By Louise Brown
The crew set off in our minibus, through the streets of Dakar to visit ‘ASEDEME’, the first of four charities that DP World Dakar had organised for us to visit. We were welcomed by the lovely staff and the charity director Marie Madeleine Dione.
ASEDEME is a school for pupils with intellectual disabilities. It provides a learning safe space, a social environment and more importantly, a future for these children that would otherwise stay at home, not mix with society and are often considered a burden to their families.
After our introduction, we went to the first classroom which had a label over the door with a ladybird on it. It’s funny how it’s such a worldwide label for the first class at school and made me smile. We went in and stood at the back of the class and were introduced to the students who each had a little chalkboard to write on. They were all a little shy about having visitors but they were very sweet and intent on focusing on their lessons.
The next classroom we went into was the ‘termites’ class. These children were working from the blackboard, and one boy was called up to add up and put his answer on the board for all of us to see. We were all delighted when he got the number 11 correct. The teacher then selected another student and he had to do the same thing. The atmosphere was one of kindness and support, but very much a learning classroom. After this, we went through the courtyard and out to the area where the students grow vegetables. It’s surprisingly easy to grow in Dakar which you wouldn’t think, as it’s so hot and part of the desert, but amazingly they produce a lot of food.
We then went into the kitchen where they were teaching some students food preparation, and laying a table etc, there were two sections to this classroom, a large section with a very impressive commercial kitchen where the students make fresh fruit juice, they make up to 10 litres a day and it is sold locally. This means that students who would otherwise not have a job get to feel part of a proper working environment.
A lot of the students at ASEDEME will go on and be employed elsewhere but it was explained to me that some of them wouldn’t be able to cope with jobs away from the school. It’s fantastic that they put a system in, that means these young people will still feel of value to society and to their families.
We then were taken to the screenprinting room, the walls were covered in beautiful images, canvas work, and T-shirts that they had created. Again, the students had the option to continue working after their studies, producing T-shirts and canvas prints to be sold locally, generating money for the foundation and giving them a small income, but more importantly, a sense of self-worth.
We then went through a corridor to the design centre, where students were making designs and embroidery with fabrics and it blew us away how creative these children are, and how carefully they stitched the different colours to make the most beautiful patterns. Items of clothes and clothing were once again produced and students are given the opportunity to sell their wares if they want to continue working with the program after their schooling has finished.
We noticed on the other side of the corridor that the music room was closed. They told us that sadly they didn’t have a music teacher currently, so there were no classes, this seems such a shame as we could only imagine that all of these children would benefit from playing instruments and enjoying music like we all did at school.
The centre is supported by our title sponsor DP World, and survives, totally on donations, it never ceases to amaze me how many good people there are in the world that work so tirelessly for the under-privileged and the disadvantaged.