Finance & Enjoyment Blog

No, it's not a motorized safari!  It's a world where transportation is by donkey or by foot.  This is a place where the day's meal is slow-cooked over an open fire; and vibrant people move slowly and savor time with their friends and relatives.  At the edge of the Sahara where people live in thatch homes, and life is harsh, hearts are kind and people live in peace.


In January 2010, I'll travel to the village of Guéoul, Sénégal in western Africa to volunteer with Friends of Guéoul.
Friends of Guéoul
Friends of Guéoul is a Colorado nonprofit organization with an IRS 501 (c)(3) designation.  In 1990, a local attorney, Judy Beggs, joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Guéoul, a little Sénégalese village, that is hanging on in desperation.  She fell in love with the people and their village, is financially supporting a couple of girls in school there, and has brought a boy to the States for his education.

In 2005 Judy and her friends returned to Sénégal for what was to be Judy's final visit.  She met Mbaye Samb, a teacher and native of Guéoul, who explained the difficulties that the poorest girls experienced in obtaining education.  He went on to explain that the children had only a few needs - money for books, school fees, decent clothing and food - only about $100 per year in their world.  As a result of this conversation, and a few others, Friends of Guéoul was formed.  The ultimate success of the program rests with Mbaye, who provides oversight, liaison responsibility and financial management.  All services are provided by unpaid volunteers, including the Board and the Executive Director.

How is the mission accomplished?
The 12 poorest girls in each year's incoming first grade class are selected for an annual scholarship of $100.  Friends of Guéoul currently supports 58 girls in grades one through five.  In a country with average annual income of about $1,200 (much less among the poor), $100 is an enormous amount of money.  It's used for supplies, school fees and clothing and for food for their families.  The scholarship is a strong incentive to keep the girls in school and grant them a choice for education rather than becoming household servants or being married as young as eleven years old.

Why educate girls?
Greg Mortenson, co-author of Three Cups of Tea, attended a conference of development experts in Bangladesh.  He decided his schools would educate students through fifth grade and focus on increasing enrollment of girls.  Mr. Mortenson says that when boys are educated they frequently leave the villages and find work in the metropolitan areas.  Girls are more likely to stay home, become local leaders and pass along their knowledge.  Mortenson believes that if you really want to create positive change in a culture, the key is to empower women.  In order to improve levels of basic hygiene and healthcare, and to mitigate high rates of infant mortality, the underlying solution is to educate the girls.

Are the boys left out?
Not at all!  Friends of Guéoul has partnered with Rotary International to create a computer lab in Guéoul.  Computer classes are not taught in the public schools in Sénégal.  The lab offers classes to boys, girls, and adults and will be self-supporting through nominal charges for computer use.

Volunteer Trips
Judy Beggs has returned to Guéoul every winter since 2005.  She meets all the scholarship girls and their families, as well as school and community leaders to select scholarship recipients, discuss their progress, and explore other ways to enhance educational opportunities.  Public schools there do not provide art or music classes in the curriculum.  In a pilot project in January 2009, Judy and volunteer Mary Ellen Anderson shared art projects with the scholarship girls.  School and community leaders were happy with the results, and then requested that the volunteer proram be expanded to include full classes of art and music for both boys and girls.

In January 2010, I'll be one of five volunteers going to Guéoul for two weeks.  The trips must be made in January and February when school is in session and when it's cool enough for Coloradans to function!  Sénégal is a stable democracy where French is the official language and Wolof is the local language.  Yes, I am taking a French class.  Our volunteer group will provide art projects for the scholarship girls, and as many full classes as we can schedule.  We'll be there almost three weeks, to allow time for long travel distances within the country, shopping in the capital of Dakar, and for art to be sold at the Friends of Guéoul annual dinner and silent auction on April 23, 2010 in Denver.

As volunteers we will offer the students the creativity of art, ideas about what they can do with their limited resources, a positive interaction with Americans and an experience to be remembered.  The volunteer trip is so much more!  We will live with a family.  During our stay we will have dinner with other families, take a trip to the local market, and learn to cook Sénégalese food.  We will also work with the village women to paint murals in the schools, the clinic and now the computer lab.  Our planned tasks include offering ideas for handicrafts for the women to make for us to sell at the annual silent auction.

Why do I want to rough it in a third-world country???
I passionately support the cause of educating the underprivileged, especially girls and women, anywhere in the world.  These volunteer trips present a third-world Muslim country an opportunity for a positive experience with citizens of the United States of America.  I know that I will benefit enormously from the exposure to another culture, and last, but not least, it will be an adventure!

Posted in Vacation Destinations »

4 Responses to "My African Adventure"

Barry Staver Says:
12/20/2009 11:00:58 AM
"A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one small step" - a fitting quote for the important work being done in Gueoul. Best wishes Diane for a successful adventure. Take a camera and shoot a lot of photographs too!
Jane Says:
12/25/2009 12:01:24 AM
This is incredible, Diane. Good luck and good work!
Nicky Kenney Says:
01/07/2010 9:19:19 AM
Diane, have a fantastic time in Gueoul. I know it will be an experience you'll never forget. How wonderful is the purpose of the organization. I will be so interested in reading your blog.
jean messner Says:
01/07/2010 7:53:30 PM
hi diane...just wanted to tell you to have a great experience and trip. our john woeked with the zulu in south africa and the experience he will never forget. have fun my ami....jean

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