The Final Stretch

Madeline Ripa - Senegal

March 12, 2012

When I first arrived in my host community Palmarin Facao, Senegal, in the beginning of October, I started working as a nurse at the “Poste de Sante de Palmarin Facao et Centre de Planification Familiale” (The Palmarin/Facao Health Clinic and Family Planning Center). Pape Ndiaye, the sole doctor on staff, and Cecile, my one fellow nurse on staff, displayed immense Senegalese Teranga (hospitality) by welcoming me graciously onto the team.

Now as someone whose high school GPA always dipped significantly due to my math and science grades, I surprised myself by not only enjoying but excelling in this apprenticeship. I was having the time of my life learning about natural herb remedies, family planning, the few medicines readily available at the clinic, and the overall health care system in Senegal. A few weeks into my apprenticeship I was busy filling prescriptions, assisting in cleaning wounds, recording shots and immunizations, balancing the books, and occasionally, through persistent nagging, witnessing births.

One day we were treating the dozen victims of a horrific car accident, and the next welcoming a team of Spanish Dentists and Dental Hygienists who were providing a full day of free dental care for the people living in the Palmarin area. It seemed there was never a dull moment to be found.

Then a couple months ago the clinic started to slow down. As the rainy season came to a finish, so did the many cases of Malaria we saw to and treated every day. Even once I took on additional cleaning projects, I found myself with hours of free time and a much-too-strong bond with my Kindle. There was no way to get around the fact that my help wasn’t currently needed.

That’s when Hassana, one of Global Citizen Year’s field staff, came to Semira (a fellow Fellow in my village) and I with the option for another apprenticeship.

First a little background information.

Five different villages reside within the Palmarin area and overall it is home to 14 hotels and campsites. The hospitality and tourism sector of the economy brings in an enormous amount of income to this area of Senegal, and innumerable locals earn livings by owning or working at these establishments. Yet only a handful of these places have websites or any kind of online promotion; a rather problematic gap in marketing to tourists.

The “L’ecotourimse Centre” (Ecotourism Center) in Palmarin serves as a kind of middleman between the tourists and the hotels and campsites. However it also has no website and an extremely limited amount of information on these establishments and the services they offer.

This, Hassana said, is where we can help. Our project has taken the following form:

  1. Visit each hotel and campsite to conduct extensive interviews regarding anything a tourist would want to know about the establishment. Take pictures.
  2. Compile this information (in French and English) into a useful document for the use of the employees at the Ecotourism Center.
  3. Create a website (in French and English) for the Ecotourism Center in which each hotel and campsite can be successfully promoted.
  4. Train the employees at the Ecotourism Center to manage and update said website as need be.

This project was a big one to take on with barely a month and a half left in our homestays. There are moments when I get overwhelmed, because in the long run this project could benefit a lot of people. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to let down my host family, neighbors, and friends. Whenever I get this feeling I make myself take a deep breath, relax, and remember the importance of taking things one day at a time.

“O dong o dong,” my host father will say. A little by little.


Madeline Ripa