By Scott Fifer, Founder and CEO of GO Campaign
Recently I came across an article about a computer programmer turned social activist who is using his own skills to tackle the issue of child beggars blanketing the streets of Senegal day after day. While any visitor to Dakar will immediately notice the number of children loitering on the streets begging, not everyone understands why and how they got there.
These children, known as talibé, are sent by their parents to daaras (religious schools teaching the Quran). While they expect to get an education, many get something quite different. They are forced into a form of bonded labor where they are sent to the streets to beg and are expected to bring back a pre-determined amount of money to their teacher every day. Failing that, they can be subject to beatings or forced to sleep on the street. While not all of these schools are that terrible, countless ones are.
GO Campaign was first introduced to the plight of the talibé in March 2014 when we partnered with GO’s Local Hero Issa Kouyaté at Maison de la Gare (MDG) to build an emergency shelter in Saint Louis where talibé in crisis can live until they can return home or a permanent living situation can be arranged. The project was successfully completed and today the shelter is a place of refuge for these children. At the center, children receive medical care, food, education, clothes, emotional support, hygiene services, and most of all, hope. Due to the success of this first collaboration with MDG, GO Campaign approved a second grant to Maison de la Gare in May 2015. Funds are currently supporting a vocational training agriculture program so youth can learn marketable skills, find employment, and thus break free of their daaras.
Over the last decade, GO Campaign has been able to partner with amazing Local Heroes addressing the needs of vulnerable children in their community. We have seen men and women from all sectors of society become social activists because they recognized a problem and wanted to do something about it. In this video game created by Ousseynou Khadim Bèye, players take on the role of a talibé and have to avoid the dangers of living on the streets. Through the game, individuals understand the daily realities the talibé face, if only one aspect of it. Bèye hopes the game would start the conversation and hopefully motivate people to action.
Whether you are a social worker, computer programmer, any other profession, or not in a profession at all, we challenge you to think about how you can use your skills, ingenuity, or passion to help children.
Are you the next GO Local Hero?