My Humanitarian Trip: Senegal 2018

Michelle Ernest-Cohen Start Date: Nov 22, 2017 - End Date: Feb 9, 2018
  • Gandiaye, Kaolack Region, Senegal

My Travel Story

by: Michelle Ernest-Cohen Start Date: Nov 22, 2017 - End Date: Feb 9, 2018

My name is Michelle and I'm 16 years old. I'm currently a student in grade 11, studying in Montreal. In March 2018, I will be travelling on a humanitarian aid trip to Gandiaye, a village in Senegal, with a handful of other girls in my grade. During our 13 day stay, we will be placed with families which will allow us to completely immerse ourselves in their unique culture and allow for cultural exchanges.

This year, we will be continuing a 3 phase project that was started by our school 2 years ago. During phase 1, the girls mainly focused on constructing tables and bookshelves, repairing toilets, painting, and building a play ground. During phase 2, another group of girls travelled to Gandiaye to work at a primary school and a high school. They built a classroom for the elementary school, cleaned and renovated the library at the high school and they painted it too. It is now my turn to contribute to this awesome humanitarian project by working on phase 3! Our main goals for this phase is to improve the learning conditions for the children and adolescents of the village by continuing to repair Samba Dione High School, Gandiaye-1 elementary school and start the repairs at Ngaraf elementary school. We will be building and painting classrooms and doing deep cleanings of the schools . We will also be giving waste management workshops.

I'm excited to work with my peers to truly improve the conditions for the students who have every right to the same learning conditions as me. This humanitarian trip is particularly close to my heart. I have always been very involved in this kind of work. Between 2003 and 2006 I had the opportunity to live in China. During that time, my sister and I founded Children Helping Children. We collected clothes, school supplies and money that we later sent to Xinjiang, a rather poor region in northwestern China. We travelled to Xinjiang and met some of the children and families who received help from our organization. When we arrived in Canada, we continued this project by making jewelry and selling them. A portion of the proceeds has been allocated to breast cancer research; the other portion continues to be sent to Xinjiang. In addition, in 2010, during a trip to Sri Lanka, I had the chance to visit several orphanages. During these visits, we donated money to pay for tuition, clothes and food. Moreover, for a few years now, I have been regularly volunteering. I volunteer once a month with the Missionaries of Charity at their soup kitchen. We also collect clothes, wash and sort them for those who come to the soup kitchen. I also spend every Tuesday night with the Girl Guides of Canada as a volunteer and junior leader with the Sparks. I understand how important it is to have strong and positive role models. This summer, I was a camp instructor at Camp Minogami, a camp to welcome new high school students to Villa Maria College. I was able to work with two young boys, both on the autism spectrum. It was an unforgettable experience!

My trips and volunteer activities have shaped my youth and inspired in me a strong desire to both contribute and give back to my communities. The many travel opportunities have opened my eyes to the different cultures of the world, which have made me a friendly, empathetic, and open-minded individual.

I have done various activities that allowed me to gradually increase my savings. I have been bagging groceries and I organized a fundraiser supper and raffle with my peers. Despite my goodwill and efforts, all this is not enough to accumulate the sums required to hire local staff, buy building materials and compensate the African families who will receive us. For this reason, I call upon your generosity to help me raise the funds necessary to realize this most worthy project!

Note: 35% of the total cost of the program will be directly invested in the community of Gandiaye. As well, we will be bringing more than 500kg of medical materials, educational supplies such as books, dictionaries, etc and educational technology. 
  • Gandiaye, Kaolack Region, Senegal