First of all I would like to wish you all a very enjoyable Christmas and a happy and contented New Year. Secondly, I wish to thank you very much for the support you have given to me and the Charity in so many ways throughout the past year. The many things we have achieved could never have been done without you.
I would like to mention a few special "thank you's". Firstly to Liz who visited The Gambia in April and stayed in my house. She came back full of enthusiasm after meeting her sponsored family and seeing what a difference our small businesses have made to people's lives. In August she walked 475 miles along the Compostella de Santiago Camino Way and raised over £1000 for the Charity. Thank you so much, Liz, for your support. Thanks, too, to Helen who kindly gave up all her birthday presents in favour of donations to The Kabafita Fund. She raised over £600. English Miscellany and Offley Morris Men joined forces in the summer and we all had a very enjoyable evening singing and dancing with a very successful raffle. Thanks to all of you. It would be good if this could be repeated next year.
I returned from The Gambia last week. In one respect my timing was not too good as the seven day visit coincided with Tobaski, the local name for Eide. This is the most important festival in the Muslim calendar and the equivalent to our Christmas. It took up three days when we couldn't travel anywhere. On the fourth day we were able to deliver two sewing machines to a village on the North Bank. They were very pleased to see us, with drumming, good food and lots of speeches, especially from the men who took over an hour giving the women advice on how to run the business!
Sarjo has been working as hard as ever, even throughout the rainy season which was extremely difficult this year. There was more rain than usual coupled with very strong winds. Many people's houses were destroyed. However, the news from villages who had received solar dryers was very good. Many of them reported far less hunger than usual. Not only were they able to fall back on the fruit they had dried but they had also saved their sweet potatoes which they ground up and made into porridge. These dryers are proving invaluable. I took enough money this time for four more and there are six villages still waiting.
The sewing machine businesses are all doing well. I have heard so many good reports that I cannot mention them all here but I'll tell you about just two of them. Last February I was asked to return to a village that had been given two machines a year before. They were so pleased with what they had achieved that wanted to say "thank you". I was suitably impressed with how much money they had made and how well they were running things so I agreed to help them with a tie-dye business. They phoned last week to say everything was going very well and that they had D10,000 (approx. £250) in the bank ready for emergencies in their community. Such a small investment has completely transformed their lives.
Another village has received a contract for the uniforms from the local school and they are having difficulties keeping up with demand - not a bad thing! Up until now I have been very fortunate in receiving the hand sewing machines we need to fulfil demand but all of a sudden I have run out. If there are any of you who have a machine in good condition I would be very grateful to hear from you.
Thank you to all of you who sponsor children. I am very well aware that this part of the Charity's work could be improved. It is sometimes difficult for children to write when they live in villages a long way from the town. There is no postal service and children would not have a table to write on. I intended to go up country to visit as many of the sponsored children as possible and bring back the latest news but it didn't work out that way for the reason already stated. Also people were not travelling to Foni, where many of the children live, because so many people have died there recently - they were too frightened to go. I also decided it was better not to go! My daughter, Claire, came with me this time and she has kindly offered to help by devising a profile for each child. This shouldn't take the place of letters but it will give you useful information concerning your child.
On a more personal level Sarjo and Abbie's little boy, Ousman is absolutely delightful. He is now just over a year old and is confidently walking everywhere. We were amazed how well he dances. He hardly ever cries and is always smiling.
I will finish now by thanking you once again for all you do for the Charity, however small.
Special thanks to those who give regularly. It helps a lot to know that the money will be there month by month. I can assure you that it is being well spent. Sarjo is turning out to be a really good manager and is working harder than ever before to make The Kabafita Fund a real success.
Barbara and Sarjo's Trek Reports and experiences.