Interning it up in Dakar

This past semester I have had the privilege of working at an NGO (Non-governmental organization) called Culture D’Enfances (in English-childhood culture) that serves children in less fortunate economic backgrounds and gives them an opportunity to explore artistic and creative outlets that are usually not part of their daily routine.  We run activities at a cultural center that is situated in a “rougher” neighborhood and also visit many orphanages and schools.

The excitement of the vision of the organization keeps us motivated to continue and improve this start-up NGO. I have been able to write journals about the different work environment and work attitudes that contrast from that of America and see the difficulties for funding a non-profit organization.  I get to use a variety of skills (that I may or may not have had before) to create theater skits with kids, create and edit videos, paint, and even create logos for the organization.

My internship has molded my career plans by showing me the difficulties of running a NGO and the necessity for NGOs to help fill in the gaps of the state. Although I don’t feel that my particular NGO is having a great influence on the whole world, I do love to see the smiles it puts on each child’s face. It reminds me a lot of a short story about a starfish thrower (author unknown). It goes something like this:

A man was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water.

Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing, the boy replied, “I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die through lack of oxygen. “But”, said the man, “You can’t possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied,

“I made a huge difference to that one!”

I’ve realized that no matter what I choose to do in my career, I need to focus on helping individuals and that a difference can be made. Although it would be cool to say that you cured cancer or solved the problem of world hunger or helped alleviate poverty, helping one person at a time is what counts most.

I am attaching a photo of a painting we made at an orphanage that translates to say, “Our future paints itself with the hands of our children.”

Josh Boatright - culture d'enfance

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Filed under Africa, Joshua in Senegal

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