Bonjour from Madison in Senegal

Bonjour! I’m currently living in Saint Louis; a small town located in northern Senegal. I have been here for two weeks and already feel at home. I have fallen in love with my host family. I’m living with my mom, dad, brother and sister (who are both in there upper 20’s), two young cousins, and housekeeper. As I first arrived it was difficult to determine who was actually a part of my family because friends and family are constantly dropping in and out of the house.

My first few days here I had so many mixed emotions, ranging from loneliness and confusion to feeling perfectly content. I’m volunteering at Maison de la Gare with a French married couple who are in their thirties. This program offers classes, a sports program, instruction in basic hygiene, medical care and much more to boys ranging from ages 3 to 19. These boys are known as Talibe children. Talibes beg on the street for their food and money to give to their “teacher” or Marabout who controls them. They live in “daaras” without access to running water, rudimentary hygiene or nurture,  often without shelter and are subjects to severe abuse.

A typical day for me begins anywhere from 10 to 11am. We visit 2 or 3 Darda centers providing basic first aid which usually consist of disinfecting foot wounds and wounds from physical abuse. Around 2 I return home for lunch, which is always rice and fish. At 4 I take a 10-minute walk to Masion de la Gare. For the next three hours I help make sure all the boys have showered, help teach French classes, and continue with first aid.

I’m loving this program, my family, the people and culture of Senegal, and learning to love the food. Of course there have been many challenges along the way. More than half the time people speak in Woolof so I don’t understand most conversations. Half of the other time people speak in French, which can be hard to understand at times as well. My new best friend is a 17-year-old Talibe, his name is Arouna.

This past weekend he gave me a tour of his darra center and a tour of his marrabous home. Giving me the opportunity to ask questions and get a closer look into he lives of these boys. Its experiences like this that will change my life forever. I have already learned and grown in so many ways. Reading everyone else’s posts gave me chills and I can’t wait to read more!

Sa wa Dii ka to Chris and Derek! So happy for you guys and miss you both

Hoping all is well!
-Madison also known as Madi or Mam Diarra