Sarah's Notes - Day 4 in Senegal

June 1, 2008

SALY, Senegal - Sarah Holsinger, Cal's women's basketball director of operations, continues her blog during the Golden Bears' tour of Africa. Cal junior forward/center Rama N'diaye again appears prominently in this latest entry.

Today, we had the morning and early afternoon free. Most of the players went shopping in the nearby village. Rama was there to make sure that no one was taken advantage of with the negotiating. Because Rama brought so much business to their market, she walked away with two paintings, a wood carving of a boat and a dancer, bracelets and necklaces, all for free.

The staff headed in a different direction and did some shopping along the beach at a nearby village. We, however, did not have Rama and all of us walked back to the hotel with not a penny left. In fact, some of us had to go back to the hotel and get more money to pay for what we bought. On the way back from our shopping, we saw a family fishing in the ocean for crabsand giant snails (about the size of a softball)! They were grilling their catch (escargot) immediately over a fire.

After the shopping excursion, most of the group went for a swim and enjoyed lunch on the beach. Today, they served some sort of white fish, beef with mushrooms, rice and fried potatoes. There was also a wide variety of vegetables, fresh fruit and desserts. We avoided most of these items due to the likelihood that they are rinsed with the local water.

After a fun few hours in the sun, we headed to the Vivre Ensemble ('Living Together') Orphanage. The orphanage was only about 20 minutes from our hotel. When we arrived, we were greeted by approximately 30 of their employees and volunteers. We saw our first two Americans since we left the United States nine days ago. There was a group of Canadians, Europeans, Germans and two Americans who arrived on Tuesday for an eight-week stay in Senegal. The two Americans are Notre Dame students, and they were thrilled when they heard we were coming to visit.

There were about 150 children at this orphanage ranging from newborns to six-year-olds. The majority of the children are between six months and one-year-old. Ninety-percent of the orphans at Vivre lost their mothers due to labor complications. It was interesting for us to learn that most of the children here return to their mother's families, after receiving the care they need in the first year of life.

We broke up into three groups and toured the facility. It was set up like a small campus with different buildings for different ages of children. Infants from newborn to six months were in one room, and infants from six months to 12 months, were in the other room. Since the majority of the children are under a year old, this main building is the largest on the site. There are two more buildings that housed the two- to six-year-olds. There is also a basketball court in the center of the grounds. The government is funding the construction of more buildings so that the orphanage will allow for older children to live here.

I must say I was very impressed with how clean everything was. When we entered each building, we were asked to wash our hands with soap and water and to remove our shoes. All of the employees were disinfecting the rooms at various times. The children were all clothed in cute little outfits and their crib bedding was fresh and clean. Each of the cribs had a mosquito net. All of this made for a much easier experience for us.

This was a very emotional trip for us. Shantrell Sneed held a three-day-old little girl whose mother died while giving birth, and she was going to be given a name on Wednesday. Kelsey Adrian and Rachelle (Mooch) Federico spent a lot of their time in the six months to one-year-old room, and when they went to leave, and peaked back through the window, the babies were crawling to try to follow them. Every baby we saw wanted to be picked up and held, and when we would put them down, they started crying. Even though the employees there are doing a phenomenal job, they are spread thin, and the children cannot possibly receive all the attention they need. In many of the rooms there are giant padded mats on the floor, and sometimes as many as 50 babies are lying on them.

After about three hours of visiting with the children, we all congregated back in the center of the facility and presented the items that we brought with us for donation. We shipped almost six boxes of crayons, pencils, notepads, pacifiers, bottles, rattles, diapers, stickers, balls, clothing and other various toys. The most urgent needs for the orphanage are medical supplies, however. There is a doctor on staff, but medicine is expensive and difficult to obtain in Senegal. Today, we were able to buy and donate almost eight boxes of medicine and supplies to their facility.

Once we presented our gifts to the orphanage, we went to the basketball court to take group pictures. There was an African band there that played for us, and we had quite the dance party with the children. During this time, we realized that Mooch was missing. She turned up in the front of the orphanage playing a game of soccer with the children from a nearby village. She has never played soccer before so she was boasting about the two goals she scored. As we were heading to our bus, she had her own fan club screaming and yelling goodbye to her.

We arrived back at our hotel, showered and headed to our last team meal together at 9 p.m. We had a great dinner and retired to our huts to pack. We leave tomorrow at 9 a.m. for Dakar. We are visiting Goree Island (a 15th-century slave island) and Rama's house. After dinner at Rama's house tomorrow, it's off to the airport to catch a red eye back to Paris. We then have a three-hour layover before we board our flight to San Francisco. We will arrive at SFO around lunchtime on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I won't be able to blog about our day tomorrow until Tuesday. This has been an amazing journey. Thanks to all of you who have been following our adventure. Go Bears!

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