Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Living, Working, Learning

I apologize for taking so long to update this. Though my brother has an internet cable, it’s the only one for the whole house which includes a lot of people who use internet. I’ve now spent about 2 and a half weeks in new city, which means I only have three left! Again, I need to comment on how fast this whole trip seems to be going. Right now, I’m definitely watching Confessions of a Shopaholic on tv, in French, with my teenage host brother who is also making some sort of a clothing item out of a pillow case on a ancient, manual sewing machine. It’s a normal night in Senegal.

Thiès is great, the city is beautifully tropical though very hot, but my walk to work is absolutely gorgeous. I’ll take pictures sometime soon and add them so you can get a flavor of the scenery. My family includes a lot of people just like my family in Dakar. I have 8 siblings, at least 4 brothers who live in the house, two sisters, one sister in law, my host mom and one niece who’s two years old. Everyone is wonderfully boisterous and fun. They were a little hard to get used to at first because they can be a little overwhelming but we gotten to a very nice groove now. It is odd to be the only student here, but it is forcing me to spend every waking moment immersed in culture and language which is a really good experience.
My internship is fantastic and I can already tell it is will be one of the major things I will take away from the whole Senegal experience. The organization I work with, has two major products, one for street children and one for young people who work.

The project for street children works manly with children who beg on the streets for religious leaders who educate them in the Koran. This is a rather long story that I won’t get into here but I’d be happy to explain it to anyone who’s interested. If these children do not get their quota in begging for the day, they can’t go home to sleep and are forced to sleep on the street. The organization works to re-negotiate terms with religious educators to keep kids from sleeping on the street, or reunite these kids with their families, if that’s a possibility. What I get to do, is go around and check on these kids during the day. We just try to see how they’re doing and what they are going through. Having a presence is what’s important, so that kids know someone cares about them and that there is someone there to help them if ever they need it. I am fascinated by this system and impressed by the rapport the organization has with these kids.

The program for young people who work, is for young people who left their studies much too early for whatever reason and entered the workforce. The organization provides daily education in both trade skills and literacy. There are ten base groups in the city, in ten different neighborhoods and each group consists of anywhere from 15 to 40 young people. These groups learn embroidery and crochet twice a week and basic literacy in French three times a week. I am shadowing one group in the neighborhood closest to mine and going to their classes every afternoon. I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to spend so much time getting to know the students and learning what they learn. I have begun my education in embroidery and am hilariously bad at it but I’m trying and hoping that slowly, it will come along.

The rest of the time, I get to attend meetings and see how the organization works. The people I work with are amazingly intelligent and helpful. They never seem to get sick of answering my questions and dealing with my lack of Wolof. The placement really is about as close to perfect as I could ask for and I feel very lucky.

I will try to update again soon. Until then, I miss you all and will be seeing you (somewhat) soon!


  1. Hi Kaela,
    It was so good to see you on Easter via Skype. I bet you never thought you would be learning embroidery while you were in Senegal.
    I'm glad you are so happy with your internship.
    Looking forward to the pictures.

  2. Hi Kaela,

    so glad you are liking your internships so well. The whole concept of the street children project does sound fascinating -the idea that there are ways to look out for the children despite the fact that you can't just "fix" the situation for them. It sounds like important work that you are fortunate to be a part of and to learn from. (in both internships. )

    Looking forward to pics of your walk each morning!
    Love to you,

  3. Hi Kaela,
    Thanks for the postcard.
    Cecelia is due June 19. I am hoping for an early delivery-June 15-my birthday.
    Cecelia is doing fine. Sean says she is really big. We will see her this coming weekend when we go to Milwaukee for the shower.

  4. Happy Birthday Kaela!!!
    I don't know if your time is ahead of us or behind. But I thought I would send you birthday wishes now so I won't forget. I hope your family will celebrate with you.
    It's less than a month before Kevin comes to see you! Can you believe that!
    I hope everything is still going well.

  5. Hey Kaela! Wow, I finally got a chance to look at your blog and it sounds like your internship is a great experience! Both of those programs sound like they are much needed and are certainly helping the kids and young people progress towards better circumstances in life. It must feel great to be a part of an organization like that and I'm sure they feel lucky to have you. I'm glad things have settled down with the host family - boisterous families???! never heard of them! haha...Anyways, I hope you had a wonderful birthday as well! Miss you!