Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal

by Maison de la Gare
Play Video
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
The tailoring center is a magnet for young talibes
The tailoring center is a magnet for young talibes

Maison de la Gare’s tailoring apprenticeship program takes off

A beautiful new building began to take shape within Maison de la Gare’s welcome center early in 2018, adjacent to the garden and the infirmary.  The hundreds of talibé children who frequent the center every day were very curious about what this would be.  But several of the older talibés knew, and they were waiting eagerly to begin a new and hopeful chapter in their lives.

The talibé youth who stay in their daaras for 5, 10 or even 15 years all face the challenge of what to do when they have completed their Koranic education or are otherwise too old to continue in their daaras.  They have no formal education and no marketable skills, and most do not want to return to their communities of origin where they remember almost no one and have no way of sustaining themselves.  These youth are desperate to find possibilities for a better life.

Many of these older talibés have been with Maison de la Gare for years, and we have become increasingly determined to support them in developing trades which can offer them self-sufficiency and respect in society.  The agricultural apprenticeship program in Bango was our first step in doing this, and this was followed in early 2018 with a poultry farming project.  The tailoring apprenticeship project complements these earlier efforts, attracting and motivating more youth.

The new center was completed in the late spring of 2018 and is now fully operational with 12 electric sewing machines.  An experienced Saint Louis tailor, Baka Fall of Baka Fashion, has made a commitment to guide the program as an instructor and a mentor for the apprentices.  And Kalidou, a talibé who has been developing his skills as a tailoring apprentice for many years, is thriving in his new role as the lead talibé for this program.  He is always present, and his quiet and supportive teaching approach is well accepted by the talibé apprentices.  With Baka’s support, Kalidou is now capable of producing excellent quality traditional clothing of almost any design required by the Senegalese market.  Kalidou is very proud of his role in this project.  Although he is ready to support himself independently, we hope that he will stay with the project for some time.

Two other apprentices are sterling examples of the opportunities offered by this new program.  Both have been the subject of earlier reports, as they have searched to find a direction for their lives.

Souleymane fully understands the need to have a professional skill, as he was launched from his daara without any ability to earn a decent living.  Souleymane was sent to a daara in Saint Louis from his home in the Gambia at a young age.  He began frequenting Maison de la Gare’s center in 2010 where he faithfully attended literacy classes and became a leader of the karate program.  In 2017, Souleymane’s family convinced him to return home for an arranged marriage.  Once there, however, he realized that it wasn’t possible to have the life that he had envisaged for himself and his family.  He returned to Saint Louis determined to learn a trade.  Souleymane expressed his motivation to join the tailoring program saying simply: “I want to have a meaningful activity and a trade.”  He faces the challenge of supporting himself and his family while continuing in the program.  We have provided living accommodations for him, but he must still eat and send a small contribution home to his wife in Gambia.  However, Souleymane has persisted, and he will soon have the skills that he needs to generate a living income.

Elhage has also persisted, with a personal drive and motivation that are truly exceptional.  He was very articulate when he signed up for this program: “Not having a trade at my age is like walking blind.  There was no work for me here and I want to train to have a better life, to have real work and a skill so that I can run my own business.”  Elhage spends two days a week in the market, working 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 and he sleeps in Maison de la Gare’s emergency shelter building at night.  With his tailoring skills, Elhage will soon be ready to use his boundless energy to build his own life; he is a model and an inspiration to the other talibés of all ages.

 

Apprentices have been at work in the sewing center pretty well every weekday over the past year, and often on weekends.  They have learned to make traditional clothing items such as pants, skirts and shirts as well as items like colorful shopping bags.  These are beautifully finished, fully on par with equivalent items purchased in the local markets or elsewhere in Saint Louis.

Many of Maison de la Gare’s volunteers have purchased clothing and other items to take home with them as gifts or for themselves.  The apprentices have produced robust and colorful bags of different sizes, and other volunteers have taken samples of these home with them for sale in Canada, the U.S. and some countries in Europe.  A flower shop in Ottawa, Canada – Alta Vista Flowers - is offering smaller bags with some of their floral arrangements and they reported sales over $200 during a recent month.    Such sales are very motivating for the apprentices and, if we can build successfully on these beginnings, can make an important contribution to the sustainability of this valuable program.

The tailoring program has allowed us to respect a promise that we made to the older talibé children who have grown up with us, a promise to offer them a way of finding true stability and self-respect in their lives.  The tailoring apprenticeship building has become a magnet for the talibé children participating in our other programs and is a visible statement and reminder to them that there are possibilities for them to become competent and self-sufficient, to take charge of their own lives. 

We asked Kalidou what the project means to him.  His response: “I feel too emotional to speak.  I don’t have words to express how much this project means to me.  It is a dream come true.”

The new tailoring apprenticeship building
The new tailoring apprenticeship building
Instructor Baka modelling a talibe-made outfit
Instructor Baka modelling a talibe-made outfit
Kalidou
Kalidou
Souleymane
Souleymane
Elhage
Elhage
Michael accepts bags for sale by AltaVista Flowers
Michael accepts bags for sale by AltaVista Flowers
Mamadou & Kalidou deliver dress to happy customer
Mamadou & Kalidou deliver dress to happy customer

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Lala with winning team at a Thursday tournament
Lala with winning team at a Thursday tournament

“I feed myself off of my love for the talibés and their love for me”

Lala sits under the shade of the bougainvillea, talking to a little talibé. Lala is listening to him, giving him her full attention. She speaks a few encouraging words. He nods, she pats him on the shoulder, and he runs off.

Maison de la Gare is lucky to have Lala Sène as a dedicated, long term volunteer. Lala played soccer with Senegal's Women's National Team in 2006, 2009 and 2012. Soccer was her life until 2017 when she received a career ending injury of a double fracture to her right foot. Wanting to use her skills to help the forced begging talibé street children of her city, Saint Louis, she began to volunteer at Maison de la Gare, coaching the soccer-crazy talibés and organizing a weekly tournament at the center.

As Lala's injury healed and the talibé boys of Maison de la Gare captured her heart, she increased the frequency of her volunteering until she could be found at the center every day, helping to prepare the daily food or lending a hand wherever it is needed. The Thursday soccer tournaments continue, but frequent informal pick-up games now also offer regular opportunities for the boys to receive coaching tips and the extra special attention that is so lacking in their lives.

Lala was born in Saint Louis, into a family of sixteen children. She began to play soccer with the boys in her neighborhood at age six. Her father knew of her love of the beautiful game and could see that she was always the best player on her teams. He encouraged her to feed her passion and pursue her dream of playing professional soccer. When her father was on his death bed, he asked Lala's coach to watch over her and continue to encourage her, a wish that her coach has continued to honor.

Lala's parents are both gone now. She lives in her family home with five of her sisters and three of her brothers. They support each other and they encourage her in her devotion to the talibés, recognizing the importance of this work for her.

Lala is now completely devoted to the talibés. Her greatest worry is that if she falls sick, or even needs to take a few days away from Maison de la Gare, the children will miss her. She says: "If God is good, I will be able to remain at Maison de la Gare and help these children who trust and need me." She adds that the talibés are like her little brothers or her own children. It hurts her heart to be away from them. And it touches her deeply when the talibés call her name out to her on the streets of Saint Louis.

It is Lala's greatest wish for the future to be able to continue to commit herself to the talibé boys of Maison de la Gare.

"I feed myself off my love for the talibés and their love for me. I am one with them." - Lala Sène

... with her boys in Maison de la Gare's center
... with her boys in Maison de la Gare's center
Always ready to help, here repainting the center
Always ready to help, here repainting the center
Distributing food to talibes with volunteer Alicia
Distributing food to talibes with volunteer Alicia
Refereeing a game at Maison de la Gare
Refereeing a game at Maison de la Gare
Lala leading games for the talibes, with Abdou
Lala leading games for the talibes, with Abdou

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
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:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
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:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
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's dream of returning home
A talibe child's dream of returning home
Amadou's message: "Thank you for all you've done"
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's infected foot
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:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
 

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
$155,672 raised of $164,500 goal
 
1,953 donations
$8,828 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

Maison de la Gare has earned this recognition on GlobalGiving:

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.