I had a great experience in Senegal. The host organization was great and the staff, especially Binetou, was helpful. The project was also engaging but a bit disorganized. However, the lack of organization was not necessarily bad since it left room for creativity for the volutneer.
The community center provided essentials for abandoned street children in the crowded slums of Yoff in Dakar. The abandoned children ranged in age from 4 to 16. The center provided a daily lunch along with educational activities like mini-French lessons and arts and crafts. Additionally, the center had a first-aid cupboard that was a hospital for many of the children who were unable to go to see a doctor. Hygiene was also strongly promoted at the center where children were required to take a bath before leaving for the day. Although the bathing areas were basic, they were absolutely crucial in giving the children a place to bathe. Some children also did not have more than one or two pairs of clothes so the center provided detergent and water for cleaning clothes. The hygiene of some of the street children was appalling and it is hard to even explain how big of a difference the laundry and bath made. Even more difficult to put into words is the way the street children pushed and pulled for their share during lunchtime.
Reflecting on the services the center provided-food, naptime, laundry, bathing etc.I was moved by the impact of the people who were behind the community center. The work done at the center was heart-warming, necessary, and life changing. The center’s work was not perfect, however, and there were issues of efficiency but the center was definitely an essential part of the community. The center where I worked was at the forefront of international development and it was able to diplomatically maintain relations with its donors, local community, and Maribos, all in the best interests of serving the abandoned children. I was especially impressed with the center’s Senegalese manager who maintained a positive, sincere attitude. The other volunteers, from Belgium and France, who were at the center for 6 to 9 months impressed me with their compassion, dedication, and kindness. The center for the abandoned was truly a welcoming place that provided so much for those who had so little.