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Mercy Ships: Visiting the House of Hussein

Experiencing Africa extends far beyond the depth and reach of island tours, fabrique markets, and the more sophisticate relaxation modes that I’ve partaken in like a spa weekend at the Radisson’s “Buddatude” Spa. During my time in Dakar, Senegal, I’ve been blessed to indulge in a wide array of cross-cultural excursions, but none have blessed my heart as the magnitude of being invited to the house of “Hussein” and embracing an overwhelming, everending extension of hospitality that gives lift to the often mistaken and exploited living status of Senegeles people. I’ve said it before, African’s across the continent are resilient, confident, resourceful, exhuberant, and spiritual people with a work ethic that marvels global counterparts who may leave the gate with more fiscal muscle, and maybe even technology, but lose the race because they don’t have one necessary component: fortitude.

Sometimes my writing, pizzazz-pennnings, and social-scribes are meant to bless the masses and hopefully, those of you reading these words will, too, be enlighted. But most important, this one’s for me. The real lives, the cultures, the behind the scenes “nitty gritty” and “tried and true” aspects of what makes Africa great are the nucleus of who I am and also a driving force behind my current work with Mercy Ships Africa Mercy. 

Today, the Africa Mercy hospital onboard Deck 3 performed it’s first surgery: a two-year-old baby boy with a cleft palate who is undoubtedly first-ranked and one of many more who will receive hope and healing from our non-governmental, charitable organization whose vision is to transform lives one nation at a time and we can’t say it enough: bring hope and healing. We are doing just that, in West Africa, in Senegal, and today was a revelant reminder of the critical work that will be completed in Dakar throughout our field service that spans into 2020. Stay tuned and look for the updates on this surgical milestone. I will update this to direct you to the appropriate site!

As for me, I have been quarantined with a bug of sorts, and my cabin and I have held court together for the past 48-hours. While it is almost over, it has been a timely blessing on the Lord’s part as I have received much needed rest, communed with Him, enjoyed praise music (without earphones!) and of course gained enough strength to do my favorite activity: reflect and write. It’s a horrid photo of me ( I know, I know), but when has a stomach bug ever been kind to a photo’s lens? For me, never. Saturday and Monday. What a difference two days make!

The beautiful part is that I have an abundance of brilliantly, beautiful photos to share that exemplify my earlier Africa affirmations. Friends invited me to the home of a gentle man and a gentleman named “Hussein” whose paths cross our own on a daily basis, both figuratively and literally. An invitation to one’s home and an opportunity to witness hospitality firsthand is an honor unparalled to many, and my barometer stems from special occasions stateside in America to the far reaching corners of the earth: shanty, mansion, subdivision, projects, modest abode. It doesn’t matter. A man’s castle is his home and is to be honored for those whom dwell and the visitor as well.

A taxi ride, one goat, three goats, a horse and carriage and a “bold mama” totin’ a suitcase on her head and a baby upon her back opened the door for all of the imagery to come that day. Only goodness followed, but no more goats.









These were the sights, smells, uncomfortable details of an African lifestyle that the Senegelese have grown accustomed to. It’s only foreign to us; their foreign is familiar. I loved seeing the women returning from their Saturday ongoings and chatting about as they traveled respective paths. In a juxtaposed scenic display, there were children whose Saturday plight quite differed from the bicycle riding, scooter races, and cul de sac games my grandchildren in Florida likely enjoyed several time-zones away. Nonetheless, they have each other, and if one picture tells one thousand words, this photo does not tell one million stories about their lives in totality. It is but one moment in time, sans judgment. Where there is dirt, there is destiny, and in the midst of plight, there is power and positivity.

As our walk progressed through winding streets and corridors of homes, I saw the ocean’s mouth ahead of us and was immediately “mouth agape” based upon my own waterfront living comparative to Florida’s Ponte Vedra Beach and Amellia Island.

The Atlantic Ocean’s price tag is a realtor’s dream and a coveted luxury choice to all whom can afford it. In this urban representation, the ocean is home. Waves are their backyard. Sand is the foundation of their castle. The breeze is a soft whistle from Jesus.

Hussein’s home was modern in every facet and quickly conjured a reminiscence of my grandmother’s East 28th street home filled with fancy upholstery sustained by decades, lace doilies situated just so, bric-a-brac hither and there, and a wall filled with photographs and photographs, and photographs that offered homage to uncles of household fame and aunts of distinction. Everyone had a place on the wall, children too, of course. They owned multiple televisions and every young person in residence was manipulating a smart phone!



We were fed in a community sense, and prior to, watched a “Sade” concert featuring the legendary sultress herself, portions of a futbol match, a series of Senegelese soulful videos, and talked amongst ourselves to Hussein with intermittent visits from his family. “Theiboudienne” the traditional Senegelese meal of rice and fish was our full entree and while I’d had it twice the week prior at Chez Fatou and a local eatery, nothing is like homecooked “Theiboudienne.” I could eat it every day.



Allow me to note that the family ate separate from us, as is custom. As guests, we were given our own community bowl. Following a cold drink and hot tea, we traveled a different route back to the main road that revealed the advanced grasp of urban renewal that Senegal has upheld. More than signs of wonder, there were bulldozers of proof with renderings of work in action instead of mere motives rooted in political deed.  I’ve seen the latter in action and it is a detriment to the people. It’s happening. In and around Senegal and within the confines of Hussein’s own neighborhood, the streets are improving, the housing is soon to reflect infrastructure that is affordable and accessible to all who fall prey to the statistics below which simply got the best of my journalistic pulse. I can’t help myself:

“With almost half of its population living in urban areas, Senegal is ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa’s average urbanization rate of 40%. Senegal’s urban population has almost doubled in the last few decades, rising from 23% in 1960 to 43% in 2013, and is projected to reach 60% by 2030.”  www.blogs/worldbank.org

And this from www.housingfinanceafrica.org 

“…Despite such positive outlook, housing affordability remains limited, given the high price of land, high cost of finance, price speculation and inadequate supply. Speculation becomes very high, especially in Dakar where rent can go up to US$ 2 800. This remains highly unaffordable for a vast majority of the population since about 60 percent of them earn less than US$ 3.10 a day.

However, the situation is changing due to the country’s urbanisation planning, infrastructure programme, various housing projects, and the government social housing programme which set the price of the cheapest house at US$22 598, requiring monthly payments of CFA 88 627 (US$154) for 15 years. Recently the government has initiated other measures to increase housing production, including a Social Housing Guidelines Act, the decree defining social housing, and the Prime Minister’s order establishing approval processes for production by private developers…”

I love growth: in people, in God, in community, in urban development. While Saturday’s experience was about dinner in a home, it fostered an opportunity to both see and appreciate the many sectors of Senegal. Regardless of the urban view, she is beautiful.

Penny Dickerson 2019

One comment on “Mercy Ships: Visiting the House of Hussein

  1. I feel like I was right there with you.


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