I spend four month in St.Louis, northern Senegal, teaching English and some French to motivated students!
During my time in St. Louis I lived with a nice host family with lots of children who welcomed me warmly into their family and showed my the authentic senegalese family life.
I worked at a center for the Talibé (kornic students who live under tremendous circumstances begging for food, wearing the same clothes everyday and sleeping next to dozens of other children on the floor in cold and dirty rooms.).
In our center we played with the younger ones and taught them some basic French. We gave them the possibility to shower, brush their teeth and in our small infirmary we treated their wounds. (Sometimes they get hit by their kornic teachers or they hurt themselves by playing on the rocky streets since they don't usually have any shoes to wear). Whenever the money allowed it we bought shoes and clothes for the children and at least once a week we cooked a meal for everyone!
I mostly worked with the older students (17 and older) who came and wanted to learn English or French. Most of them only speak their local languages and maybe a little French or Arabic since they only learn the koran (not Arabic in general but they learn the corn by heart). It was a great experience for me to improve my teaching skills and I had to get very creative with some of my student since we didn't speak a common language. As soon as I started finding solutions and ways to teach them it was the greatest feeling to see them making progress. They were always super friendly, grateful and patient not once complaining about my way of teaching.
The local staff was very friendly, helpful and open-minded! Every Friday we would meet with a staff member and all the volunteers and go to concerts, bars or just go dancing. It was a great way of getting to know both the staff members and the other volunteers.
Everything regarding my trip was well organized and I always had someone to contact in case of an emergency.
I'm soooo glad I went to St. Louis and made all these interesting, instructive experiences and meet all these amazing, kind and happy people who showed and taught more new things about life than I have learnt during my last five years in Switzerland!
PS: Don't worry if your French isn't perfect neither is mine and they are very patient and nice if you're still learning. Just be aware that most people don't speak English so whereas you don't need to be very good at French you should know some basics to be able to communicate with the host family and the other locals.
What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Please, please, please be prepared for a different world! Senegal really is fundamentally different from any European country I've ever been to. Be aware of the fact that you might not have warm water or wifi at your host family. Also know that their food is delicious but they use a lot of oil so don't go there trying to lose weight or something. Also know that Senegal is a mostly muslim country so especially in the north you will find people praying on the streets, girls wearing headscarfs and the muezzin might wake you up once or twice ;)
However this are NOT AT ALL bad things! It's just a different way of living and if you aren't ready to learn new things, adapt yourself and see beauty and positivity in foreign and for you maybe strange things I really wouldn't recommend you to visit Senegal since you might be shocked at almost everything you see!
If however you are an open-minded person who's interested in getting to know new ways of life, cultures and morals I'm convinced that you will love Senegal! It's a very nice country with friendly people, not once did I feel unsafe.
I hope my review helped you with making your own decision about going to Senegal or not!