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The Experiences and Testimonies of Former Volunteers at the Daara de Malika
The Experiences of Phillippe Bishinga, Anne-Marie Fraser, and Mélina Leclerc from Quebec, Canada
We are a group of three young Quebecers who spent several unforgettable weeks volunteering at the Daara de Malika during the summer of 2007. Although our stay went by far too quickly, we still have wonderful memories that bring smiles to our faces to this very day! It is now our pleasure to share with you our personal experiences as well as what we each took away from our time spent in Senegal.
The first of us to arrive at the Daara was Anne-Marie, who focused her time on teaching some of the 279 children enrolled in primary school classes. The only boy amongst the three of us, Philippe remembers how much fun he had organising athletic and recreational activities for children during summer camp. As for Mélina, she took advantage of her cultural experience to learn Wolof, the majority language of the country, and also thinks fondly of the precious relationships she developed with the school’s children and staff. All three of us found it immensely rewarding to play the roles of temporary big brother and sisters to the 48 young boys residing at the school.
It is no easy task to capture in words everything we garnered from our experiences, but we all agree that the weeks we spent at the Daara de Malika count amongst the very best of our young lives! Each day brought with it its own set of surprises and challenges, but we still learned to adjust to the rhythm and reality of daily life in this West African nation. For example, we sat down and shared the three daily meals with all the school’s staff and children. Philippe ate with the children and male staff members, while Mélina and Anne-Marie shared from the same bowl as the women, counting three mothers and one grandmother who work hard to prepare meals, clean dishes, and oversee the children.
In addition to living and sharing with the school’s staff and children, the time we spent in Senegal also enabled us to meet other people from all around the world, including volunteers from France and Belgium. We view this as the perfect illustration of the cultural diversity found at the “Universal Table of Giving and Receiving”, which is truly brought to life by these volunteer experiences. We would thus like to mention the contribution of Caroline, who came from Marseille to lead children in recycling activities. Throughout the summer, she made trips to the landfill located across the street from Daara and salvaged a wide variety of products that were turned into works of art by the children. The resulting totem pole (see photo at left) has been welcoming visitors to the school since the month of August 2007.
Spending time as a volunteer at the Daara de Malika is an experience that we would recommend for everyone. Although this home and safe haven for street children is located right next to a landfill, the school grounds are clean and the buildings are well-maintained. But what’s truly amazing is that these children, having been born into lives of extreme poverty, have never forgotten their precious smiles and the spirit of sharing and solidarity that connect them; we believe this is the greatest testimony to the haven of peace that is the Daara de Malika.
We volunteers were welcomed at the Daara with great warmth and hospitality, as is true to the spirit of the Senegalese people. We can honestly say that if the plane ticket wasn’t so expensive, we wouldn’t even hesitate in the slightest before heading back to Senegal to take part in another such enriching experience in 2008!