Thanks to the work of Oro Valley banker El Ndoye, residents in Tucson’s northwest region are becoming more aware of the more than 100,000 children struggling to survive in his homeland of Senegal in Africa.
Ndoye, who came to Tucson for school, worries greatly about the thousands of children who have been turned into beggars in Africa. He worries about the children’s safety, as many of them face abuse, illness and live in unsanitary conditions.
In a month-long trip to Senegal over the summer, Ndoye and his family delivered dental and computer equipment, clothes, shoes, blankets, stuffed toys and school supplies to about 300 children living on the streets, and to infants at the local orphanage.
The donations were made possible through the non-profit organization, The Forgotten Children, which Ndoye formed last year after a visit to Africa where he saw children starving, children without proper clothing and many of them sleeping on floors inside abandoned warehouses.
“There are just so many children beggars there,” he said. “I knew the problems were there, but a few years ago, I saw how much worse it had gotten. I saw kids that were living in shacks. They had no shoes, no clothing, and were on the streets begging from sun up to sun down.”
Ndoye, a Tucson resident, said it was after that visit that he knew something had to be done. He formed the non-profit organization and began collecting donations. The community was so generous that the donations filled a 20-foot container that cost $4,500 to ship to Africa.
Ndoye said he took his wife, and daughters who range between 6 and 12-years-old with him so they could see another side of the world.
“I wanted them to experience this for themselves,” he said. “Now, they are going through their closets, and they don’t complain about the food I put on the table anymore.”
Ndoye said it is a harsh reality when you see a child under 10-years-old lying on the cold concrete against a brick wall because he’s not feeling well. Ndoye put a blanket on the young boy.
The children are packed in the buildings, sleeping side-by-side at night just to keep warm because there aren’t enough blankets to go around.
At the orphanage, Ndoye pointed to pictures that showed babies who are clean and well taken care of. However, the photos also show lines and lines of cribs because of the increased number of children requiring care.
Ndoye said if children at the orphanage are not placed in a new home by the time they turn 10, they are turned out into the streets to beg.
While giving many of the older children clothes, and making it possible for them to get some dental work done thanks to donations, Ndoye said this year he is aiming higher. He is aiming to really address the ongoing problems that stretch beyond the need for clothing and supplies.
Ndoye is now looking for grants, and collecting monetary donations that will go toward funding a new building that he hopes will provide living quarters and a school for the children.
“Now, I know specifically what they need,” he said. “I want to build these rooms for these children. I am still getting some clothing and other supplies, but this year, I want to pull together the funds to build something.”
By setting such a high goal, Ndoye knows he has his work cut out for him, as he plans to return to Africa in December 2012.
Ndoye, along with others involved with The Forgotten Children organization, are planning fundraising programs for the summer and throughout the year.
For more information on how to donate, log on to www.forgottenchildren.org.