News from Maison de la Gare

A Possible Dream

Buaró aspires to build his life on his love of karate

It is Thursday morning and he is one of the first to arrive at the center. This early in the day, most of the talibé boys are still out on the streets begging for their daily quotas of money or for a bite to eat for breakfast. But soon, they will begin to trickle into Maison de la Gare. So Buaró works fast, sweeping the sand of debris and pebbles that could hurt bare feet or trip up a martial artist focused on his kata.

As the sun rises higher in the West African sky, children begin to tumble through the gates in ones, twos and threes. They greet Noël who tracks their attendance at the centre and helps Buaró to administer the karate program, and some of the boys entrust him with the money they have collected so far this day for their marabouts. Meanwhile, Buaró sorts through the karate uniforms, the gi, to determine if they need laundering or if they will last for another lesson. Talibés stop to greet Buaró before skipping out onto the newly cleared sand to wrestle and play. Some stay to watch him, waiting for the signal that it is time to put on one of the white karate gi's and line up for class.

Buaró was sent to Senegal at the age of seven from his home in Guinea Bissau to be a talibé, when his mother died. His eight brothers and six sisters remained at home with his father. Buaró did not see his family or home again until three years ago. Now he is 22 years old and he misses his family very much. Although he cannot read it, he keeps his birth certificate with him, evidence of his full proper name and proof of a family far away. He prefers to be known simply by his family name, “Buaró”.

Buaró still lives in his daara. He says he will remain there as long as he must, until he is ready to move on. Despite having forgotten most of the Portuguese of his childhood and hardly knowing his family anymore, Buaró longs to return home someday, this time for good. He devotes his life to karate as much as he can. He discovered karate in Saint Louis even before it was offered to the talibés at Maison de la Gare. He worked extra hard for years, raising enough money to not only pay the required “versement” to his marabout, but to cover his monthly dojo membership fees so he could practice karate at night.

Not long after karate began at Maison de la Gare, Buaró met the young Canadian who had founded the program there, Robbie Hughes, and they became close friends. He became a recipient of the Maison de la Gare program sponsoring monthly dojo fees for more advanced talibés, and devoted himself even more to karate. Buaró's sensei soon sent him, as an advanced belt, to Maison de la Gare to assist with the morning classes there. As a talibé himself, Buaró could relate well to the boys, and they trusted him. Under Buaró's leadership, Maison de la Gare’s karate program has continued to grow, regularly attracting new talibé students excited to unlock the mysteries of martial arts.

Recently Buaró earned his black belt, an extraordinary achievement that was celebrated by everyone at Maison de la Gare, as well as by his sensei and dojo and all the international supporters of Maison de la Gare’s karate program.

Buaró experiences a challenging language barrier with many people, as he does not speak French. However, when teaching and practicing karate, the universal language of karate breaks down the communication barriers. He hopes to have time to begin learning French soon in the classes at Maison de la Gare.

Buaró is grateful to Maison de la Gare for giving him the opportunity to devote more of his time to karate training, and for sponsoring his participation in local, regional and even national karate tournaments. This moves him ever closer to his objective.

For Buaró, karate is life. He has a dream, to progress and learn enough from his sensei and his experience with martial arts to prepare him to return home to Guinea Bissau to start his own dojo. Buaró knows this road will be long. There is much to learn before he will be ready. But it is a dream worth working towards, to be able to make karate, the love of his life, part of his life forever.