Service Visits to Saint Louis and Darou Alpha
We began our rounds of visiting students at their service assignments now in their third week. Although we have been in touch with most of the students by text or phone over the past couple of weeks, this is a chance to hear what they are doing day to day and to see their work and home situations. We also collect essays they have been working on and discuss how things are shaping up for the research project they have selected.
Service always stretches students. There are parts of service that are just hard. Often the pace of life is much slower with much more time to be alone with your thoughts. Students are not professionals and sometimes feel very limited in what they can contribute. Everyone has to continue to struggle with language barriers — even if your French is great, most of the conversations around you are in Wolof. Just like back home, sometimes students get sick and their families seem especially far away. But throughout all of that, the students are a great support to each other. All of them will visit students at other locations. Many experiences on service are just amazing and students develop deep relationships with each other and with the people they live and work with.
Our first service visit was to Eliana and Lydia in Saint Louis working with an organization called “Yoonu Njub” (the way of justice) Center which includes a trade school for girls who dropped out of school, a clinic and a boy’s training program with a guesthouse in another location. Eliana is working in the pharmacy helping to give out cards, collect money, bring medicines to the pharmacist and keep the records in order. She also enjoys talking to people there and playing with the one year old son of the pharmacist. Her host mother runs the program and her home is constantly full of visitors from near and far. Eliana especially enjoys games and keeping a spider with her eleven year old brother. Lydia is teaching computer skills at the center and English at a local school. She has taken on teaching entirely new subjects with grace and style. Public schools are closed after next week so Lydia is hoping to get involved in some other programs both at the center and elsewhere. Her host family lives quite a distance from the center and Lydia enjoys walking and exploring the city. She has a routine in the evening helping get things ready to break the Ramadan fast. Her younger sisters seemed to enjoy Lydia’s presence. Everyone spoke highly of the girls – helpful, respectful, kind, accommodating and dedicated. They seem to have very quickly become part of this new setting. In the evening we took our friend who came along to see the old city and we can’t resist sharing just a few more photos.
We visited Darou Alpha on the way home from Saint Louis on Tuesday to see Brenner and Kyle who were placed there by Heifer Project. They live in a very small village where everyone knows them and seems incredibly happy to have them there, greeting them as Ibu Mbengue (Kyle) and Babacar Diène (Brenner). Brenner showed us around the health post where he has been helping out and learning about healthcare in rural Senegal from the nurse, midwife and pharmacist who run the place. The majority of patients are women and children and the clinic does a couple of births a day. Kyle works with some agricultural projects of a village development association that is making preparations for an irrigated garden project. He has been accompanying his host father who is responsible for projects in a number of surrounding villages, including livestock and biogas. Life in the village is slow and their afternoons are often spent reading, playing guitar, resting, running and exploring. Not too many kilometers from their village is a much larger town that hosts a very large retail and wholesale vegetable market – the produce from these irrigated garden projects. We have included a number of photos of this amazing place where produce was being loaded in trucks for distant regions and across national boundaries. We met many of the village leaders and everyone spoke in glowing terms about Ibu and Babacar. The elderly village chief extolled the virtues of hard work that he saw in these young Americans. The boys live with very basic accommodations and no internet access but enjoy fresh food from the gardens and do have electricity and fans.
Later this week we will head to Ndem to see Ellen and Nate and to Fatick to visit Danny and Jose.
A note on the pic of us on the beach: this is not our day-to-day life while the students are on service!! We had the hard, hard job of checking out the location for our retreat together at the end of service, just before the students leave Senegal.