SNIPPETS FROM SENEGAL - a bulletin from Rachel Inegbedion, January 2nd, 2008
A Happy New Year to you all and again many thanks for your continued prayerful support, especially during the Christmas period which has just passed. You will be pleased to know that I have reached the end of my third month in Senegal and I am still in good health and spirits.
Over the past month, I have been busy with the general activities at the centre. As you can imagine, it is essential that the children keep clean, especially if we bear in mind the austere conditions in which many sleep. I am put in charge of making sure that as many children as possible take a shower, generally around three times per week. It’s never an easy task as the showers are not the most appealing activities for the children. Often I find myself searching for the crafty children in the heat of the midday African sun. The clever ones will be hiding up a tree or perhaps they are simply occupied with an abandoned car tyre found amongst the mounds of dumped rubbish but seem to serve hours of fun for children’s active imagination. They often know when I am on the case as they hear me put on my firmest Wolof "Kai Sango" which literally translates as "Come shower".
Wolof is Senegal’s other official language next to French. It is an incomplete language but the Senegalese are fiercely proud of it and are always delighted if visitors can understand a few expressions. I have been obliged to learn the language pretty swiftly as hardly any of the Talibé speak French. It is an incredibly intriguing language which is like no other but proves to be most enriching once you start to recognise its nuances. People are forever greeting each other with expressions like "Sante Yale" and "Alxamdulilaa" which translate as "Thanks be to God".
The Big Day : 25th December 2007
The "quariter" in which I live is called "Diamaguene" which in Wollof translates as "Peace". During the lead up to Christmas, many people in the community got involved with the Christmas party. The words "ATT" (The charity for which I work) and "Projet Noel" (Christmas Project) were on everybody's lips.
On the day, we hired three big tents and a large stage which served as entertainent. Groups of children had been busily putting together drama sketches whilst other set to perfecting the traditional dance known as "Blokhes".
Meanwhile, I was given the task of finding a comedian and a DJ ; both which were to bring real "ambiance".
During the morning of the big fete, like children all over the world on Christmas day, these children were up at the crack of dawn. However they were to wait to receive their presents ; for most of them the first present which they had ever received, for even more children the first time that they had ever even got their hands on wrapping paper.
For those of you who are familiar with African timekeeping and organisation, you can imagine that there were many "Alxamdulilaa" said when everything went to plan. Above all, it was the children who were the most keen to help as they eagerly marched back and forth in the sweltering heat, skillfully carrying stacks of up to 10 chairs above their heads. And it wasn’t only the children who were busy, for many of the women in the community formed committies which took care of making food on the day. In total, 200 peole were invited to join in the celebrations. We had already found out what many of the Talibé wanted for Christms and thanks to the money which you raised, we were able to buy a grand total of 50 street children presents. Beforehand, myself and the ATT team set to discreetly finding out what the childen would want for Christmas. As you can imagine, working with predomintely boys aged between 7 and 15, gifts such as football shirts and footballs were high up on the wish list. On the day, were even lucky enough to find a suitable Santa ; a young Welsh guy called Rich who just happened to be spending Christmas in Saint Louis. I don’t know who was more overwhelmed; him or the childen !
Hopefully, the pictures and my snippets of description will help give an idea of how my project is going. The supply of medicine which I mentioned in my last update remains to be a saving grace for the centre and the countless number of childen who turn up with injuries and maladies. Often the boys have shown up with bleeding ears and numerous bruises after being beaten by their islamic teachers "the marabout". More often than not, a child will come with glass in their feet as so many of the children have no shoes. I feel incredibly blessed to be seeing how the medication can help these children who are in desperate need. I am eternally grateful for your support which has allowed me to do so.
With you in thoughts and prayers,
Bon courage et Bon santé !
Rachel Arigbe Inegbedion
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