It takes a village – and child sponsorship – to bring a community together

More than a decade ago, Plan began working in the community of Guelakh in northern Senegal. Back then, Guelakh was like many other communities in Senegal – it suffered from recurring drought, leaving families trapped in the cycle of poverty. Then Plan arrived.

“We realized that to really reduce the vulnerability of children, we had to use an approach that would include the entire village,” explained Moustapha Sow, Plan Program Manager in Senegal.

So through support from child sponsorship, the community began making improvements which were felt immediately by families and children in Guelakh. With Plan’s support, the community refurbished existing classrooms at the local schools, and improved access to public water points and latrines around the village.

Creating economic independence to support children

Next, Plan sat down with community leaders to discuss their vision for a future free of financial uncertainty. The community leaders decided to support Guelakh’s two main income-generating activities: dying and weaving fabric to make clothing, and harvesting cow and sheep’s milk. With a boom in production, the handmade clothing and milk products were sold at local markets to support the families in Guelakh.

A Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) made up of 50 women was also established. The VSLA group encourages its members to save and invest their earnings, so they could support their children’s education and invest in their own and each other’s small businesses.

Goats housed inside a new barn built by Plan in Senegal.
A new barn and stable, built with funds from child sponsorship, houses livestock in the community of Guelakh, Senegal.

“With financial stability and prospects for the future, Plan is working with the village to create a safe socio-economic environment for children,” said Sow.

In the years that followed, the community revamped the village dairy barn, and Plan provided funds to improve the fence and roof of the stable that houses the village cattle. A water well dedicated for livestock and agricultural use was also built, making an immediate impact on the health of people and animals in Guelakh.

A decade of learning and a future full of promise

Today, Guelakh is a model of self-reliance, and it’s helping other communities start on the road to a better future. People come from all over Senegal to learn the basics of sewing, agriculture and trade. Guelakh is beginning to thrive financially, constructing new schools, dormitories and other buildings needed.

Through the support of child sponsorship and with the help of Plan, the people of Guelakh have prospered over the past decade. Together, the community is growing stronger every day, providing the children of Guelakh and future generations the opportunity to fulfill their potential.