I had been in Senegal for a couple of months and had seen the Talibe boys each day scouring the streets and alleyways of the busy Dakar streets. From early morning to late into the night, they could been found along the streets, beside the shops and outside the eating establishments. One night as I sat outside enjoying a very late night dinner with my friend, a group of Talibe boys congregated on the street corner. It was well after midnight. A couple of them sat on the corner while another slept. A few others seemed to keep watch over the group and look for an opportunity of a handout of money or food. One of the boys seemed to be sick as he sat, head in hands, on the cement sidewalk.
It was another one of those moments that hit me hard. I couldn’t imagine what the night would be like for him, maybe only 10 years old, as he sat on the street corner with bare feet and dirty over-sized raggy clothes, and no hope of things getting too much better.
We called one of the older boys over and talked with him and gave him some warm food to share with the group and asked if they would meet with us the following day. The boy seemed quite distracted but agreed they would all be there to meet with us.
They were a no show the next morning, which didn’t really come as a surprise, although I was sort of disappointed since we had made up lunches and juice for the group and I wanted to see that the little boy was in better condition that the night before.
We drove up the main road just a ½ a block or so and saw another group of street boys. Pulling over to the curb, they came running. this is usually a good sign for them that they are about to get food or clothing. When we asked them if we could have lunch with them and talk to them a bit, there wasn’t even a second before the doors to our vehicle flew open and 5 boys piled into our backseat. I was stunned by what had just happened. I was thinking we would park the car and sit in the alley with them, but instead I now had 5 boys in my car! It made me feel sick to my stomach that this had just happened and afterwards I was still so disturbed by this, but so thankful that it was my vehicle they had jumped into and not someone else’s that could have caused them harm. I don’t know the actual statistics, but I am guessing the chances that these boys have been sexually abused or harmed are pretty high…. really high. That night I lay awake for hours wondering about the boys, where they slept, if they were safe, who helps them or teaches them or warns them about the dangers on the street. I can’t wait to open the doors of Son of Africa. I know a place.