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Issa Kouyaté

Senegal , Class of 2016

Issa Kouyaté

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Issa Kouyaté is the Founder and Director of Maison de la Gare, a shelter in Senegal for hundreds of street children, often called talibe, and other at-risk youth. Talibes are children, some as young as four, who are sent to Islamic schools across Senegal to become scholars of the Quran.

In many cases, these children are also forced to beg for up to eight hours each day and are often beaten and left alone in the streets if they do not earn enough.As a former talibe himself, Mr. Kouyaté is committed to improving the lives of such street children.  He became a chef, and first began by cooking for the children.  From there, his small operation grew into a shelter where as many as 200 talibes now visit daily seeking basics like food, medicine, and shelter. 

Mr. Kouyaté  has created strong partnerships with local government agencies, religious communities, and other organizations working to combat human trafficking.  Local authorities consider him a key partner not only for providing shelter for runaway talibes, but also for gathering data, following up on cases within the legal system, and facilitating the safe return of talibes to their families.

Mr. Kouyaté has been incredibly successful in raising awareness about the conditions of and risks to children who live and beg on the streets, and has helped build support from local officials to prevent human trafficking.

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