabou. He was often mistreated by the marabout and the grand talibés, the older children at the daara who can often act as “enforcers” for the marabout. Aliou discovered the karate program by chance, hearing the sounds of children training as he was walking by. His curiosity led him to join the classes. Since then, he has become a regular student at Maison de la Gare. He says karate taught him to focus and be disciplined. He is also proud to show the skills he has learned to his friends, and hopefully someday his family.
Aliou explains that karate has helped him to be strong, to defend himself, but also to respect others and to be disciplined. Before karate, he didn't have much hope for the future, but now he knows he can accomplish great things, things he just did not think were realistic before. Similarly, for Amadou, karate changed his life by offering him a family at Maison de la Gare. He has friends who encourage him and teachers who push him to move forward. He wants to keep training hard and maybe even become a karate teacher himself one day.
For Amadou and Aliou, the karate program is more than just a physical activity. It is a way to express themselves, to defend themselves, but also to build a strong identity and develop their self-confidence. Karate has given them the hope and strength they need to overcome the difficulties of their life as forced begging talibés, and has helped them to dream, and to pursue their dreams.
The stories of Aliou and Amadou are examples of how the Maison de la Gare karate program can change the lives of talibé children. By offering them a healthy and productive oasis from forced begging, the program teaches them important skills such as concentration and self-confidence, all which will be useful in the long term, not only in the practice of karate, but also in their daily lives. By learning karate techniques, children also learn self-control and discipline skills, which enable them to manage their emotions and impulses in a positive and non-violent way. Maison de la Gare is a safe haven where these children can train, learn and grow as family and community away from their life as begging talibés, and pursue their dreams.
Thanks to your support, we have been able to offer children hope for a future away from the streets and the difficult life of forced begging, and give them the opportunity to develop new skills and build a strong identity.
We are confident that your continued support will enable Maison de la Gare to continue to offer a safe haven, hope, and so much more to these children. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support.
A karateka presenting his form at a tournament
Bouaro tying the belt of a young student
A Maison de la Gare karate class
A karate class at the Maison de la Gare Center