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Living in Senegal This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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My family has lived in Bakel, a small town in Senegal, for 16 years – all my life. We come to America every four years, but I much prefer Africa. It's my home. Every day, I feel like I am helping the people around me, and I love it. I feel like I am giving hope to the hopeless. In the big picture, I'm not making much of a difference, but for a few individuals, I am, and that's what matters to me.



Every Sunday, I visit the Doukoure family. I go early so I can go to the market with the women. We walk the five miles to town, where they bargain for the day's food. My favorite dish is tcheb, so they buy fish, cabbage, rice, pepper, and vegetables if it's the farming season. After getting the necessities, we make our long trek back. Then I help prepare the meal.

After lunch, I love to play with the kids. I bring a jump rope, crayons and paper, and balloons. They especially love the balloons, because most of them have never seen anything like that before. They treat me like part of the family, always welcoming me, asking me for help, giving me tea, and letting me accompany them to the river to swim and wash clothes. They accept me even though I am white and from a completely different culture. They call me Assiya Doukoure, which means I am part of their family. I am honored, ­because they are always in my heart.

At Christmas and during the summers, my family does projects for the community. Sometimes we rebuild houses after heavy rains or sandstorms have demolished them. We have also helped build a sports center where kids play soccer or basketball.

What I love most, though, is helping in the schools. We build desks, make walls to protect the schools, repaint the blackboards, and paint the classrooms. I especially enjoy beautifying the classrooms so they are fun to be in, instead of just plain, cement walls.

Bakel is always full of trash. No one cares where they throw their leftover food, garbage, or old things. They just dump them on the side of the road. In our neighborhood, my dad has built large garbage bins for people to throw their trash into. We burn the garbage, always making room for more. Little by little our neighborhood is becoming a cleaner place to live. My siblings and I set a good example by putting our trash into the bins, and we try to influence the younger kids by throwing our gum and candy wrappers away also. Living in Africa, we have learned that even the little things count.

I wouldn't take back any of the time I have spent in Africa. Living there has taught me to love others and help the less fortunate. Helping the community, even through small acts, can make a big difference. Visiting families, painting classrooms, and making the community a cleaner place are a part of our life there. We have become so much more than the white Americans in the community. We have become a part of Bakel and a part of their families.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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Emma said...
Jan. 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm:
That's awesome!
 
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