News from Maison de la Gare
A First Crack in the DamTweeter
Mamadou Guèye shares his experience of Maison de la Gare’s campaign in the Kaffrine region to stop child begging … and its amazing aftermath
"Maison de la Gare recently organized
the fourth phase of its awareness campaigns aiming to change
behavior towards children in
the areas from where the talibés are sent to Saint Louis.
Our team of community workers and facilitators left Saint Louis for the town of Kaffrine in central Senegal where we were met by the regional coordinator of AEMO (Education Action in Open Environments, Ministry of Justice). AEMO’s coordinator, a very dynamic and devoted woman, took us to meet neighborhood representatives under the baobab, to plan our program together. Afterwards, we went with teacher-guides who volunteered to accompany us door-to-door as we visited fifteen houses, a group of young people, elders, and laundry women.
In each meeting, it was clear that the groups we met with strongly supported our efforts to eradicate the phenomenon of begging street children. The day ended with an information meeting that attracted many people. Much information and many testimonials were shared over two and a half hours, and participants were particularly taken with our images depicting the lives of talibé children in Saint Louis.
The next day we left Kaffrine for the town of Koungheul where we were received by the youth services officer who introduced us to the mayor of that city. Afterwards, we went with volunteers and a local reporter to a nearby area from which many children are sent to become talibés in Saint Louis daaras. We were well received going door to door and met with women around a well, students, and a religious leader of the village. We told these people about the living conditions of children entrusted to the daaras of Saint Louis, and they were all very sympathetic.
That evening we held a rally attended by the deputy mayor of the city, elected representatives including the local member of Senegal’s National Assembly, the local director of AEMO and other community development personnel, religious leaders and the local media. Many people from the community attended this rally including particularly parents of talibé-aged children. Testimonials were shared and members of Maison de la Gare’s team illustrated the situation of children in living Saint Louis daaras with theatrical skits. The rally ended with a meeting with the Prefect of Koungheul, who received us at his home.
The third day was the turn of the town of Nganda. We were received by the sub-prefect, a very knowledgeable authority on the phenomenon of talibé children. After a few minutes of discussion, the team went to three villages which had been selected for door-to-door campaigns. Again, we visited households, religious leaders and village chiefs who also informed us about the situation in their commune. A well attended rally followed in the market place, led by the deputy mayor. We particularly appreciated the presence of the village chiefs and of religious leaders who offered prayers for Maison de la Gare’s work.
Finally, it was the turn of the Commune of Malème Hodar. Following visits to homes and the market, we travelled to the nearby village of Sagna where we met the deputy mayor in charge of youth. The rally was organized in the town hall and was very well attended by women and religious leaders. In this village, we visited daaras that function without begging, but also some marabouts who were hesitant about stopping the children from begging on the streets.
Very satisfied with what we had achieved, we left Kaffrine to return to Saint Louis."
A remarkable event occurred three weeks after this campaign. Many of the children sent from Kaffrine to Saint Louis are entrusted to the daara Serigne Eumeu Ndao. A group of fifteen parents and religious leaders descended on Saint Louis to see for themselves the living conditions of their children in this daara. They were shocked by what they saw, and demanded change. They elected Maison de la Gare’s Mamadou Guèye to be “president” of the daara, working with the marabout who has been very cooperative. Maison de la Gare has since supported dramatic improvements in the living conditions of the children in this daara.
Truly, a crack in the dam.
Our sincere thanks to the European Union for the grant that has made possible these campaigns to stop the scourge of child begging.