Friday was our last day of the “study” part of SST and our last day together as a group until we gather for the retreat after service. In the morning we visited CEEDD, a local women’s organization that promotes urban gardening (in schools and homes), and helps women in Thiès become economically independent by supporting area women’s associations and microcredit groups and with training in gardening, management, sewing and dying cloth and marketing. They also manage a small lending library (no public library system here) and provide internet for community members wanting to do research.
In the evening we had a lovely time together with our host families to say goodbye and thank them for all their wonderful kindness and hospitality. Students had prepared a number of songs to sing together and told a few stories. Then parents wanted to also get up and tell stories about the students and to sing their praises! One after another they talked about how well our students had integrated with their families, willingly helped out about the home, shared meals and meal preparation, played with the children and brought laughter, good conversations and energy into their homes. The students were loved and will be missed. Tears were shed. The families talked about how ‘well brought up’ the students were, a compliment we pass along to all you parents out there!! Some families have now hosted three or four students and they thanked Goshen College for consistently sending respectful and culturally aware students. They praised Goshen’s program for making these relationships possible and for the contribution SST makes to understanding and peace across cultures. One father said that the world would be a better place if more people participated in this kind of exchange. We are so proud of these students, they are a wonderful group.
This is the Islamic Ramadan fasting month, and many of the host families had been fasting all day (no food or drink since sunrise), so as soon as we heard the call go out from the local mosques that it was time to break the fast, we all shared juice and coffee and good pastries that Annelise had gotten for us. Then we went back for a few more stories and a departing song (“God be with You till We Meet Again”) from the students. One of our host mothers has a catering business and she had made really delicious boxed suppers that we were able to send home with all of the families. It was a heart-warming evening and the affection students and families share was clearly evident.