Over the past few weeks, Janek Seevaratnam in England has obtained 66 donations to Maison de la Gare through GlobalGiving, with a moving personal sacrifice. Donations totaled £1,021 plus $138 US. The donations were
designated for nutritious baguettes for talibé students (15x), for registration and support of talibé students in formal schooling (4x), for monthly soccer tournaments (5x), for emergency hospitalization (1x), for a djembe drum for the music program (1x), and for general program needs (39x).
This is the Janek’s account of the story behind this amazing initiative: “I first met Issa Kouyate in 2006. He was working in Saint Louis, Senegal for a UK company that sent volunteers around to work at various work placements. Issa was the lifeblood of the project but was not satisfied that he was doing enough, and he told me about his dream of opening a centre for the talibés. I stayed in touch with Issa and met him again in Senegal in 2007 when he had just set up Maison de la Gare. During my second year of university, I began to raise some funds for the project by making t-shirts and putting on events, and I visited Maison de la Gare properly in 2008.
Towards the end of 2008, I became involved with a social project in Peru and spent a cumulative 18 months working there. Issa was a friend but also a role model for me in his selfless attitude, tireless determination and huge heart, and I often thought of him and Maison de la Gare. I arranged with Issa for a couple of my friends to do some volunteer work with him, and I was encouraged by the progress the project was making. After returning to the UK I was keen to raise some more funds. The right opportunity never came along until I was talking to my brother about finally cutting my hair, and he suggested that, if I did it, I should raise some funds at the same time.
'Janek's Haircut.' seemed like a fun and simple enough idea, and I expected that people would like to be a part of it. I think that people initially showed an interest because I've had dreads (or have been growing my hair for dreads!) for the last six years - longer than I have known some of them! My first volunteering experience was in Senegal, and I have been doing volunteer work for the seven years that followed. I have met a lot of like-minded people who are interested in community work and specifically working with youth and children, so I suppose I had a strong network for the haircut stunt. However, all kinds of people from outside my 'not-for-profit sector network' have donated and have really shown passion for the cause. Though I thought people would be interested in the event, I could have never expected the level of generosity that donors have shown. I've been really touched by who has given and what they have given - not only people with huge hearts making huge donations, but others who don't earn a lot of money or are students but still give the most they can afford. Whatever their reasons for donating, the feedback is always the same - that it is for an excellent cause.
Whether you cut your dreads, make t-shirts or free fall from space for Maison de la Gare, people will always be happy to give because of the great work it does, and they know that a dedicated team is giving their all to enrich the difficult lives of these young boys.”
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