Children
 Senegal
Project #10053

Hope for begging talibe children, St-Louis Senegal

by Maison de la Gare
Vetted
Secretary John Kerry recognizes Issa as a "hero"
Secretary John Kerry recognizes Issa as a "hero"

Secretary of State John Kerry honors Issa Kouyaté as a Hero of the struggle against child trafficking

Every year the U.S. State Department honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking, the highlight of release of its annual report on progress in countries around the world. 

Issa was presented to Secretary Kerry with these words: "In recognition of his selfless dedication to protecting talibés, his commitment to providing them comprehensive care, and his vital role in building support among local officials to prevent human trafficking, Issa Kouyaté ..."

This is Issa's personal report of the experience:

"My journey to the US to receive the TIP Hero award was one the most moving experiences of my professional life.  This award honors all of the work that Maison de la Gare has done over the past five years, especially in child protection.  The report covers the world and gives each country a sense of where it stands in the areas of corruption, human trafficking and respect of international conventions that it has ratified.

The visit brought together nine individuals from different countries who are leaders in the struggle against trafficking.  Each of these counties has its own challenges.  For Senegal, represented by Maison de la Gare, the problem area is street children and children who are suffering abuse or are otherwise in vulnerable situations.

I met first in Dakar with U.S. Ambassador James Zumwalt who congratulated me for the tremendous work that Maison de la Gare does.  The Embassy covered my travel expenses.

In Washington we visited organizations like Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors.  And we learned in our exchanges that there are trafficking victims everywhere, even in the United States.  The meetings were successful, as many of these organizations want to stay in touch with us and our work.   We were also taken on a guided tour around Washington, visiting its monuments and statues; this helped us to understand the past and how it links the present with the future.

It was in meetings with Ambassador Susan Coppedge (Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons) and Secretary of State John Kerry that I really appreciated the impact of what we are doing.  Although we are on the other side of the world, we are key players in this struggle.  I became aware of how important our work is and how much we have accomplished in so short a time.  This has required great sacrifices and these leaders acknowledged this with generosity and  conviction.  I have reached a point personally where there is no room for error, especially in protecting the children.  

This award is very important for the thousands of people struggling to end human trafficking.  The Secretary of State and the ambassador took us into their confidence, emphasizing the importance of our work for the entire world.  We also met with US security chiefs who explained how they work to fight against human trafficking.

Many issues raised during the visit focused on the situation of talibé children in Senegal.  As the Senegalese representative, I had to explain the roles of Maison de la Gare and various government services.  In fact, the very next day the Senegalese government announced a decision about stabilizing the situation of street children, a decision to ban begging of street children throughout the country.

I returned home satisfied and full of hope that the children's situation and their living conditions will change for the better in the near future."

Issa proudly displaying his award
Issa proudly displaying his award
Issa advocates passionately for talibe children
Issa advocates passionately for talibe children
A working meeting with US anti-trafficking unit
A working meeting with US anti-trafficking unit
With Awa Ndour of Senegal anti-trafficking office
With Awa Ndour of Senegal anti-trafficking office
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King's words touched Issa deeply

Links:

Jerejef logo painted on the wall of MDG
Jerejef logo painted on the wall of MDG's library

Lydie reports on the extraordinary contribution of Asociación Jerejef

They only stayed a week, but what a week!

When Amaia Alonso contacted us to say that she had seen Maison de la Gare's work and that her association would like to support us, we couldn't imagine how this proposal would mark the everyday life of the center and especially of the children.

The association's name, "Jerejef" (thank you in Wolof), could not have been more appropriate as we can't thank them enough for their physical, psychological and emotional support.

They arrived on a Monday morning like a hurricane, renewing the energy level in the center.  After a brief meeting where the volunteers asked a thousand questions about the street children's situation, we defined the plan of work and distributed the tasks.

They got to work and involved everyone.  There were fifteen of them, fifteen Spaniards working in the center; the word "solidarity" has never had more meaning.  It was a bit difficult in the beginning because they were animated by a "toubab" approach but, in Senegal, things are more "nank nank" (gently).  You have to know in Senegal how to pace yourself without getting stressed.  The children got more and more curious as they saw the volunteers dig in and, as they love to feel needed, they were delighted to be able to help.

The infirmary was turned upside down and moved temporary into the entrance hall of the emergency shelter.  Awa, the nurse, was blown away.  Volunteers who treated the children did an extraordinary job; they cared for children from morning to night with tenderness and good humor, without flinching.  The infirmary is one of the hardest places to work in the center; it is in healing their wounds, scabies and other ailments that you can really see the suffering that these children endure.

Most difficult and heart-wrenching for the volunteers was the "night round" they went on with Bathe, looking for runaway children.  They were able to see the enormous work that Maison de la Gare is carrying our finding and taking charge of these children, bringing them to the security of the center's emergency dormitory.  It is a very traumatic experience to see young children choosing to sleep in the streets where they are exposed to great danger, instead of returning to their daara for fear of being beaten.

Teachers Abdou and Aunt Aïda, and especially the children, were delighted to have improved lighting in the classrooms.  I have to say that the volunteers were outstanding do-it-yourselfers!  They repainted three workshop rooms with the children's help.  The children left proud of themselves and a little stained with paint, but very happy.

The center was abuzz.  There were toubabs everywhere hard at work with the children, and many friendships were born.  The carpenter worked tirelessly side by side with one of the volunteers; they learned a lot from each other.

Imam went to Bango every day with two volunteers, to the property where the older talibé children are caring for a garden.  The volunteers taught Imam how to grow the wormwood plant and to appreciate its qualities.  The two women laughed a lot because Imam is a born comic, and I think that he found in them the aunts that all children should have close to them.

And, despite all the work that they did every day, each of the Spanish volunteers found time for children, to play football, to attempt Senegalese wrestling, to dance to the sound of the djembe, or just to talk with them ... although they did not speak the same language, they communicated easily with each other with the language of the heart.

It was an unforgettable week for the volunteers, the children and Maison de la Gare's staff, a week of solidarity, friendship, good humor and sharing.  The day of the celebration organized for the volunteers was one that we will not soon forget.  The children took charge.  There were many of them at the center that day and they wanted to thank their friends for everything they had done, and to say goodbye to them.  Everyone danced in groups to the sounds of the djembes and laughed together; the atmosphere was more than magical.  There are no words to describe this moment.

Each member of the center's staff presented a diploma to the volunteer whom they had worked most closely with during the week.  It was a surprise.  People do not often show their emotions in Senegalese society but, that day, everyone shed a few tears.  Awa came and snuggled in my arms to try to hide her emotion, trembling and weeping warm tears.  She was overjoyed with the renewal of the infirmary, with all the medical supplies that the volunteers had brought, and especially with the new treatment table for the children.

The climactic moment was when the fire eater put on his show.  The children's eyes were literally ready to pop out of their sockets; they could not open them more.  They were stunned and motionless, normally an impossibility for them as anyone who knows them can tell you!  We all had tears in our eyes.  When you know what the lives of these children are like and have the chance to see them happy, if only for a moment, emotion runs very deeply.

No one wanted the evening to end; it was so beautiful and moving.  But the children had to return to their daaras.  Otherwise they would be punished.  The hardest part was bursting the bubble of happiness and making them leave against their wishes.

Children kept talking about the toubabs and asking after them long after they left.  When they look at the Jerejef logo on the wall or at the benches they painted together, there is a smile on their faces.  These children do not forget; they are very grateful ...

Nurse Awa with donated medical supplies
Nurse Awa with donated medical supplies
Volunteers offer health care - temporary infirmary
Volunteers offer health care - temporary infirmary
Restoring one of the center
Restoring one of the center's murals
Volunteers repair the library
Volunteers repair the library's thatched roof
Children gather for thank you celebration
Children gather for thank you celebration
... amazed by the fire-eater
... amazed by the fire-eater
The Jerejef team  -  Mission Accomplished!
The Jerejef team - Mission Accomplished!

Links:

Deputy Governor Sahite Fall with Issa and Diodio
Deputy Governor Sahite Fall with Issa and Diodio

A major grant from the European Union opens promising possibilities for Maison de la Gare and the talibé children whom we serve

On Thursday, June 2nd, a project for "Improving the lives of talibé children, children living in the streets and vulnerable children" was launched at Hotel Keur Dada in Saint Louis, a four-year project made possible by a grant from the European Union.

Mr. Sahite Fall, Deputy Governor for Development for the Saint Louis region, presided over the ceremony.  It brought together people working in child protection in Saint Louis including representatives of government agencies, Koranic teachers ("marabouts") and women who act as godmothers to the children, along with representatives of the various movements and associations working in this area.  Personnel from Maison de la Gare and from Concept, our partner in the project, were also present.

Diodio Calloga Sané coordinates this initiative for Maison de la Gare and she presented the project.  She highlighted Saint Louis's situation as a renowned centre for Koranic learning, resulting in a concentration of talibé children from remote areas of Senegal and from neighboring countries such as Gambia and Guinea.  One of the first activities under the project was to carry out a census of talibé children in the city.  Close to 15,000 talibés were identified, most of them in difficult situations which call out for appropriate responses to improve their living conditions.

But the new project is not only devoted to the talibés.  It is also concerned with children from poor families or otherwise affected by family breakdown or incapacity.

Maison de la Gare and Concept are collaborating in the project with a network of associated organizations.  These include Action Femmes Enfants - a local association supporting child mothers in difficulty; Terres Rouges - an international NGO committed to the psychological and social support of street children, talibés and other vulnerable children; and Univers de l'enfant - which has worked with Maison de la Gare for years finding and caring for children living in the street.

We are also working closely with government organizations including Action sociale, AEMO (Educational Action in an Open Environments - Ministry of Justice), the regional Community Development Service, the police and the courts.  In addition, local artisans, school principals, marabouts, neighborhood representatives and other associations working in child protection are contributing to achieving the goals that have been established for this project.  All these actors were present at the project launch.

For Maison de la Gare, this new project reinforces the educational, health care and hygiene, artistic, sports and other activities in our center in Saint Louis, with two specific targets: welcoming over one thousand children at the center each year; and obtaining identity papers for 100 children every year.  The latter objective is of paramount importance as many talibé children have no identification papers and this blocks their access to formal schooling, banking activities and in fact to becoming full participants in Senegalese society.

Most important, this new project is making possible major progress on two critical objectives:

Finding, taking charge of and monitoring more than 350 children a year who are living in the streets.  For years, we have carried out "night rounds" to find children sleeping in the streets and to reintegrate them with their families.  However, these efforts have seemed like a drop in the ocean. Now we believe that we will be able to find and appropriately care for effectively all of the children living in the streets of Saint Louis.

Awareness campaigns.  We will organize awareness campaigns once every two months in the main areas of Senegal from where boys are sent to Saint Louis's daaras.  Going door-to-door, meeting with local media, organizing meetings and performing theatrical skits, we aim to make people aware of the violations of rights and freedoms and the abuse that their children are subjected to, and of the urgent need to protect these children.

With these two initiatives, our objective is to reduce the number of begging talibé children in Saint Louis by 25%.  The census that we have just completed will be the reference point for this quantitative objective.

The project provides for apprenticeship opportunities for older children, specifically targeting training of 600 children in sewing, carpentry, metal work, auto mechanics and computer science including 25 talibé children per year committed to Maison de la Gare's agricultural apprenticeship program in Bango.

In addition, the project will improve the living conditions of 300 vulnerable children or victims of violence, and support 1,000 vulnerable children enrolled in formal schooling.  Programs are also planned to strengthen the knowledge of prevention and protection mechanisms for thousands of children.

This project marks a new chapter, a watershed in the protection of vulnerable children in Saint Louis.  It is the opportunity for Maison de la Gare, Concept and everyone involved to make a major breakthrough in building a better future for these children.

A note to our precious supporters ... This new European Union grant provides a proportional contribution to the project costs.  It is your donations that are the base of the pyramid.  It is your support that is making it possible to change children's lives. 

Our EU application  -  an enormous team effort
Our EU application - an enormous team effort
Deputy Governor Fall presides over the ceremony
Deputy Governor Fall presides over the ceremony
Diodio presents the project ...
Diodio presents the project ...
... while the assembly listens attentively
... while the assembly listens attentively
Maison de la Gare
Maison de la Gare's team was there
Concept
Concept's president Amadou Dione takes the podium
Diodio interviewed by the media, after the event
Diodio interviewed by the media, after the event

Links:

Arouna in September 2012, already a mentor
Arouna in September 2012, already a mentor

A talibé shares his experience of life, and the role played by Maison de la Gare

My name is Arouna.  I am a talibé and Administrative Assistant at Maison de la Gare.  I grew up in Kolda in Casamance in the south of Senegal.  I was sent to a daara in Saint Louis in 2006 when I was nine years old, to pursue my study of the Koran.  I left behind my parents and three younger sisters, who are always in my thoughts.  And, while I've been in Saint Louis, both my father and mother died and I became an orphan.

When I arrived in Saint Louis, I saw children all around the city with begging bowls in hand, wandering barefoot with torn and filthy clothes and having no way to wash or get medical treatment.  I thought in my head: "What kind of a world is this?  What's the point?  Why be alive when there is no possibility to be yourself?"

I was sad from sunrise to sunset, wandering with my hands in my pants pockets.  At such moments, my thoughts always turned to my family.  Ah!!!  With my family I could have discussed things; I would have been able to express my opinions.  But, in the marabouts' world I was, like all the other children, a slave.

After three years of living this ordeal, I came upon an association called Maison de la Gare.  I was introduced by one of my comrades who had been going to Maison de la Gare's center every day.

Maison de la Gare is a non-profit organization, non-political and secular, that was founded in 2007 by a group of Senegalese driven by a desire to improve the living conditions of talibé children in their country, Senegal.  Maison de la Gare's objective is to help the talibés to integrate into Senegalese society, both socially and professionally, by providing them with access to education, sports and artistic activities and apprenticeship opportunities.

From my early days at the center, I saw many children in the courtyard.  Others were in the classrooms, in the infirmary, in the library or showering.  It was unimaginable for me to see all the talibés at home in the center as though they were with their families.  After a week, I started attending basic literacy classes with Bouri Cherif Mbodj, one of the center's French teachers.  I would go to the center in the mornings to wash and sometimes to get treatment for ailments or injuries.  And I would return every evening on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays for Math, French, History and Geography classes.  On Thursdays and Fridays, we organized soccer games with other children from around the city of Saint Louis.  Sports make a great contribution to children's development, helping them to better prepare their future.

I mastered basic French grammar in just three years. Finally I announced to Issa Kouyaté, Maison de la Gare's president, that I wanted to go to school.  He asked me "Arouna! Are you afraid to speak out in class?"  I said "No".  Then he asked me "Arouna!  Are you afraid to play with your classmates?"  Again, I answered "No".  He enrolled me in a public institution named CEM Amadou Fara Mbodj, a school located in the north of Saint Louis.

By the age of only sixteen, I had gained enough knowledge to become a leader and an example for the other talibés.  I devoted myself to my studies and often missed the football games or other activities as a result.  At times, I studied and did my homework in my daara until midnight by the light of the moon.  Despite my experience of the street, no one forced me to beg.  I always devoted time to obtaining a small quota of money for my marabout.  To do this, I sold fish in the local market that I had found on the banks of the Senegal River, discarded by fishermen.  Still, I always had time to look after the young talibés.  I was also available to help with the many chores required for the smooth running of the center.

Even beyond questions about life for children in the daaras, I asked myself about their lives after the daara: what can they do in life if they don't speak French (the official language in Senegal) and have no professional skills?  The best of them become themselves marabouts or Arabic teachers, but what about the rest?  Throughout my entire childhood, the age when a child learns about life in society, I was marginalized from everything ... because of my smell, my clothing and the fears of the other children's parents.  I also lacked any of the skills necessary to find a job, even a most rudimentary one!

People say that today's youth are the society of tomorrow.  What type of society can we build if our children are treated like this?  Let's not delude ourselves; a Muslim education is fine but we must also have technical skills.  The truth is that if I find myself as an adult without skills or employment, I will be lost to society and will swell the ranks of those outside the law.

Maison de la Gare has become my family.  I am also encouraged by my contacts with my correspondents in Canada via the Internet, and by volunteers at Maison de la Gare who know my qualities and my potential.

Myself and so many other children like me, we are the future of Senegal.

Today, Wednesday June 15th, is a perfect time to renew your support for the begging talibé street children.  It is Bonus Day at GlobalGiving and GlobalGiving UK and, after 9 a.m. EST, your donation will earn up to a 50% matching contribution.   It is your generous donations that makes possible Arouna's story, and so many like it.

Sept. 2014 - Reunited with his sisters after 8 yrs
Sept. 2014 - Reunited with his sisters after 8 yrs
Jan. 2012 - with Issa in Maison de la Gare center
Jan. 2012 - with Issa in Maison de la Gare center
Apr. 2013 - with young talibes at door to center
Apr. 2013 - with young talibes at door to center
Nov/13 - Talibe sleeping quarters, Arouna
Nov/13 - Talibe sleeping quarters, Arouna's daara
Mar. 2014 - Exchange with astronaut Chris Hadfield
Mar. 2014 - Exchange with astronaut Chris Hadfield
New Year 2015, with Kalidou at Maison des esclaves
New Year 2015, with Kalidou at Maison des esclaves
Mar. 2016 - a leader at Maison de la Gare
Mar. 2016 - a leader at Maison de la Gare

Links:

Issa proudly shows off new tomatos at Bango
Issa proudly shows off new tomatos at Bango

Maison de la Gare's agricultural apprenticeship program in Bango is born

For many years, the garden in Maison de la Gare’s centre in Saint Louis has been an oasis of greenery and tranquility in the lives of the begging talibé street children.  For the many children who have been directly involved in planting, cultivating, watering and otherwise caring for the garden, it has provided stability in their lives, giving them a sense of pride and responsibility and providing them with skills that will help them to eventually reintegrate into the farming communities that they come from.  Gardening has become a doorway to autonomy for these children.

The garden is small, however, too small for the ever increasing numbers of vulnerable children who see it as an opportunity to work towards a better future.  Many of the older talibé youth, typically between 17 and 25 years old, have wanted to take part, but there just has not been enough space for them to assume meaningful roles. 

Issa Kouyaté, Maison de la Gare’s president, has dreamed for over six years of acquiring a plot of land that could be used to establish an agricultural apprenticeship program for these older talibé children.  He has found many potential properties over the years, but has never had the financial means to go forward.  The possibility became real during a discussion with GO Campaign of Santa Monica, California in early 2015.  GO Campaign had given a grant to Maison de la Gare in 2014 that made it possible to build the emergency shelter in our Saint Louis center.  With the success of this project, they were looking for another way to help.  We prepared an application and, shortly afterwards, they provided funding to enable us to buy the land and start the project.

We found an ideal site for our purposes in Bango, a town seven kilometers from our center in Saint Louis.  The property, 621 square meters in size, is located next to an irrigation ditch that supplies water.  Thanks to the location in the delta of the Senegal River, the soil is rich and well suited to growing market vegetables.  Purchase of the land was completed by mid-summer of 2015 and the first sections were planted shortly after.  The plants grew well and we were expecting an early crop.  However, a short time later, everything was destroyed by the incursion of a herd of cattle.  We realized that we had to start over, after building a solid wall around the field.

Everything was ready by the end of the year, the wall, doors and a ten-meter deep well.  Issa was the first to taste the water from the new well and, fortunately, he confirmed that it is very good.  We started  2016 with new plantings, this time very successfully.  Seydou, an experienced local farmer, agreed to supervise the property and to serve as a teacher and mentor for the children.

Several initial crops have now been harvested, helping us to see what can be most successful as a base for the future.  Many of the young people are only beginning to appreciate the opportunity that this new space offers.  As more and more of them visit the property and as the children who are involved talk about their experiences, the numbers are growing.  The first harvests have shown how fertile the land is, and the experience has let us see which of the young people are ready to fully commit to this activity.  For these children, they are already feeling more independent and can see clearly how their involvement can lead to a meaningful future.  Maison de la Gare is making great strides both in developing the property and in supporting the talibés who are involved, encouraging them in their efforts and helping them to become increasingly self-confident.

Imam is one of the talibé youth committed to this project.  In his words, "Everything is going well, a good start.  It's good to be busy.  For the future, I hope this will continue and help me to find work."

We express our profound thanks to GO Campaign and to everyone who has made possible this new adventure for the children of Maison de la Gare, a pathway to becoming self-sufficient contributors to society.

Site of the project ... rich, well-watered soil
Site of the project ... rich, well-watered soil
The dream ... first peak at the possible property
The dream ... first peak at the possible property
Irrigation canal next to the property
Irrigation canal next to the property
Walls and well under construction
Walls and well under construction
The dream comes true
The dream comes true
Arouna and Imam draw water from the well
Arouna and Imam draw water from the well
Berengere, Imam & Arouna discuss development plans
Berengere, Imam & Arouna discuss development plans

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: http:/​/​www.mdgsl.com/​eng.html
Project Leader:
Rod LeRoy
Saint Louis, Senegal
$56,763 raised of $59,900 goal
 
 
680 donations
$3,137 to go
Donate Now
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. Learn more.
Add Project to Favorites

Help raise money for this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page for this project.

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.