News from Maison de la Gare
Talibé Children Strive To Be the Best They Can Be, Through KarateTweeter
Rowan Hughes and Arouna Kandé share the adventure of an incredible week
Rowan and Arouna worked together on
preparation of this report of karate’s arrival at Maison de la Gare and among the
talibé children. First, in Rowan’s words:
"Well here I am in Senegal for the 4th time. And with my whole family, my little brother Robbie included. Robbie hasn’t ever travelled to Africa until now and, like me for years before I came, he has just been dying to come for years. Robbie decided he wanted to conduct his own special project, and suggested teaching karate to the talibé children. At the time, he could not possibly have known how successfully it would turn out. Last October Robbie had travelled to Ireland to compete in the world karate championships, and he won a bronze medal for Canada. He has been training in karate for years, and spends his evenings doing practically nothing else, seven days a week. Robbie is now a black belt and it is clear that karate is his true passion.
A week or so before the big trip, Robbie started to organize the collection of gi (traditional karate outfits). Using the logo "Karate Can Kick Poverty", he pasted posters in the Ottawa, Canada “dojos” of his home organization, Douvris. The karate community responded with nearly one hundred gi. After the long haul to get our family and all the karate equipment to Saint Louis, the real work began.
We found that karate instructors in Saint Louis who follow the same code of ethics and morals as the creed that all the members of my brother Robbie’s dojo are committed to:
'My goal is to become the best person I can be. I will achieve this objective by disciplining my body and my mind, working to overcome obstacles that hinder my positive growth. I know this will take discipline. I am ready to make this commitment to myself in order to become the best person I can be and to share this progress with others.'
Looking ahead, Maison de la Gare will register talibés who want to practise this discipline in the Charles de Gaulle dojo. The master of this dojo is the lead coach of the national Senegalese karate team. Who knows what opportunities this could hold for the future!
But what are the talibés getting out of this? Well anyone who knows anything about talibés knows that they lead a hard life, and that they potentially face sexual abuse and other forms of street violence. Hopefully with these new skills they will be better able to defend themselves and others. Talibés also grow up without parents in their lives. We often take for granted that our parents teach us to be respectful of others and ourselves. As much as I love these kids, they can be quite rude sometimes; with karate you don’t just learn fighting - you must learn respect. It is about disciplining your mind and body, and you can’t do one without the other. This is a new program for Maison de la Gare but I can see so much potential."
Arouna recounts this experience in his words, from the perspective of a talibé:
"Robbie Hughes is a 13 year old student in the 8th grade at Queen Elizabeth School in Ottawa, Canada. He has just made his first visit to Maison de la Gare as a volunteer, traveling with his mother Sonia, his big sister Rowan and his father Robin. Robbie has played a very important role at Maison de la Gare in helping young talibés in Saint Louis to improve their lives. His first objective was to provide karate classes for talibé children in the center. This is not only a welcome sports activity for them, but it gives them confidence, discipline and self-defense skills.
Robbie’s idea was to find a local karate master (a ‘sensei’) to teach at Maison de la Gare’s center in the mornings. With Noël Coly’s help, he invited several senseis to teach classes. He was looking for a sensei who had the same values and showed the same gentleness with the children as his karate master in Canada. Robbie identified some talibés who showed potential to advance in karate, with the objective of enrolling them in the dojo located Saint Louis’ Charles de Gaulle high school. The master of this dojo is the head coach of Senegal’s national karate team.
In educational terms, karate is a noble activity that encourages the development of the mind. And socially, it promotes mutual respect and fellowship among its practitioners.
After only four days working in Robbie’s classes, the children mastered the first karate positions. For many children, they had to learn the difference between left and right. But when they learned a new karate position, they never forget it. From the first day, Robbie earned great affection from the talibé children of Maison de la Gare.
Robbie, this young Canadian, has amazed us with his gentleness, his exemplary behavior as a person of strong values, and the openness of his big heart to children in extremely deprived circumstances. We thank Robbie’s dojo, Douvris, and everyone who is behind what Robbie did here, especially his mother Sonia who moved heaven and earth so that karate could become one of the sports activities of Maison de la Gare.”