September 8 – International Literacy Day

Oumar Sarr


Interview with Oumar Sarr, Spanish teacher at the humanitarian reception center of Dianova in Madrid, within the famework of the humanitarian assistance program to immigrants (Dianova Spain)

Literacy is a key driver for sustainable development. Literacy skills are the prerequisite for the learning of a broader set of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values, required for creating sustainable societies. At the same time, progress in areas of sustainable development, such as health and agriculture, serves as an enabling factor in the promotion of literacy and literate environments.(UNESCO)

My name is Oumar Sarr, I’m from Senegal and I teach Spanish to immigrants, I also have a degree in Spanish philology. I came to Spain through the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation with the aim to improve my Spanish. Before joining Dianova, I used to work with different immigrant associations. In addition, I’ve worked in other sectors.

Could you explain your work?

As a teacher, my job is to teach the Spanish language to our beneficiaries. After determining the various proficiency levels, the classes are organized depending on the latter (literacy and Castilian for beginners). We also teach them the culture and history of Spain. We also collaborate in the translation of documents, for example, I’m in charge of contacting the various African administrations to process their documents and streamline the transfer of these documents.

How did you get to work in humanitarian aid?

“It’s something I’ve always been interested in. When I had the opportunity, I did not hesitate to seize it. The immigrant population in Spain is in dire need of support and I think it is our duty to contribute and help them with our experience and skills. Immigrants are a very vulnerable population, and looking after and helping them is a way of reducing the suffering of these people who are only in search of a better future.”

What was your greatest reward at work?

CAH Dianova Madrid
When a beneficiary who upon his arrival could neither read or write leaves the center with a body of knowledge that allows him to hold a conversation in Spanish, well this is a true satisfaction. Getting thank-you messages from beneficiaries who are no longer with us, or from their families is also especially meaningful. When people leave the center, it is a great satisfaction to see the joy reflecting on their faces in the prospect of continuing their journey, but also the sadness of leaving what they consider to be their “family” – because that’s how we feel – it makes us think that we are somewhat contributing to their integration and their happiness.

What was the most memorable moment you’ve experienced?

My first day at work. When I got there, I found about 70 people waiting at the office door to make their first phone calls to Africa. I will remember this forever. Some were very happy to meet a fellow countryman while others wer suspecting that I  was there to identify them and facilitate their expulsion back home.…

The humanitarian reception center in Madrid (Dianova Spain) provides urgent humanitarian assistance services to the immigrant population beneficiary of the program in order to mitigate their vulnerability. The center offers accommodation and food and covers their basic needs. It also provides the beneficiaries with the necessary tools to promote their social integration. Among other services, the center teaches Spanish lessons as well as Spain’s socio-historical and cultural aspects.

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