Trek Stories

Sophie Swallow “Tening Sen”

“Anxious, nervous, excited…these were the feelings I endured when I first landed in Senegal. I had no idea what I’d be walking into! Upon arrival in Mborane Sereer, all of these emotions were overcome by a new one: love. Not only was this just felt during their opening ceremony, but throughout the entire trip. The people of this village were beyond welcoming and always made me feel at home. Despite the language barrier we were able to communicate and form a bond like no other. The love spread throughout the worksite as well! Everyone helped everyone which played a significant part in our construction. We made an incredible amount of progress on the school each day. I feel so blessed to have been able to participate on this trip and learned so much while I was there. From learning how to make bricks, to speak Sereer, and to dance their traditional dance; I took away so much from this experience. Thank you, Mborane Sereer and my buildOn team, for an amazing week!”

-Sophie Swallow, 2017 buildOn at UD Trek Member

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Despite the language barrier we were able to communicate and form a bond like no other…

Brandon Williams “Saliou Pene”

“Our team was escorted into Mborane Sereer, Senegal by three men on horses, led by my host father, Cheikh Pene.

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Though not the chief, it was clear from the beginning that you were a leader in the community, from the way you interacted with fellow community members to how you welcomed us as a member of the community. More than the school or the journey to and from Senegal, I will above all take away from Mborane the knowledge and wisdom that you shared with my fellow team members and I in those 10 short days. 

Each night, we spent 3 or 4 hours playing Jenga, Mancala, Frisbee, or cards. We shared life stories and our aspirations to the best of our abilities through broken Sereer, French and English. You reminded us to appreciate the simple joys in life.

We had open conversations about religion while respecting that our little family had members who were Muslim, Christian and Atheist. You prayed for me on the last day when I was sick and unable to participate in the day’s activities. You reminded us that Islam is a religion of peace and love and showed us that the hateful rhetoric and misunderstanding of today could be mitigated by friendship.

You will always have a special place in our heart and I hope to return to Mborane Sereer in the future to see what your youngest children, Aisha, Cice, Badu, and Fama, have achieved.”

-Brandon Williams, 2017 Trek Member and buildOn at UD Co-President

 

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You reminded us that Islam is a religion of peace and love and showed us that the hateful rhetoric and misunderstanding of today could be mitigated by friendship…

Tali Gasko “Anna Ndong”

“Every night after dinner, Maddie (my hutmate) and I would walk back to our compound and be greeted by a group of boys waiting eagerly to play with us. The group usually included our host brothers, Sheikh and Aliou, and their friends, Ndiaga, Azis, Jyeg, Junga and Gora. We would play frisbee and jump rope with them until dark, then resort to Jenga for further entertainment. They got really creative with the Jenga blocks, using them to build houses, play dominos and shape numbers to try to teach Maddie and I how to count in Sereer. One night we even stayed up until 10:30 (which is considered late in Mborane Sereer) and did headstands, pushups, squats and whatever other workouts we could think of. Playing with the boys was one of my favorite parts of trek because we got to bond with them and teach each other about our cultures.”

-Tali Gasko, 2017 Trek Member and buildOn at UD Internal Fundraising Chair

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Playing with the boys was one of my favorite parts of trek because we got to bond with them and teach each other about our cultures…