Rowan Hughes | Alumni | University of Guelph

Rowan Hughes

Aiza Asif

Photo caption: young boys find the support they need at an NGO to help them escape the talibe system of ‘forced begging’ in Senegal

Rowan Hughes

My name is Rowan Hughes, and I am privileged to address the remarkable philanthropy of Stu and Kim Lang.

I received the Summerlee Humanitarian Award in 2020 – my intention was to travel that same year to Senegal to teach a course in strategic communications to non-profit leaders. My goal was to help the local Senegalese combat the forced begging ‘talibe’, a system of exploitation and abuse of children who are forced to beg for money.

The pandemic forced me to postpone my initiative – worse, the economic scarcity created by Covid saw worsening conditions in Senegal, making the mission to address the talibes more urgent.

I did not lose sight of my initiative, and this letter of thanks was written during my second trip to Senegal to train strategic communications for non-profits.

The NGO, Maison de la Gare has a mission to eradicate the forced begging talibe system in Senegal. I worked with staff to implement a digital and local advocacy communications policy for the NGO to enhance their capacity.

I used my grant money to run the training course, and to hire and pay the salary for a part time (and now a full time) local Senegales staff member. This employee liases with forced begging street children and the NGO staff who are working every day for their liberation. To further advocate for the children, this Senegalese worker tells their stories in an empowering and educational way.

I believe humanitarian work is about empowereing those who are fighting for freedom, justice, and rights for environmental and human well being. The Summerlee Humanitarian Scholarship has inspired me and enabled me to be that fighter for Senegalese children who are forced to beg. As a result, I was able to pay your kindness forward and empower a young activist to work full time towards the mission of fighting a system that is hurting children.

Jerejef (thank you in Wolof).

Rowan Hughes


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