By: Juliette Racicot
For my internship, I chose to spend the week at a center for children created by an association called Sinjiya-ton Mali. Their goal is to reinsert homeless kids, or even kids that came from unstable environments into our society. This association makes sure the kids have enough clothes, receive a proper education or vocational trainings in order to secure their futures.
This organisation is extremely important for those street kids abandoned by everyone else, including their own families. Sinjiya-ton Mali gives children a second chance in life, they allow them to live a normal and safe, childhood: something they have never experienced or had lost in the streets. They also retrace some of the children’s families and work to re-establish contact with them.
My week with them was eye-opening. I realized how lucky I was to be born to parents who were able to take care of me properly and to receive a good education. I had the chance to talk to some of the kids at the center, and I was reminded that life is extremely hard when you are young and homeless. Kids in the streets are completely isolated and have to fight everyday in order to survive. A lot of young girls even have to turn to prostitution to eat.
Working at the center was a challenge, mainly because of the language barrier. Everyone there spoke Bambara… I do not understand nor speak Bambara at all. Getting my points across while teaching and communicating with them was definitely a challenge. Also, I am in no way an experienced teacher. I have only worked with a few kids at AISB. Those kids at the center are completely different. They are kids that didn’t receive a good education until now, they barely read and write and are not used to stay in a classroom and listen to a teacher.
Distractions were everywhere and getting them to pay attention was a real challenge. However, I wouldn’t change a thing. This internship allowed me to practice adapting to different types of people. With the kids I spent time with last week, I found many techniques to make them participate and I am pretty sure we all enjoyed our time with each other. I am grateful I got the chance to spend time with those people. I met so many wonderful people and I realized that even though so many things separate us, we are all humans and we were still able to bond nevertheless through smiles, physical contacts, and small sentences. I lived like them for a week, I ate, talked, went to class with the kids, and even slept in their room! It was a beautiful exchange where I got to learn even more about how average malians live and they got to learn things about my culture as well.
Of course, I went there to teach and help those kids, but I feel like I learned just as much as they did. I chose to go work at Sinjiya-ton Mali because I saw its potential and how genuine the love they have for kids is. In this neighborhood, everyone is welcomed in the center at all times. In the computer room, in the backyard, during meals, during pe, even during our painting activity, little boys from the neighborhood joined us and were allowed to participate. It creates a wonderful atmosphere, people are always available to help each other and they all live together just like brothers and sisters. I feel lucky to have been a part of that community for a short week.
I could write so much more, but I strongly suggest you visit their website to learn even more about the association. Also, donations are more than welcomed. The founder and educators that work at the center do the best they can, but they lack funds.
My internship hasn’t been easy at all. I got out of my comfort zone and I won’t lie, the idea of giving up came to my mind a few times. However, it was a beautiful challenge and I am glad I overcame it. I will leave Mali with memories that will last a lifetime, and I am definitely planning on visiting them again in the future.
Their website : http://www.sinjiya.org/