Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal

by Maison de la Gare
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Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal
Magic moments at the talibe Christmas
Magic moments at the talibe Christmas

Abdou, Lalla, Adama, Jade Wheldon and all Maison de la Gare’s team create a day of wonder for the talibé children

Christmas came and went at Maison de la Gare without our usual Christmas party for the talibé children … our finances were just too tight at the end of the year, and we couldn’t do it.

But Abdou, Lalla, Adama and other staff members were very unhappy about Christmas coming and going without a celebration for the boys. Jade, our English volunteer, started to raise some money from friends and family. Then a friend of Abdou’s in France made a generous donation. Suddenly the party was on, just before New Year’s!!

Abdou, Adama and Jade came up with a plan to have balloons, music, and entertainment and lots of little goody bags for the children. Also, a special gift for the students in Tata Aïda’s literacy class to encourage them for having worked so hard this year.

Everyone pitched in. Oumou cooked a feast, fried chicken with a nutritious vermicelli enriched with carrots, onions, paprika, peppers, parsley, celery and finely chopped green apricots. Oumou’s team prepared 100s of food trays, enough for all the children. Abdou, Lalla, Adama and Boury blew up balloons and put up decorations, transforming the center. Awa, Aïda and many others packed goody bags and wrapped the prizes for the games and the gifts for the lucky students.

And what a party! Word spread quickly, and over 500 talibé children came; it was a roaring success. “It was definitely a huge team effort,” Jade reports. “Once we knew it was going ahead, things unfolded quickly; it felt so great to work together as one big team. Adama was a key organizer and totally brilliant. Lalla and Abdou were amazing with the kids.”

We started with games, to music. And a dance competition. Jade taught the boys how to play ‘Pass the Parcel’, which they loved!! Then the drummers turned up, Sidy Bouya and his band of merry drummers, and the children danced in a big circle. After some time, beautiful dancers emerged in their traditional clothing. They enacted a story for the children, to the beat of the drums. Lalla and Abdou had the children singing and clapping the entire time.

As the sun went down, there were rumblings that Père Noël might be making a visit. And Abdou quietly disappeared to make their dream come true. The rest of the evening was magic.

The gifts were the goody bags for all the children, along with surprise packages for the winners of Pass the Parcel and other games. The diligent students from Aïda’s class were rewarded with tracksuits and shoes.

Jade said afterwards that “It was truly amazing to see them all smiling and having so much fun. There is something really beautiful about everyone – Muslim and Catholic – celebrating each other’s holidays together.” Adama commented simply “We are exhausted, but it was super!”

Abdou remembers “An impressive party with so many children enthralled by the show and a very dedicated organizing team. The gifts that we were able to offer to the children thanks to our donors made them feel like children living in a family.” Lalla adds “We have to do this every year. It was a very good party, and the children were very happy. Really, thank you for everything.”

___________

Our most sincere thanks to Joe Moreth, Debbie Warden, Rick Bisby, Kay Cooke,Uli Henking and a friend from France, whose Christmas donations made this incredible event possible.

Abdou, Lalla, Adama & helpers blow up the balloons
Abdou, Lalla, Adama & helpers blow up the balloons
Jade with some of the talibe invitees
Jade with some of the talibe invitees
Oumou and her team prepare the feast
Oumou and her team prepare the feast
Nurse Awa preparing goodie bags
Nurse Awa preparing goodie bags
Santa's special present for one of Aida's students
Santa's special present for one of Aida's students
Sidy Bouya and his music never stopped
Sidy Bouya and his music never stopped
and they loved it all
and they loved it all

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Issa ponders the devastation
Issa ponders the devastation

Issa and Jade share our efforts to relieve the devastating impact of flooding on the talibé children

In the fall of 2021, a series of heavy rains and thunderstorms caused the worst flooding in recent history across West Africa. Many lost their homes and thousands of people were displaced.

In very poor neighbourhoods such as Darou in Saint-Louis, the recent floods decimated the area including many of the daaras that are located there. The situation is devastating for the talibé children. Due to the flooding, many of the children are exposed to the elements without access to clean water, food, or even shoes to protect their feet. The floodwater is becoming toxic and is contributing to the spread of disease and infection, putting the lives of these already vulnerable children at risk.

Many daaras were not able to clear out the water, although they tried get the talibé children to do this using buckets. The ground water level was so high that the water would just seep back after the children had evacuated it. This forced many of them to sleep on the side of the road or in front of mosques while waiting for a solution to be found.

The problems were compounded because there are large open areas in Darou which have become depositories for plastic rubbish, spoiled food, dead animals and much more. Once piled high, this rubbish is now floating in pools of water creating the perfect environment for mosquitos to breed and increasing the risk of malaria. On top of this, the rubbish is starting to degrade, creating a foul odour and increasing the toxicity of the water. The talibé children walk though these areas, usually in bare feet.

A direct consequence is that we have been receiving around 30 children every day in our infirmary from these areas, suffering from conjunctivitis, scabies, and other skin diseases.

We tackled the immediate problem by renting pumps and pumping the water far enough from some of the worst-affected daaras that it did not return right away. Then, Issa and Maison de la Gare focused their efforts on rallying the local community … residents, local services, sports teams, and government officials. Issa organized a series of meetings to gather the information needed to find a solution.

We are now working with the community to clean up the worst-infected common areas in Darou and to make them less susceptible to future flooding. Generous international donors have provided funds to finance this clean-up. These will cover shovels, wheelbarrows and rakes, personal protective equipment, first aid kits and mosquito repellent, pumps, and sand.

Hopefully, this effort will reduce at least a little the vulnerability of the children’s lives and will motivate the community to continue working together to improve the conditions in this neighbourhood. We are deeply grateful to all our supporters around the world whose contributions make it possible for us to respond to such emergencies.

___________

We are grateful to Off The Fence of Amsterdam, Netherlands, and to Caminos of Zürich, Switzerland, for making possible the clean-up in the Darou neighborhood of Saint-Louis, and to Cherif Khouri for his powerful photos.

Discussing the action plan with a marabout
Discussing the action plan with a marabout
The children's waterlogged sleeping area
The children's waterlogged sleeping area
Flooded streets of Darou
Flooded streets of Darou

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Lalla and Béatrice share the excitement of children forgetting for a time the stress and worries of their difficult lives

The talibé children wake in the early morning every day to face the difficult conditions of their lives.  They do not have time to develop and to live their childhood because they must beg to survive.  Soccer tournaments organized by Maison de la Gare are a magic moment for these children, as they allow them to de-stress and forget all the worries of their daily lives.  This is the story of one such tournament.

Ten teams were organized in two groups, each team representing a different daara.  Maison de la Gare’s sports coordinator, Lalla Sène, organized two simultaneous matches each week.  These qualifying matches were all played in the Kartier field in the Ndiolofène neighborhood of Saint Louis.

Lalla ensured that each team has a full complement of eleven players plus their substitutes.  This gives each of these children the chance to let off steam on the field and to give themselves up to the joy of it all.  Close to 120 talibés participated in the tournament, some as players and others as supporters.  The field was crowded with people at each game.  This was a great moment for the children, and even Maison de la Gare’s staff because it was an opportunity to help the children feel that they also have the right to enjoy life.

The children were totally motivated by the games and put all their energy into winning.  The atmosphere was electric during each match, but this did not prevent Lalla from strictly enforcing the rules of the game.  As a former member of Senegal’s national women’s soccer team, she is a skilled referee.

After weeks during which each of the ten teams played a total of four games, the tense moment arrived when the teams qualified for the semi-finals.  One team was eliminated, and the prize for third place went to the team from Daara Thierno Alassane Diallo.  The two making it to the finals were the teams from Daara Thierno Boiro in blue jerseys and from Daara Thierno Hamidou Bâ in yellow jerseys.

The final match of the tournament was played in the Mame Rawane Ngom stadium.  There is a tradition for such events.  Each team plans carefully how it will enter the stadium, trying to project their passion and their confidence to both the other team and to the spectators.  It is truly an Oscar presentation for them; an event that will be remembered for a long time.  The ambiance and the applause drive the players to be the best that they can be.

Lalla had set up a schedule for the match that gave both teams the chance to do their very best.  It was closely matched and very hard-fought.  In the end, the team in blue from Daara Thierno Boiro won over the yellow team from Daara Thierno Hamidou Bâ.  Neither team scored during the regulation 90 minutes of play, and the blue team won on a kick-off giving a final score of 1 to 0. 

Both finalist teams, along with the third-place team from Daara Thierno Alassane Diallo, were rewarded with a soccer ball for the daara and a jersey for each player.  And, of course, the blue team went home with the cup!  Talibé Moussa, who is better know by his nickname “Messi”, was awarded the titles of best player and best scorer.  He had scored a total of four goals during the tournament.

 

Maison de la Gare is grateful to all its partners for their support which makes tournaments like this possible, and so much more.

We invite you to watch this short video of the triumphant entry of the two finalist teams into the stadium, an event that they will never forget.

The talibes learn of plans for the tournament
The talibes learn of plans for the tournament
... and Lalla explains how it will work
... and Lalla explains how it will work
Crowds gather for the final match
Crowds gather for the final match
Teach Abdou helps provide music
Teach Abdou helps provide music
Lalla is ready with trophy and prizes
Lalla is ready with trophy and prizes
"Messi" accepts the trophy for the blue team
"Messi" accepts the trophy for the blue team

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Issa marvels at Arouna’s journey from abused child to international ambassador for the talibés

Maison de la Gare has always worked to improve the conditions of talibé children in their daaras, but also to understand why they have left their home communities. In fact, when they leave their villages most of these children have no idea what they are going to do in Saint Louis and even why they are leaving their villages.

From our investigations with families and with Koranic teachers or marabouts in remote villages, we have found that many live in extreme poverty caused by global warming and desertification, and this is what pushes them to seek a sustainable way to live. Many marabouts have found refuge in urban areas with a new method of living, mixing Koranic education with child exploitation.

A young talibé by the name of Arouna is an example of many who have had the opportunity to obtain a good education. He lost both his father and mother at a young age, and had to endure the abuses inflicted on him by society, by his marabout and by the older talibés of his daara. This did not prevent Arouna from redoubling his efforts and gaining confidence in himself. He was determined, at all costs, to be successful by devoting himself to both Koranic and academic education.

It is very difficult for a talibé who is sent from the streets of his village at a very young age to move to Saint Louis to live in a daara in conditions of extreme poverty. He suddenly finds that he must feed himself and that he must live without water or electricity, without a bed to sleep in, and with no blanket to protect himself from the cold.  However, this reality did not stop Arouna or cause him to abandon his vision. On top of these challenges, once he was attending school the torture and the aggression continued, this time verbally, inflicted by teachers and other students.

Arouna had faith, and he succeeded. He had to pass his baccalaureate to qualify for a place at university, but the unseen examiners did not allow him to pass this year. He will have to try again next year. Still, Arouna has become an icon and a role model for his fellow talibés and a beacon of hope for those of us who see endless possibility in the eyes of these children.

I must tell you that as long as there is life, there is hope! This year has been sacred and full of surprises. A documentary is being made about Arouna’s life over the past twenty years and will be distributed in early 2022. This has opened the doors of knowledge for Arouna, and he has met famous people including Imam Ratib of Saint Louis and Pope Francis in Rome.

This documentary follows Arouna’s journey from his home in Casamance as he struggled with and adapted to the cruel life of his daara. At the age of just seven years old, he had to forget family life with his parents and learn to meet his needs on the streets for food, clothing, and the money that his marabout demanded. A decade ago, he was introduced to Maison de la Gare by some of the talibé children in his daara, and he became a committed participant in our literacy classes. He showed enormous promise and agreed to start formal schooling, not realizing that this would lead one day to taking entrance exams for university.

Arouna’s rather troubled path led to an invitation from the Holy Father Pope Francis, in Rome, where they met in a 40-minute audience. In Arouna’s words: I had the chance to talk with him about the problem of begging, the poor and the injustice that I suffered in Senegalese schools and in the daaras. He was very surprised. He said that he will build a strong bond with me so that I can defend the poor and people who are not recognized throughout the world.”

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French volunteer Emmanuelle Pinet shares her project for the talibé children

The daily lives of Basile, Sidiki, Omar, Bassirou and all the other little talibés of Saint Louis are very challenging. Miles on foot in the morning cold, hours of begging for a few coins or a little food, sometimes illness, sometimes abuse, sometimes even worse...

What impressed me the most about these talibé children of Saint Louis is their smiles: frank, authentic, whole, and spontaneous!

Despite their young ages and the difficult lives that they face every day, they smile easily and laugh at the little joys of everyday life, and this is their greatest strength in my eyes!

In France, as in many countries, it is the parents who brush their babies' first teeth. Then, between the ages of 3 and 6 as the parents support their children in becoming more self-sufficient, the child brushes his or her own teeth several times a day.

In Saint Louis as elsewhere in Senegal, the young talibés are left to their own devices. They must manage from an early age to eat, dress, beg or work hard to collect the money required daily from their marabout.

So, who is there to teach them the basic principles of hygiene?

Who is there to make them understand the importance of being clean to be healthy and limit diseases?

Who is there to explain all this to them?

Who is there to show them and give them an example?

Who is there to accompany them in learning basic hygiene, to provide them with a suitable place, the material they need, and the support?

The parents? ... No.

The marabouts? ... No.

... no one is there!

So, at Maison de la Gare we have made it our mission to teach the children about oral hygiene. I brought a large stock of toothbrushes and toothpaste, enough for about fifty children, the vast majority of whom had no idea of the importance of brushing their teeth regularly.

These children’s strength is their smile, always so spontaneous and sincere. Some of them will be able to preserve it and take care of it from now on.

Emmanuel prepared a video of the children's discovery of tooth brushing, which you can see at this link.

Emmanuel & Abdou with their accomplished brushers
Emmanuel & Abdou with their accomplished brushers

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Organization Information

Maison de la Gare

Location: Saint Louis - Senegal
Website:
Project Leader:
Rod LeRoy
Saint Louis, Saint-Louis Senegal
$166,581 raised of $174,500 goal
 
2,149 donations
$7,919 to go
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