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What An Amazing Kickoff

Written by CorpsAfrica/Senegal Exchange Volunteer Mr. Adnane Sounni

My amazing journey as a volunteer with CorpsAfrica/Maroc is finished; however, another one has started but this time with CorpsAfrica in its start-up program in Senegal. January, 28th was the time date we (Walid and I) headed for Dakar. We had two days to stay in Dakar before we went to Thies city to start the training. Thus, we had the opportunity to chill and visit places there.

Among the great places we visited was Île de Gorée (i.e. “Gorée Island”). A gorgeous island located 2 kilometers at sea from the main harbor of Dakar. It is not big (It is an 18.2-hectare), but it has a heavy history. From this place, some African slaves were transported to the New World. The Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) is one of the oldest houses on the island. It is now used as a tourist destination to show the horrors of the slave trade throughout the Atlantic world. To get to the island, we took the ferry. The ferry trip takes 20 minutes and you can book a tour if you wish to from the docks in Dakar. Goree Island is calm compared with the noisy streets of Dakar. There are no cars on the island and it is small enough to find your way around on your own although there will be plenty of “Guides” offering you their service. Across the island, many people are selling traditional tricks. It was there where we first time we tested some Senegal juices, e.g., “Bissap”. The island was visited by famous people such as president bush and Obama, the singer Akon, and others. In general, we had great moments on the Island.

After that, we headed for Thies city to start the Pre-Service Training. We met with the other Senegalese Volunteers there. The training started with several presentations from different intervenient about different topics. From agriculture through civic engagement to management. After the first week, we started the First Aid Training. During The last two weeks of Design Thinking Training which is a process we follow to solve problems. We also visited two villages during this training to practice Design Thinking which enabled us to get an idea about the communities, and the life in the village.

After we finished the Pre-Service Training, we had a swearing-in ceremony which took place in Hotel Sokhamon in Dakar. It was assisted by many guests such as the Moroccan ambassador representative in addition to the volunteers, and CorpsAfrica staff. Walid and I had delivered a Wolof speech there which was cool as we enjoyed it. Several Senegal media assisted the ceremony because it helped CorpsAfrica to be known across the country. Officially, we are CorpsAfrica Volunteers.

After the swearing-in ceremony, the Senegalese volunteers left Dakar heading for their sites while we stayed for another 15 days to attend extensive Wolof language training. The Wolof training was intensive; however, it was so exciting. We had nearly two weeks to get the basics that would help us communicate with people in the community. We learned it at ACI Baobab Center. Honestly, the center is good; they are professional in their work, and everything is well organized. Each day before when I reached the center, I greeted people there using the Wolof language which was amazing and funny things; then we got in the class. What surprised us was that the Wolof contains some words that are originally from the Arabic language such as “ci musical” (for example), “salam maleekon” (Hi), “divine” (religion), and most of the names of the days, e.g., “Altine, taa lata, Vallarta” (I.e. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday).

Learning Wolof in the center was an opportunity for us to meet different people from different countries. Some of them are there in a student exchange program to learn languages usually French and Wolof. Some others already have a good career and are there to learn the language. Many of them have already been in Morocco, and know about its traditions, food, and geography.

We stayed, while we were learning Wolof, with the host families. My host family was great. I had a mom, two host brothers, and two host sisters. My mom is very kind and always prepares delicious dishes like “Yassa Ginaar” (yassa chicken), Yassa djeen (yassa fish), and Moroccan couscous. She is interested and involved in politics; she is a member of the party of the president. As I am writing this blog she went out to vote in the referendum that is organized today in Senegal. What was surprising to me is that the family knows Morocco very well; my host sister spent three years in Fes City studying there, their cousin lived five years in Morocco, and my host brother visited Morocco three times. My integration with them was quick; I even felt that I was with my family. We spent the time discussing and comparing what Morocco and Senegal have in common, and how they differ.

​In this blog, I tried to give I brief description of what I have done after nearly living two months in Senegal. After two days, I am moving to my community, so stay tuned; the show is about to get started☺.

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