This is a tough question to answer, but one that many in Dakar are asking. As much as I wish I could spell out a solution to this “Decade of Abuse“, I can’t. But what I can do is share some ideas from people that I trust and hope that one by one, we can and will make a difference in the lives of these children.

If you have 100cfa (20 cents)…
Don’t give it to a talibé. Instead, say hello and ask his name. Buy some peanuts or another healthy snack for him with the 100cfa.

If you buy from a fruit stand…
Buy an extra kilo of very ripe bananas and ask the vendor to give them to talibés after you leave.

Why give the food after I leave?
This one is just a personal preference. I tend to shop the same stands and buutiks and I don’t want the talibé boys to know it’s me buying for them or else I develop a tail.

Okay, so why very ripe bananas?
Nutritionally, the ripest are healthiest. Plus the boys tend to like the taste better.

If you give clothes or shoes…
Buy inexpensive and/or secondhand. This way the talibé is more likely to be allowed to keep the items rather than them be taken to be resold for money.

If you have a soccer ball…
Play a quick match with some boys on your street. Sometimes we forget that these boys are children and they need to play and blow off steam just like every other kid.

If you have 3 minutes…
Step outside and get to know the first talibé you see. Keep in mind that you may not have a common language, but that’s okay. Take a few minutes to learn his name and pay attention to him as an individual.

If you go to a buutik…
Buy some baguettes with filling and ask the vendor to give it to talibés after you leave. Note that Pinton (fish spread) is more nutritious than the chocolate spread, but the boys may like it more if you buy them the sweet stuff.😉

If you have 5000cfa ($10)
Hire a woman to do laundry for the talibés in your neighborhood once a week.

If you have kids’ vitamins…
Keep a bottle in your purse (or man-satchel, whatever) and give them out like candy, one at a time.

If you’re at the shake-n-sell market…
When you hit up the fegg jay market, buy ten sets of spare shorts and t-shirts for the boys to wear on laundry days (see above) OR just to give them some new clothes.

If you have a free morning…
Check out one of the many excellent talibé centers in Dakar to find out how you can help in a more hands-on way. Here’s a great place to start finding out more.

If you do give food…
Open the package if it’s wrapped or make sure they eat it in front of you. Otherwise they may turn around and sell it in order to make their daily money quota.

Also if you do give food…
Make sure you tell the talibé you hand it to that he needs to share with the other kids if they are in a group.

If you have a couple hours…
Talk with your neighbors (or even guards and houseworkers) and find out which families in your neighborhood prepare meals for talibés. Many families do this, especially on Fridays. Ask if you can contribute towards these meals, either giving a couple thousand CFA each week or maybe providing the meat, fish or chicken to supplement what they are already preparing for the boys.

If you see a flip-flop vendor…
Buy new shoes for talibés standing nearby.

If you have items to donate…
Check out this list to see if any of the items could be used at a talibé center.

If you speak French or Wolof (or have a translator)…
Go talk with your chef de quartier about the talibés in your neighborhood. Ask how you can help take care of them as a way to invest in your community.

If you have a First Aid kit…
Walk down your street and ask the talibés you meet if any have scrapes or sores that you can clean and bandage. Remember that while this helps meet a physical need, it also meets emotional needs as well.

If you choose to help a talibé center…
ASK what they need, don’t assume. Some may need specific food items and medical supplies, others may need sturdy toys or a water filter.

If you like grilled meat…
Go eat dinner at the Brazilian Churrascaria in Fann Hock. Proceeds help support their very reputable talibé center.

If you see a talibé out after dark…
Consider giving them money. I’m told that if they are out late, it probably means they haven’t made enough money for the day and are afraid to return to the daara.

If you have other ideas…
Please share them in the comments!

For more on how to interact with talibés, read this interview with former PCV and al-around-awesome guy Trevon Rainford.