Community Description: Northeast of Downtown Dakar in district Hann Maristes is a youth prison; the residents of which are men approximately aged 13-24. At any given time there are anywhere from 50 to 70 residents occupying the prison for crimes ranging from theft and smoking marijuana to murder. This week there are 56. Their prison sentences, pending the crime, vary from 1 week to 3 years, but typically no longer.
Saliou Faye, the Hann Maristes social worker, says they often have a problem with kids who complete their sentence, but return the next week. I told him the United States and Senegal are more similar than we know. Many of the kids in prison come from broken homes, have one or more dead parents, or for some reason or another ended up trying to fend for themselves on the streets. The prison provides basic human necessities and even though obtaining a community, stability, and food, in this case, means doing something illegal and giving up freedom many are willing to do so, be it consciously or unconsciously.
During the day at Hann Maristes Minor Prison, there are literacy classes twice a week, as well as Arabic and Quran classes, chores and, for a select group, gardening. Cisse, one of the garden guards, exclaimed that literacy classes do not do much good for those who stay less than 2 or 3 months and what the prisoners really need are skills. This is why Cisse works in the garden. He says, “I am giving back to my community by teaching these kids something they can use when they leave.”
There are usually 6 young men, two security guards, a Tostan field employee and a Peace Corps Volunteer, David Vaughan, who maintain the garden. The 6 young men are longer term residents of Hann Maristes whose offences, from what I gather as a few did not want to talk about it, are mostly minor theft to fighting. They are very excited about the garden, work really hard and understandably spend as much time as possible tending to it.
Project Description: There is a garden attached to the prison designed to provide supplemental foods for the kitchen, teach a group of long term prison residents a skill and most importantly, and give them something to do. The garden is still a new endeavor, but despite its immaturity and lack of reasonably accessible (until recently when a well was dug) water they have onions, moringa oleifera, eggplant, and baby mango trees starting to grow.
Tostan financed the well and a water storage basin, which makes this location perfectly set up for a pump. As a group of Tostan, Peace Corps, Guards and the regular young men that tend to the garden we will install the pump and do an in depth training on exactly how each part works. This will help ensure the longevity of the pump as well as the health of the veggies they produce.
Peace Corps Volunteer’s Directing Project: Marcie Todd and David Vaughan, Marie Nazon (a Fulbright Scholar working for Tostan)
Dollar Amount of the Project: $100.00
Donations Collected to Date: $100.00 FULLY FUNDED!