In case you were wondering what kind of work I’ve actually been doing, here’s a highlight from the past few months:
At the end of March, I and the other volunteers in my “work-zone” (PC terminology is never-ending: this just means the group of volunteers who live closest to me) put on a youth camp for the kids from our towns/villages. There were 30 kids in total from 13 different places. These kids had been selected by the school board as motivated students who would get the most out of the camp.
We had a blast. The camp was four full days of activities, ranging from games like capture the flag and soccer to more educational sessions like nutrition and reproductive health. We planted trees, had water balloon fights, did yoga, tae kwon do, and theater activities.
This camp is definitely a highlight of my service so far. Back in August I was targeted by some of the older volunteers to write the grant for it, and so I was pretty involved with planning and making the camp happen. The idea is next year I’ll be ready to run things (inshallah).
In Senegal I’ve found it can oftentimes be difficult spending time around kids. There are just so many of them and they are attention-hungry. They are also bored, and often like to bother volunteers just because we’re different. Calling us toubabs, asking us for money, making fun of our Pulaar, etc.
It was refreshing to be around the kids that came to camp because they are all bright, hard-working students. The irony is that it is probably the bored, name-calling not-so-bright or hardworking kids that need our help more than anyone else. Those are the poorer ones, the ones that probably won’t stay in school.
This is something that nags at me consistently. I have some deep questions and concerns about the work development organizations do.
But one thing I’ve learned so far is that you have to reach the people that are ready and willing to be reached first. Usually these aren’t the people that need the most help. It’s a process.
Camp was an important lesson for me in many ways. It helped me remember how much I enjoy working with kids and also how important this type of work is. Kids are quite literally, the future, after all.