The people of Niognani are gracious hosts. When we’re in town, they make sure we feel at home. Check out the student blog posts for a sense of just how well they do. As Kekouta puts it, “since you’re so far from your homes, it’s our responsibility to make sure you feel like this is your second home.” Teranga, the Wolof word for hospitality, really is the operating norm.
Given everything that the people do for us (cooking our meals, trusting us with their children, letting us visit their homes, taking care of our every need), it’s natural that our students want to give back. Many have developed projects alongside the community. Last year, Steven Stilianos & Margaret Wilson helped provide access to free-flowing, safe water. Britney Peart provided 25 bikes for the community, many of which are now used by high school students to get to school. And others began working on ongoing projects – Jaylen Kreimes to build new soccer goals, Faith Beasley to provide first aid kits to local families. We really are living more side-by-side than ever.
Here is an update on where various projects stand:
- Water (pump, tower, and filtration) – the solar-powered pump continues to run at near 100% efficiency, providing water for most of the village. The water tower stood the test of its first major rainy season (one of the strongest on record) and the tank continues to hold 1,000 liters of water at a time (though it needs a proper cleaning!). The filtration system is currently being rethought by those who use it. The fine elements of what we installed don’t last, mostly because of a large amount of particulate in the water. A cap on the well would help a lot. We are looking into a proper solution.
- Bikes – if these bikes could speak, they would have quite a story to tell! Once the bikes arrived in Niognani, they were housed in the chief’s compound until we could find a more permanent place to keep them. They were slowly distributed to families in need throughout the community. Today, the majority of the bikes are in use. A few are damaged and need minor repair. A few have been modified to better suit the community’s needs. All have made an impact. There is a demand for more bikes and the need for a system to maintain and house them. Britney is working on this from college, which speaks to the fact that these projects really are relationship-based and not confined to a school-driven project.
- Soccer goals – Jaylen raised some money and left school with an idea still to be achieved. This year, Connor Gordon and Philip Robinson picked up the idea and ran with it while we were in Senegal. Working with the village chief and the head of the Niognani school, they located a new plot of land for a soccer pitch. They measured it out and set the stage for the community to clear the new field. They also spent an entire day exploring different designs for the goals they want to provide – a model made of wood vs various options made of metal. In the end, they’re waiting on some additional information and updates before making a final decision. Kekouta and the team in Senegal are waiting to make this possible.
- Med Kits – Faith successfully raised money and designed well-stocked kits that provide essential medical supplies to families in the village. She worked with Kekouta and Mr. Alter to think through what the kits should have – the basic supplies to help people with their daily lives in the village. She decided on waterproof boxes to house what she donated to the families. She made sure everything got to CCS in time for the group’s departure and worked with Ms. Brumfield to get it all organized. This year’s group then distributed the medkits during our time in the village. We went family-to-family and explained exactly what was in the kit and how to use it. We also left stocks of the basics with Kekouta so that he can refill the kits as needed. It was a great way to check in on the health of the village and get a sense for how Faith’s project will impact people. It was exciting!
Our students have made major impacts in this community, on their own terms and side-by-side with residents of Niognani. And there is more in the works. Olivier, Colette, and Joy are pushing ahead with a vision for a community center that could house a store, the bikes, an educational center, and more. They want to create a space that could house future projects and allow both the CCS community and the people of Niognani to interact and learn from each other even when we’re not in Senegal. It’s a powerful vision.
If you have any questions about these projects or would like to support the student work in this area of the Global Education life, please let us know.