Madeleine Balchan

Madeleine has distinguished herself among her peers as an athlete on the lacrosse field and an activist raising money for the American Cancer Society. Madeleine's lacrosse team won the State Championships three times, and she received All American First Team recognition her senior year. As a sophomore, Madeleine started the Relay for Life of Culver which raised over $340,000 for the American Cancer Society in the three subsequent years.


Alum Post: GCY Cribs

Coming back to America was WAY harder than leaving to go to Senegal. My host-mother, Ndeye (the one pouring tea in the video) teases me during my weekly phone calls saying I’ve already forgotten Wolof.  But I was able to stumble through a 20 minute…

24 August, 2011

Malaria No More

Preparing for my seven-month stay in Senegal, I visited the doctor for seven shots and an anti-malaria pill prescription. Options?  Take a pill daily or weekly. Side effects?  Sun-sensitivity or suffer physchlogical effects. My mom’s thoughts? “AAHH! MY BABY’S GOING TO AFRICA!” My thoughts? “YES!…

24 April, 2011

Fatim & Nafi (Help) Cook Lunch

My relationship with Senegalese food has gone from curiosity to sickness to detest to love. I help my mothers’ cook whenever I’m home — here Naomi and I helped to cook chebugen (fish and rice)- our daily lunch!

18 April, 2011


My friend told me I have 2 faces, “sometimes you’re white, sometimes you’re red.” The Poussal or Peujot is a public transportation pickup with a canopy to hold produce and more people. Today there were a few sheep lying peacefully on top of the canopy…

04 April, 2011

Social Security

JAN 11 Today, like many other mornings, as we finish breakfast of Café Touba and bread, Absa, my “tanta” (dad’s 2nd wife) hands me a small teapot full of Café touba and tells me to take it to Baay Sier, my uncle. I slip on…

15 March, 2011

A Mother’s Love

The first thing I did, before breakfast or brushing my teeth, was go next door to the Maternity Clinique to see Absa’s friend and her three hour old baby. “Congratulations!” I said! She said it hurt. I left her to rest, returning home to my…

15 March, 2011


Last year’s Fellows told us to beware of the slower pace in Senegal, of the many hours of down-time. I was scared. In high school my schedule was packed with sports, homework, and clubs. This summer I worked a 60 hour week as a waitress…

03 March, 2011

A Fruit Knife

I’ve been in Senegal five days now. I’m in class at Africa Consultants International (ACI), a school that teaches cross-cultural awareness and languages. My first homework assignment: boutik bi. Find a road side boutique stand, greet the owner, look around, and buy what intrigues you…

28 February, 2011

Maam Awa

The wrinkles on her face rearrange themselves into a smile as Maam Awa, my 90+-year-old grandmother, extends her hand to greet me. She repeats my last name, Diaw, and I say her’s, Sec. “Did you pass your day in peace?” she asks. “Peace only.” I…

22 February, 2011


This is my first winter without snow. I remember the first time I ever made a snowman. I scooped snow into my mittens and tried to form a ball, but the powder just crumbled apart and fell as I separated my hands. I watched in…

18 February, 2011

Fire Department Rescues Cat From Tree

With no moon tonight it’s almost pitch black outside. Absa, my host dad’s second wife, asks to borrow my cell phone. They need a light. “Foo jem?” “Where are you going?” I ask. “Jocko genar.” “Getting the chickens…” Okay, so I’m not positive about the…

16 February, 2011


I write in my journal “leaving a place, and then returning, can give such great perspective.”

10 February, 2011

Eyes Wide Open

“What is that?” Ndiy, my older mom, is stirring a rice paste in a kettle over burning logs (our stove). “Rice with sugar” she responded. “But why are you making that?” I’m confused. It’s mid-morning.  We eat breakfast before 8 every morning. Lunch isn’t until…

08 February, 2011


A baby is crying. What’s new? But for some reason I stick my head out of the window to investigate. Khady, my one-year-old sister, is sitting smack dab in the middle of the tree’s shade by herself. She can project. I approach her and say…

11 January, 2011

$2 a Day

Recently I began researching the true cost of living in Leona.

13 December, 2010

Jigeen Jambar

Suma yaay (my mom), Ndiy, tried to escape to the field without me, but I was ready: lathered in sunscreen and wearing my capris and bandana. Even as Ndiy protested I’d be hungry and tired, I hopped on the crowded carriage at 9AM – a…

29 November, 2010


I’m in the dark. Neither of my two “moms” speak French. My Wolof is improving drastically but I feel I’m always in the darkness that descends on Leona, our village, at eight when the sun sets. A car ran into an electrical pole in Potou,…

22 November, 2010

Video: afternoon of soccer in Senegal

A Sunday afternoon of soccer that I wanted to share with you guys:

18 November, 2010


Suma yaaye, my host mother, is diabetic. She was hospitalized for not following her diet. Our house, usually bustling with visitors and laughter, became very solemn. Then my older sister Adya got malaria.  Suddenly my sister Ami, who’s 19 like me, had the work of…

02 November, 2010

Be a Fool

My heart was beating to the rhythm of the African drums. The floor was wet and slippery because of beads of fallen sweat. The man in front of me was moving his hips and knees in ways I’d never seen before; I tried to mimic…

27 October, 2010


I’ve been in Dakar for one week. The first few days, I was numb from sensory overload. I see sheep in the street meridian, bright colorful linens, flies swarming the meat stands and more western clothes than I expected. I hear my brothers converse in…

13 October, 2010

I’ve Bought In

“So what is the US Training Institute?” Over the summer as friends asked me to explain GCY’s plan for these two weeks in San Francisco, I gave vague answers like “team building” or “understanding GCY as an organization and their goals”. My guesses adequately described…

04 October, 2010

You don’t have to go Africa to find Inequality

I noticed his big toes sticking out of his well-worn shoes.  I didn’t ask his name. I was already talking with Eddy, who had a story of his own. Eddy lives with his brother who has HIV. His sister is somehow supporting 10 children, some…

01 October, 2010

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Madeleine Balchan