Seventeen Beaver students and three faculty chaperones recently returned from a French immersion and service trip to Senegal.
Students lived with local families in the city of St. Louis. Every morning they worked in kindergarten classes and a Talibes (street children) program tutoring up to 40 children in math and French, courtesy of Knack Tutoring, a overseas educational charity company. In addition, they helped with cleanliness and medical issues. The students enjoyed playing soccer with the children and being with them as friends. In the afternoons the group constructed bedrooms for the children in a daara (Qur’anic school). It total, Beaver students help build three bedrooms.
The Beaver contingent found the Senegalese people to be extremely hospitable and welcoming. The students had cultural adjustments to make such as eating meals on the floor from a communal bowl; shaking hands and exchanging greetings (Salaam Maleekum) with many, many people a day; hearing the sounds of goats and the call to prayer as a background to their work; and giving their western digestive systems a chance to adapt to Senegalese food.
Building a bedroom in Senegal
The students’ reflections below give a good sense of the challenges and joys they encountered. Standing in front of a class of kids I’d grown to love made me feel so lucky to get the chance to work in a school. This experience was absolutely amazing. I did not expect it to be as mentally and emotionally demanding as it was, but by focusing on my growth as a person, the difficulties didn’t really matter. Chloe
Our group worked closely together and developed a closeness that was a huge benefit to the trip. Max
The trip was an eye opener for me. It was difficult at times, but the trip was well done. Being able to learn to feel comfortable in a totally foreign environment was a great experience. Also, building a shelter for the street kids had a lasting effect. The trip was not easy, but you could immerse yourself in a different culture, and challenge yourself. Sarah
I would recommend this a million times. My host fmily acted as if they were my family- so spectacular. Jonathan
I don’t consider myself a sheltered person, but this was so eye opening. Their lives are so different. Kasjah
I am really, really lucky to be here. Rather than looking at the talibes center as so sad, I focus on doing my little part. Maggie
We should all be proud of ourselves. We really helped; we didn’t just send money. This is an amazing experience that can’t be explained in words. Alexys
These are the most welcoming people I have ever met. I love these people. I’m so grateful to be here with the kids. Taylor
I loved living with a host family, being immersed in Senegalese culture. In 2 weeks time my French improved immensely. I will never forget my stay in Senegal. I thought I knew what the third world was like. This feels like the fourth or fifth world. Nizzy
I learned responsibility, focus, initiative taking. Izzy
I loved learning about another culture and sending time with my host family. Kirsten
See more photos from the students’ trip in our Flickr gallery.