Diapalante Community Education Centre, Senegal

Creating Books Children Will Love.

During this summer of coronavirus lockdown there has been a very active partnership between volunteers in the UK and our teenage Young Leaders in Senegal. They have all been working to address the lack of reading books for children in Senegal. The Centre’s library works hard to provide African and Senegalese storybooks but the majority of books available in Senegal are about life in the West and don’t relate to the children’s own experiences.

Initially the Young Leaders in Senegal translated online books published on the African Storybooks website. Encouraged by a few sample storybooks from the UK the Young Leaders gained confidence. It wasn’t long before the project took shape and they were writing stories of Senegalese life while volunteeers in the UK have been busy illustrating them. The back and forth between the UK and Senegal of stories and photos is producing some lovely books and soon they will be online and in the Centre’s library when the Centre opens after the rainy season. Click here to read a book.

A huge thank you to everyone who dedicated their coronavirus lockdown to this project, And especially to those UK illustrators trying to finish their illustrations around their day jobs. We appreciate all this work so much and so will the lucky children who will read and enjoy the books.

Coronavirus – Lockdown

Mid March brought life in Senegal and at The Diapalante Community Education Centre to a sudden halt! The schools are closed, travel between regions is stopped and within regions is restricted. There is a strict curfew, no-one is allowed out at night.

Tom and Nathan, the Project Trust volunteers decided to stay and see out the virus in Senegal but the next day were recalled to the UK as Project Trust recalled all of its volunteers worldwide! The Centre’s members appreciated their solidarity, but perhaps it was wise that they caught one of the last planes to leave as the lockdown hit. It was a long journey home via Kenya! You are missed and thanked for your contribution to the Centre.

So far, there have been more cases in the UK than in Senegal but people are waiting in trepidation dreading the effect the virus may have when it meets with African poverty.

The New Library

We have been in need of extra teaching space in the Centre. So recently we combined the resource room, which was used to aid the younger members of the Centre in developing their French ability with the help of the Centre’s Young Leaders, and the library. Moving each of the shelves was no easy task, neither was reorganising the books back onto the shelves, making sure to keep the French books from the English,.

However with the job now done the library is always packed with members wanting to read and borrow books. Our younger members enjoy the French stories about some of their favourite characters like “Akissi” and our adult members are taking full advantage of our English learning resources. Also with these two rooms now combined the centre now has an extra room which can be used as a classroom to carry out different activities and lessons.

The Container

A 40 foot shipping container arrived here from Ashwell last month! This was the result of a lot of hard work from some very generous people who volunteered their time to help hand pack each of the donated resources into the container. Unfortunately some chairs had to remain behind as even a 40 foot container couldn’t hold everything that had congregated in the garden of Kirby Manor.

  • 20th Sep. A 40 foot container lorry parked up in Kirby Manor garden at 9.15. After 3 hours we had half filled it.

The packing at Kirby Manor took around 6 hours, however the unpacking at Diapalante, Kaolack took little less than 2 hours thanks to the overwhelming number of volunteers who showed up to help unload and lift the resources into the centre.

Chairs were the first to come when the doors were opened, followed by tables, computers, whiteboards, crafts materials, cabinets of various sizes, more chairs and many more resources the centre and its members are very thankful for.

For a time the Centre was very cluttered and one could hardly move about a room without thinking that somehow they had stumbled into an obstacle course, but now the clutter has been organised and the centre is once again in full swing enjoying and taking advantage of what it now has. Special thanks to anyone who was able to participate in donating goods or helping the container make its way to Senegal.

  • Weeks later our container arrived in Kaolack.

Diapalante youngsters step up to the teaching challenge.

Last autumn the Diapalante Community Education Centre asked its teenage members to volunteer as young leaders, leading after-school learning activities for primary school children.

  • Young leader training: a theory session
Over thirty teenagers stepped forward to run games and activities to help the primary school children master French. The Diapalante “French club” was born. These young leaders  now motivate and guide the young children to overcome this language hurdle. Though shy and inexperienced at first, with training and experience, the young leaders have gained confidence and grown in their ability to steer the younger children towards their learning goals.
  • The young leaders lead the children in small group activities.
French is not a native tongue in Senegal but is the language used to teach in school.  Mastering French is is key to the children’s education. Without this new language the other subjects taught in school are not accessible to them. Diapalante’s “French club” is held on three evenings every week. The young children love the activities, songs and games. Fun but also FRENCH. There are signs that the children are finding school more enjoyable and hopefully this will result in improved attainment at school.

  • Learning French: WOW, computers!

We hope by the end of the school year:

  • to have helped 90 primary school children to improve their French skills so they can understand their school lessons better.
  • to have a group of young leaders who will
    • continue to support Diapalante’s work with the younger children.
    • have gained confidence and leadership skills which will help them to succeed in the world of work and as citizens in a “Sénégal Emergent”.
  • to be ready to repeat the programme at the Centre in coming years.

On behalf of the trustees I would like to encourage and thank  all those involved in this ongoing project, the young leaders and children obviously, but also the adults volunteers whose energy drives the project, who supervise the sessions and train the young leaders and the volunteers who have gathered and created all the learning materials being used. Also those individuals and organisations who help to fund these sessions including  the Farthing Trust and Just Trust who contribute regularly to Diapalante’s ongoing overheads and the British and Foreign Schools Society who have helped to fund this project.

Liz Chandler




A Year In Senegal With Diapalante

As the weather won’t let you forget, it’s that time of year again: summertime! Although nowhere near as hot as Senegal, I hope you are all making the most of the British sun. Sadly for me however, this also means that my year in Kaolack with Diapalante is drawing to an end. There’s no doubt that I am heartbroken to be leaving the centre, and all my new friends and family here, but I am also filled with gratitude to everyone who made this experience possible. It is one of the very few instances where unforgettable isn’t an exaggeration – both the experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned here will be with me for the rest of my life. I will never be able to completely cover everything I have gained from this year, nor what I have given. However, here is a small selection:

  • Self-Confidence – Being a teacher, and taking charge of a class, will always require a certain amount of self-assurance. However, working at the centre requires a lot more. The nature of the centre means that lessons cannot always be prepared in advance, but you still need to have the confidence to control the class. Throughout the year, teaching at Diapalante has allowed me to develop my confidence enormously, allowing me to be at ease no matter the situation (and no matter the amount of preparation I’ve done!).
  • English – My year in Senegal has made me realise how lucky I am to have English as my first language. It is so easy to take for granted the knowledge that there will be people who speak the same language as you all over the world, and the doors that that communication can open. I am so glad that I have been able to help other people benefit from my language. Knowing English is something which can give people a multitude of opportunities, and I’m happy I have been able to give the chance to access that.
  • Responsibility – Working at the centre, I was put into positions of responsibility over many people, some of whom were older than me. Although definitely a challenge (especially after coming straight from high school!), it was a challenge which made me grow much more as a person. It made me more confident taking charge, but it also made me more sensitive to other people, and their needs. I know that, had I been in a position with less responsibility, I would not have grown nearly as much as I have during this year.
  • Family – Although very cliché, I have been incredibly lucky to have found an amazing family here in Senegal. As well as Master P and his family, I truly see the members of Diapalante Centre, all of the friends I have made in and out of Kaolack, and even previous Diapalante volunteers, as one large family. Everywhere I have been I have been welcomed with open arms. It will be heartbreaking to say goodbye to everyone, but I know that I will always have a home here.