The Novogratz Bridge Year program in Senegal exposes participants to terranga, a Wolof word that describes the warm hospitality and generous spirit of the Senegalese people. For most of the year, students live with homestay families in the bustling capital city of Dakar, where they support organizations working in areas such as education, public health, and community development. Short-term group service projects and excursions to rural areas provide students with insight into rural village life and issues of environmental conservation, educational access, and healthcare delivery. Participants acquire basic proficiency in Wolof and, through guest speakers and cultural enrichment activities, learn about Senegalese history, politics, art, and Islam.
In Senegal, Princeton University partners with Where There Be Dragons, an organization specializing in overseas experiential education. Since their founding in 1993, Dragons has managed hundreds of unique small-group service learning programs in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Dragons is dedicated to inspiring youth leadership and responsible global citizenship through community-based service projects and cultural exchange.
Bridge Year is about building collaborative community relationships. Through community engagement, students learn to become more effective citizens, with a greater capacity to contribute to making a more just and equitable world.
In Senegal, the program currently partners with the following local organizations:
- YMCA Senegal runs various programs in adult literacy, youth entrepreneurship, health education, and computer training. They also operate an elementary school and preschool in Dakar. Bridge Year volunteers most often teach English at the elementary school and/or lead activities in the preschool. Students have also taken on additional projects, such as translating reports, teaching English to staff, or supporting educational projects in rural communities outside Dakar.
- Imagination Afrika is an organization that works to engage Senegalese youth in interactive and experiential forms of learning. Volunteers can contribute to a variety of on-going projects. Past volunteers have worked on social media campaigns, facilitated workshops in schools throughout the city, and documented Imagination Afrika’s work through photography and film. Activities could also include creating exhibitions at local cultural centers or researching grant opportunities.
- SOS Children's Villages is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to provide “the warmth of a home for every child.” In Senegal, the organization is home to 150 children who do not have a place to live, often due to the death of one or both of their parents. SOS Children’s Villages Senegal operates 15 family homes and an infirmary on-site. There is also a preschool, a kindergarten, and an elementary school. The Bridge Year volunteer typically teaches English to preschool and elementary school students.
- Keur Xaley Yi is a center for children with physical and mental disabilities located within Hospital Fann, a 314-bed tertiary care teaching hospital. The volunteer serves as a classroom assistant at the center. Keur Xaley Yi is also excited to support the volunteer’s individual interests, and past participants have introduced programs in music and art therapy.
- Tostan is an international non-governmental organization founded in Senegal and currently working in eight African countries. Tostan’s primary program is a non-formal education initiative focused on human rights and democracy, basic literacy and numeracy, and community-led sustainable development. Volunteer opportunities include developing program concept papers for grant submissions, compiling the organization-wide annual report, supporting the executive management team, and leading social media efforts.
- Empire des Enfants is a support center for children living on the streets of Dakar. Children at the center receive full room and board, as well as classes and activities, as staff work to reunite them with their families. The volunteer can support the work of Empire des Enfants in many different ways – from playing soccer or joining the kids for days at the beach, to designing a social media campaign, or teaching academic subjects such as French or English.
- Ker Thiossane began in Dakar’s SICAP neighborhood as a space where local artists could access multimedia and digital art tools. Ker Thiossane has since extended its mission to include the revitalization of the SICAP neighborhood, adding a youth center and community garden to the existing art space. The Bridge Year volunteer works mainly in Ker Thiossane’s Fab Lab, “Defko Ak Ñip,” helping local artists realize their creative vision using digital art tools. The volunteer can also support Ker Thiossane’s community outreach programs.
- Program Location: Dakar, Senegal
- Country Name: République du Sénégal (French); Réewum Senegaal (Wolof)
- Population: 16,727,817 (Senegal); 2,476,400 (Dakar)
- National Symbol: Lion
- Languages: French (official), Wolof, Pular, Jola, Mandinka, Serer, Soninke
- Religions: Islam 95.9% (most adhere to one of the four main Sufi brotherhoods), Christianity 4.1% (mostly Roman Catholic)
- Currency: CFA Franc
- Fast Fact: In the 16th century when the Portuguese visited the country’s coast, the fishermen said “sunu gaal,” which translates into “these are our boats.” The Portuguese, who understood nothing, simply named their land “Senegal.”