The community at the nutrition garden in Matam

Carluccio's Chairman's Senegal Field Diary (Part 2/3)

Last month saw Carluccio’s Chairman Simon Kossoff visit our programmes in Senegal to mark the fact that they’ve raised a tremendous 1.5 million towards our programmes worldwide. 

By Action Against Hunger

May 24 2016

Heat, Tears, and Extraordinary Welcomes

It’s day two for Simon visiting Senegal in West Africa...

After a short visit to the Action Against Hunger field office in Matam we drove east for an hour along the Mauritania border. Packed into a Toyota Land Cruiser our driver preferring the dry red dust at the side of the road to the pot holed tarmac.

The objective - a children's garden project part of a school amongst the villages in the borderlands.

It's hard to describe the welcome as we drove off road towards the clay brick walls of the school yard, rusty metal gates marking the entrance.

The Carluccio's team received a warm welcome on arrival. Credit: Richard Leeney for Action Against Hunger

Two hundred or more teenagers and their teachers singing and drumming. Waving and welcoming. I called to our driver to stop and we jumped out of the truck, immediately mobbed by beaming kids of all ages. Handshakes, high fives, smiles and no little wonderment from foreigners and village people alike.

I am glad I wore my sunglasses as the high emotion of it all and perhaps the oven heat brought tears, dampening the dust on my face then embarrassingly wiped away.

Next a meeting in a hot dark room around a jerry built table strangely set with office chairs. Seats for local dignitaries, Action Against Hunger hosts and the foreign visitors with everyone else packed in three deep. Children unable to find space, peering from the outside through the window grills.

First a speech by a regional government officer, then the village Mayor followed by our Action Against Hunger hosts and finally me. My explanation of where I came from, what we do and why translated first into French and finally Fula, the local dialect, so strange in the context of this place.

The garden itself, though wonderful, proves depressing.  The pride and excitement of the students contrasting with the thin planting; beetroot, carrots, parsley, onions and more wilting under the heat. 

In the hope of some small influence I try pigeon French to thank the Mayor, shaking his hand vigorously, for his support now and in the future.

Joining in at School

Simon Kossoff and Jean-Michel Grand, Action Against Hunger UK's Executive Director, join a lesson on nutrition. Credit: Richard Leeney for Action Against Hunger 

Finally, we join a lesson; European visitors and students alike seated in rows at graffitied desks facing wall painted blackboards and little else. The teachers explain the rudimentary nutrition curriculum and the students take turns, talking about their garden and what they learn in charming, slightly embarrassed soft French voices.

Back in the truck for the short journey to a women's garden. 600 matriarchs scratching life out of a few hectares of dust beside the river.

The welcome again utterly overwhelming. Singing, shouting and clapping us as we pull up. More speeches including again my own bizarre introduction and the strange three way translation. Next a tour of the garden, lusher here benefitting from proximity to water.
 

The visitors received a very walm welcome. Credit: Richard Leeney for Action Against Hunger 

It's white hot as the clouds recede. Susie and I retreat to the shade leaving the braver members of the team melting in the garden. By the time we leave we are all worse for the temperature and grateful to be back in the breezy truck.

Our last stop a very late lunch in the village, delicious rice and vegetables cooked by the women but shared with the men and trepidation from us as to hygiene in the mud hut village.

Amazing day.

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All images: Richard Leeney for Action Against Hunger