Volunteers in Senegal organise beach clean-up
From the first time she set foot on the beach in St Louis teaching volunteer Danielle Paffard wondered what could be done to help clear the litter that spoils an otherwise idyllic spot. Having decided to extend her placement by a month at the end of January, she set about finding a way to organise the big clean-up.
At first it all seemed simple - surely plenty of St Louis' Talibés - street children, would be happy to help, in return for a day off from begging, a bit of lunch, and the chance to play on the beach. But the Marabouts weren't so sure. So, with the help of Issa (one of the Projects Abroad staff in Senegal) , Danni set of on a tour of local Marabouts to explain the plan and ask them to let their Talibés participate. Together they managed to put across a convincing presentation, and one by one the Marabouts agreed to cooperate. Donations from the volunteers, Projects Abroad and friends at home had begun to mount up and it was decided to pay each Marabout a small amount as a gesture of goodwill.
With around a hundred Talibés now able to come to the beach, the problem was how to get them from the Talibé Centre in Sor on the mainland to Hydrobase, about four miles away on the peninsular. Danni's skills of persuasion meant that after a meeting at the local barracks, she found herself in charge of two army trucks and ten men for the day! The local council had already agreed to provide a tractor, refuse sacks and litter-picking sticks, and suggested that when we'd done the beach we could maybe start on the rest of the town.
By 9 o'clock on Sunday morning the lorries had ferried over 100 Talibés to Hydrobase beach and they were getting stuck in to the litter picking - although many of them seemed far too distracted by having a free day on the beach to do too much work. Luckily the volunteers were also up early and in a more industrious mood and were soon filling up their sacks. Following announcements on the local radio and in St Louis schools, several more willing pairs of hands turned up throughout the morning, as well as a few curious onlookers.
Meanwhile, back at the Projects Abroad office a mission was underway to make enough sandwiches and juice to feed 150 hungry workers. Three different bakeries were relieved of all their bread and got to close early for the day as we gathered up enough loaves. The arrival at the beach of two chocolate-spread-smeared people carrying three sacks of 'lunch' prompted a mini stampede of Talibés, but once some crowd-control measures had been put in place, everyone somehow ended up with a sandwich and settled down in the (litter-free) sand to tuck in. The day proved not to have been too educative when several Talibés had to be reprimanded for throwing their plastic cups away on the beach! They were last seen disappearing back to their compounds on the backs of the army lorries, happily singing improvised songs about chocolate spread and orange juice, while several truly dedicated volunteers worked well into the afternoon finishing off a great clean-up effort.