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

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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Joey shares his impressions from his Senegalese volunteer experience

Before my time in Senegal, I understood the idea that it takes a village to raise a child as an old proverb to encourage community and communal support. Now, I have seen firsthand a more profound meaning of this saying.

Nestled on the coast in the old capital city of Saint Louis, just off the main street across from the soccer stadium, you will find the organization Maison de la Gare. But “organization” does not do it justice. When I think of an organization, I think of front desks, nametags, big donors, and board meetings. This is not the case at Maison de la Gare. Maison de la Gare is truly a group of people, a tribe, a tribe that takes the safety, security, and success of each talibé boy personally.

When I arrived in Senegal, I had read a bit of the history of the former French colony, but I did not understand the impact of the system that still governs the country. Maison de la Gare is made up of people who stand for equity and for a fighting chance for the young and neglected talibés. But they are not just fighting a situation, they are fighting a government and a culture. The system of daaras, marabouts, and the talibés is antiquated, but it is engrained in the country systemically, legally, and culturally. This uphill battle can only be fought by people who truly believe in a better, brighter future.

The battle for a better future is fought on two fronts at Maison de la Gare. Firstly, in investing in the boys. Boys are found living on the streets by Amadou, made to feel at home by Noël, taught to play sports with Lala, taught literacy by Abdou, taught to sew by Kalidou and Baka, taught to raise poultry by Samba and Cheikh Ablaye, and taught to give back by Issa, and this is just a small part of the Maison de la Gare family. This is investment in the boys, in their future, in their lives. When the boys grow a bit older, Ndaraw can help them develop a business plan, and they can receive a loan to start a business and become self-sustaining earners.

But this is not enough, as the far away families of distant towns perpetuate the system of daaras by sending their boys away to abusive marabouts. Maison de la Gare attacks the problem on this front too, advocating and hosting meetings with various UN agencies, spreading the word to families about the corrupt system, and working with marabouts to teach them how to properly take care of the boys.

I equate Maison de la Gare to a village, not because one person teaches sports and another sewing, but because it is made up of leaders and adults who are exemplary in their demeanor, actions, and values. You will never have a conversation with Adama without her cracking up as she walks away, and Diodio will tell you herself that her favorite sport is smiling. And of course Issa, who has dedicated his life to the betterment of thousands of boys. He is the man who seems to never sleep, always has something to do, the local hero, the well-builder, the UN correspondent, whatever you want to call him … and still most days he has time to get some soccer in with the boys and, yes, he is a good player. So, despite the inordinate number of issues that seem to bring impending doom on this little village, somehow, I left feeling hopeful.

I left feeling hopeful because the talibé boys are in good hands; they live amongst people who, with every bone and cell in their bodies, genuinely care. I arrived to volunteer at an organization but found myself immersed in a village of noble souls, and that taught me more about being a good person than any organization could.

 

To the people of the village of Maison de la Gare, what you are doing is working, garnering international support, and improving the state of the world. Thank you, and I hope to come back soon.

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Emmanuelle struggles to understand the situation of the begging talibé street children

This is Emmanuelle's second report, written while she was a volunteer with Maison de la Gare in May 2021. In it, she tries to develop some understanding of how it is possible that thousands of children beg on the streets while others in society, who see them every day, seem unaware of their plight and of the injustice that they live.

___________________

"I want to talk to you about contrast. Always this striking contrast, but this time more precisely about the talibés.

The contrast that struck me throughout my stay in Saint Louis concerns habits. Already, as the days are passing very differently from my daily life in Paris, some new habits are taking root little by little.

Taking my cold shower in the morning, a habit that I will appreciate from now on. The pipes warm the water up a bit, thanks to the sun. It’s not too cold here, at least not for me, although it’s not unusual to see some children shivering in the morning in the streets, either students on their way to school or the young talibés with empty stomachs who arrive in the city center to beg.

There too, my gaze gets used to it little by little. And theirs to mine too. Some of them come to Maison de la Gare’s center and, when I pass them in the street, they call to me and say hello with a wide smile and without asking me for anything.

I used to like to say that HABIT IS DESTINY, and I am not the only one. All the personal development books remind us of the importance of routines, routines that structure you, organize you and cause you to repeat a sequence of actions that will eventually become automatic. Then, motivation will take a back seat and will no longer be as essential to completing your tasks.

However, if habits can be beneficial, they also have the power to make people accept the unacceptable. And I am realizing this here, a wake-up call like a big slap in the face.

Hundreds of children who have no access to basic hygiene, who don't eat properly, who are dressed in torn and oversized clothes, who beg on the streets all day, this is the daily landscape of downtown Saint Louis and everyone has accepted it, again by habit.

People speak to me of tenacious beliefs, of ignorance, of ultimate solutions for feeding the children, of a scourge that cannot be stopped any more as there are so many new daaras being set up. I believe that these people do not realize the tragedy of their words.

Of course, there are the shopkeepers and sometimes some passers-by who will give a coin, or a small bag of rice. Here again is a habit that avoids questioning by helping with the most urgent, the most vital needs.

Among the social actors, those who work with the children, I have also seen some who, because they are used to being confronted with misery, pay less attention now to what is in front of their eyes every day. They sometimes forget the importance of their task, and the extent to which they have in their hands the power to change the future of these children who have been left all alone to face the very worst.

And finally, the worst of all, the most unbearable and difficult to see and describe, is the habit of misery for these children.

They have only known this, they are only in contact with this. They receive no education, no care, no attention... but they remain children who laugh, who dance sometimes and who are together with others, often from the same daara.

I believe that the first mission of a volunteer here, and by far the most important, is this …

Whoever he or she is, no matter his or her origin, education or skills, to remind us through their tearful eyes, through their constant astonishment, their dejected looks, their silences or their questions, that everything that happens here in Saint Louis is not normal, that it is not right, that it is not tolerable, and that we cannot stay and watch this scourge out of habit, but rather stand up and act!

There is nothing that can justify a child begging in the street without shoes, it’s that simple. Just imagine the dangers of all types that surround these vulnerable little human beings!

Finally, some photos, maybe not the best, but some images that touched me more than others, and then this contrast of course, between the beautiful tourist Saint Louis and the daily life of these young talibés."

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Organization Information

Maison de la Gare

Location: Saint Louis - Senegal
Website:
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Project Leader:
Rod LeRoy
Saint Louis, Saint-Louis Senegal
$173,394 raised of $184,500 goal
 
2,276 donations
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