Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal

by Maison de la Gare Vetted since 2012 Top Ranked Project of the Month Site Visit Verified
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
On the beach - a lighter side of volunteering
On the beach - a lighter side of volunteering

Sixteen amazing human beings bring the best of themselves to improve the lives of the talibé children

From the spring of 2018 until early 2019, sixteen volunteers from the United States and around Europe had an enormous impact on Maison de la Gare, on the lives of the talibé children and on their own lives. With commitments that ranged from a few weeks to six months, these individuals brought energy, creativity and caring to the begging street children that Maison de la Gare exists to support. They taught the children French, English and Spanish, led games, provided health care in the clinic and in the daaras where the children live, led excursions and sports activities, and introduced the children to the magic of drama and art. Most importantly, they treated the children with respect as their full equals and left them with a greater sense of their own worth and of the possibilities for a productive future.

Our hope in sharing the stories of these volunteers is that you, the reader, will know of others who could bring their magic to the talibé children, and for whom this experience could be magic.

The first volunteer of the season was Christoph, a fifty something German journalist. Christoph brought his special skills to bear in an insightful and troubling article published on our website, “A Prison for Children.” Shortly after Christoph left, Sam, a student from New York City, came for three weeks and worked with the children in arts, games, music and sports, engaging them with a gentle caring personality that quickly earned their affection. A Senegalese friend who worked with Sam at Maison de la Gare wrote to say that Sam gave away most of his shoes and clothes before he left. He described going on a night round with Sam looking for talibés sleeping in the streets. They found a boy sleeping alone. When they woke him up he was shivering uncontrollably, and Sam gave the boy his shirt and brought him dinner.

Joy from England arrived next, in mid-May, and quickly engaged with the children. Her story is on our website. Some excepts give a feeling for her experience. “I find it nearly impossible to put in to words everything that was my experience in Saint Louis with Maison de la Gare. When I close my eyes and take myself back, I picture the love of my host family, the mother who cared for me when I fell ill in the first week. All the different faces of the many children, their excitement and eagerness to play, for attention and to learn.” Joy shares a deep understanding of the critical role of volunteers: “I would urge anyone with a passion for helping others and a desire to become a Maison de la Gare volunteer to do so. Stay as long as possible; two months was what I was able to afford. I wish I could have stayed longer. The more time you can spend building up relationships and working out how you can make a difference, the better. Most importantly the contribution to the center as a volunteer is vital to its invaluable work in fighting for the rights of children and maintaining a safe space for them.”

Three remarkable young women from Florida State University arrived shortly after Joy, Simone and pre-med students Savannah and Taylor. Savannah wrote this reflection six-months after her return to the U.S.: There are no adequate words to quite describe this summer. It was a completely unique experience that I won’t ever again be able to duplicate. My time at Maison de la Gare taught me a great deal about how to overcome challenging language and cultural barriers. I think the most impactful part of my time was the relationships that I formed with my host family, with the talibés, with the Maison de la Gare workers and with my fellow students, Taylor and Simone.”

Savannah has recently been awarded the Humanitarian of the Year Award by her university, honoring her work with the talibé children. Taylor expressed her feelings in a testimonial for future volunteers: “Working with Maison de la Gare was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life so far. Saint Louis is a beautiful and historical town filled with amazing, welcoming and joyful people.  The staff members at Maison de la Gare are people I now consider family and very near to my heart. They were always there to comfort and entertain me with their daily jovial auras and made coming to the center every day even more enjoyable! Treating the talibé boys in the clinic was a very rewarding and extremely insightful experience as they constantly showed their appreciation for my help. They would always smile and call for me, even as I would walk around downtown or on my way home. It felt nice to have little friends everywhere I went.”

Three Spanish students, Paula, Naomi and Alex, brought their special spark to Maison de la Gare for two weeks in the late summer. Even with such a short stay they became deeply involved with the children, engaging them in arts, music and games. They were joined by two English adventuresses, Billie and Emily, who took a break from travels around Senegal to become immersed in the lives of the talibé children.

Graciela of California arrived in September for six months, a formative experience before starting university. Graciela’s ability to listen and strive to understand served her very well in fitting into a culture and work environment foreign to her experience, and she thrived. She worked primarily in our education programs, teaching English to the older talibés and French literacy to the younger children. Graciela was joined in November by Norwegian nurse Mari and one month later by Mari’s sister Lise. Mari and Lise’s story is the subject of another article on our website, about their family’s Christmas in Saint-Louis. Mari concludes this simply with a commitment: “Thank you Maison de la Gare for helping us help these talibé children. We will never stop doing that.”

The new year began with two volunteers from France. Jean marie was with us for two months and was deeply committed to finding ways to use his experience with information technology to benefit the talibé children. And Nathalie, an intern from the University of Bordeaux-Montaigne is with us for six months, working with the talibés students to understand how best to motivate their learning.

It is a rich tapestry, and Maison de la Gare and the talibé children have been blessed by every one of these dedicated individuals.

Sam, surrounded by his fans
Sam, surrounded by his fans
Savannah with soccer balls she donated
Savannah with soccer balls she donated
Abdou giving Simone a certificate of appreciation
Abdou giving Simone a certificate of appreciation
Taylor at home in the infirmary
Taylor at home in the infirmary
Spanish volunteers Naomi, Alex and Paula
Spanish volunteers Naomi, Alex and Paula
Graciela delights a talibe child
Graciela delights a talibe child
Nathalie, intensely animated with her students
Nathalie, intensely animated with her students
Jean marie shares his computer skills
Jean marie shares his computer skills

Links:

Le Book Humanitaire left a permanent reminder
Le Book Humanitaire left a permanent reminder

Le Book Humanitaire’s mission to Maison de la Gare in Saint-Louis, Senegal

"When we left, which was unbelievably sad, I was deeply moved by the appreciation of the young talibés, by their smiles. They had prepared a song for us," recalls Daphné Deschambault, a secondary-five student at Polyvalente Saint-Jérôme in Quebec.

Twenty students from the Polyvalente and two teachers, Alain Dionne and Isabelle Levert, joined Rachel Lapierre, the founder of Le Book Humanitaire, to take a flight to the far reaches of the earth, to Saint-Louis in Senegal. It’s a poor and overcrowded city where there are talibés confined in daaras (the name given to Koranic schools). A talibé is a young boy from a poor family who has been entrusted to a Koranic teacher (a marabout) and who is expected to perfect his religious knowledge. "Do not look for girls," says Geneviève Bédard, another participant, "it is total inequality between the sexes in Senegal."

The fate of the talibés could not be more tragic. "It’s enough to fall into the hands of a bad marabout," says Émile Éthier, still proud of his experience building a concrete floor in a daara. Indeed, these naive children, virtual slaves, too often have to beg and take care of domestic tasks to enable their religious master and his family to live well. Unhealthy conditions, filth, poverty, disease, malnutrition. So many difficulties, but these boys live without it ever suppressing their proverbial smile, their thirst for discovery and their faith in existence.

The mission of the non-profit organization Le Book Humanitaire is to bring about positive change in such situations.

 

Culture Shock

To help, to want to share one's knowledge, one's humanity, is one thing. To do this in a situation where the reality is so different from our cultural points of reference is something else. "Children here fight for food ; we throw it out," says Genevieve. Daphne adds: "When I realized that not all the children were going to receive the food we had prepared for them, I was really upset."

Children who reach out their hands, wanting food but caught in the deprivation imposed by the Muslim Ramadan. This reality opened the Polyvalente students’ eyes. They felt pampered and privileged. "Young talibés are happy and grateful for life. We have everything, yet we are materialistic and dissatisfied. It changed me. I can’t wait to leave on another trip" says Justine Ouellet, her eyes sparkling.

In a country where a man’s wealth is measured by the number of goats he owns, the cultural differences are obvious. When the number of television antennas on a Senegalese house indicates the number of women a polygamous man has married, the culture shock is total.

The Polyvalente students, including Émile among others, have changed their personal habits. "In this context, seeing such poverty, I realized that I prefer to give rather than receive, especially to those who are poorer. Since my trip I am more sensitive to the misery of others, to the homeless as well. I even finish my meals!” he exclaims thoughtfully.

 

Many Tasks

Several work projects organized by Le Book Humanitaire gave students a chance to develop new skills. Some students were introduced to the world of basic health care in Maison de la Gare’s infirmary. "I learned to bandage, wash and disinfect wounds and to take blood pressure," says Geneviève Bédard, while one of her companions adds that some young children seek care only for the sake of being comforted.

Other students helped by painting a beautiful mural at the entrance to the center, and by beautifying the garden with colorfully painted discarded tires. "I loved the contact with the children while we were working on these projects," says Justine.

 

Isabelle Levert, teacher and trip organizer, summarizes their experience on their last day: "After a little shopping, part of our last day at Maison de la Gare, we finished the mural, distributed school supplies and educational games, and prepared and served the meal (the only one of the day for most of the children). And, we distributed maple syrup candy to everyone, along with caps and bracelets made by the students. We were warmly thanked, individually, by the children and by Maison de la Gare’s staff members. We are now part of their big family. The goodbyes were very difficult for some. But, to cheer up the troops, we danced and sang with them.”

Isabelle continues: "I don’t know if I should be happy or sad. I am happy because young students from Canada have left their studies, their families, their work, their comfort zones to help the talibé children of Maison de la Gare, and to better understand the causes of forced begging of the talibé children of Senegal. But even more, we had the immense pleasure of working with them. We truly hope that the bonds that have been forged will last forever and that we can continue to be a vibrant network of young intellectuals ready to work for a better life for the talibé children."

But beyond all these unforgettable memories, a doubt remains. The needy glances, the powerlessness in the face of a society whose organization escapes us. Through all this, Émile's wisdom offers hope. "The talibés find happiness in all the little things," he says, comparing our attitude to theirs.

 

p.s. Please note that all the persons named in this report, with the exception of teacher Isabelle Levert and Le Book Humanitaire founder Rachel Lapierre, are the Quebec student authors of the report.

Some students were introduced to basic health care
Some students were introduced to basic health care
... painting a beautiful mural outside the center
... painting a beautiful mural outside the center
Making a new floor in the sleeping area of a daara
Making a new floor in the sleeping area of a daara
Reading with children in Maison de la Gare library
Reading with children in Maison de la Gare library
Rachel Lapierre dansing with MDG teacher Abdou
Rachel Lapierre dansing with MDG teacher Abdou
The humanitarians, with appreciation certificates
The humanitarians, with appreciation certificates

Links:

Farewell celebration for Mari and Lise at MDG
Farewell celebration for Mari and Lise at MDG

Stories from a Norwegian family, volunteers and visitors at Maison de la Gare

Mari and Lisa Øyen were valued volunteers with Maison de la Gare in the final months of 2018, living with a Senegalese host family and spending their days working with the talibé children. Their parents Eva Steinkjer and Øyvind Øyen joined them in Saint Louis for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday. This is their story.

From Eva, the mother

We stayed at the hotel La Maison Rose in Saint Louis, in a quiet and welcoming atmosphere. Every morning at breakfast we were surrounded by walls decorated with artwork showing different scenes of colored people serving a white person. Senegal’s colonial period, that ended in 1960, was still alive in this room.

We were told that the marabouts (Muslim religious leaders and teachers) played important roles in the liberation of Senegal. We learned that their followers are called talibés, and that they need donations to eat and to meet their basic needs. In Norway, we know nothing about these boys having to beg in the streets. The talibé boys can be as young as 4 years old, and many have been sent from poor homes in the countryside.

“I have a dream” - I am standing in the classroom where tables are crowded with boys making “thank you” drawings for Mari and Lise.

Other drawings are displayed on the walls. When I stop and look interested, Abdou stands beside me and tells me the story of a drawing in brown paint. He recalls the boy who painted it, who told him that it was the famous Faidherbe bridge (which I recognize as the bridge that connects the island of Saint Louis with the mainland). The boy himself is depicted on the bridge, and he has painted a car in the middle of the bridge. At the top of the white sheet of paper he has drawn some people: a sister, a brother and the rest of his family. Abdou tells me that the boy wanted the car to come and take him back to his family. Perhaps an impossible dream, but still a dream. As an art therapist, I know that the ability to dream creates hope and contact with inner life. This drawing may be difficult for us to look at as witnesses who know about the reality of boys’ lives, but it can provide strong support for their emotional health.

“Merci pour tous vous avait fait” (Thank you for all you’ve done) - I am not sure what I expect from my visit to this room with the boys’ drawings. I have brought some small sheets of paper, scissors, some colored pencils, stickers, glue and markers with me from Norway. The papers are embossed with my logo, name and phone number. I am sitting beside a boy who spontaneously says to me: “C’est ton nom?” (Is that your name?) I look at him and say “Oui. Comment tu t’appelles ?” (Yes. What’s your name?) He says his name: Amadou. We are connecting. I watch how the boy draws. I have seen this situation many times as a teacher in Norway. The children want to make straight lines, and use the eraser generously. Amadou draws a house with an open door. I ask him who lives in this house. He answers: “moi”. Then he draws himself in the doorway and writes his name underneath it. Another boy who is older than Amadou is sitting on the opposite side of the table. He can’t write his name and asks Amadou to write it for him. Amadou continues to write, and after a while he shows me what he has written: “Merci pour tous vous avait fait.”

Reflecting on this experience, I see how the boys’ artwork is a way of communicating, both their reality and their dreams. I would be happy to support more of this work, although I’m not sure how to do this. Still, I’m thankful for this visit to Maison de la Gare and will work to find ways to support their work.

From Lise, volunteer

“Sometimes it feels like there is so little I can do. But at least I can stop when I meet the boys in the street. I do not give them money, but I ask them their names. They all have a name - they exist!”

I decided to work as a volunteer during my three week Christmas holiday. The thing I was most nervous about was celebrating Christmas in a Muslim country like Senegal. I have spent every single Christmas of my life at home in Norway, doing the same things every year. And, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, going home for Christmas was always what I pictured. Despite this, Mari managed to convince the whole family that celebrating Christmas in Senegal would be a good idea.

My Christmas traditions are still important to me, and celebrating next Christmas in Norway might be even better than usual because of what we experienced in Saint-Louis. Volunteering for Maison de la Gare may be the single most important thing I’ve done in my entire life. And, in some ways, I think it was important for me that I did it during Christmas. Kindness, helping each other and taking extra care of each other are some of the things I like about Christmas. Helping the talibé children and experiencing their gratitude when receiving their Christmas presents was perhaps the best Christmas present I could ever get.

The cultural gap between Norway and Senegal is enormous. Seeing begging children all the time on the streets, knowing that they are going to be beaten if they don’t earn enough money that day. That was maybe the most challenging thing being a volunteer. Every day it was a constant struggle not to take the talibé children home with me, thinking I could be a mother to them.

Working in the infirmary, we saw and treated many wounds and skin diseases. We met many talibé boys we’ll never forget, and I will tell you about two of them. One day an older talibé (perhaps 13 years old) came with a younger one. He was not more then 5, and had an old piece of a wooden toothbrush in his ear. How it ended up in his ear, we will never know. The little kid was suffering a lot of pain. So Mari and I went to the hospital with him with one of Maison de la Gare’s staff members. The boy was so scared, and we tried to calm him down with body language. At the hospital, the doctors got the piece of wood out of his ear. Without help, he would likely have gotten an infection and lost his hearing. He got help because of Maison de la Gare and the donations that make their work possible.

The next talibé boy I will tell you about, Babacar, was a common case. He came in with severe scabies. Scabies is a serious skin disease that results in extreme itching and rashes. It’s caused by a parasite that digs tunnels under the skin. To get rid of this disease you have to wash all your clothes and bed sheets at 60 degrees (about 140 F), wash yourself and your family and get scabies treatment. However, the talibé boys live together with around 50 other boys, so it’s impossible to treat everyone. At Maison de la Gare, we often gave the boys new clothes since they only wash their clothes in cold water. The first time I met Babacar I gave him new clothes, but the next day he wasn’t wearing them. I asked why, and he answered that the marabout had taken the clothes. In spite of this, Babacar seemed to do well with our treatments. We met him many times on the streets during our visit. He always smiled and came over to shake hands. One time one of his friends also came over and called me Santa.

From Mari, volunteer

I have experienced and learned so much in my two months as a volunteer nurse for Maison de la Gare. Above all, I will always remember the beautiful boys and the staff members that I met at the center.

My sister has described some of the challenges you face as a Norwegian girl in Saint Louis. The last two months have not been easy, but I’ve learned more than I could have expected. I am truly proud of being a part of the Maison de la Gare team, and I will continue support their vision.

The Senegalese people have taught me how to share, to make the most out of what you have, and to take care of the people you love and to give each other time. I will never lose this. I am returning to Norway with a new view of my life and of my background. I am grateful for having being born in one of the most developed countries in the world, where women and men have the same jobs. We must support the developing parts of the world. The talibé boys deserve and have the right to a better future.

Thank you Maison de la Gare, for helping us help these talibé children. We will never stop doing that.

A talibe child
A talibe child's dream of returning home
Amadou
Amadou's message: "Thank you for all you've done"
Lise and volunteer Graciela with a talibe child
Lise and volunteer Graciela with a talibe child
Lise treating a child
Lise treating a child's infected foot
For Mari: "The children say thanks" (in Norwegian)
For Mari: "The children say thanks" (in Norwegian)
Eva and Oyvind with teacher Abdou
Eva and Oyvind with teacher Abdou

Links:

Elhage gently examines a child
Elhage gently examines a child's sore knee

Elhage's Passion - Sonia shares her experience with a remarkable young man

Elhage does not lead an easy life.  He is an example of how Maison de la Gare’s intervention can offer hope and opportunities to talibés who are willing to take advantage of those opportunities. And, for those who do not, at least Maison de la Gare offers them daily respite from very challenging situations. Elhage is an intelligent person.  He pays attention, and he has a positive, optimistic nature despite his years of abuse in the daara.  When opportunity knocks, Elhage will answer. Even more, he does not forget where he came from, or those who were not as fortunate as he to grab hold of hope that leads to change.

Elhage joined the karate program a few years ago when it was introduced at Maison de la Gare.  And, he participated in the classroom programs from the start.  He is always here, watching, learning, ready to help others when needed.  When the tailoring apprenticeship program began, Elhage joined it too, seeing the trade of tailoring as the key to a successful life. 

Speaking about his apprenticeship, Elhage said “Not having a trade at my age is like walking blind."  Most talibés face this challenge.  Talibés can remain under the thumbs of their marabouts until perhaps the age of 20 or later, never having had access to any formal education or apprenticeship opportunities.  And their only companions are other neglected children.  Their only teachers force them to beg and abuse them.  What does a child learn growing up in this environment?  At what point do they learn to support themselves and contribute as citizens should?  

These days Elhage is a busy person.  He spends two days a week, usually Sunday and Monday, in the market, hoping for the chance to work at odd jobs to earn enough money to feed himself for the week.  He works the remaining days of the week in the tailoring apprenticeship program.  But, he also takes responsibility at Maison de la Gare.  Elhage sleeps in Maison de la Gare’s center at night.  So, when the runaway talibés discovered on the streets during the twice weekly night rounds are delivered to Maison de la Gare's emergency shelter at 1 or 2 in the morning, Elhage is there to greet them and help set up their beds, get them some food, and tuck them in.  He is also trusted with the keys and is available to help with whatever is needed anytime.  But, this is not all Elhage does.  He has taken it upon himself to provide health care in the daaras.

Several mornings a week Elhage packs a bag of supplies from the medical clinic and heads out to the daaras to deliver health care on site to talibés who cannot make their way to Maison de la Gare.  If there are international volunteers, he invites them along to help.  I asked Elhage why he does this - going out early in the morning to walk dusty, dirty back alleys in search of remote and neglected daaras, to toil cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging little boys' wounds, applying ointments, and determining who might need antibiotics or hospitalization, taking away from the time he has to apply himself to his apprenticeship.  He said it is because he was a forced begging talibé for many years, beaten by his marabout and neglected.  He said he knows what these boys suffer.  He does not want them to be forgotten.  He knows they need help and that he can give it.  Elhage pointed out that Maison de la Gare supported him while he was immersed in the life of his daara and is providing him with the opportunity to make his way in life.  Elhage says the boys from these remote daaras have trouble regularly making their way to Maison de la Gare’s clinic. He says it is therefore something he just must do.

One morning, I accompanied Elhage on his daara medical rounds.  Because we left late, we took a taxi to the area near the first daara.  Elhage says he usually walks.  It must take him over an hour to reach the area on foot.  We approached the daara and Elhage politely greeted the marabout.

Upon entering the daara Elhage was immediately surrounded and greeted by many little boys.  They clearly knew him well and welcomed his presence.  We sat down, and the boys presented themselves to us one by one.  We donned medical gloves, examined their wounds, and then got to work cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging.  A group of boys huddled around Elhage while I worked on a very badly infected toe.  Elhage's crowd had all been circumcised not long ago, but their wounds were not healing.  I glanced over as boy after boy uncovered a swollen, infected penis for Elhage to treat.  Elhage took what seemed to be hours carefully cleaning and bandaging the wounds.  I later asked Elhage if it is usual to have such extreme problems after circumcision, and he said not at all.  This is very unusual - but common at this particular daara.

The toe I was treating had swollen to about twice its normal size.  And, after I cleaned away the dried blood and caked-in filth, I saw that the skin was entirely missing from almost all of his toe.  Every touch was agonizing.  I shared some Advil with the boy, and he gritted his teeth stoically, tears squeezing out of his eyes, as I did my best for him.  In bare feet, I do not know how long his bandage will last.  Elhage says he will consult with Awa the nurse and return soon, hopefully with antibiotics.

At the second daara we visited, we treated just a few boys.  But, one was quite a serious case.  Elhage said that he must come at least every three days to re-clean and disinfect this boy's wounded leg.  The leg felt hot as I did my best to clean it without water.  And, it was swollen over a large area.  Elhage added this boy's case to the list to consult on with Awa.  A few talibés came for medical care who only had slight scratches.  However, as they seemed to revel in the care and attention being showered on them as we cleaned and bandaged them, we welcomed the opportunity to do this.

Eventually we made our way back to Maison de la Gare, all our bandages and "cotton" used up, and my Advil bottle empty.  Most of the other staff and children had long since left for the mid-afternoon break.  Elhage, on the other hand, made his way to the tailoring room and got right back to work.

Elhage and Kalidou, proud of their work
Elhage and Kalidou, proud of their work
The entrance to the first daara
The entrance to the first daara
Treating a child, many others waiting
Treating a child, many others waiting
... on to the second daara
... on to the second daara
A much-appreciated visitor
A much-appreciated visitor
And, back to work at the sewing center
And, back to work at the sewing center

Links:

A grant in 2013 from the United Nations Fund for the Struggle Against Contemporary Forms of Slavery set us on our path.  We need your help to continue this work.

Every month we welcome over 900 begging street children and provide food, medicine and education.  We are grass roots, efficient and transformative.  And, we need your help.

The begging talibés are young boys sent to learn the Quran with a “marabout”. As young as four years old, they typically come from very poor families in Senegal or neighbouring countries. Although they are meant to receive a basic education and to learn the Quran, in fact they are most often found in the streets where they beg for 6 to 10 hours a day for their food and a quota of money. They live in primitive “daaras” without access to potable water or basic hygiene facilities, and with only rudimentary shelter.

These children are excluded from the government education system and must bring themselves up, far from their families whom they seldom if ever see. They are easily victimized by unscrupulous people and are exposed to serious health problems. We carried out a census in the city of Saint Louis in 2016, identifying 14,779 begging talibés living in 197 daaras.

Maison de la Gare dramatically improves the lives of these children.  The organization’s center in Saint Louis has become a haven and a beacon of hope for these boys. Our literacy programs, arts and sports, nutritional and hygiene support and medical care are changing their lives for the better. Our emergency shelter is a halfway house for over 300 boys living on the streets whom we recover each year, most of them runaway victims of brutal abuse in their daaras. And our agricultural, poultry farming and tailoring apprenticeship programs are supporting older boys in obtaining the skills they need to become independent, contributing members of society.  It’s not easy.  Sometimes we struggle, but we are committed because we see the results.  Every week, every month.

Since 2008, we have been able to steadily increase the number of boys we support.  Start-up grants from the UN Slavery Fund, Global Fund for Children and others made it possible to establish and build our programs.  Now, we must find new partners to sustain these programs.  This is where you come in.  Every dollar you contribute makes a difference.

Now, in December 2018, our support from the United Nations fund has come to an end.  Please join us.  We need your help to sustain this life-giving work. 

Links:

 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

Maison de la Gare

Location: Saint Louis - Senegal
Website:
Project Leader:
Rod LeRoy
Saint Louis, Saint-Louis Senegal
$98,119 raised of $102,500 goal
 
1,170 donations
$4,381 to go
Donate Now
lock
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. View other ways to donate
Add Project to Favorites

Help raise money!

Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.