July 14, 2012

Service Visits – Denn Guèye & Grand Mboa

This week we finished up two weeks of travel and visiting with students at their service locations. Our visiting took us south to within five miles of the Mali boarder and north to within three miles of the Mauritanian boarder. Everyone is doing well. We have a wonderful group of SSTers here – mature, engaged, and a pleasure to spend time with. You can check out our travels and a rough sense of our SSTers location at this Google map.

We began our travels with a visit to Aaron and Ian. They live in a small village called Denn Guèye near Lac Rose some 20-25 miles north and east of Dakar. Our main contact in the village is a Senegalese missionary named Frank Dagba who works with Mission Internationale Espérance, a new mission with a variety of projects in the area including one focused on teaching soccer to young boys from three nearby villages. Frank met us in the village and rounded up Aaron and Ian who were off on a long walk through the sandy countryside. At the beginning of service Aaron and Ian spent time teaching French and Math classes in the local school and while we were there they were getting ready to start some work on a new orphanage that is being prepared by the mission in a nearby village. They have also spent a lot of time getting to know their families and the local environs. They have become avid walkers and have taken tramps to the beach, nearby villages, and their families’ fields.  They also found a way to watch Euro 2012 football, gathering around a small TV with a large group of other soccer fans in one of the nearby villages that has electricity (a mere 45 minute walk for them).  Ian lives with the Sow family. We met with his father and elder mother on the roof of their home and later visited with Aaron’s family, the Din’s, who live in a concession that includes three or four families related to his host parents. We spent most of our time in the village under a large shade tree in the center of the Din family concession drinking tea and talking with Aaron, Ian, and various family members, including a large group of village children who flowed in and out of the shade. We took a picture of Aaron’s family that must have included twenty or so family members.

After spending the morning with the Din and Sow families, we traveled south and west to Grand Mboa, where Billy, Daniel, and Karin are located for their service placement. On the way we stopped for directions and somehow the camera, which had been sitting on David’s lap, ended up in the road. When we realized what had happened we went back and found the camera, but it had been driven over by a large dump truck and the memory card was destroyed along with all the pictures from our Denn Guèye visit. Sorry Aaron and Ian!

We continued on from there to Grand Mboa, a suburb of Dakar nestled on the coast just east of the city. As we walked through the narrow streets and close quarters of Grand Mboa with Karin, Billy, and Daniel we kept bumping into people they knew. Many of the people we met noted that the town is more like a village than an extension of Dakar. Everyone knows everyone else and many are family. We started and ended our visit at the local public school, Elhadj Babacar Cissé, where all three students are placed for service. In Grand Mboa we are partnering with the Association Humanitaire les Amis de l’Ecole, which advocates for the school, looks for material and nonmaterial support, and also runs an after school program. The three SSTers work in the after school program and have also done some teaching in large, sometimes unruly classrooms. They are also helping to organize a festival planned for mid-July, which will include some musical and dance numbers that the students are organizing and participating in.

All three students are placed with Muslim families. Billy lives with the Gueye family, which consists of “a lot of teenage and twenty year old women” who have welcomed him as a brother. Daniel lives with the N’Doye family in a concession with the families of two brothers and a variety of extended kin. His host father is an administrator at the school. Karin lives with the Sembere family in a concession with a view of the beach from her rooftop and front patio.

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