Rowan, an International Student Volunteer and Arouna. a Senegalese Talibe and student, worked together on preparation of this report of karate’s arrival at Maison de la Gare and among the talibé children.
"Well here I am in Senegal for the fourth time. And with my whole family, my little brother Robbie included. In preparing to volunteer with Maison de la Gare for the first time, Robbie decided he wanted to conduct his own special project, and suggested teaching karate to the talibé children. Robbie is a karate black belt, a member of the WKC Canadian Karate Team, and practices and teaches karate with passion. At the time of his idea to offer karate to the talibe children, Robbie could not possibly have known how successfully it would turn out.
Before leaving for Senegal, Robbie organized the collection of gi (traditional karate uniforms). Using the logo "Karate Can Kick Poverty", he pasted posters in the Ottawa, Canada dojos of his karate school, Douvris Martial Arts. The karate community responded with nearly one hundred gi, packing our entire baggage allowance to the limit. After the long journey to get our family and all the karate equipment to Saint Louis, the real work began.
Arouna, the perspective of a talibé:
Robbie’s idea was to find a local karate master, a sensei, to teach at Maison de la Gare’s center in the mornings. With Maison de la Gare administrator, Noël Coly’s help, Robbie invited several local senseis to teach classes, to audition. Robbie was looking for a sensei who had the same values and showed the same gentleness with the children as his karate master in Canada
The Douvris Student Creed
'My goal is to become the best person I can be. I will achieve this objective by disciplining my body and my mind, working to overcome obstacles that hinder my positive growth. I know this will take discipline. I am ready to make this commitment to myself in order to become the best person I can be and to share this progress with others.'
Robbie has played a very important role at Maison de la Gare in helping young talibés in Saint Louis to improve their lives. His first objective was to provide karate classes for talibé children in the center. This is not only a welcome sports activity for them, but it gives them confidence, discipline and self-defense skills. In educational terms, karate is a noble activity that encourages the development of the mind. And socially, it promotes mutual respect and fellowship among its practitioners.
After only four days working in Robbie’s classes, the children mastered the first karate stances. For many children, they had to learn the difference between left and right. But when they learned a new karate position, they never forget it. From the first day, Robbie earned great affection from the talibé children of Maison de la Gare.
Talibés lead a hard life, and they potentially face sexual abuse and other forms of street violence. Hopefully with new karate skills they will be better able to defend themselves and others. Talibés also grow up without parents in their lives. We often take for granted that our parents teach us to be respectful of others and ourselves. As much as I love these kids, they can be quite rude and undisciplined sometimes; with karate you don’t just learn fighting - you must learn respect. It is about disciplining your mind and body, and you can’t do one without the other.
This is a new program for Maison de la Gare but I can see so much potential for the street children who find shelter here as they discover karate. The sensei Robbie chose to lead karate classes ongoing for Maison de la Gare, Sensei Ignety Ba, is a coach for the WKF Senegalese karate team. Who knows what opportunities this could hold for the future!
Robbie identified some talibés who showed particular potential and passion to advance in karate. He enrolled them at Sensei Ba's dojo, Sor-Karate so in addition to learning karate at Maison de la Gare during the day they could train at night and advance more quickly, sure that he could find sponsors to pay for their memberships upon returning home to Canada.
Robbie, this young Canadian, has amazed us with his gentleness, his exemplary behavior as a person of strong values, and the openness of his big heart to share his skills and passion with children in extremely deprived circumstances. We thank Robbie’s dojo, Douvris Martial Arts, and everyone who is behind what Robbie did here, especially his mother Sonia who moved heaven and earth so that Robbie's vision could be fulfilled and karate could become one of the sports activities of Maison de la Gare.
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