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Fatick & Linguere

A month ago, we had the opportunity to travel to several towns and villages outside of Dakar. We travelled with some of the staff from World Renew as they were showing World Renew’s health consultant the PEVF (Programme d’education de la vie familiale/education of family life program) in the different villages. We spent four days traveling through parts of Senegal we had never seen. It was wonderful to see the countryside and the way people live outside of Dakar. First, we went to Linguère which is a small town about 6 hours away from Dakar. It is difficult to measure distance here as it depends on traffic, road conditions, or the existence of roads altogether. Linguère and the sorrounding villages are inhabited by the Pular people. Hence, most people do not, or will not, speak Wolof, and few understand French. Linguère is also on the edge of the desert, so it was very dry, sandy, and quite hot during the afternoon and evening. However, in the morning, the air is so fresh and cool. We noticed that although there was electricity and a hospital, there were hardly any cars and most people travelled by donkey carts (most people didn’t even own horses). While we were there, we were able to visit the hospital (which was designed and funded by Norwegians; it was beautiful and had a lovely garden) as well as met with a secret AIDS group. This group is under SLDS (Senegalese Lutheran Church Organization) oversight and when people from the area are tests as HIV positive, the government gives them the information about the group. That way, no one from their family or village will know, but they will be able to have not only medical support, but also emotional and psychological help. This group of people were the most open and honest people we have met in Senegal. The next day, we visited two Pular villages about 30km from Linguère. It required an hour of driving through the desert. There were no roads. Life there is very different from what we’ve seen so far. There was no electricity, there are health huts, but most don’t even have nurses posted at them, and the children were scared of us since they had never seen “toubabs” (white people) before. We visited a school were they teach basic math and reading, as well as the PEVF program. We realized that the Pular people are very different from the Wolof people. The men are nomadic and leave, sometimes for years at a time, to herd their livestock or to earn income through other work. Because of this, as well as some cultural traditions, many of the AIDS initiatives have taken much longer to demonstrate an impact, and the new incidence of HIV/AIDS remains quite high. Unlike the other people groups in Senegal, the Pular believe that promiscuity after marriage is acceptable, often related to men and women being separated from long periods of time while the men travel. This leads to multiples sexual partners and the spreading of AIDS, as those who are HIV positive would not tell anyone due to the discrimination and stigmatization that would follow. Aside from that, the women are quiet and don’t sing or dance. The women in the villages never drive and rarely leave their village. One of the men who oversees the program, also runs on of the health huts, while also being the imam of the village. He asked David to stay for a few days and help him with the medical problems there. David is trying to figure out how to get back to help them. For the last two days, we went to the Fatick area to visit the program there which is run by CECS. Fatick and the villages around it are mainly inhabited by the Serers, who tend to be Christian. We were able to meet and share a meal with the parent board. In the morning, we went to a village and heard from the mothers how the program helped their daughters and sons, as well as change their village. It was great to hear how thankful they were for the program. In addition to all of these experiences, we were also able to drive through several cities. We saw Thiès, which is the largest city after Dakar, Tuba, which is a holy city in Islam, and Saly and Mbour which are tourist beach cities. In Tuba, there is a gigantic mosque made out of marble. Thousands of people from all over the world make pilgrimage there. There is no police force as it is holy, making it a haven for criminals. All utilities are also free there, so many Senegalese try to buy property there, which guarantees them a way to heaven as well. We also saw big, majestic baobab trees and camels in the wild. It truly felt like we were in Africa. Dakar feels os urban, it’s sometimes hard to notice the difference. All in all, it was an incredible experience and we hope to travel more in Senegal. There are so many needs here, related to health and education, but especially for the people here to be freed from the bonds of Islam and animism. Please pray for the Senegalese people.