Everything is going well. Our team has changed slightly. Jenny is still a trustee but with a new surname. She now has a Gambian husband and is Mrs Camara. Mark has left us to live in America and Diane based in the UK has taken his place. Diane is interested in developing the schooling side of our work which has rather taken a back seat in recent years See her article below.
Sarjo continues to do a marvellous job distributing sewing machines, training and following up on our various projects. Without his dedication the Charity could never be as successful as it is. He is very hardworking and extremely honest - very important characteristics in this line of work!
As I write he is out on trek somewhere up country with a team of trainers from the Department of Agriculture, teaching the women how to make the best of their mangos before the very heavy rains start. I went on a training when I was there in April and the women were thrilled with their cashew jam they had been taught to make. Many groups have made quite profitable businesses from preserving their excess fruit and vegetables. So far we have trained roughly sixty villages all over the country. We have also provided eight villages with simple solar dryers and taught them how to dry their produce.
When we visit villages they nearly always ask for our help in some project or other. One of the major problems they have is with fencing. Animals are allowed to roam where ever they want which is often through the vegetable garden. We have helped a few villages with barbed wire fencing but our latest project is to help them grow lime trees as well, to form a living hedge. They have the added bonus of eating the limes. Apart from this we have sponsored businesses in bread-making and tie dye, three poultry rearing projects and two very successful bee-keeping businesses. To train a group of people and provide everything needed to produce honey, candles, soap and body cream costs £300. The difference this has made to the two villages involved is enormous.
So far we have nine children being sponsored through the Charity. It costs £60 per year to support a child's education. The money pays for uniforms. book hire, pencils, exercise books and school lunches for a year. We also have a very poor single-parent family being sponsored. The woman's husband died leaving her with six children to feed. Thanks to all of you for your continued support.
Things are always changing with this Charity as we try and respond to peoples needs. We never know quite what we are going to be asked for next but we do our best to help if it is in our power to do so. It is only due to your generosity that we are able to carry on with this work and make it such a success. I would like to say a special "thank you" to those of you who support us on a regular basis. It makes such a difference having a dependable income. We thank you, also, if you have helped us in the past and hope you will continue to support us in the future.
Many thanks to all of you who make it possible.
Schooling in The Gambia by Diane
Although schooling in The Gambia is supposedly free at Primary age the children have to provide their own exercise books, pencils and school uniform, without which they cannot attend. Many families cannot afford any of these.
Many children as young as 4/5 also have to walk for 30 or 40 minutes to get to school in the searing summer heat and then the very difficult rainy season.
We aim to help schools that are situated in the provinces away from the tourist areas as these are so often overlooked.
On my next visit, I will be visiting one such school which has asked for our help in repairs to the building. The school provides rice for the children at lunchtime and at present the kitchen has holes in the floor beneath which snakes have found a comfortable home! I am sure that when I visit there will be far more that we can do in order to provide a better environment for the students.
I will also be visiting a nursery school to see how the charity can help. We can help in many ways such as sponsoring individual children, providing comfortable buildings and perhaps most useful of all by providing equipment such as exercise/reference books and stationery.
We also collect hand-operated sewing machines which we donate to villages. They then set up a co-operative which enables them to sew the school uniforms for the children.
Any help in these areas would be much appreciated
Visiting the Gambia by Liz
After a few years sponsoring "my" family and getting very sore feet last year doing a marathon for sponsorship I decided at long last to go and see all these people.
It was a great adventure: I was met by Sarjo in Banjul Airport and we came back to his place. It was like another planet: mango trees, cashew nut trees and mangroves and all these people so welcoming and so friendly! I was struck by the poverty, but I realised that it was nothing compared to the villages I visited later. One of the things I did was to deliver a solar dryer to Brikama. Sarjo and I were welcome by drummers and a group of ladies in their best clothes. They started dancing and asked me to join in. I am afraid that I did not match their impressive performance. They were so pleased with the solar dryer and had great plans for them.
Then we went to the villages: it was a very interesting trip on a very bumpy and dusty road, our first stop was at Majork school to check on the library which is sponsored by a school near Ipswich, then we were off to Kayabo where "my" family lives. It was wonderful to meet them, one of the children a delightful 5 year old girl full of life and mischief decided that I was leaking because I was sweating so much and she started to sponge my face and neck ! At the airport on the way back I started talking to one of the custom officers. He told me that he had been to Majork school and that it had changed his life; he added that he has now a place to live and helps the rest of his family. What I heard again and again while talking with people is that the charity is really making a big difference and not by handouts but by helping people to help themselves so this Summer I am off again but not a marathon this time I am going to walk the Camino de Santiago (470 miles) and I am hoping to raise enough money to carry on all this great work!
Barbara and Sarjo's Trek Reports and experiences.