Karate Can Kick Hopelessness

by Maison de la Gare
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Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness
Karate Can Kick Hopelessness

Project Report | May 13, 2020
How COVID-19 Changed Everything

By Sonia LeRoy | International Volunteer and Program Partner

How quickly life can change! From hopeful anticipation, to unimaginable disaster, to tragedy forestalled, all in one month! But with uncertain funding and an unknown path for the pandemic, the future remains terrifyingly unknown for the forced begging street children, talibés, of Maison de la Gare.

In early March, not too many weeks ago, my son, Robbie and I were in the final stages of planning a very special volunteer trip to Maison de la Gare from Canada. Members of our Canadian Karate dojo were planning on travelling with us to work with the karate students of Maison de la Gare. We were loaded up with donated martial arts uniforms, medals and trophies, and our own overflowing excitement - ready to join our friends at Maison de la Gare to replenish supplies, reinforce the martial arts program which has been so successful for the forced begging talibés, host special training workshops and organize a karate competition: a rare day of celebration and glory for children who experience none in their difficult day to day lives.

But then, COVID-19 changed everything. Flights were cancelled, international volunteers were recalled home, countries were locked down. The trip became an impossibility. 

It did not take long for things to escalate from bad to very much worse.  Senegal, with limited medical means to fight the virus, quickly moved to lock itself down tight. Within days internal travel became restricted, streets emptied, doors closed. Even Maison de la Gare - a last resort oasis of hope and caring for so many talibés, was forced to close its doors.  The Team pivoted and responded by providing soap, disinfectant and hygiene instruction for the children on location in their daaras.  

When the National Federation of Karate in Senegal, a symbol of strength and discipline, called upon its members to help support the country in its struggle against the coronavirus, Maison de la Gare was there. This call for support was intended as an important symbolic gesture of solidarity in the face of terrible uncertainty. Maison de la Gare and its Sor-Karate partner were quick to answer the call. Maison de la Gare contributed 1000 francs (about $2) for each active Maison de la Gare karate student. This gesture was a particularly powerful example, as the talibés are among the most vulnerable of all of society, and the poorest.

Confinement and curfew soon tragically complicated the lives of thousands of children. In Saint Louis, you normally cannot take a step without bumping into a child dressed in rags who asks for some coins or food.  However, since the coming of Covid-19 with the population afraid and hidden away in their homes,  thousands of begging talibé children are left with no access to food. With no one on the streets, there is no one to beg from. "The situation is explosive," says Issa Kouyaté, the founder and director of Maison de la Gare.  Marabouts who send the talibés out to beg, have not suddenly begun feeding the children during the pandemic. Some talibés have families in remote regions of the country who have demanded that their children be returned home.  However, the government’s prohibition of travel between different regions of the country prevents this.

Maison de la Gare soon realized that all they were doing would not be enough when the children have nothing to eat. Maison de la Gare has now committed all its resources to feeding them and is providing nutritious daily meals to over 1,500 talibé children, sometimes as many as 2000, each day in their daaras.

How is this possible?  It is thanks to the brave and dedicated women of the Ndèye daaras, the “Godmothers” in each neighborhood of Saint Louis working with Maison de la Gare.  Some few, lucky talibés have a relationship with a local family whereby they can stop by the family’s house for a meal of leftovers or even a specially set aside plate of breakfast. The provider of such food support is known as a Godmother. Maison de la Gare recruited and is working with groups of these amazing women in each of ten neighborhoods of Saint Louis, including the north and south island, Pikine, Balacoss, Ndiolofène, Darou, Diamimar, Médina Course, Eaux claires and Léona. 

In each of these neighborhoods, the Godmothers are cooking food paid for by Maison de la Gare’s donors each day for the children of four to seven daaras located close to their base.  Each of these daaras typically has 30 to 70 children, so massive quantities of food are being cooked and many children are being reached.  Maison de la Gare provides funds at the beginning of each week so that the women can do the shopping.  They are very effective at this, asking vendors in the market for their support for the needy children.  Many respond generously, with the result that the funds go much further than they normally would. 

The food is distributed by the Maison de la Gare team and many of the older talibés to the children’s daaras in the large stainless-steel bowls that are very common for communal meals in Senegal. 

With this program now underway, Maison de la Gare has expanded its influence and has been able to give even more attention to hygiene awareness for the children and everyone involved.  The apprentices in the Maison de la Gare sewing program have been working to fabricate face masks; thousands of these have now been distributed to vulnerable talibés.

We are deeply grateful to everyone who has responded to this situation with emergency support of Maison de la Gare’s heroic efforts.  Emergency grants from Global Fund for Children and from GO Campaign enabled the first five weeks of the emergency food program. Many individual donors have also stepped forward to help Maison de la Gare sustain the effort for many more weeks.  And other organizations in Saint Louis and the local government are beginning to adopt this model in neighborhoods and daaras that Maison de la Gare has not been able to reach. But, there remain thousands of starving talibés in need. And, the longer COVID-19 threatens lives and the longer the lockdown persists, the greater the danger for the talibés of Saint Louis will be, and the more they will rely on our help.

Thank you for every dollar donated.  The struggle continues. 

Founder, Robbie Hughes and instructor, Bouaro
Founder, Robbie Hughes and instructor, Bouaro
A Godmother cooking for the talibes
A Godmother cooking for the talibes
Meals ready for distribution
Meals ready for distribution
Talibes enjoying a meal
Talibes enjoying a meal
Kalidou, leader of the apprentice tailors
Kalidou, leader of the apprentice tailors
Children wearing their new masks
Children wearing their new masks
a talibe, well fed for a change
a talibe, well fed for a change
Maison de la Gare karate waits for better times
Maison de la Gare karate waits for better times
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Organization Information

Maison de la Gare

Location: Saint Louis - Senegal
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Project Leader:
Maison de la Gare
Saint Louis , Saint Louis Senegal
$3,160 raised of $6,000 goal
 
55 donations
$2,840 to go
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