Maison de la Gare's Origins
From our beginnings in the former railway station in Diamaguene...
Pursuing his interest in social work, Issa Kouyaté left his native city of Dakar
in 2006 to work with Projects Abroad in Saint Louis. Responsible for welcoming and supporting volunteers from
the four corners of the world, he establish strong bonds with them.
Distressed by the very precarious situation of the street children in Saint Louis, the "talibés", Issa decided to take action to help them. Using his own funds, he purchased bread and chocolate and prepared nutritious food for the talibé children, distributing it after work. Then in 2007 he committed himself totally to this struggle, founding Maison de la Gare with a group of young Senegalese.
The site where Maison de la Gare offered refuge to the talibé children was behind the old railway station in the heart of the local market. The children learned to read and write surrounded by the merchants selling their wares. They received their daily meal sitting on the rails of the former Saint Louis railway station; hence the name "Maison de la Gare".
...to construction of Maison de la Gare's permanent center...
In 2009, expansion of the market forced Maison de la Gare to find a new location. Issa Kouyaté found a site in nearby Balacos and construction of the new center began.
...and opening of the center in 2010
The new center opened its doors in October 2010 with showers and toilets for the children to care for their daily hygiene needs, three classrooms, a garden, an office and two activity rooms, one of which is today the library and the other dedicated to teaching sewing and other marketable skills.
Maison de la Gare recruited two teachers to give the children access to education. Thanks to this program, many of these children have now been registered in the public school system where they are followed and supported by Maison de la Gare's staff.
Then in 2011, thanks to a grant from the Canadian embassy in Dakar, Maison de la Gare built its infirmary within the center and hired a nurse.
The center has established numerous educational, arts and sports programs for the children. One of these is gardening, which allows some of the older talibés to learn a marketable skill while offering all of the children a green oasis in their otherwise very difficult lives.
In 2014, a new two-story building was built within our center to house
an emergency shelter for runaway talibé children who would, otherwise, be sleeping in
the streets at night. This building also has a transitional residence for older talilbé
children, and a kitchen.
Projects for the future
Maison de la Gare has established an international volunteer program and, with the
volunteers' help, offers support to over 200 children each day. Our new projects include setting up
an agricultural apprenticeship program based on a property in nearby Bango, and greatly
expanding our efforts to find and suitably care for the hundreds of talibé children
living on the streets.
More to come…