5 Catalan entities that work in Senegal

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  • Mario Llonch promoted For a Smile in Africa, which focuses its work in Senegal.
    Mario Llonch promoted For a Smile in Africa, which focuses its work in Senegal. Source: For a Smile in Africa.
  • Education is one of the pillars of the action of Active Cooperation of Camp de Tarragona and Terres de l'Ebre.
    Education is one of the pillars of the action of Active Cooperation of Camp de Tarragona and Terres de l'Ebre. Source: Active Cooperation of Camp de Tarragona and Terres de l'Ebre.
  • Denis Fornés and his sister started the ONG Tabassaye Project, which has a presence in the Kolda region and focuses on the health area.
    Denis Fornés and his sister started the ONG Tabassaye Project, which has a presence in the Kolda region and focuses on the health area. Source: Tabassaye Project.

We go over the tasks entities do in the African country, which has a community with approximately 30.000 people in Catalonia and it's one of the most important countries for the Catalan cooperation.

The links between Catalonia and Senegal have a long history and they have been consolidated for many years in which the African country has occupied a priority place for the Catalan cooperation. This is how The Catalan Agency for Development Cooperation (ACCD) has cataloged the last three master plans that has elaborated and which have drawn a formal cooperation framework between the two countries.

Recently, the relation has been strengthened in the institutional area with the visit of the minister of the Foreign Action of the Catalan Government, Victòria Alsina, in the capital of Senegal, Dakar, where the Catalan institution has formalized the opening of the Catalan delegation in West Africa. The minister has said that this has to mark “a turning point in the relation between Catalonia and Senegal”.

This privileged relation responds, to a large extent, to the weight that has de Senegalese diaspora in Catalonia. The Catalan country welcomes a big and organized Senegalese community, with approximately 30.000 persons and an amount of entities which represents and articulates it. In fact, it is the African country in the south of the Sahara with the biggest number of Catalan ONG’s, some of them are established there from the sixties and have started a lot of projects.

Today, we select five Catalan entities with a presence in Senegal and which have developed projects in different ambits:

This entity, born in Salou in 2014, generally works to strengthen social cohesion and build a better society, as the foundational objectives say. Its action is distributed between the towns from Tarragona’s area and the central area of Senegal, where the entity has a presence since many years because an important part of the members belong to the Senegalese diaspora which arrived from that zone in Africa.

In Senegal, Active Cooperation in Camp de Tarragona and Terres de l'Ebre has been focused on projects in Mbacké area, which is characterized for heavy climatological conditions and for an important rural depopulation due to work and religious reasons, as explained its president in an interview for Xarxanet, José Luis Rodríguez.

One of the initial approaches of Tarragona's entity was promoting local associations in this central area of Senegal to act as a counterpart. Its cooperation’s philosophy gets away from the assistance-based and takes a chance on the local leadership impulse.

Related to the projects that they develop, the ones that are focused on the sanitary area have an special relevance, like the start of a primary and maternal health care network in the rural zones, as well as in the educational area, to fight against realities that are still present in the country such as the early marriage.

In Catalonia, they worked to sensibilize about the Senegal situation and in the countries in the global South, specially to the youngest, they have realized actions to enrich social cohesion and support the migrants' welcome. In the future, they hope to strengthen online work, specially with Senegalese entities, and to enlarge its action to more zones in the country.

The Senegalese area of Alta Casamance, between Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, is one of the zones with more development problems, in some part due to a conflict that started fifteen years ago. This provoked a large deficit of investments and infrastructures and a persistent subsistence economy.  

In Tabassaye’s village is where the Catalan ONG Tabassaye's project has a presence, led by Denis Fornés. At the beginning of its task, they took advantage of the local mutual companies network that were in the sanitary ambit to mutualize the village and enlarge the residents’ medical coverage. Since then, they have impulsed economic activities focused on agriculture, livestock and manufacturing, among others, to give to the local residents tools and favor their development.

"Our objective is not only to help, but to empower these populations and get them organized, so they can be self-sufficient, we believe that this is the only way”, assured Denis Fornés in a conversation with Xarxanet. Actually, they provide medical coverage to approximately 1.600 persons from different villages in the area, with the intention to stabilize the sanitary situation there where they work. Also, they have built a medical dispensary and an orchard with a water well, among others. 

Like so many others ONG’s, an important part of their work is the sensitization to promote interculturalism and mutual knowledge, values that govern the entity’s actions. In the next years, they want to strengthen its structure to enlarge the actions of Projecte Tabassaye in the future.

This foundation was born as a personal project of its founder, Mario Llonch, who with her wife, fell in love with Senegal and changed their accommodated life to install in Mbackombel, a rural village in Africa. This was the origin of For a Smile in Africa, which works to improve the lives of the youngest and their families since two decades ago.

“Without education or formation, it is very difficult for these persons to go ahead”, has said Llonch to Xarxanet. For this reason, the priority of the foundation is to develop education in the area of Senegal in which it has a presence. They have done it - and they do it - in many different ways and through different educational projects which have benefited approximately 900 children and young.

For example, they helped to improve the village school, which nowadays is a reference in the area, and it offers means to the children to build their future. Actually, they teach tech lessons, among others. Also, they have helped in the creation of a medical dispensary and a maternity ward.

Inspired by Vicente Ferrer’s task, Mario Llonch focus his energies on ensuring the continuation of the foundation, which it will remain in the hands of those who one day were students of the school that they impulsed. In addition, the idea is to build a new building with more classes to teach English and new technologies.

A thousand of children in Senegal are victims of a curse that brings them into exploitation and forced beg. We talk about the talibes children, human creatures that are supervised by Quran teachers and live in religious schools, the daares, where they suffer a lot of mistreatment and abuses and are obligated to ask for charity all the day.

Niños de la Lata Terrasa’s association works to palliate this problem, which affects more than 100.000 children in the country, as Human Rights Watch says. The entity, founded by Amador Vázquez Martín and presided by Xavi Mas, focus its action on Rufisque, a Dakar’s region, where they have impulsed a day center called 'Royaume des enfants' to lighten de talibes children situation.

In this space, they offer basic maintenance to children and young, and they provide education and professional formation because the children can look to the future with hope. Today, Nens de la llauna works with five daares and gives support to approximately one hundred talibeses infants.  Beyond the diary task, the entity wants to continue fighting, with a political incident task, to finish the curse which obligates thousands of children to have a difficult life.

We are still in Rufisque, where Teranga’s association, with origin in Molins de Rei, dumps its efforts giving future opportunities to the young through its task. The entity was impulsed by Abdoulaye Fall, born in Rufisque, who is living in Catalonia more than twenty years, with other persons from the Senegalese diaspora.

Teranga’s action has two principal objectives. On one hand, assist, come along with and support all welcomed persons, specially those with a sub-Saharan origin, that arrive at Molins de Rei. On the other hand, develop cooperation projects in Senegal. In this sense, the entity is based on making projects focused on the educational and sanitary areas. For this reason, they worked in hospitals, orphanages and schools, while promptly help the most vulnerable population.

The last project that Teranga promotes in Rufisque is the multifunctional center for young people XamXamLab, the laboratory of the know that wants to implement a formation and capacitive program to contribute in young insertion in a vulnerable situation through professional formation capsules and entrepreneurship projects.

They finished the rehabilitation of the center installations and now, they are equipping it with all the necessary material. There, the idea is that young can develop their projects and they enjoy a job opportunity.

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