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April 2017

Gambia trip report April 2017

This year, with the mosquitoes biting more than ever and temperatures in the high 30's, our trip was a little gruelling at times, but as always both amazing and rewarding.

Our first priority was to visit our friends at the COGS Nursery School in Jabang and it was great to see the wonderful progress they are continuing to make. With one of the teachers attending college that morning, I took the opportunity to work with the children in Class 2 for a short while, which was great fun. To see children so keen to learn, whilst being polite and respectful in the classroom, was a joy.

That afternoon we made our next stop to Hart House in Sinchu -the school which offers respite care and education for children with learning difficulties. We were thrilled to meet up with the children and staff there and present them with a cheque for £850- the proceeds from our successful Bingo night held at the  'The Three Horseshoes', the week before. These monies will go towards paying the staff their monthly wage, which often cannot happen, due to lack of funds. In return, to our delight, we were presented with a beautiful handmade picture, to thank us. Finally, our youngest volunteer Adrian (12yrs), donated his hard-earned pocket money to provide a sack of rice to the school as well. They were thrilled.

Later in the week, we took a jeep into Lamin and paid a return visit to Lamin Toube Nursery School. Being extremely basic, it had already tugged at our heart-strings last February; reminding us just how poorly supported, Gambian schools can be. We were able to donate two case loads of Exercise books/ pens/pencils/chalk etc plus some Yo-Yos and skipping ropes too, which were received with huge smiles. More beneficial however, was the arranging for the Headmaster Balanding Manka to visit our school in Jabang, to see how, with help, his school could look in the future.

The visit took place the following morning, where he met up with Simon Mendy the Headteacher in Jabang and it was agreed that we would all return to Lamin next February and spend time there, to help improve the classrooms. We hope to raise some funds too, to purchase lockable window shutters, which means the classrooms can be secure. Finally, a cash donation was handed over, thanks to the hard work of St.Katherine's Primary School Year 6's, which will help towards purchasing more learning resources for the 168 children who attend, squashed into just 3 classrooms.

Returning to Sukuta Medical Centre is always a pleasure; the staff there work hard caring for the community with limited supplies, and we were able to donate a range of medical resources/sterile scissors/gloves and medicines including Savlon/Paracetomal and Calpol. The case also contained a wad of sterile dressings and Saline pouches, which were immediately snatched up and taken round to their outdoor A&E area, where they had literally run out of anything to dress wounds.

The highlight however, is always visiting the Maternity Ward and sharing the beautiful knitted blankets with the new mums and their babies; thanks of course to the wonderful knitters of St Margaret's Church for their continued kindness and hard work.

This year, for the first time, we finished with a visit to The Sisters of Mercy; a local commune which supports the poor, ill and vulnerable families in the surrounding areas. We were able to leave quantities of clothes/ shoes/ baby clothes/ knitted jumpers and hats/ blankets/ soap / toothpaste and medicines, along with a good cash donation, which will provide 3 sacks of rice, thanks again to St Katharine's School. Many thanks also, to all those people who have donated any of these items over the past few months; the Mother Superior was so very grateful and we were thrilled to support such a good cause.

Trying to give support to as many people as possible during our trip, we took the staff of COGS Nursery School out one night for some food and dancing along with some other Gambian friends, to say an important 'thank you' for everything they do.

Along the way, we were also able to leave 'rice money' with several families and provide one of the teachers with the funds to purchase a bicycle and padlock, having had his bicycle sadly stolen just a few weeks before.

We plan to return to The Gambia next February, to continue spreading help and friendship to as many people as possible. None of this could happen of course, without the amazing support shown by so many local people.

From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of all our Gambian friends, 'Thank you.'

Lama Lama!

Tina Bennett.