We did our last service visits yesterday and today, only a little less than two weeks from when we will all meet again on July 21 in Thiès for retreat. On Thursday we visited Caleb and Valentin at the rural clinic, Poste de Sante Keru Yiiw operated by Jeunesse en Mission (YWAM). The boys spend most of their mornings at the clinic helping the various staff members in consultations, intake, pharmacy and wound care. They are learning a lot about healthcare in Senegal and, similar to other service posts, the majority of their patients are women and children, even though they do not do deliveries there. Echoing the success of Senegal in nearly eradicating malaria, they have yet to administer a positive malaria test. The staff have been helpful in explaining the cases they are seeing and patiently teaching the boys how to be most useful. Here as in most of our service placements communication is largely in Wolof. Unfortunately we did not get to meet the staff because it was the second day of the Korité holiday (celebrating the end of Ramadan) and the clinic was closed. So we are sorry not to have photographs of many of their co-workers.
On other days or in afternoons when the clinic is finished Valentin and Caleb help with various projects on the larger YWAM compound like setting goal posts and boundaries in the sand soccer field, helping in the orchard and gardens, carrying chairs for meetings or generally doing what needs to be done. They eat and interact with a larger community of people who work for the mission. Starting next week the compound will be humming with youth from Christian congregations around Senegal for a music camp and local, mainly Muslim, youth for a soccer camp. Caleb will teach advanced piano students and Valentin will help with the soccer teams. The boys have been living in a dormitory on the compound which will now be filled with boys for the camp! So their quiet routines are about to change. They also enjoy going into the nearby village of Gorom with their friend and mission worker Moussa to visit, share food and explore, benefitting from the fact the “everyone knows Moussa”! Valentine and Caleb are appreciated by everyone for their sociability and willingness to help out.
As we were having lunch together in a restaurant in Lac Rose that is built out over the lake, Caleb realized that many of journal papers written during service had managed to slip through the plank flooring and into the water below. With the help of the waiter and other staff he did manage to retrieve them and — surprise! — they were still in readable condition (if a little worse for the wear) once they dried out! Good thing we were with him at the time. Not sure we would have believed this story otherwise. This is a reminder that the students continue to read, write, investigate and analyze for their journal assignments as well as work on their final research projects.
On Friday we saw Austin and Marie who are working in Mbour on the coast south of Thiès at an orphanage called Vivre Ensemble: Pouponnière de Mbour. This is quite a large establishment with over 300 residential children from infancy to teenagers. Marie and Austin work mostly with the 4-10 year olds, playing with them in the morning and then helping with some classroom time where they do activities and music (“head and shoulders, knees and toes”!). Much of their interaction with the children is in individual free play and supervision of games. Marie is interested in how to more effectively help the large percentage of mentally handicapped children that come to the orphanage. In Senegal where extended families take responsibility for each other it is rare to find a child who has no other kin to take care of them. But vulnerable children come here for a variety of reasons and an extremely small number actually make it through the long process of international adoption. Many are able to rejoin their families when they are older. Austin also helps out with the chicken project that serves to feed and raise income for the orphanage. Both Marie and Austin have busy and welcoming families who talked to us about how much they enjoyed having these students become part of their families. Both of their mothers work at the orphanage where we met them but we also visited their homes where we met other family members.
There are a number of French volunteers in the orphanage, especially helping with the large number of infants who need constant holding, feeding and changing. But our students are noted by staff as some of the few who work with older children, live in host families and engage with learning about Senegalese culture outside of the orphanage. Austin and Marie have enjoyed getting to know the city, visiting at the beach and interacting with a new set of people. Austin is particularly interested in organized sports and seeing how that works in this city while Marie’s spare time is often fully occupied by her younger siblings.
In both sites we were happy to see students comfortable and content with their new surroundings and finding ways to engage and contribute even in a short time.