News from Maison de la Gare

Inspiring Encounters and Life Lessons Working with the Talibé Children

French volunteers Manon Very and Lucie Delorme share their volunteer journey in Senegal

Our three weeks volunteering at Maison de la Gare were an extremely enriching adventure. As soon as we arrived, we were confronted with the difficult reality in which the talibés live. The lives of these young children, left to their own devices and often mistreated, touched us deeply.

However, amid these difficulties, what struck us most was the generous spirit of the Maison de la Gare staff and volunteers. Each of them, with their unwavering dedication and love for the children, was a source of inspiration. Their infinite patience, their ability to bring comfort and their determination to make a difference in the lives of these young people is admirable.

Every French or English lesson we gave was a precious moment. The children’s eagerness to learn, in spite of everything, is a testament to their resilience and determination to give their best.

Maison de la Gare’s volunteer handbook was a great resource before we came; it helped us to know and understand a little beforehand what we were getting into. To be successful as a volunteer, you have to like being surrounded by and talking to people, being tolerant, grateful, open and willing to exchange. And you must always be aware that the reality of these children is difficult. A lot is being done to give them a better life and a better future, but there's still a long way to go. Going on night rounds looking for children sleeping on the streets, and medical visits to the daaras where the children live, are moments when the reality of their daily lives hit us right in the face.

As for the various volunteer assignments on offer, we were given plenty of guidance to discover each one and find the ones where we felt most at home. We also recommend staying with a host family, to be totally immersed for the duration of your stay. Many thanks to Madame Bawo, who was like our grandmother.

The three weeks went by at breakneck speed, leaving us with a slight feeling of frustration at not being able to stay longer. We would have loved to have stayed to deepen the bonds we'd created with these wonderful children, and also with the friends we'd made there. The reality is that three weeks is far too short to really come to grips with the complex challenges of the children’s daily lives.

Our experience at Maison de la Gare was memorable in many ways. We sincerely hope to be able to return, next time for a longer period. By then we'll have worked on our Wolof and Peul, we promise! Indeed, the language barrier can sometimes be a hindrance to the organization of recreational activities.

We'd like to thank everyone we've met from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for the exchanges, the smiles, the sharing, the invitations, and the many moments shared. They will remain with us forever.

Manon and Lucie