By Fortune Adeodat Bacor Thiao, (YES 2015-2016, Senegal, hosted by AYUSA in Nampa, ID)
Christmas and the end of the year holidays are always a great time to share cheer and spread love with family members and the rest of the world. While thinking about what good deeds I could do this holiday season, I thought about a prison facility in Kaolack and how lots of community groups were fundraising for this particular penitentiary because the hygienic conditions there are really poor. Inspired by this idea, I decided to organize a clothing drive for the individuals incarcerated there.
Together with a team of alumni in the Kaolack region including Babacar Niass, YES 2018-2019, hosted by ACES in Bettendorf, IA; Dame Sakho, YES 2014-2015, hosted by PAX in Dewar, OK; Ndeye Sokhna Thioune, YES 2017-2018, hosted by Greenheart in Chesterfield , VA; Tacko Fall, YES 2017-2018, hosted by CIEE in Jamestown, CA; Mohamed Fall, YES 2014-2015, hosted by ACES in Davenport, IA; Farma Maïga, YES 2014-2015, hosted by CIEE in Hawkinsville, GA; and Serigne Issakha Mbacké Mbodji, YES 2018-2019, hosted by ASSE in Cass City, MI, we managed to quickly spread the idea around our community. Our friends, parents, relatives, and neighbors supported our idea and shared good clothes. In total, 19 alumni and our relatives and community networks donated. Furthermore, we gathered money to cover the transportation fees and to purchase additional items of clothing and soap. The primary contributors were alumni, each of whom donated two dollars. We gathered eight bags full of men’s and women’s clothing.
On Monday, December 30, Dame, Babacar, and I went to the penitentiary. We received a positive welcome and met five of the individuals currently incarcerated there. We had a small talk with them and introduced the YES program to them. We talked about their everyday needs and how these gifts are meaningful to them. They were very grateful and appreciated our initiative.
During our time in the U.S. as YES participants, we got more used to volunteering, thinking about others, and being proactive. This is what made me do something different this holiday season. Prisons are not often the recipients of community support. I see this project as a way of showing the youth that there are some target groups that need help and don’t always get it. This experience was helpful and meaningful for all alumni and we are looking forward to doing the same activity next year with even more support and even greater results!