Sustainable reintegration of street children in Dakar

The phenomenon of street children is a real societal problem in Senegal.
There are an estimated 50,000 youths condemned to begging in appalling, sometimes dangerous, living conditions. It was on a trip to Dakar that Loïc Tréguy discovered this reality. He launched Village Pilote in 1994 to help young people through prevention, protection, and reintegration programs. The depth and the viability of their work have earned Village Pilote the Air Liquide Foundation Award for Societal Innovation. 

Restoring confidence

The association’s action takes a variety of forms. Weekly rounds in the streets and in prisons have helped to establish a relationship of trust with over 1,700 youths. “Our coordinators are now well known, and their visits are often welcomed, or even highly anticipated,” explains Loïc Tréguy. The aim is to make them want to get off the street, to recreate a bond with society and to return to their families. Finding the families, mediating with the families, and following-up on children’s reintegration requires a lot of work. Most of the parents live a long way from the capital or in neighboring countries and have no idea of what happened to their children, who they sent to Dakar in the hope of a better life.

The basis of reintegration

In Pikine, in the south-west of Dakar, the “Refuge” welcomes these children, aged 3 to 13, and prepares them for reintegration: in addition to their everyday needs, there is psychological support as well as fun and educational activities. Meanwhile, nearly 80 teenagers, are looked after at the Lake Retba village, north-east of the capital. They benefit from a variety of vocational courses that gradually enable them to gain financial independence, through work placements in particular. “In partnership with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education, the prison authorities, and with the support of volunteers, we started with a nursery school, then came a primary school, then a course on farming, then hairdressing, then painting…” recalls the founder, Loïc Tréguy.

Towards independence 

Village Pilote raises the awareness of the general public, as well as that of the families, the marabouts, and Air Liquide’s employees. The Foundation’s donation helped finance the construction of two wells. For Loïc Tréguy, this is crucial: “These wells supply water to three hectares of farming land on the Lake Retba site, allowing us to become self-sufficient.” The adventure of a lifetime? “It’s because this project is working that we’re still here! A team of around 60 people now makes up the core team of Village Pilote, whose aim is to get all children off the street. That seems less and less utopian. When that day comes, we will leave Senegal…

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To find out more

Village Pilote’s Website: www.villagepilote.org
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Testimonials

I like Village Pilote’s approach to education. It is concerned with restoring these children’s human dignity, giving them a professional project, a life project, and walking the path with them. The discovery of the various courses provided by the association inspired me some possible partnerships between Village Pilote and Air Liquide. Firstly, the organization of an information-sharing and awareness-raising day to make our action more concerted and effective.

Bernard Kane
Air Liquide Senegal