After a lot of planning, we started our first trip. A great part of its preparation was contacting other organisations working in Senegal, notably in the same area. We contacted many organisations which have been working there for years now, because we think that the better way to learn is to know more experienced people’s way of working and listening to them.
Mario Llonch – the For a Smile in Africa (Por una sonrisa en África) Charity Foundation’s chairman – was one of the most helpful to us. He was very kind and met us at his headquarters in Barcelona before our trip. He listened to our ideas and gave us a lot of very practical tips related to life in Senegal and what we would find there. He offered us accommodation at a student hostel in Mbour, which was a great support to us. After meeting him – as it could be expected – we wanted more to go there!
Once in Mbour, we got to know the Charity Foundation`s wonderful work. The student hostel was a big building where 50 secondary students live. The hostel works perfectly, being managed by Mario together with Celine’s help. A student is the responsible of it. Life there is very pleasant. We shared some of our meals and free time with the students there. It was our landing point. We met a lot of friendly people like Celine, who helped us with everything we needed. She was enchanting!
It is like this that we managed to start living in Mbour. We visited the markets, and noted all the aliments we found. We also met people involved somehow with agriculture and moved around the nearby areas so as to get to know our opportunities to collaborate with local associations.
We also visited Mbackombel, the settlement where Mario and his wife Asun live. That’s where we got to know the school they built. A great impressing work with a large number of classrooms and children! After this, they showed us the Louly Benteigné dispensary. It has very good facilities and staff. We met two newborn babies resting with their mums in its maternity ward.
Another key contact was Sara, from the Madrid branch office of Architects Without Borders (Arquitectos Sin Fronteras). We had already written each other by e-mail but we only met her some days after our arrival to Senegal. She was extremely kind, she showed us part of the work they are doing in Joal. She listened attentively our proposals and encouraged us to go on. However, the most important is that she provided us a lot of new contacts and ideas. It is thanks to her and her colleague María, that we met the council team of Nguèniéne, with whom we have kept in touch to start collaborating.