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Project Gandiole, Kindergarten playscape

Introduction and start

May 24, 2015


The organisation Aide Gandiole has offered to collaborate to realise two placemaking projects. Gandiole is a cluster of villages in the far north of Senegal, just south of former capital Saint Louis. The area is tucked in between salt lakes and the mouth of the Senegal river. Here we will create a playscape for the Tassinère Kindergarten and make a design to improve the schoolyard of Pilote primary school. In April we spent a long and fruitful week discussing and designing with the people involved. Two weeks ago we arrived to start the work.

The project is a blessing and a curse. We have a good budget at our disposal, giving us the opportunity to show what is possible with somewhat larger financial resources. At the same time, we are limited by the time that we have and the fact that we are ‘newcomers’.

We are happy to feel the country's teranga, a great pride in welcoming strangers. But when you want to get things done, being a ‘rich outsider’ often turns the Senegalese mind into an opportunistic and manipulative modus. We are again confronted by all those moments that made our first period in Yène so difficult. Luckily we have learned a lot about how to tackle this. And we will get to work quickly, knowing that doing hard and dirty work is the most powerful weapon in dealing with greed and endless sweet talk.

So the first week was a little rough and organising all the expertise and materials that we need took its time. One week into the project spades are digging into the sand to create the foundation of a low encircling wall. That same day we drive to the city of Saint Louis to finally pick up the first batch of old telephone poles. While Alioune ‘Baye’ Fall and his team build the wall, we get great help from Oumar Diop and Babacar Mbaye in setting up the basic construction. Every now and then people passing by help out for some time. With the primary school next door there are often children around the site looking at what is happening. When there is work that kids can do they are very eager to help. As we progress the joy of working together takes the overhand and washes away the somewhat bitter start.

The small children of the kindergarten are still very overwhelmed by our presence and their guided entrance and exit of the building. With a lot of adult ego to deal with it is soothing to see these little girls and boys and imagine that very soon the playscape will be theirs!

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