News from Maison de la Gare

Moussa's Story

Hope for a child who could have lost all hope

This is the story of young Moussa, a child born out of wedlock whose mother secretly entrusted him to an old shepherdess living in a remote Senegalese village. When the shepherdess died, the seven-year-old child was entrusted to the marabout Issakha. This crooked, deceitful, cynical marabout was against the teaching that had been brought to Senegal by the whites, and he rejected all scientific and technical progress. He lived off the begging of his talibés, obtaining from them all his needs in life without scruples or moral modesty.

All this man’s wealth came from the alms and the exploitation of his talibés. These poor children squatted in the streets to beg for their daily quota of money and, during the rainy season, they became agricultural workers and toiled in his fields. They were little slaves in the wicked marabout Issakha’s huge plantation.

Every day, the children had to leave the daara at dawn to go to work, or to the streets to beg, and they returned only in the evening, at dusk. When young Moussa was in the field for the first time holding a work tool, his small hands bled. He was clumsy and unfit for such a chore.

The marabout became furious with Moussa, whom he called a scoundrel. He hit him violently on the back. Moussa collapsed, and a second blow made him roll on the muddy ground. Moussa stayed on the ground for a long time, completely shaken. After a few hours, he got up painfully and walked away slowly. This was his first time running way from his daara.

Moussa was found by one of the “grands talibés” from marabout Issakha’s daara and was returned to the daara. He continued in this way for many years, begging and working in the fields, and running away when he could no longer tolerate the conditions.

He finally ran away for good, begging on the streets to support himself. He fell in with a group of boys like himself on the streets. A series of events led to them all being caught in a police sweep.

The police referred Moussa to Maison de la Gare, well known to them as a local non-governmental organization working to improve the living conditions of talibé children, with the financial support of external partners and donors.

Moussa is now registered for six-months of training in Maison de la Gare’s poultry farming apprenticeship program. Cheikh Ablaye, who leads this program, will support Moussa during his training, helping him to be ready to become independent and self-supporting. When he has completed his apprenticeship, Moussa will take the training offered by Maison de la Gare’s microfinance program, with the objective of being ready to obtain a loan to start his own operation raising and selling chickens.

The author Baye Ndaraw Diop was formerly the director of the Ministry of Justice’s Saint-Louis office responsible for street children. He has been a member of Maison de la Gare’s Board of Directors since 2013 and has led our microfinance program since its inception. Moussa’s name and other details in this report have been changed to protect the child.