Located on the farthest western point of the African continent, Senegal is bordered to the north and east by the Senegal River, from which it derives its name. The economy is mostly centered on natural resources, with agriculture being a main sector. Senegal produces peanuts, cashews, rice, millet, corn, sugar cane, cotton, green beans, tomatoes, melons, and mangoes, among other crops.
The current socio-political context of Senegal has been impacted both by the influence of Sufi Islam as well as European colonialism, slavery, and centuries of exploitation. Yet, the Senegalese people are proud of their identity as people of hospitality (“Teranga” in the Wolof language) and peace. Young adults who serve in this program will gain insight into interreligious relationships, sustainable development, and ongoing colonialism and global racism.
The ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission program is hosted by the Lutheran Church of Senegal (LCS) and Senegalese Lutheran Development Services (SLDS). The Lutheran church is about 50 years old and encompasses many new and more established congregations taking shape throughout the country. In addition, LCS is engaged in local language education, community development and interfaith relationships. Young adults serving with the Lutheran Church are primarily placed alongside Lutheran ministry leaders and programs.
Senegalese Lutheran Development Services cover a wide breadth of development work currently taking place in the country. SLDS primarily works in three areas: primary health care, education and community development. Young adults serving with SLDS will be living and working with both Christian and Muslim colleagues and families.
Each young adult will also be connected with a local congregation of the Lutheran Church in Senegal. Young adults are encouraged to participate in the life of the congregation and the church, which may include teaching English, participating in youth camps, and learning about Bible translation and literacy work.
Because Senegal is largely Sufi Muslim, young adult volunteers will also be immersed in interfaith relationships and work and live alongside Muslims daily. Volunteers will learn what it means to be a religious minority and how community faith leaders in Senegal are working together to serve those who are marginalized.
The Senegalese diet is mainly rice, couscous and fish. Beef and goat are also eaten on occasion. While it is possible for young adults in Senegal to be vegetarian, it will be difficult to be a strict vegetarian, as most grains are cooked with a meat flavoring. In addition, most families are not equipped to cater to vegetarian dietary needs.
Young adults who are allergic to peanuts will not be healthy in Senegal. Peanuts are a main agricultural crop, and most dishes include some sort of peanut product. Dairy products are also a main staple in many dinner dishes. Those who are lactose intolerant will need to bring lactose medication, as dairy alternatives are not widely available.
Senegal is primarily a desert. It is also a country in the midst of development. These two realities mean that the air is often dusty and, in more urban areas, can become quite polluted. Young adults with asthma need to consider whether they can live in such an environment without putting their health at risk.
Young adults who serve in the YAGM Senegal program will work in roles identified by the Lutheran Church in Senegal and Senegalese Lutheran Development Services. Some of the service opportunities include:
While French is the colonial language, spoken in government meetings and schools, Young Adults in the Senegal program will learn one of the local languages, such as Wolof, Serer, or Peuhlar, rather than French. Young adults are encouraged to study the basics of French before arriving in Senegal.