In September 2022, Global First Responder charity sent a medical and dental relief team to Senegal. The volunteer team included Dr Kirsten Rogers, UK dentist and Drawing for the Planet Treasurer. The aim of the mission was primarily to provide treatment for Talibés children, boys ages 3 -15 who are students of the Qur’an. Many Talibés are exploited and suffer human rights violations.
Drawing for the Planet (DftP) partnered with Global First Responder (GFR) and created Senegal Wildlife pilot project which provided drawing kits for children to draw Senegalese wildlife while they waited for treatment.
Image courtesty of GFR: Global First Responder Team including volunteer medics, dentists and translators
Global First Responder is an entirely volunteer run medical relief organisation. A key focus on their humanitarian missions is sustainability. Returning to countries to develop their capabilities, in this case Senegal, includes setting up future dental missions to offer more restorative dentistry rather than just extracting damaged teeth.
The mission also supported local midwives with continuing education and setting up community groups to meet and educate children about puberty, first aid and basic life skills. GFR also supports a Senegalese French Centre who provide food and supplemental education for the Talibés.
Image courtesty of GFR: Talibés children
Volunteers apply from across the world and offer their skills, time and dedication to work in austere environments. They are often required to learn roles on the mission, outside of medical fields-adapting. GFR set up and managed a global team of 26 volunteers who gathered in Senegal. This team included a medical team specialising in family practice, maternal care, internal medicine and wound care and a dental team.
As well as caring for the Talibés, many pregnant women received care and education. Fourteen teachers from local high schools left their responsibilities to provide essential translation and assist with crowd control. Pre-mission planning took 6 months and included the team gathering donations, equipment and supplies. Diplomatic communication with Senegal's Ministry of Health and local leadership at each of the 6 rural mission sites ensured that everything ran smoothly. At the end of the mission all patient statistics were reported to Senegal's hospital directors and the Ministry of Health.
DftP flyer page one
The aim of Senegal Wildlife project was twofold: to give impoverished and exploited Talibés children some joy by providing them with the opportunity to transport their minds from their difficult lives, through drawing, and raise awareness of their plight; to celebrate the unique beauty of Senegalese wildlife while raising global awareness of its vulnerability. The project also fulfilled DftP's mission to reach more global communities and give the gift of drawing and wildlife with the hope that if successful the project could be used as a blueprint for future humanitarian missions.
It was imperative that the project should be simple and not prove a hinderance to GFR's vital medical relief mission. Kirsten briefed artist and DftP Founder and CEO, Jane Lee McCracken on the mission logistics and goals. She also provided information about Talibés children many of whom have no possessions and would not have received gifts before.
Jane designed a double-sided folded flyer featuring images of Senegalese wildlife including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects, which could be easily transported to Senegal and distributed to children by the GFR Team but that also required minimal explanation from translators. Jane said:
"I wanted to give the children something visually beautiful to keep but that also inspired them to draw not only during the treatment clinics but encouraged them to continue drawing afterwards by giving them the flyer and a pen to keep".
DftP flyer page two
Senegal is rich in wildlife; its national animal is the vulnerable African lion and its national bird, the African Spoonbill. However, some iconic species such as Giraffe are extinct in Senegal and have been re-introduced in game reserves. Endemic species also include the critically endangered Western Giant Eland which the GFR team captured during a visit to a game reserve.
Image courtesy of GFR: Western Giant Eland Tragelaphus derbianus ssp. derbianus CRITICALLY ENDANGERED population: 120 - 150, DECREASING
The aim of all DftP projects is to highlight the unique beauty of local wildlife while raising awareness of vulnerable species. We encourage participants, through drawing and education to make emotional connections with the species they study: if we care we want to conserve. Jane said:
"I spent a few days researching Senegalese species, particularly those sadly threatened with extinction, and selected animals that would be exciting for the children to draw but also raise awareness globally of both endemic and extant Senegalese species including the adorable Senegal Lesser Galago.
Including critically endangered Western Chimpanzees in the flyer also chimed with DftP's upcoming project in partnership with Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection and Born Free where I will be creating a mural of USA, UK and Liberian children's chimpanzee drawings to raise awareness of Senegal's near neighbours, Liberian orphan chimps."
It is often not possible to draw wildlife in the wild, so project participants are provided with full-body images of animals so they can portray their complete physiques. Habitats are not included in the drawings so that the viewer can appreciate the beauty of each species in its entirety without distraction. This also helps highlight the fact that habitat loss is one of the main contributing factors to species decline. Jane said:
"Finding the right images of each species takes time. It's often difficult to find a full-body image which is sadly why the Western Giant Eland was not included in the Senegal Wildlife project. I also try to select characterful images so that participants not only bond with the animal, but create exciting drawings."
Chimpanzee Community drawings by children of Wardley Primary, UK
The official language of Senegal is French but there are around 38 other languages spoken throughout the country. For purposes of inclusivity the flyer featured icons and minimal text.
It was also important that DftP drawing kits were eco-friendly. This was accomplished by printing on recycled paper and sourcing bio-degradable ballpoint pens.
Image courtesty of GFR: Medical clinic
During GFR's Senegal mission, the volunteers provided 6 mobile clinics over 6 days in both rural and urban areas. The mission provided medical and dental treatment to around 1000 people including 100's Talibés children. Many children were given wound and skin disease care.Community members, mainly pregnant mothers, received their first ultrasounds.
"Most women don’t know how far pregnant they are. One lady was even given the wonderful news she was carrying twins!"
Image courtesty of GFR: Dental clinic
The dental clinics achieved the following:
- 717 people treated, mostly Talibés children ages 3 - 17
- extracted 156 painful teeth
- 56 fillings
- 492 fluoride varnishes
Image courtesty of GFR: Talibés children with A Good Company bamboo toothbrushes
Over 500 children were given dental health education, fluoride treatment and their own bamboo toothbrush from A Good Company creators of high quality sustainable everyday products.
Image courtesty of GFR: Talibés children with flyers and making their drawings
As Senegal Wildlife was a pilot project created to discover what could be achieved from a collaboration with a humanitarian mission, only 100 flyers were printed to ensure the GFR team were not encumbered. The team estimated that by sharing the flyers and pens around 200 children were given the opportunity to make drawings. The children kept their art.
Image courtesty of GFR: Talibés children with drawings of lion and elephantGiven the success of the project and what we have learned we look forward to working with GFR on future missions, creating more DftP projects that are region/country specific as well as brief teaching notes for the team to take to their clinics.
HEXHAM ARTCLUB WORKSHOP
Image courtesy of Jane Lee McCracken: Anne with her drawing of a Sun Beetle
To inspire the children and provide them with examples of drawings, on August, 23 Jane delivered Senegal Wildlife drawing workshop to 20 members of Hexham Art Club, UK. The workshop raised awareness of Senegalese wildlife ,GFR's Senegal mission and Talibés children. The following is a selection of drawings and images from the workshop:
Common Warthog Phacochoerus africanus LEAST CONCERN population: DECREASING, Kate
Kate with her drawing of Striped Hyaena Hyaena hyaena NEAR THREATENED population: DECREASING
Senegal Parrot Poicephalus senegaluss LEAST CONCERN population: DECREASING, Val
Anne with her drawing of African Wild Dog Lycaon pictus ENDANGERED population: approx. 6,000, DECREASING
African Spurred Tortoise Centrochelys sulcata ENDANGERED population: DECREASING, Gill
Andy with his drawing of a Western Chimpanzee Pan troglodytes ssp. verus CRITICALLY ENDANGERED population: DECREASING
Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus ENDANGERED population: DECREASING, Patricia
"Kirsten, awed from the moment I saw you in action [during Senegal mission]. Your vision to provide dental care to a neglected population was evidenced by your unremitting dedication to your patients - e.g. extracting a loose tooth while patient was standing in the queue for treatment! Cutting roots that made one young man's extractions particularly challenging. Sewing in an environment most would find unconducive to surgery, I have open-mouth shots of your stitch work taking place!" Ingrid Kreis, Dental Team
"This was really fantastic for the kids. They loved every minute and really tried hard to draw well." Amy Jordheim, GFR Team Lead
"I'm so honored to have witnessed and been a part of your incredibly successful pilot program in Senegal. The boys revelled in putting pen to paper to draw local animals while they awaited dental care. Served so many purposes and was positive on all levels, not the least of which was that it afforded them an opportunity to express themselves in a manner they'd not know before. What a safe, rewarding and carefree way for children to express themselves. Thank you for bringing joy and newness into their lives, Jane." Ingrid Kreis, Dental Team
ABOUT GLOBAL FIRST RESPONDER
“Global First Responder is a nonprofit conducting relief trips worldwide. We focus on healthcare delivery, health education, community development projects, and disaster relief. We welcome volunteers of all skill-sets. More than just medical professionals, our teams are composed of individuals from all walks of life. GFR has worked in a large number of developing countries to provide sustainable infrastructure and healthcare solutions. To date, Global First Responder has worked in 14 countries around the world in cooperation with multiple non-government relief organizations.”
ABOUT DRAWING FOR THE PLANET
We are a global art and environmental education charity with drawing, one of the oldest forms of communication, at its core. Founded by Artist, Jane Lee McCracken, to share her passions for drawing and wildlife, we partner with international wildlife charity Born Free, conservationists, artists, educators and cultural institutions. Through our art, education, exhibition and conservation fundraising projects we give children, communities and wildlife a voice. Watch our video and visit us at: www.drawingfortheplanet.orgfacebook.com/DrawingforthePlanet
Support our global projects, help protect wildlife and give the gift of art and wildlife by donating or becoming a member here:
DftP would like to thank Born Free's Education Officer and DftP Advisor, Charlie Baker for reviewing the flyer, participating Senegalese communities and children, Global First Responder Team for permission to use images and video for our project page and video and for supporting Drawing for the Planet's pilot project Senegal Wildlife.
Image courtesty of GFR: Talibés children