News from Maison de la Gare
A Talibé Success Story
Sonia LeRoy has known Kalidou
since 2010. She interviewed him recently, and shares this report:
"Kalidou's story with Maison de la Gare began in 2008. He was 6 or 7 years old at the time, he's not sure.
Kalidou and his two older brothers were sent together from Kolda in the Casamance region of Senegal to his marabout to be talibés in Saint Louis, to learn the Quran. There, they begged for their own living as well as for a quota of money for their marabout. Kalidou's younger sister remained in the village with his parents. His family are farmers, and he remembers that their life was very hard. Last year, Kalidou returned to his village for the first time since leaving in 2008 ; his older brothers had returned in 2011. Kalidou had finally completed memorizing the Quran himself, and it is tradition to return to one's village at this time. He says he did not recognize anyone but his mother, and they also did not recognize him.
When Kalidou saw how much his village and the people he knew as a child had changed, and how difficult life there remained, he realized his home was now in Saint Louis and his family is Maison de la Gare. Nevertheless, he will continue to send money to his parents when he can. Kalidou hopes to someday be able to bring his mother and father to Saint Louis to live with him, as he does not know how they will survive as his father ages and can no longer live the difficult life of a farmer. He also hopes to marry a girl from Casamance (of his parent's choosing) and to bring her back to live in Saint Louis.
When Kalidou first arrived in Saint Louis, he was lucky to meet Issa Kouyaté and Maison de la Gare. He attended French classes at Maison de la Gare's original location, in the old, run-down train station near the Faidherbe bridge.
My sister Lisa and a fellow volunteer, Zoë, encountered Kalidou at Maison de la Gare in 2008 when they were teaching French. Each time I return to Saint Louis, Kalidou asks me if I have news of Zoë. He remembers her fondly as his first teacher, and he thinks of her and misses her to this day. Last year, I suggested to Kalidou that he send her a video message. He prepared his remarks for days, thinking carefully of what he wanted to tell her. Kalidou is very shy, but sending Zoë a greeting was clearly very important to him.
Kalidou remains shy and humble to this day. But, his confidence is growing. Kalidou is a member of Association Maison de la Gare. At the recent annual general meeting, when called upon to comment he addressed the large group with eloquence.
Kalidou learned French and quite good English at the classes offered by Maison de la Gare. Several years ago, Maison de la Gare arranged for Kalidou to begin to learn the craft of sewing, and later to apprentice as a tailor. He has been working for the past year with the tailor Baka, at Baka Fashion. Baka tells me Kalidou should complete his apprenticeship in about one year, ready to become a tailor in his own right. Indeed, Baka says Kalidou is ready to start to transition and could earn money by having a sewing machine of his own at home. Kalidou spends about three hours each day apprenticing.
After his work at Baka Fashion, Kalidou visits his daara to study the Quran with his marabout, Serigne Mansour. Although Kalidou has memorized the Quran already, he still feels he has much to learn about being a good Muslim. Personally, I think he is already one of the best I have met.
When Kalidou is finished at his daara he comes to Maison de la Gare, where he is now working in the role of assistant teacher, instructing English. He also spends the weekends with Maison de la Gare, helping out however he can. He is an example to other talibés and demonstrates by his example that there is hope that talibés can realistically aspire to better lives.
When asked what Maison de la Gare has meant to him, Kalidou says he was really helped in learning English and French. Maison de la Gare has allowed him to remain in Saint Louis and to train for a trade. To Maison de la Gare, Kalidou says: 'Thanks for my life. It is good.' "