News from Maison de la Gare

An Angel to the Rescue

Maison de la Gare’s programs at risk due to deterioration of our beautiful, thatched roofs

When Issa Kouyaté conceived Maison de la Gare’s center in 2009, he wanted from the beginning for the buildings to have traditional thatched roofs. He wanted to give the center the feeling of an African village in which the children could relax and feel at home. Our library, workshop and office were thatched. When we added the infirmary and, later, the sewing center, they also had beautiful, thatched roofs.

As the number of children grew, however, maintenance of these roofs became a never-ending challenge. With hundreds of spirited boys in the center each day, often playing pick-up games of soccer, problems developed. Repeatedly, boys would chase soccer balls onto the roofs, with devastating consequences. Repairs were needed constantly.

The situation became desperate during the rainy season in the late summer and early fall of 2022. The infirmary roof leaked to the extent that the floor was submerged. In the office, our receptionist and accountant, Adama, had pails everywhere, trying to stay ahead of the leaks and to protect her files and computer from the water. We had to move books from the library. The sewing apprenticeship center became unusable in the rains.

The coup de grace came when a fierce windstorm removed much of the damaged thatch from all these buildings. Sadly, it was clear that we had to abandon the thatched roofs and find a new solution.

Protective roofs for essential programs
After studying many possibilities, we settled on slate roofing like that which has served well on our classrooms for over a decade. This required raising the walls and installing suspended ceilings. The buildings also needed to be repainted, both over the new construction and over the water-damaged walls that were retained.

Now our challenge was the cost! Our generous donors around the world support us faithfully, but all their contributions are used for food and medical supplies, program expenses and paying our staff. These essential renovations were far beyond what we could finance. We hesitated to turn to our regular donors to ask for more, because their contributions are so essential for maintaining the services that we provide to the talibé children every day.

Miraculously, we received a very generous donation that covered the cost of this essential work. The donor has followed Maison de la Gare for years, and she made invaluable contributions in our early years. For example, she financed the initial garden in our center, including the palm trees that now shade the courtyard and the flowers that grace our walls. This donor had been considering leaving a bequest for Maison de la Gare but decided instead to make her large donation now.

This donation could not have had a greater impact in ensuring that Maison de la Gare’s work for the talibé children will continue for many years.

A new look for revitalized spaces
The renewed buildings have now been freshly painted in vibrant colors. The colors were chosen to reflect Maison de la Gare’s positive, welcoming atmosphere … reproducing, as well as possible, the comfortable feeling that the center had had with the thatched roofs. The once drab walls have been transformed into bright, colorful surfaces, creating a warm atmosphere conducive to creativity, learning and commitment.

The sewing workshop, now with a solid roof and a pleasant workspace, enables the apprentices to learn their new skills under optimal conditions. The renovated infirmary provides a healthier environment for the medical care for the talibé children. The library, with its colorful and inspiring walls, attracts young readers and encourages them to discover the wonderful world of books. And Adama’s renovated office provides a welcoming and functional space for receiving visitors and managing the organization’s finances.

We celebrate this much needed renewal of our center. The renovations are having a direct impact on the children's well-being, providing them with a safe, welcoming space conducive to learning. We are grateful to our angel who made this possible. And, to every one of our donors who make it possible every day for us to continue our support for the talibé children, to give them a chance for a better life.