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Volunteer donates clothes to over 100 talibé children in Senegal

Fien Ackerman from Belgium knew that she wanted to volunteer in a French-speaking African country. After some deliberation and having read accounts from previous Projects Abroad volunteers, she decided that Senegal was the destination for her, and decided to join the Teaching and Care Projects in April and May this year. In preparation for her departure, Fien researched the country and learned of the plight of talibé children in Senegal.

Projects Abroad volunteers and project staff shop for new shoes for talibe children in Senegal

The concept of a ‘talibé’ is unique to West Africa, and the problem is particularly prominent in Senegal. A talibé (originating as a term for student or disciple) is a boy who has left his family to spend time in a daara, a type of Islamic school. The boys are typically sent far away from their families to daaras in major towns. These daaras are run by Islamic teachers called ‘marabouts’. It is common for the marabout to force the talibés at his daara to spend their days begging in the streets and pleading with passers-by for spare change.

With no means of obtaining new clothes and no adults to rely on for provisions, talibé children will often wear the same clothes for months at a time. Before Fien became part of the Care Project in St Louis, she decided to raise funds to provide the children she was about to meet with much-needed clothing.

“The kids don’t have anything, they live without parents, without any kind of luxury, sometimes without food,” Fien says, reflecting on the situation in St Louis. She knew that she wanted to help.

Before volunteering at her Care placement, Fien hosted a ‘spaghetti evening’ back home in Belgium – a night in which friends and family are invited over for a home-cooked meal and asked to contribute money towards a good cause.

Fien and her mother organized the dinner and hosted over sixty people. They served pasta and desserts and played traditional Senegalese music. Each guest attending the dinner was asked to contribute €10. They raised a total of €600, which would be used to buy new clothes and shoes for talibé children in Senegal.

This money allowed Fien to buy 150 pairs of pants, 200 t-shirts and 80 pairs of shoes, providing new clothes to over 100 children, with spare items to be kept at the care centre.

Talibe boys after receiving new clothes from Projects Abroad in Saint Louis, Senegal

The Projects Abroad care centre in Senegal is run by two full-time local staff members, Amina and Omar, who are assisted by volunteers. It is entirely funded by Projects Abroad and the generous contributions of volunteers. The centre provides a safe haven for talibé children who come to play, watch videos, learn French and English, receive medical care and, once a week, to eat lunch.

On the day that Amina and Fien handed out the new clothes, the children came in one by one and were given shirts, pants, and shoes in their size. Most of the boys were wearing old, worn-out clothing and were extremely pleased with their new outfits. “It was great to see the smiles on their faces” said Fien, who was happy that her contribution had made an impact on their lives.

The situation facing many talibé children is grim, but volunteers like Fien can help to change this.

Find out how you can make a difference in Senegal or at other Care Projects around the world.

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