When commitment and devotion rhyme with encouragement…
Nelly Robin’s face lights up whenever she speaks about the children of Thies. Living in Dakar for ten years now, this woman of convictions has inexhaustible energy; she has never given up. She can be proud of the success of her actions and those of her teams. Yet she is never lax when looking for new solutions…
Thies, the second largest city in Senegal, 70 kilometers from Dakar, is an important rail and highway crossroads. Thies is a transit city where children from Dakar, other cities in Senegal, or Mali disembark daily. Thies is above all one of the most important refuges for the street children of Senegal. Children younger than ever and growing in number, who have no other home other than the street.
In the eyes of diversity and mobility of Thies’ street children, only flexible initiatives at one time and space, and differentiation according to age, could serve the decline of juvenile delinquency. Nelly has understood this. Through her association “For the Smile Of a Child”, created in 1994 and of which she is the president, she brings concrete answers and adaptable solutions, equally diversified, addressed to the problem of street children. For eight years now, often at the end of the afternoon, after leaving the office she occupies as researcher at the Institute of Research and Development (I.R.D.), and during the weekend, she takes the road to Thies to join the children, her children.
As for the association’s teachers of the street, all Senegalese, they are everywhere: in train stations and at the market, places of countless goings-on, and in prisons, where many of these children are incarcerated in the Yakhine quarter. This quarter, at high risk according to the population and authorities, is the most deprived. Everyplace, they give treatment, help, nourishment, orientation, reading and writing lessons, and support. When the children express their desire or when juvenile court entrusts them to the association, they are welcomed in the homes and contacts are renewed with the family for reinsertion in their original environment, when reinsertion is conceivable.
“Talibés”, “fackmans”, imprisoned minors, little messengers
Some street children experience family rupture. Others, called “talibés” (children entrusted by their parents to a wise man who insures their religious education), live in “dahras”, generally pitiful schools of the Koran. There, most of the day they beg to earn their living and that of the wise man’s. The last group of children is made up of adolescents called “fackmans” who, under the influence of drugs, become violent and have broken all family ties.
For them, the association organizes schools on the streets – sometimes in fixed up containers – open in market areas. The association also creates training workshops for jobs holding a future, places children with city craftsman under contract with them, dialogues with the wise men, and organizes sports and cultural games. Privileged mediators equally assure their presence, as well as nourishment in the ‘quarter of the minors’, built at the initiative of the association at the Thies prison, and provide young delinquents with professional training.
Continuously, “For the Smile of a Child” looks for new solutions responding to the evolution of situations it confronts. The Senegalese government, impressed by the remarkable work accomplished by Nelly Robin in view of the prison population, has shown the esteem it bears in honoring her with the “Order of the Lion.”
FOR THE SMILE OF A CHILD
President: Nelly Robin
Location: Thies, Senegal
Year association created: 1994
Domains of intervention: prevention, accommodations, cultural identity, teaching how to read and write, schooling, sports, medical treatment, professional training.
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