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Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Bridge Year Program.

Hello from Berta Gielge- Fall Support Staff!

Peace be with you! How are you everyone?

My name is Berta and I am going to spend your first 6 weeks in Senegal with you!

Right now you must have completed your final year of high school and hopefully you have a relaxing and fun summer ahead of you. I am very excited to get to know all of you very soon, as we explore evident and hidden faces of wonderful Senegal, and of our own wonderful personalities as well.

This hospitable country, on the most western peak of Africa, has been my home for nearly six years now. Of Austrian and Polish nationality and having grown up in Vienna, Austria, I first discovered Senegal in 2009 on a personal trip. A few weeks were enough to make me fall in love with the place – the very strong feeling of culture shock was, from the first moments, mixed with a feeling of coming home. In all this foreignness, I felt strangely familiar and I knew I wanted to come back.

At that time, the “Baye Fall” community of Ndem had welcomed me and helped me discover their faith and way of life, deeply touching my spirituality. In 2011, I decided to go back to live with them, and get involved with the work of the “ONG des villageois de Ndem” ( Having studied ecology, bio resource management, and organic agriculture, I was later entrusted with the coordination of the local agro-ecology projects. In my work with the NGO, I have since been blessed to grow lots of yummy vegetables, teach natural and life sciences to the local youth, organize training programs in organic gardening with villagers, set up an artisanal food processing workshop, and so many more thrilling things.

Three years ago, my community took up a new project near a village called Mbacke Kadior and I moved there last year for even more work and magic with spirituality and agriculture.

Not only does my love and connection to my community grow more and more through both sunny (those are the hard ones under the African sun!) and (nice and cool) shady days, but I have also met many more amazing people and places that have become family to me.

Volunteering in a social project in France when I was eighteen, or studying ecology for a year in the Caribbean and gaining my first experiences in farming and botany – I always felt that traveling and diving into new cultures and environments made me rediscover myself in new ways. It felt like peeling off, one by one, the layers of an onion: things I thought to be invariably part of myself turned out to just be cultural conditioning and I felt stripped from habits and prejudices like old clothes, getting a little closer to what feels, somewhere there inside, like the “core” of who I am. This process goes on day-by-day, as I never stop to learn and to wonder (and wander) through my life and this world.

In Ndem and Mbacke Kadior, I help to welcome groups and people from various backgrounds who come to us as visitors, volunteers, and travelers – people who often become friends. This is an important part of our everyday life. We have had several groups who came to visit us with Dragons, which is how I got to know the work of Dragons and how I decided to collaborate with this wonderful organization.

So let me leave you with this wish and “warning”: You might not get through this upcoming year untouched, unchanged, in mind, heart and soul. 🙂

Inchallah, to an inspiring, surprising, enriching experience very soon together in Senegal! I wish you all a good preparation time and don’t hesitate to get in touch with me! ([email protected])

Jamm ak kheweul, peace and blessings!

See you soon!