Frantzia Theodat was accepted as a Global Citizen Year Fellow in April of 2018. “Each year Global Citizen Year recruits and trains a diverse corps of high school graduate leaders with potential from around the world and supports them through a school-year long immersion in communities in India, Brazil, Ecuador and Senegal. As Fellows, they live with a local family and work as apprentices supporting efforts in education, health, and the environment. Through training, coaching and structured reflection Fellows develop skills and perspectives that guide their education, shape their character, and inform their leadership.”
Frantzia was driven to choose Senegal as her Global Citizen Year destination because of her desire to know more about West African history. She wanted contribute to the anthropological field. However, after increasing time in Senegal, her focus transitioned completely. Having grown up in a household where many people in her family were first generation immigrants, Frantzia couldn’t help but notice certain disconnects that explained things she’d witnessed in the Black immigrant community in Canada.
The main disconnect showed up with the narrative that was being distributed amongst immigrant communities abroad to family in Senegal. They differed from the lived realities she experienced with the immigrant community in Canada. After speaking to multiple immigrants and expats in Senegal, she started noticing a common theme. Stories from abroad were very inflated once they arrived in Senegal. It didn’t matter if it was a small village or a city. It happened everywhere. She realized that this was an issue that affected many Senegalese people. Many youth in Senegal had inaccurate perceptions of life abroad in more affluent countries. When she would tell her neighbours she lived in Canada, they would automatically think she was rich. They assumed she had resources to fund them to go abroad, or could offer them jobs. She often wasn’t given a space where she could explain the situational realities of immigrant families.
After going to the province of Saint Louis, she encountered a fisherman that went on a boat meant to cross the border into Europe so that him, along with many other men could find a better life and support their families in Senegal. That man was one of 3 survivors from the boat. He didn’t make it into Europe, but went through many difficulties to get back to Senegal. When she asked this man if he would risk his life again, he said yes, because arriving to Europe would mean hope for his family. He didn’t know that this narrative was 100 years too late for the current immigration process. He didn’t know about the many difficulties immigrants face when coming to a new country. This includes underemployment, culture shock, isolation, embarrassment, and much more. She saw many youth aspiring for the same message made 150 ago years ago.
She wanted to vocalize the misconceptions of these youth as early as possible, so that they could have a much more realistic view of life abroad. So, she decided to do something about it. She worked in tangency with a local teacher in Thies, wrote a master guidebook for teachers in Senegal to inform their students about the realities of Senegalese immigrant communities in Italy, Spain, Canada and more. She incorporated the good, the bad, and the ugly. The realistic immigrant stories that were not being told across the ocean. She went onto Thies radio to promote her workshop for youth looking to learn more about the realities of immigrant populations. She also let them know about resources on how they could find opportunities in Senegal.
As she finishes her term in Senegal she continues to work with teachers to implement an effective structure for these workshops. She is still in the trial and error process. Her ultimate goal is to get Senegalese youth to understand the cultural realities of the West and prioritize contributing to their native country: Senegal.
To read more about Frantiza and her work:
We wish Frantiza luck and cannot wait to see her in the history books.