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Mathias Wind Retoft – Building & French in Senegal

Great experience with a purpose

Boats in Senegal

A while before I finished high school, I decided that I wanted to experience the world. I did have quite a hard time figuring out how my journey was going to take place, when I had a wish to experience something - but not just as a tourist.

When I stumbled upon one of the Projects Abroad highlighted stories on Facebook, it caught my interest. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to experience the world and still have a purpose with the journey. I quickly decided that the new Building project in Senegal was the perfect choice for me, when it fulfilled all my criteria: I wanted a French speaking country, and a project with physical work and concrete results.

The organisation Projects Abroad

Painting a classroom in Senegal

Ever since I participated in an information meeting in Copenhagen in November, the Danish office had been a great help in planning my journey. I expressed my wishes concerning my travelling, and when the Building project in Senegal was created, I was notified right away. After I decided that I wanted to go, I was contacted by different people from the main office. You are assigned a volunteer advisor, who is frequently communicating with you via email, Skype or phone calls. I thought it was very comforting to be guided through the process. In addition, you will be provided with a personal website that contains everything you need to know, and even a checklist with every little thing you need to prepare before departure.

Arrival and project in Senegal

Painting a school building during his placement

Before my departure, I received photos of the people I could expect to pick me up at the airport in Dakar.

After a long journey, and arriving in the middle of the night, it was nice to know who to look for and seeing a familiar face. We spent the night in a hotel and the next day we took the trip to St. Louis. The day after I arrived at the host family, I was picked up by a coordinator from the local Projects Abroad office. She showed me where I could withdraw money, the office, where I would be taking my French lessons and the easiest way to get into town from my house.

With students in Senegal

The week after my arrival, my project began: a kindergarten in a poor neighborhood needed renovation. Every day my supervisor followed me to the workplace, as he lived in the same neighborhood as me. The work was primarily to repair the walls with cement and putty, and then painting. The first two weeks we worked in the afternoon, and we finished almost a whole classroom every day. My supervisor was very good to show me the different neighborhoods on our way to work. After work we would go to the market or watch a local rivalry at the old football stadium.

My general impression of Senegal

My trip to Senegal was an amazing experience. It wasn’t only encouraging to meet the other volunteers, who made an impressive effort on their projects, but also fantastic to experience a very different culture than what we are used to in Europe. Everybody was smiling and took their time to talk. My host family welcomed me with open arms. I can only recommend travelling the world this way.

Mathias Wind Retoft

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