With your help, neighborhood Godmothers are now feeding close to 2,500 talibé children every day
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.
COVID-19 changed everything. Flights were cancelled, international volunteers were recalled home, countries were locked down.
It did not take long for things to escalate from bad to very much worse. As you know from our report last month, Senegal, with limited medical means to fight the virus, quickly moved to lock down the country. Within days internal travel was restricted, streets emptied, and 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.
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 is asking 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 were left with no access to food.
The amazing neighborhood Godmothers who have helped us to respond to this desperate situation are still at it, seven days a week. Thanks to our incredible donors, thanks to your response, we are still able to support these wonderful women with 800,000 francs (about $1,300 US) each week for their purchases of food. And we are providing masks and hygiene support in the daaras.
This is a terrible situation for the children. Imagine 30 to 70 or more children living together, locked down in a confined space with no hygiene facilities, no access to potable water and very rudimentary shelter. And, for active children, nothing to do!
But there is some encouraging news. For the first time in decades, there are almost no children begging on Senegal’s streets! Is there a possibility to build on this for a more positive future?
Two possible avenues for this are now being modelled, thanks to the pandemic. The first is that some daaras, for whom this is possible, are being allowed and encouraged to return to their home communities. The government and community organization CDPE (Departmental Committee for Child Protection) is organizing this and we are using some of your donations to support the cost. In parallel, we are expanding our support to Cheikh Diallo and the schools of Mbaye Aw as more daaras and children are returning home to that region.
For some daaras, return to their home communities is not a possibility. Could many of these be transitioned to “modern daaras” where the children are not forced to beg? The dedicated Godmothers could be part of this solution as they have been in this moment of crisis. Also, for a dozen or so daaras in proximity to our center, we are developing a plan with municipal authorities by which several hundred talibé children could come every day for the full day, as though they were going to school. This also is something that we could build on.
It is impossible to know what the coming weeks and months have in store for the talibé children. What we do know is that, with your help, we will continue to do everything in our power to make their plight more livable. And, perhaps, to take some steps towards Maison de la Gare’s vision of eliminating the scourge of child begging.
A Godmother cooking for the talibes
Talibes enjoying a meal
MDG's Mamadou, Bouri and Ndaraw with Godmother
Talibe children wearing their new masks
Constant focus on good hygiene practices
Feeding the children where they are