The Air Liquide Foundation is supporting Village Pilote, an association that works to promote the reintegration of street children in Dakar into family and professional life. To better understand the project’s soul, we went to meet its founder, Loïc Tréguy, because Village Pilote is first and foremost a family affair!
From tourism to humanitarian work
The phenomenon of street children is a real problem in Senegal. Loïc Tréguy discovered this fact while on holiday with his wife. They decided to take action and they returned to France with the firm intention of carrying out five projects: to create a library, to organize refuse collection, to form a rugby team, to inform the local population about AIDS, and to open a nursery school. Their second flight to Dakar in 1994 was a one-way trip. « In partnership with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education, the prison authorities, and with the support of volunteers, we did it. After the nursery school, there came a primary school, then a course on farming, on hairdressing, and on painting… »
The association’s action takes a variety of forms. First of all, there are mobile consultations with weekly rounds in the streets and in prisons, which helped to establish a relationship of trust with over 1,700 youths through discussion and games. « The hardest thing for them is to trust adults again. 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. This implies a lot of work to find the families, family mediation and follow-ups of their reintegration because most of the parents live a long way from Dakar, or in neighboring countries: Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea Conakry etc. They 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 from 3 to 13 years, and prepares them for social reintegration: in addition to their everyday needs (accommodation, food, healthcare) there is psychological support as well as ludic and pedagogical activities. Teenagers, meanwhile, are looked after at the Lake Retba village, in the 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. « 80 young men now live there in a community, » adds Loïc Tréguy.
To get these children off the streets, Village Pilote raises the awareness of the general public, as well as that of families, the marabouts, and Air Liquide’s employees. The Foundation’s donation helped to finance the construction of two wells. For Loïc Tréguy, this is crucial: « These wells supply water to the three hectares of farming land on the Lake Retba site, allowing us to become self-sufficient. »
The adventure of a lifetime? « It is because this project is working that my wife and I are still here… with our three children! 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 like a utopia. When that day comes, we will leave Senegal… »
To find our more
Additional information on Village Pilote: www.villagepilote.org