CLEAN TEETH AND SMILING FACES

 

Dear friends,

I hope that the New Year has started off well for you all. Over in Senegal, spirits are pretty high as the African Nation Cup kicks off. So far we have seen several teams play including Nigeria, Namibia and Ghana. However I think that it’s safe to say that the “ambiance” so far has just been a warm up. Tomorrow's match featuring Senegal and Tunisia will be the real peak of events. Let me know if you hear the drum beats and clanging all the way over in Bromham!

However this update isn’t all about the fun and games over in Senegal. Since the New Year has started, I’ve had my work cut out with supervising the health and hygiene of 84 children. Thanks to the money we have raised, I have been able to provide ATT with toothbrushes and toothpaste for the children who come to the centre.

The children’s reaction to the minty fresh taste of Colgate that we find so familiar was somewhat varied. There were those who cheekily tried to get an extra squeeze out of the tube by craftily trying to convince me that they hadn’t had their turn yet! Meanwhile, there were those who were so intrigued and baffled by the whole teeth-cleaning process that I had to demonstrate several times on my own teeth, desperately searching for words in the various dialects which exist in the villages. It became clear that for most of the children, this was the first time that they have ever had the chance to clean their teeth. This would explain why many of the children’s gums bled the first time round. Not only are their teeth in a terrible state, their gums are very fragile and they desperately lack in calcium.

   

Since arriving, I have accompanied 6 children to the dentist; all consultations and prescriptions were funded by the money that you have helped me raise. The Talibé have very poor diets which is forever causing them tooth aches. They eat whatever they can obtain through begging; this is generally rice and sugar cubes which are in great abundance.

 

 

              

I’m sure that you can all appreciate the urgency of monitoring the children’s health. With the help of our funds, the centre is now equipped with over Ł300 of medication. In the end, it ended up being 4 big crates of medicine including Amoxicillin, Vitamin C tablets and not forgetting copious bandages and plasters. The crates of medicine are kept in my room and now I like to think of it as a drop in pharmacy. Sometimes I get children knocking on my door at 7am in the morning, eagerly ready to brush their teeth or even to take their morning dose of medicine.

 

The young Talibé often go round together in groups of 4 or 5, whether they be begging or running errands for their marabout. During the shower and teeth cleaning sessions, the boys generally come in bursts, accompanied by their fellow comrades with whom they live day in and day out.  The boys who come from the same daara stick together like glue and I am often moved by the solidarity which exists amongst them. The name of the charity “AnTawawuTalibé” actually translates as “Union Solidarity with the Talibé”.

 

 All in all, I have come across an abundance of children during my time with ATT. Whether it be boys who we find sleeping on the streets, in the entrances of bakeries; boys who come to the centre with glass stuck in their feet or the first signs of malaria or simply boys who are curious to see a Toubab in town! (the term for white person in Wolof)

I wanted to take this month’s update as an opportunity to introduce you to one of the many Talibé whose story has really touched me.

Text Box: My name is Adama Ba and I am 11 years old. I have been Talibé since I was 7 years old. I was sent by my family to study the Koran with a marabout in Saint Louis. My family live in Koalack (3 hours away from Saint Louis) and I have not seen them for 4 years.
Each day I wake up at 5am to pray, afterwards I am sent to beg on the streets. My marabout tells me to bring him back 100 CFA (the equivalent of 10p) and a quota of rice and sugar. If I am late home or I don’t bring back what he has asked for, I will be hit. Sometimes I have slept on the streets alone as I have been too scared to return to my daara.
I get very tried in the day as I wake up very early and I have many chores to do. I am made to hand wash the clothes of my marabout plus those of the older Talibé. I do lots of little jobs to earn money whilst I am not begging. I carry heavy sack loads of coal and fire wood for people in the quartier. They will give me money which I have to hide from my marabout. Sometimes I collect empty aluminium cans to sell to people who work with metal.
I have never been to school but I would really like to go. I used to come to the ATT centre to learn French but my marabout now forbids me as he says French it is an “evil language.” Nowadays I use the centre to have a shower and brush my teeth. It was here that I cleaned my teeth for the very first time.
And yes I miss my family very much.
 

 

Hear the story of Adama Ba:

   

              

                                

Text Box: Glossary of Key Terms
Talibé: Boys who are mostly aged between 4 and 20 years (average age 10,5) who are sent by their parents to learn the Koran under the strict supervision of a marabout.
Marabout
The role of a marabout consists of teaching the Talibé the Koran and showing them the values held by the islamic faith.
Daara:
This is a school for the teaching of the Koran. Here can be found the marabout and Talibés for whom it serves as a dwelling.
 
 

 

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Text Box: An example of a Daara where the Talibé sleep and learn the Koran.