The children, the women, the youth… what are they doing here?
Do they realize that with “ak benn” they can lay the foundations for their future?
They are offered a chance to learn, to discover, to build and network relationships, and each day to go a step further.
This is what we call “ak benn“.
It all began at Kër Taizé, the house of the Taizé brothers living in Dakar
More precisely in the neighborhood named Grand-Yoff.
The suburbs of Dakar where ak benn is implanted offer few prospects for young people. Many become discouraged, paralyzed by inertia; others dream of leaving the continent (even at the cost of their lives).
The Taizé brothers have been living here since 1992. By their attentive presence in the day to day of the local population diverse initiatives have seen the light. For the youth a huge effort of training is made which awakens a spirit of discovery, in this way they prepare themselves to become “animators” for their younger brothers and sisters.
This invitation to voluntary service in favor of the activities with the smaller children can be lived as a challenge and so the youth can become actors in their own development.
From “li nga kham” to “ak benn”
The educative activities for the children begin with an idea expressed in the local language Wolof by: “li nga kham jangal ko ko”: “what you know, share it with others”. Later the need for another expression imposed itself: “ak benn” – it translates as “and one more” (the idea of going a step further) taking another step, learning one more letter, another commitment and many more discoveries.
To be interested in many different things: where one lives, in one’s culture and environment, in work well done, in technology, in art, at the same time it is an invitation to give more, to give of oneself generously.
In this way, one step at a time, the youth and the children become authentic protagonists in the project.
From Tuesday to Saturday, all year round, at well before 4pm, the children wait excitedly and noisily under the trees in front of Kër Taizé. Soon the activities will begin. Several kilometres away in the Kër Massar area, children are welcomed in another center named Kër Ganesi.
Outings are organized during the morning hours and are an important part of “ak benn”. They are an occasion for the youth of the two centers to come together. This activity allows the participants to get to know their land and what goes on here. From technology to art, the urban setting to the rich natural variety in rural areas. This breaks the circle which could keep them a captive of their poor neighborhood.
During school vacation periods the outings and visits are intensified.
The smaller children, the youth… and the mothers
A group of women and girls receive training in sewing. The young people involved also have a workshop where as a team they make diverse objects. These handicrafts are sold at exhibitions here in Dakar and in several places in Europe. With the profits of these sales, money management and saving can be learned.
A network which came into being through time and friendships between the northern and southern hemispheres (at a personal cost for many) is a true sign of hope.
The exhibitions present as a whole the crafts made by the young people and the “mothers” because the ak benn association goes further than care for children or the production of creative craft workshops: it is a journey all together. The care of the smallest ones, their awakening, as well as commitment in the present circumstances which are their own (circumstances that they need to learn to face up to) is the basis of it all. Believing that even in their living environment, helped along by the courage of building together, it is possible to find splinters of beauty.
The “ak benn” journal, website and blog give an idea, with many beautiful photos, of all we get up to.
For more information please see: