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French language and service

Dates: March 9 – March 24, 2011
Trip leaders:
Veronique de la Poterie, Amy Johnson
Eligible students:  9th - 12th grade French language students
Number of students: 12 to 15
Estimated Cost:  around $3,500

French language students will travel to Dakar, Sénégal, for immersion in the vibrant culture of West Africa. Students will leave Sénégal with an appreciation for daily life in the countryside, and a taste of the sophisticated urban life in Dakar. In rural Sénégal, students will stay with families while volunteering for 10,000 Girls, a nonprofit that promotes education and employment for young women in rural Sénégal. We will learn about Sénégalese drumming, jewelry making, and dancing. We will study the country's history, including the importance of Islam, the affect of colonialism, and the influence of the slave trade. We will visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, L’Île de Gorée, a slave-trading island. Finally, we see the dramatic range of the country's ecosystems – wetlands in the Saloum, deserts dotted with majestic baobabs, and spectacular coastline.

Amy Johnson lived with her family in Dakar for five years where she taught at Suffolk University and volunteered for 10,000 Girls, and her husband, Michael Savage, served as the Peace Corps regional medical officer for West Africa. Their daughter Rachel Savage, a Catlin Gabel student, grew up and attended school in Dakar. (Amy kept a blog of her time there.)  Veronique de la Poterie was born and raised in Morocco. Her father lived in neighboring Sierra Leone for 20 years and spent time in Senegal as well.

Viola Vaughn and 10,000 Girls

Dr. Viola Vaughn

Viola Vaughn is founder and executive director of the nonprofit 10,000 Girls in Kaolack, Sénégal, West Africa, with which this year's trip group will work closely. 

Vaughn is an American with an Ed.D. from Columbia University who received a CNN “Hero” award in 2008. She is a social entrepreneur who has built 10,000 Girls from an idea to a vibrant program currently serving 2,567 girls in 10 towns and villages in rural Sénégal. She periodically tours the U.S., speaking and participating in conferences to raise awareness of her organization's success in helping West African girls succeed as students and entrepreneurs. During her time in Portland Vaughn will also speak at Portland State University.

Video of Viola Vaughn speaking at Catlin Gabel last spring

Video of Viola Vaughn #1          

Video of Viola Vaughn #2            

Video of Viola Vaughn #3


Thank you letter to Veronique for organizing a book drive for 10,000 Girls

Dear Veronique de la Poterie,

We want to thank you in advance for the books that you and the Catlin Gabel School have sent and the ones on the way.

My name is Jeanne Ratzlaff and I am currently volunteering with 10,000 Filles in Kaolack, Senegal. I have been working on the book-mobile with 4 young American students. Each day we work outside in the book-mobile we have at least 10 or more children from the neighborhood clamoring for books. It is all we can do to ask them to be patient and to wait for the library to be ready.  In October the libray should be ready to be go on its runs to the 10 villages it serves.

Any books you can send us in French and simple readers will be very much appreciated. Books with lots of pictures in all the sciences. A book about composting, for example, would be useful.  Arts materials (papers, pens, markers, scissors) are also in demand as the person who goes with the book-mobile tries to set up a little workshop in each village while he or she is there.

Thank you again!!!!

Jeanne Ratzlaff