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Alumni Bring Smiles to Children in Senegal

Senegal Retane Project 2016

By Hafida Faraj, YES 2011-2012, Morocco, hosted by AYA in Ontario, OR

My name is Hafida Faraj, and I am an alumna from Morocco currently studying in Senegal, where I have initiated a project called Retane. “Retane” means “smile” in Wolof, the most spoken language in Senegal. The purpose of the project is to give a smile to every child.

The project was first launched in 2015 in a Quranic school in Thies. I worked with Senegalese YES alumnae Soukeyna Tall (YES ’13) and Charlotte Ciss (YES ’14), and my classmate Nouhayla Najab, to create packages of soap, bleach, and hand sanitizer. We labeled the packages with verses from the Quran, and distributed the packages to 50 children.

This year, we continued our work in Thies by donating books to a fourth grade classroom at Aly Lo Elementary School. With support from the YES program, Khadija Ba (YES ’16) and I purchased 40 secondhand books, including short stories and comics in French, as well as school supplies like crayons, pencils, and paper. Soukeyna and I then delivered the donations to the school and spoke to the students about the importance of reading.

In the future, I am aiming to expand the bookshelf into a full library, but the school also needs a lot more. The school doesn't have toilets, water, or a security guard, so I am working on plans to help in these areas as well.