Willy Wonka’s Village

Ananda Day - Senegal


April 10, 2010

Last week I met a Brazilian-Baptist-ex-missionary current NGO worker named Salete. On Friday, Alec and I went along with her and her Brazilian-medical-Baptist missionary friend to the Village of M’Bissaou where she helps out at the local Case de Sante each and every Friday, has a football school with her husband, and aids the village in connecting them to different organizations.

First we visited a school that was started by Madame Wade’s (the Presidents wife) NGO, and funded by a Moroccan donor. I really didn’t know schools like this existed here- I literally was walking around with my mouth open half o f the time. From the outside it was beautiful with each building domed in the Moroccan style and covered in a cream paint. Inside the gates were trees galore -manguiers, a rare tree arboretum, and a garden. To the side was a fenced in building being used to store the organically grown produce from the nearby fields and the compost that fertilized them- a perfect full circle scene if you may. Throughout the grounds one sees colored swingsets and play materials scattered about. When we actually went into one of the brightly lit classrooms there was no let down- space enough for the nicer desks, larger blackboards, air flowing, and sun shining in though the large windows.

The biggest shock had to be the computer room though. Maybe thirty computers lined up, all plugged in and available for use, early-age French DVD’s being used for language acquisition, a teacher that can fix the computers, enough power to turn them all on and at the same time, and even a printer/scanner for the teachers use. In Senegal timeliness is a huge problem, especially in the school system. Teachers arrive on time rarely, late most of the time, and are absent often. To address this problem, rooms were build on school grounds for all of the teachers to stay in during the week (each with its own computer), cutting out transportation and food excuses often used. Once a week local women are taught how to read and write using the schools rooms. Forgive me if I seem incredulous, but after seeing public and private schools that cant even come up to one of the aforementioned aspects, it’s a bit shocking. What would cutting out the regular gloomy, crowded, concrete blocks do to Senegal’s education system? More importantly, what would it do for the students?

We then made our way to the woman’s group faming co-op. Here, Madame Wade’s NGO provided low-cost loans and information to the woman’s group. On sis hectares of land there are 125 plots of land, with one woman individually cultivating each plot. Fertilized by compost made at the school, watered by a manageable drip system, crops of onions, potatoes, and peanuts are grown. This produce is used to feed local families, with surpluses being sold.

Our last stop was the Case de Sante where Alec and I helped take blood pressure and weight of patients before they went to see the two Brazilians. We witnessed one person really making a difference as Salete greeted each and ever patient, in perfect Wolof, like and old friend- and many were. Visits cost roughly a dollar, and if you need any medication that is available (which is not much), that is given generously and free. In serious cases, such as the woman with fat visible through chewed up stitched skin, people are sent on up the health structure. More often than not though, patients leave with a treatment plan for their malady,  and the information to keep them healthy within the context of their lives. For example, one grand-dame came in with headaches from high blood-pressure, and left with a couple ibuprofen, instructions for them, and how to cook her ceebujen in a healthier manner.

Throughout the whole day, it felt a little bit like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factor- these amazing things tha tnever seem to exist or work here, a little bit of darkness in full view at the Case de Sante, the village winning the golden ticket for the school over twenty-two others, and even a phone booth out of nowhere. The biggest similarity though, would be the sense of wonder one is left with- at what is, and what could be.

Ananda Day