A gap year in Senegal is an ideal opportunity to learn French (the national language), Wolof (the most widely spoken language) and Arabic.
Senegal is far from dull. Perched on the tip of a peninsula, Dakar, the capital, is a dizzying introduction to the country. It is an energetic city where people’s busy and eclectic lifestyles are reflected in Senegal’s famous music and fashion scenes. But the pace of life slows in the towns beyond Dakar where our projects are based.
Upon your arrival in Senegal, one of the first things you’ll notice is the hospitality, or “teranga.” This is very important in Senegal and guests are welcomed into houses with food, water, a bath and a bed. It means communities are very welcoming, and you’ll always find someone keen to stop, chat and take ‘Attaya’ – the Senegalese tea ceremony.
Living in Senegal
Senegal is dominated by the Sahel to the north, the lush savannah of the Casamance region to the south of Gambia, and the tropical coast to the west.
It’s not just the climate and scenery that changes, but the culture as well, making it worth venturing to both northern and southern regions during your placement. Senegal’s highlights are clustered in the west of the country, making them all easily accessible by road, by boat along the coast between the north and south, and by river cruise from Saint Louis along the border with Mauritania. National parks, busy cities, ancient mosques and semi-nomadic villages all offer the chance to get to explore the many sides of Senegal, so throw off any preconceptions and immerse yourself in this diverse nation.
We currently host three projects in Senegal; Kaolack (Diapalante), which is a market town south east of Dakar in Senegal’s main peanut producing region; Joal , a small fishing community on the coast and Ziguinchor (Djignabo), which is in the more lush and tropical climate in the south of the country.
Volunteering in Senegal
As a Project Trust Volunteer in Senegal, you’ll take on a position of responsibility, developing your leadership and organisational abilities. There is scope for utilising your own skills and interests to shape your role, meaning you can really make your year your own.
You will also have great opportunities to get involved in extracurricular activities – there are lots of opportunities to share your skills and learn. You may be asked to help out with teaching other subjects too!
What you can offer?
Senegal Volunteers should be flexible, mature and full of initiative.
You will need to be enthusiastic and motivated to teach a range of subjects. English is as important for Senegal to succeed on a global scale. It can be especially important for ethnic minorities who may be denied the right to school and English is seen as an opportunity to work with tourists.
If you have any additional skills (such as sports or music) there are a lot of opportunities to set up clubs, teams and extra-curricular activities.
What will you gain?
Living and working in Senegal, combined with the opportunity of experiencing life without luxuries, gives Volunteers a unique insight into what life can be like in Senegal.
During the school holidays, you will have plenty of time to explore this varied country. You’ll experience many religious festivals throughout the year such as Tabaski (Eid al-Adha) and Korité (Eid el Fitr). Often for celebrations everyone gets a new outfit made (a traditional boubou), to look their best for the occasion, so expect to bring back lots of new clothes.There is so much to see and do in Senegal; you definitely won’t be short of places to explore!
Volunteering Overseas can help you gain confidence by giving you the chance to try something new and build a real sense of achievement with a long term placement to test your abilities a supportive structure. By immersing yourself in a community overseas you’ll learn about cultures, languages, religions, foods and lifestyles completely different to what you’re used to. At the same time you’ll apply your energy, talents and existing skills to engage in an exchange of mutual benefit with the community you’re working in.