Immerse yourself in the rhythm of West African life as you volunteer alongside local friends on this summer community service program in Senegal for high school students. Explore the vibrant, historic cities of Dakar and Saint-Louis, view the abundant wildlife of the Bandia Reserve and the Sine-Saloum mangroves, and become a part of our small community, where Senegal’s national motto, “Teranga” or “Welcome” is a heartfelt way of life.
- June 27, 2013 - July 26, 2013
- Students completing grades 9-12
- Community Service
- Typical Group:
- 14-17 Students, 2 Leaders
- 4.5 week(s)
Based in a small rural village in the Sine-Saloum delta region of Senegal, West Africa, we work with community members to complete a series of volunteer projects identified by the village council. In past years, we have constructed a community center, repaired the local church and mosque, planted and tended crops of peanuts, millet, hibiscus, and mangoes, and helped to run arts and theater-based enrichment programs for local children. This summer’s volunteer projects may include helping the community complete construction and agricultural projects, teaching conversational English classes to students eager to practice their English, and learning about local agriculture and the fishing industry from our many Senegalese friends. Each student also chooses an independent research project based on his or her interests, and partners with a local friend to share it with the group. After our day of work is finished, we spend afternoons playing pick-up games of soccer or Frisbee with new friends, learning the basics of West African drumming and dance or how to brew attaya, the traditional Senegalese tea. Participants on this volunteer program can expect to complete between 80-100 hours of community service work.
Our accommodations in Senegal are very basic. We live together as a group in one of the local school buildings, with separate space for boys and girls, using sleeping bags and pads on the floor. There is no electricity or running water in our host community, which means our group uses an outhouse, and showers using buckets of clean water from the well. On weekend excursions we stay in hotels with running water and electricity.
On weekends, we travel as a group to explore the diverse regions of Senegal. Visit the relaxed island city of Saint-Louis whose vibrant music scene is world-renowned, play in the incredibly buoyant water of the other-worldly Lac Rose and learn about the salt industry there, or observe wildlife from brightly painted wooden pirogues (traditional Senegalese fishing boats) as you float along on the calm, warm water of the Saloum River.
Our journey ends with two days on Senegal’s Petite Côte–known as the best stretch of beach north of The Gambia. During our time there, we participate in batik, drumming, and dance workshops, swim and relax on sunny beaches, and visit the Bandia Wildlife reserve to observe indigenous animals such as rhinos, emus, giraffes, monkeys, and antelope in their reconstructed habitat. This fun and relaxing time together before the program ends allows us to discuss and reflect on what we have experienced and accomplished over the last month.
“This trip was life-changing! I gained a greater understanding of a very different culture. The Senegalese culture is so different from the American, and seeing that firsthand gave me a better understanding of the world and the people in it. One day, after going to the community church, I went over to a friend’s house in the village. We made three rounds of tea (a Senegalese tradition) and sat and talked for about two hours. We really connected and had a great time! I am so glad I got to experience Senegal like this!”
– Margo Singer, New Trier High School, Glencoe, IL
- Celebrate the successful completion of a volunteer construction project with your community.
- Enjoy the company of Senegalese friends while brewing attaya (a strong, sweet, traditional Senegalese tea) in the shade of a baobab tree.
- Practice your French (or learn some Wolof or Serer) while chatting with merchants at the morning market or bargaining for goods in the local cloth and craft stalls.
- Become swept up by the irresistible rhythms of Senegalese music and dance as you celebrate with the community at a local baptism, wedding, or festival.
- Explore the complexities of Senegal’s colonial history in the coastal city of Saint-Louis or on the Île de Gorée.
What to Expect
For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work. This work, as well as afternoon and weekend activities, can be physically demanding, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside. Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. Since we live in our village as the local people do, accommodations are very simple with separate space for boys and girls, and basic bathroom facilities. You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences and interested in exploring another culture and way of life.
At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer programs abroad are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience.
Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.
Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2012 Community Service Senegal Blog.
This program begins and ends at JFK Airport in New York.
Departure • Join your group to begin a month of community service and travel in Senegal. The group flight departs from JFK Airport in New York. There you meet one of your leaders who accompanies you on the flight to Dakar.
Dakar • We spend the first day exploring Senegal’s capital city and conducting an in-depth orientation on Senegalese life and culture and on our projects and goals for the month. Get to know your leaders and the other students, relax from your travels on sunny beaches, and visit the Île de Gorée to learn about Senegal’s colonial history.
“What Putney said was true- language is not a barrier to communication! During the final hours in our village, as we were all waiting for the bus to arrive, many villagers who I had become good friends with came up to me to tell me how much they would miss me, and even gave me small gifts to remember them by. At that moment, I realized that I had made an impact on the village and that gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment.”
– Nagisa Ozaki, Paul D. Schreiber High School, Port Washington, NY
Our Host Village • Travel by private bus to a small rural village in the Sine-Saloum delta region of Senegal, just inland from the coastal city of Joal-Fadiouth. After a lively welcome ceremony put on by our hosts, we move into one of the local school buildings–our home for the next three and a half weeks. During the week, we work alongside members of the community to complete a series of construction, agricultural, and teaching projects.
Weekend Excursions • On weekends we travel by van to explore other regions of Senegal. Visit the relaxed island city of St. Louis, famed for its vibrant music scene and rich colonial history; kayak or canoe in the the lush tropical mangroves of the Sine-Saloum; or visit the Bandia Wildlife Preserve, where rhinos, giraffes, and antelope abound.
The Petite Côte • At the end of the program we spend two days at a beautiful beach resort on the Petite Côte. Swim in the warm, azure waters of the Atlantic, play soccer or Frisbee on the beach with local kids, participate in batik, drumming or dance workshops, and hold a final group discussion to process the experiences of the past month.
Return • On our final day in Senegal we travel back to Dakar for our return flight home. Fly with a group leader from Dakar to JFK Airport in New York, then continue to your final destination.
This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.
Background • Bounded by the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the fast approaching Sahara Desert, this vibrant francophone nation is located at the westernmost point of Africa. Once a French colony, Senegal gained its independence in 1960 and has since maintained a stable, peaceful democracy known for its vibrant music, colorful history, and welcoming people. However, Senegal is plagued by dry, sandy soil which is poorly suited to agriculture and industry has not taken hold as it has in many other developing nations. Today, it is one of the poorest nations in the world; unemployment and illiteracy are widespread, and while luxury hotels dot the coast around the capital city of Dakar, approximately half of the population lives below the national poverty line.
Population • Senegal is home to approximately 14 million people, just under half of whom live in rural areas. The Wolof make up the largest ethnic group in the country, followed by the Fula, Serer, Jola, Mandinka, and Soninke. Our host community of about 500 people is primarily Serer.
Language • The lingua franca of Senegal is French, though many regional languages are spoken, and English is widely taught in schools. Wolof is the most common African language you will hear in Dakar and Saint-Louis, but Serer (in addition to French) is spoken in our host community.
“Izzie had a fantastic time! She loved, loved, loved her group leaders and really bonded with her group. She loved her host village, and felt very welcome there. It is hard to say so early on, but I think her experience changed her view of Africa, and of the world. Her impression of Senegal is now so nuanced, and she definitely wants to go back! ”
– Ellie Herman & David Levinson, Los Angeles, CA
Climate • Senegal has a warm climate with two distinct seasons: rainy and dry. Our group visits on the cusp of the rainy season, which means that it is usually sunny and hot during the day (high 80s, low 90s), and cooler at night after an occasional thundershower.
Cuisine • Senegalese cuisine is flavorful, though not spicy, and consists mainly of chicken, fish, or lamb stewed in sweet onion or peanut sauce and served with rice, potatoes, or couscous. Fresh fruits such as mangoes, bananas, and oranges are common, but you have the opportunity to try a number of lesser known local fruits and juices including madd (a sour fruit usually mixed with sugar or salt), buy (baobab fruit), and bissap, a sweet juice made from the hibiscus flower.
Currency • The currency in Senegal is the West African CFA Franc (XOF). An ATM card is the easiest way to access cash.
Voltage • The electrical current in Senegal is 220V/50Hz. Outlets generally accept one of two kinds of plugs: three round pins arranged in a triangle (Type D) or two round pins (Type C). Two-pin plugs are more common. There is no electricity in our host community, but we have the opportunity to charge cameras and other electrical appliances during weekend excursions.
The Community Service Senegal program is directed by Karen Phillips. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!
Karen Phillips: St. Lawrence University, B.A., French. Karen caught the travel bug in high school while on a music tour through Europe, and later studied abroad in Switzerland, France, and Senegal. She has led Putney’s Language Learning and Community Service programs in France and Senegal, and coordinates programs in Europe and Africa. Her interests include rock climbing, painting, yoga, and running.
How To Apply
STEP 1: LOG ON.
STEP 2: HOLD A SPACE IN THE PROGRAM.
You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone. We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.
After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.
STEP 3: COMPLETE THE APPLICATION PROCESS.
Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete. In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:
- Applicant Statement - Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
- Two Teacher Reference Forms
These documents are available as part of our Online Application. We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.