Oscar Kvamme’s Experience

May 2012 : Soon eight months will have flown by in the land of Teranga, and the time spent here has broadened my perspective of how hard life really can be. Entering Saint-Louis, it didn’t take long time before I noticed these young boys, talibés, with dirty clothes walking barefoot by the side of the road, begging. I’m really thankful to have been a part of MDG’s family, giving my best to be there for the kids who struggle with their everyday lives.

Living with a host family the first six months helped me to quickly get into the new culture. I got to see how a normal family lives, meeting their friends and families and celebrating mayor holidays such as tabaski and magal. In the beginning my French was very poor and I had a hard time getting by. But the people here were kind to me and had patience. Now my French has improved and I speak with an African intonation and sun in my voice. Living in Senegal such a long time gave me the possibility to travel and see different parts of the country. Green lush forests with waterfalls and chimpanzees down in wild Bassari country was my favorite. Overall, this experience has shaped me to be slightly more Senegalese than Swedish, and opened my eyes to a different reality.

Talibés come all the time, morning and afternoon, to MDG’s centre in Saint Louis. There’s no secret that they love it here. Eager to get in, they wait outside until the gate opens – or climb over the high wall. Once inside they’re in an oasis in the dessert, a place where they can escape their life for a while and just be what they are, kids. Tending the garden, having classes or just talking, whatever we do together, it’s with happiness and love. We are in some way all a big family and I think a lot of the kids feel the same. Far away from their real homes, they know they’re not alone. Their second family is called Maison de la Gare.