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Photo by Sophie Singletary

Greetings from Catherine

Salaam Aleikum!

It is wonderful that you are part of this year’s Novogratz Bridge Year group! My name is Catherine and I’m one of your Onsite Directors on the BYSenegal program. I’m excited that you are coming to Senegal and look forward to welcoming each one of you with my colleagues, Babacar and Bertha. Our 9-month adventure awaits; to all those different places we will visit, all the people we will meet and the journey each of us will take inside of ourselves.

With an academic background in Modern Languages and International Development, I first landed in Senegal in 2012 with a job working for Save the Children and since then have kept on coming back.  It is hard to put my finger on exactly what the magic here is, but my hope is that you too will be touched by the specialness of this place. My home now is in Dakar, close to the ocean. This capital city is surrounded by water which is a real treat (especially on those hot days in October!). I love seeing the waves rising and falling, reminding me of the endless comings and goings of life.

There will be many things that are new for all of us this year. One aspect that is new for me is this job as a Bridge Year Onsite Director. I have previously worked for different NGOs in ‘international development’ so this will be a new experience for me. I am also a new mum to a one year old boy, Kabir (you will get to meet him at Orientation!). When things are new it is exciting ,but it can also be overwhelming. It is not always easy but this is when I try to be patient and gentle with myself.

Imagine your time in Senegal as a blank canvas that you can paint on as you wish. Naturally you will already have some images, ideas and preconceptions – and these will be challenged without a doubt. I encourage you to be open to this, to continue painting and repainting your canvas as you go along, adding a shape here, a colour there. Be open to the flow of what Senegal has to offer you and in turn to the flow of what you have to learn and offer of yourself to Senegal.

You will have received your Welcome Box by now and we will be reaching out to you by phone to introduce ourselves in the next few weeks before we meet you at Princeton! The Yak board is a way for us to start to learn about each other and to share reflections and insights throughout the programme. As you prepare to travel over the next few weeks we will ask that you each post a little introductory message about yourself. We will post another Yak message soon with some further guidance on how to write this personal introduction to your BYSenegal group.

For now, if you want to reach out to me personally with any questions as you start to prepare for your journey and say goodbye to loved ones, I am here at: [email protected]

Meanwhile, here is one of my favourite cross-cultural pieces of music in honour of a Senegalese spiritual teacher Cheikh Amadou Bamba (who you will hear a lot about in Senegal)…You might  listen to this whilst you are packing!

Jamm ak Jamm (be in peace, until we meet in peace),

Catherine (& Kabir)