Maison de la Gare de Saint Louis, Senegal: “Because the talibés of today are the men of tomorrow”

One of the remarkable examples in the defense of Senegalese talibés (also known as “the street children”) is the Maison de la Gare (the House of the Station), named after its proximity to the old train station that used to link Saint Louis to Dakar in the colonial times. In this beautifully decorated center, in the heart of the town of Saint Louis, a few local workers try very hard to make these children’s lives be a little less hard.

Their activities go from talks on health and civism issues, to providing sportive activities to the very young ones. There is also an infirmary which is always open to attend the wounded (social security doesn’t cover their medical attention), which is always busy, because most of the kids suffer from numerous accidents while running around on the streets (some get hit by cars and sometimes they’re left on their own). Another very common treatment given is the one to fight against skin infections such as dermatoses and scabies, easily spread among the kids who observe poor hygiene practices.

The day I went to meet the responsibles of the center, the very kind Abdou Soumaré took his time to explain me everything they do in order to defend the rights of the little ones. This includes taking cruel marabous to trial or doing night-rounds throughout the cities to recover children who have gone astray, have lost their way or are sleeping on the street; if this is the case, they take them back to the Maison and they provide them with essential primary care.

Everyday round 7pm, a huge line of hungry children from the street approach the MdG in order to receive a simple sandwich, some of the times, the only meal they will have in the whole day. They line up with huge smiles, waiting patiently for their turn and celebrating the delivering of the food with games and laughs.

As a volunteer, I have decided to dedicate a few hours out of my formal job within the EUAV program, to give English classes twice a week to former talibés, who are now teenagers. Most of my students have found their way in life and work in the market, selling books or fruits. However, they haven’t forgotten their origins and they keep on coming to the center, in order to help the small talibés, feed them, cure them, play with them,… and they take advantage of their visit to assist language courses like the one I am providing.

One of the slogans written on the walls of the center is “The talibés of today are the men of tomorrow”. And that is the spirit surrounding the amazing work of Abdou and his colleagues.

by Pablo Elorriaga