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Photo by Elke Schmidt, Senegal Bridge Year Program.

Les Cadeaux (Gifts!)

Hi Everybody!

Many of you have asked questions about bringing gifts for homestay families, what gifts are appropriate, and how many might be needed. We’ve “present“-ed some more details below— please feel free to email us with specific questions!

Quick update: you will be hosted by TWO families (one for a brief time in Thies, an urban university town and our first stop, and the other for a longer stay in Niodior, our more rural island community stay). Please plan for gifts accordingly. Know that it can be very special to bring a gift from home, but it is also totally appropriate and fine to purchase gifts locally (shareable items for the house such as fruit, dates, chocolates, etc. are a great idea). We will also help you purchase culturally respectful offerings of tea, sugar, and kola nuts for your hosts before arriving at the house. You may also find that you make other friends along the way during your time in Senegal, and if you like giving gifts it’s not a bad idea to have a few backups in your luggage.

Every family is a different size, and in general many Senegalese families live in larger extended family units with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, parents, brothers, and sisters all together. This means that while you might be used to a typical household containing 2 adults and 2, 3, or 4 kids, to be safe, it’s best to plan that each of your host families will contain 4-7 adults and 8-12 children. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to bring individual items for every person in the house, and please don’t feel pressure to spend a lot of money. Gifts that are easily shareable are very much appreciated, or simply gifts for the oldest members of the family.

Here are some ideas for gifts from home. Also please feel free to get creative and think “out of the box“!

  1. Photos of you, your family, and places that are important to you.
  2. If you do any visual arts, you could bring a small painting/sketch/carving for your family.
  3. Something unique to your state or hometown. Examples could be a craft sold at your local farmer’s market or or stickers that you can explain the significance of.
  4. Postcards of your hometown are a great way to write your family a note of gratitude.
  5. Small puzzles of famous places in your state that you could do together or games without a lot of language, like Set, Uno, etc.
  6. A collection of small posters of something you enjoy (like if you love visiting national parks, you could give posters of the parks you’ve been to).
  7. Interactive gifts that kids would enjoy, such as water colors, coloring books, friendship bracelets or lanyard materials. It’s best to assume that there are up to 10 kids around the house.
  8. A flash drive with some of your favorite music on it
  9. Any other fun small items that start a conversation between you and your host family and represent something special and unique about you!

Note: Photos are always special and often a great parting gift as well. Whether you choose to give families photos or not, we encourage you to bring some to show them pieces of your daily life.

Hopefully this “gifts” you some idea of what to expect. Looking forward to our time together in about two weeks!

On jaraama,

Jenny & Samba