Friday, January 20, 2012

My Horrible Experience with Senevolu in November 2011

I am posting this as a warning against the volunteer work program Senevolu and its director Magueye Sy, based in Camberene, Dakar, Senegal. I came on the program for a 4 week stay in November 2011 and was finally forced to abandon 2 weeks early at my own expense when I realized that Mr. Sy was exploiting me. Mr. Sy stole over 300 euros from me, refusing to provide services that I had paid for in advance.

Senevolu is advertised as a non-profit organization that offers to house volunteers with a local host family and provide them a work placement with a local NGO. This is an outrageous lie; every penny you pay to Senevolu (which is in reality only one man, Mr. Magueye Sy) goes directly in Mr. Sy's pocket for his own personal benefit. Mr. Sy pretends to service his community by helping local families and NGOs; in fact he reaps the financial benefits himself, at their expense. Only one family still concedes to work with him. This family was regularly stealing money from my bedroom throughout my stay. The work placements are a complete joke; nothing is organized. The mutual bank I was supposed to work at had no idea I was coming until I showed up and then they told me, "You can't help us."

Senevolu also offers "cultural courses" such as Djembe drums and Wolof language lessons, and several excursions to nearby tourist attractions. These excursions are laughably overpriced--a trip to the nearby Lac Rose would cost an individual about 30 euros; Mr. Sy charges 100 euros. Mr. Sy charges 15 euros/hour for "Wolof lessons" which are taught by him, in your house or in his dimly-lit house, without textbook or worksheets or paper. Ha.

Mr. Magueye Sy is a scammer. When you first meet him or exchange emails with him, he will seem like a friendly, helpful person. He will joke with you and get you to trust him (you are dependent on him anyways, as a new arrival in a foreign country). His source of income is cash from his foreign volunteers, and he is very good at obtaining it. He puts ENORMOUS pressure on volunteers to sign up for courses or excursions, or otherwise pay extra money to him once they arrive. I arrived in Dakar at midnight and got in to my host family at 2 a.m. Mr. Sy immediately sat me down for a long talk (until 4 a.m.) to explain the extra services he offers and to try to induce me in my tired and confused state to commit myself immediately to paying for them. I am embarrassed to say, as are almost all the volunteers that I met and talked to, that I ended up paying up front for an excursion and cultural lessons that I knew were overpriced. But I just wanted Magueye to shut up and leave me alone, so I made some concessions. Of course, it only got worse after that. Mr. Sy used my dependence on him to manipulate me for more money, threatening me if I did not give him "loans", and even asked me up front to "help him out, as a friend." When I refused, he canceled all courses that I had paid in advance for and I never saw him again. At this point I packed up and left.

I spoke to about 10 other past volunteers who have had similar experiences and can provide their stories as well. Here is one:

Magueye Sy is a dishonest scoundrel--do not let him be your first encounter with a Senegalese person! Senegal is a wonderful country with some wonderful, kind, inspiring people. Once I quit Senevolu I had the time of my life and left the country with a very positive impression.

If you are looking for a volunteer program you may be able to find something else, but be very careful and do your research. Contact RECENT volunteers (not ones from 3 years ago!) to verify that their experiences were positive and the money you pay goes to help the community.

If you want to meet locals and be housed by locals I recommend couchsurfing Of course you will have to have a minimum of street smarts as well, but in my experience the website worked very well and it is safe. Otherwise Lonely Planet recommends a website where you can pay for a homestay--look in the guide.

I would appreciate comments if this message has helped you avoid a bad experience or if you have had bad experiences with the program.


-Camille B (USA/France)


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  2. I went with Senevolu in summer 2005. While my experience was not as bad as Camille's, it was not as promised, even then: my placement at a local bank was, similarly to Camille's, a farce, as they did not know who I was or why I was there, and I and some fellow volunteers ended up establishing a youth group and holiday teaching facility off our own backs rather than working in a development-related project as promised. I heard a few bad things about him while I was there and one of my colleagues pulled out. Magueye is a charming chap but wasn't so popular with at least one of the families that worked with him.

  3. Hi thanks for the notice. I was planning a trip to Senegal and thinking about volunteering. Came across Senevolu but couldn't find many testimonials. I suppose you saved me some trouble. Any tips on where to go in Senegal/West Africa?

  4. I volunteered with Senevolu about three years ago. I finished out my stay, but ti wasn't great. I had a nasty run in with Magueye early on (like you said, he is manipulative), saw he was not to be trusted and stayed away from him as much as possible. Never felt comfortable with him after that. I had a good experience with my host family but there were other volunteers with me too. I went to anotehr city for my work placement but again, it was really not serious. Sorry about your experience, hope this helps. XX

  5. Ms. Camille (USA, France)came to Senegal as a coloniser, what said the host family is that she liked commanding and showing!

    Camille has got a problem with her enormous legs. She has a normal top for her body shape and legs as big as Arnold Swarzneiger's one. I only heard stupid things about her from her homestay.

    Camille has got no problem with Senegal. Her giant legs are the only problem she has. You better correct your anormal body than saying negative things: vietnamian head and wrestler's legs!

    1. Dear Magueye,
      Thank you for your lovely and quite hilarious compliments on my "athletic legs." In fact I am quite fond of my muscles and I welcome your further comment.

      Additionally, I thank you for showing to the readers of this page your own lack of professionalism and how little-minded you are. This is certainly not the language of a volunteer program director--at least not a reputable one!

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    3. Clearly, Magueye, you have nothing much concrete to say in defense of your organization.

      Racial slurs and insults on my personal appearance are your own opinion and not relevant to the discussion. I did not resort to any such insults when I described the facts of my stay above.

      It is not true that I adjusted badly to new circumstances, believing that Senegal is "like in the States or in France." I am very well traveled and have lived abroad for many years. In fact, after I left Senevolu I stayed a full four weeks longer in Senegal, at the kindness of friends and people I met in several cities, and I had a wonderful experience.

      As for the fellow volunteer with me on the program (there were only us 2), she also finished her stay with a negative impression of Senevolu. I will not use her name without her permission, but we were in contact afterwards and she said that she would never recommend Senevolu to anyone else. Additionally, all the negative events I mentioned in my blog post happened DIRECTLY FOLLOWING her departure--i.e. my being alone with Magueye as the sole volunteer, when he was in a safer position to exploit my dependence on him.

      Anyone reading this is welcome to contact me for more information. I don't wish the same experience on anyone.

    4. I am copying the original comment above which Magueye has since removed:

      You can write all the negative things you want but
      you can stop Senevolu running.

      You was here with another volunteer and she had no problem
      because she is positive.
      The problem is you Ms. Camille Bromley.
      If you come here and think that you will be like in the States or in France you are wrong.

      The other thing is ''ton corps amorphe''.Go and correct it with surgery: ''des jambes énormes dans un petit buste et dedans une tête de chinetok!''. Décidément, ton Algérien de Jules doit être aveugle?
      C'est ça ton probléme!
      Camille is not a US, not a vietnamese, ot a French you look like nothing and sorry it is not my fault!

  6. Hi,

    As the fellow volunteer mentioned above i wanted to add my comments. I would not recommend Senevolu, Magueye's response to Camille's post shows what type of person he is. Senegal is a lovely, incredibly friendly place, you don't want your experience tainted by Magueye and Senevolu.

  7. Magueye is a scammer. He will promise you anything you want if he thinks he can get money out of you, but what he actually delivers is nothing close to what he promises.. if he ever delivers at all.

    There is a lot more that I can say on the subject since I spent 4 months with his program and am now currently living in Senegal on an unrelated project, but my advice is just to stay away. There are so many bad things written about him on the internet for a reason.

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    1. I am copying the comment above which Magueye removed:

      Vous ne dormirez plus jusqu'à ce que cette merde ne soit enlevée!

      Je téléphone à des heures où personne ne dort chez toi!
      Et ça va continuer...
      On verra à la longue?

      Merde sale merde!

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  11. Camille thank you so much for posting. I am also one of the many victims of Mr. Magueye's scam. He took advantage of a personal tragedy to swindle me out of hundreds of dollars. I am so glad people are starting to speak up about him.

    I also stayed in senegal for a year after finally cutting ties with that scoundrel Magueye and will affirm that he is not representative of Senegal. He almost pushed me to leave the country, however. If you are thinking of volunteering in Senegal stay away from SeneVolu, Magueye only intends to cheat you. Worse yet he exploits the Senegalese families and organizations he works with. They do all the work and he keeps all of the money. It's one thing to overcharge folks richer than you, but to exploit struggling Senegalese families is just heartless.

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