News from Maison de la Gare
Reinforcing a Key Relationship in the Struggle against Begging by Talibé ChildrenTweeter
James Zumwalt, the U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, visits Maison de la Gare
On Thursday, May 21, 2015, the American
ambassador to Senegal continued
As his predecessor Louis Lukens had done in
2014, Ambassador James P. Zumwalt honored Maison de la Gare with his presence, deeply
concerned as Ambassador Lukens had been about the situation of the begging talibé street
children. This visit reinforces a cooperative relationship that has developed over the
years with the strong involvement of Peace Corps volunteers in support of Maison de la
Gare efforts, especially agricultural apprenticeship and recovering children sleeping in
the streets in "night rounds". Maison de la Gare's president, Issa Kouyaté, had previously
been invited to participate in the U.S. State Department's International Visitors
Leadership Program during the month of May, and so could not be present during
the ambassador's visit.
The tour was organized by Ms Ndeye Diodio Calloga, a legal intern with Maison de la Gare. It began with a visit to the daara Thierno Yoro Ba in the Diamagueune district of Saint Louis. Once at the daara, the ambassador and his delegation were able to see the reality the talibé children's everyday life. Maison de la Gare team members like Bathe Ndong and Abou Sy make regular tours of local daaras for cleaning, disinfection and repair. The Thierno Yoro Ba daara has benefited from these services.
The Ambassador had an extensive discussion with the marabout, the person responsible for the daara, who explained that for him what is important is the children's well-being. That is why he is not opposed to the help and the activities that Maison de la Gare provides for the children. The ambassador also spoke with the marabout at length about his working methods, his helpers and how he cares for the children, to better understand the daara system and the marabouts' perspective.
The tour continued in Maison de la Gare's center in Balacos. Nurse Binta Coly presented the infirmary to the ambassador describing the services it offers to children, the most common diseases that are encountered and some of the most serious cases. The ambassador then visited the library and computer room, the different classrooms and the emergency shelter.
To complete the visit, the ambassador and his delegation met with the entire Maison de la Gare staff. Noël Coly made a presentation of the situation of talibé children in the Saint Louis region and of the Maison de la Gare's work. He also described the worst forms of abuse suffered by children. Then the other team members presented the short and long-term projects which Maison de la Gare has planned to improve the lives of the talibé children and give them hope.
The talibé children were all very touched that the ambassador of the United States wanted to visit them, despite his busy schedule. They expressed their pleasure and thanked Ambassador Zumwalt by their innocent smiles, full of life. The discussions were very emotional, and the ambassador and his delegation were moved by the questions that were raised and by the drawings that they were given as a gesture of appreciation.