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Bremer Human Rights Fellow Keita: Providing for the Basic Needs of Refugees in Senegal
A young boy in Senegal lives with his mother. He goes to school, he studies, and he earns straight As. He is a refugee, and he is hard-working and bright. He is such a bright boy that he is able to track down his absent father online. He finds that his father has travelled to France. The devastation of learning that his father had left is too much. He stops studying. He falls behind in school. He experiences debilitating depression. In a country with a high number of refugees, such mental health problems are not uncommon. In Africa, where psychological problems are highly stigmatized, it is all the more difficult to find help. This is where Mory Keita’s work begins.
Mory Keita, a 2009 Otto Bremer Foundation Human Rights Fellow, spent ten weeks this summer in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. For Mory, a student at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, this was a return to Africa. Mory was born and raised in Conakry, Guinea. This summer he was able to support Action for Human Rights and Friendship (in French, Actions pour les Droits Humains et l’Amitie or ADHA). This organization is one of the leading NGOs in Senegal working in the field of human rights. ADHA works directly with internally displaced peoples (IDPs) and asylum seekers in completing their administrative paperwork, assessing and treating mental health issues, and providing other services.
Refugees in Senegal face a number of challenges in accessing basic resources. Food, clothing, shelter, and especially, healthcare can be difficult to acquire. Mory and his staff worked tirelessly to identify the needs of people and find resources to provide for those needs. In addition to providing direct services to clients, Mory also focused on fundraising programs for ADHA. He appeared on radio and television programs to raise awareness and seek donations for the organization. In fact, he went on the Senegalese version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” representing ADHA. While they did not win the money, they were able to increase awareness of these issues among the popular audience.
Coming back to Minnesota, Mory has had many opportunities to share with others his experiences and teach the St. Cloud students and community about the pressing need for human rights work in Senegal. Mory is an executive member of one of the largest student organizations at St. Cloud State, the Organization for the Prevention of AIDS in Africa (OPAA), and he is connected to many others. Within a month of returning from Africa, Mory had plans to present his fellowship work to meetings of the OPAA, the African Students Association, and Today’s Women. After completing his studies in Minnesota, Mory plans to return to Africa to focus on human rights programs in the region.
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