Sarjo and I have been working together now for eleven years and the Charity has gone from strength to strength. Every time I visit The Gambia I come back pleased with what we have achieved but this time, however, things were different.
Towards the end of September we delivered seven sewing machines to Redcoats in Crawley in good time for me to receive and distribute them in November. To cut a long story short they were left behind in Antwerp, shipped out to Nigeria by mistake, are now travelling back to Antwerp and should arrive in Banjul at the end of December.
This was the first set back. I arrived on Thursday 8th November with plenty of work to do. The next morning when we were about to arrange our transport we found out, at the same time most other people did, that it was a public holiday and there would be no one in the offices. Apparently it was announced at 6 pm the day before but as there was an electricity cut at the time we only found out when the children started coming back from school with the news! Sarjo had encouraged all the sponsored children to write letters to their sponsors and without transport we were unable to collect them. If your child lives up country I am sorry but your letter is still there. I do not want Sarjo to post them as they seldom arrive. To make matters worse, there was a big conference going on with West African leaders discussing ways to alleviate poverty. This meant that all the Agriculture's cars were being used that week for shipping the delegates around.
The only positive thing I did was to buy a fishing net for two of our local men. Their net was beyond repair so I thought this was a good thing to do as it will help both them and the local community. It took them nearly a week to set it all up.
The good things are that over the last few months Sarjo has been to seventeen villages, training in pepper sauce, papaya jam, tomato chutney and cous-cous benachin. At the same time he delivered seven solar driers.
In my last report I mentioned the fact that our neighbour had grown thousands of trees that he wanted to distribute all over The Gambia. Unfortunately the government didn't want to support him so we decided to buy 2,000 of his cashew trees and started cashew farms in four villages. This will give them a good source of income. We paid £50 for them plus the the cost of transport. Will let you know how they get on.
Sarjo, Abi and the two children are fine and the house is still standing after the torrential rains they had this year but there was quite a bit of repair work to do. We had no running water as the pillars under the tank had collapsed. Many houses have been knocked down or damaged with huge cracks appearing everywhere. We had to negotiate a river to get up to our house. I'm not sure how the very poor people are going to cope as the rain damaged much of their crops of cous-cous and peanuts.
I am so sorry this report sounds gloomy but life will go on as usual. The people are very resilient and will cope with all this.
On the plus side Sarjo has funds for seven more solar driers which are in great demand. They have proved very beneficial so far to the villages who are using them and I often get invitations from them to come and see how well they are doing. I am really looking forward to my next trip now, when I will be able to do all these things.
Thanks to all of you who contribute to our work either by donations of money, time, sewing machines or sponsoring children. It is much appreciated.
Barbara and Sarjo's Trek Reports and experiences.