Repsol Foundation, through the “Por una sonrisa en África” Foundation, is developing three steps in Senegal, which have enabled it to provide the necessary infrastructure to educational and health centres in the communities of Mbour, Mbackombel and Louly Benteigne, south of Dakar, in one of the poorest areas of the African savannah.
Following the cancellation of Rally Dakar 2008 and its transfer to South America, the region no longer receives significant resources and one of its largest sources of revenue as a result of the race. By using the infrastructure of the African sporting event, with no intermediaries, Repsol and its Foundation were undertaking work to transport and deliver medial material to various hospitals.
When the Dakar event ended in Africa, the commitment of the Repsol Foundation to the African continent continued and it has become involved in the different projects that its counterpart foundation “Por una sonrisa en África” is developing in the area. Thus, the electrification of a maternity clinic has been carried out, and material and equipment have been provided in educational posts, within the framework of an educational project for one of the most impoverished regions of the African savannah.
The Foundation “Por una sonrisa en África” was set up in 2002, the year in which Mario Llonch and his wife, after seeing the area firsthand, decided to begin an aid project for the region near the city of Mbour, 90 kilometres south of Dakar, the capital of Senegal. They then spent 9 months of the year living in Mbackombel, inhabited by 40 people in the middle of the Senegalese savannah.
The “Por una sonrisa en África” Foundation’s first great work was to take on the responsibility of a clinic, and now also a maternity centre, in Louly Benteigne. This is a medical centre in which the inhabitants of the surrounding towns have access to primary medical care without having to go to the city of Mbour, 17 km away. The centre cares for newborns, provides help in childbirth, teaches basic hygiene standards for improving living conditions, and practices general medicine.
The Repsol Foundation has funded the electrification of this clinic and maternity centre, and as a result of which, consultations can be provided in the evenings and at night, medication can be kept in a fridge, births can be assisted during the night and the centre’s incubators can be kept in operation.
Later, “Por una sonrisa en África” promoted a primary school in Mbackombel –it now already has 360 pupils from the entire area-, to replace the old one in which barely 25 children studied. The children come daily from various nearby towns, walking up to 5 or 6 kilometres twice a day in order to receive primary education in French (the country’s official language), to eat and to learn basic hygiene standards.
The third step was to build a student residence in the city of Mbour, where 11 boys and 16 girls of between 12 and 18 years of age have accessed the secondary school after studying in the Mbackombel school. In view of their families’ lack of resources, despite successfully completing primary education, children often could not access further education due to the distance and the cost involved in the move. With the residence, they have a place to sleep, where they have three meals a day and a study room, with computers and a library, in which they do their homework every evening under the supervision of a teacher.
Mario LLONCH: President of “Por una sonrisa en África”
The “Por una sonrisa en África” Foundation is undertaking a comprehensive development project in a rural area of Senegal, in which it is very difficult for people to subsist in order to grow. The Foundation’s three pillars are health, education and development. To that end, we have taken on the responsibility of a clinic and a maternity centre, where between twenty and thirty births take place every month. It also assists people from nearby towns who live very far from the city.
We have also built a new school in a town very far from Mbour, in which we currently have 360 children studying, and a residence in the city so that these children can then access secondary education and even university. The third project is to improve the agriculture and stockbreeding systems as they have followed customs passed down from previous generations. With this, we complete one circle –from when children are born to when they finish their studies-, improving the living conditions in this area.”
Javier INCLÁN: Repsol Foundation Social Area Director
The “Por una sonrisa en África” Foundation combines all the aid requirements that we want to develop in the continent of Africa. Development aid, first and foremost, is based on diet, in order to then ensure correct nutrition. Secondly, improving health –the maternity centre and clinic are essential to areas like the savannah-. And finally, education, allowing the Foundation “Por una sonrisa en África” to have the means to develop its work and to motivate the kids when they leave school.
What the children study will depend on their own effort, and we are responsible for helping them so that they have the infrastructure to carry out their studies; whether this is the desks, computers or the grants needed so that kids with no resources can move forward. Ever since we started coming to Africa with the Dakar event, the Repsol riders have showed us how to love this continent and to act with solidarity. Even when the race moved away, this spirit remained, and we want to develop specific projects which, within the framework of its customs, give Africa the chance to develop.”