News from Maison de la Gare
A Jewel for the Talibé Children of Saint LouisTweeter
The next step towards a better life
Maison de la Gare has long been a welcoming haven for the talibé boys of Saint
Louis who are far from home and family and forced to beg for many hours each
the marabouts who control their lives. This mission
has recently been enhanced.
Maison de la Gare's welcome centre has grown over the years to include classrooms, toilets and showers, a medical clinic, a library, apprenticeship training areas, and a beautiful and productive garden. But, from the beginning, Issa Kouyaté always hoped to one day be able to provide the talibés with even more ... a home of their own that, even if temporarily, would provide refuge during crises and times of transition. This residence could help the children off the streets to safety, or provide a secure base while they transition to independent lives. An unused corner of the Maison de la Gare site has waited behind the classrooms, unused, waiting for the right moment.
That right moment recently arrived thanks to generous donations from GO Campaign, GlobalGiving donors and many other international contributors, together with the donation of architectural plans by Civitas Architecture of Ottawa, Canada.
Plans were finalized during the spring of 2014, a contractor was hired, and ground was broken. By October, the dream was a reality. The new building is a jewel for Saint Louis and for the talibé children of this city. Talibés of all ages are excited to be offered one more proof that their efforts and their hopes for a better future are being supported by people who care.
The new building serves distinct needs: an emergency shelter for runaway talibés rescued from the streets; a transitional residence for older talibés able to leave their daaras but still working to complete their schooling or prepare for independent lives; and, a kitchen to cook nutritious meals for the hundreds of children served by Maison de la Gare.
The emergency shelter will serve talibé children who are in the most difficult and serious situations ... runaways. Talibés typically run away from their daaras due to severe physical abuse. Failure to obtain the full daily begging quota can cause a child to decide to run in order to avoid the expected punishment. At least weekly, Issa ventures out past midnight in search of runaway talibés. When he finds children, asleep in groups in well lit corners or all alone tucked away under cars or trucks to avoid trouble, he gently wakes them and coaxes them home with him. There are often as many as ten such children under Maison de la Gare’s care. These are the desperate children who will live and be cared for in the new emergency shelter, until complaints against their marabouts are resolved with the police or the children are escorted home.
Maison de la Gare provides baguette-based snacks to hundreds of children each day. However, the scope of the food offered has been limited, due to lack of space or a means of cooking. The new building includes a well equipped kitchen which will make it possible to provide nutritious meals to all of the talibés who find their way to Maison de la Gare, as well as the children living in the emergency shelter and the transitional residence. And, now there is a means of effectively storing and preparing the bounty of Maison de la Gare’s productive garden. As soon as the kitchen opened, the teachers thought of another use and were soon making fruit drinks to offer the young talibés to entice more into their classrooms.
The new building will also be a home to older talibé boys who are, happily, reaching the end of their time of domination by their marabout in the daara. Unfortunately, sometimes children feel forced to remain in a daara past the time they could otherwise leave, because they have no home to return to or because they simply have no idea how to live independently other than by continuing to beg or do hard labour. And others, who have been making good progress in school or apprenticeship programs, would be forced to cut that education short before they are ready. These children will find a home in the new transitional residence, a secure base from which they can complete their journeys to independence.
It is these older talibés who are most excited about the new building. Several took immediate responsibility for its care, offering to organize furniture, make beds, and clean. Most of these children do not remember ever having slept in a bed. There was much discussion about how, exactly, to use one. Does one lie on top, or under the sheets? Why are there two sheets? And, there was some excited confusion about the purpose of bath towels. Maison de la Gare’s staff will help them figure it out and feel at home, and will ensure that this next step for them is one more on a path to true independence and a successful life.
Please click this link to see our article from December 2013 about our vision for this new building