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The Experiences and Testimonies of Former Volunteers at the Daara de Malika
The Experiences of Anastasia Stapf from Quebec, Canada
«Leaving the comfort of home can sometimes seem like an overwhelming undertaking, but it’s nevertheless something I did in January 2008 when I took a leap into the unknown and set out to spend five months in Senegal! The goal of my trip was to work at the Daara de Malika.
My adventure began by organising a graduation ceremony for the first successful apprentices of the tapestry-weaving programme. Working as part of a team for over a month, we took on the enormous challenge that ultimately concluded with a wonderful ceremony.
The rest of my stay revolved around the daily life of the children, as I participated in teaching, recreational activities, and medical work at the school’s health clinic. There are a wide variety of ways to become involved at the Daara, so it’s easy to contribute to projects and activities that are of personal interest to us. We also have the opportunity to develop relationships with everyone there and to contribute our skills and knowledge at various levels.
When leaving our homes in Canada or France, we sometimes think that we’re going to change the world by imposing our own cultures, customs, and practises. But this is far from the truth! My entire trip was based upon sharing and exchange between the children, staff, and me, and this experience allowed me to grow as a human being. Each person has their own way of contributing skills and knowledge, and sometimes this mixture reveals itself in new and enlightening ways.
It is impossible to not be touched by the warm, simple, and loving welcome these children show us, and it was thus with a heart full of sadness and incredible memories that I finally had to leave Senegal — but with the firm intention of returning soon!
I hope to continue my work as a spokesperson for the Daara de Malika, as I take great pleasure in sharing my experiences and encouraging others to take the step towards discovering Senegal, the Land of Teranga».
The Experiences of Robert Puckrin from Quebec, Canada
«Although spending time in Africa may at first seem like a huge and overwhelming step into the unknown, it’s definitely something I would suggest for anyone who has the time, resources, and motivation to do so! I myself spent six months living in Senegal at the Daara de Malika, and there’s no way I could ever adequately explain just how much this experience meant to me. They say that traveling is the world’s greatest university, and while living at the Daara I benefited from so many unforgettable learning experiences that my eyes were truly opened to unexpectedly different sides of the world and entirely new aspects of myself!
I could have asked for no better home in Africa than the Daara de Malika, for each and every day of my six month stay I was touched by the kindness, helpfulness, warmth, and hospitality of everyone at the school! I truly enjoyed meeting and speaking with people from such a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, and I became good friends with many of the school’s personnel, who graciously took me under their wing and introduced me to the African way of life. The Daara staff are some of the most kind, generous, and welcoming people I have ever met, and I owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude for the way they selflessly helped, taught, and took care of me as their warmly-welcomed guest.
As is the case for most volunteers, my greatest and most memorable experiences at the Daara were the moments I shared with the school’s wildly energetic children! Living with fifty smiling, goofy, and constantly-on-the-go kids was one of the most exciting adventures of my lifetime, and I will never forget how incredibly full of life, love, and laughter these children are! I enjoyed the time I spent teaching Math and English Second Language classes, and everyone seemed to benefit from the games, cultural events, artistic activities, and festivities that I helped organise for them. I also formed close friendships with many other volunteers from France, Belgium, and Canada, as working and playing with these adorable kids turned out to be a phenomenal bonding experience that brought us all close together as friends.
Looking back on my rich and rewarding experiences at the Daara de Malika, I am left feeling quite grateful for having been given a small taste of what the African way of life is truly about. Africa is by no means an easy place to comprehend, as great triumphs of the human spirit — such as the enduring kindness, openness, and hospitality of its people — stand alongside images of untold sorrow, tragedy, and suffering — such as a small wide-eyed boy wearing torn and tattered clothing, spending his days begging alone in the streets. But of all the lessons the Daara has taught me, there is one belief in particular that remains firmly fixed in my mind: Africa is a place that is full of life, of smiling children and generous people who are eager to share, speak, and welcome you amongst them».