> Pageant News Blog postings - Feb 2008
During February 2008, Pageant members Frances, Lauren, Rosie and
Sarah were in The Gambia, visiting and teaching in a number
of Gambian schools. They were later joined by Chris, and both he and Frances
posted regular reports on the
Pageant News Blog. This
page contains a collection of these postings.
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Hello from the Gambia!
posted by Frances 7 Feb
We arrived safely yesterday after a good
flight, despite being 15 kilos over our baggage allowance - luckily
we didn't have to pay any extra for it and got all 11 suitcases here
ok. We are now settled into the hotel and are busy planning our
itinerary for the next 3 weeks, starting with our first art lesson
at KMJ nursery tomorrow morning. Wandifa was pleased to see us all
as always, and was delighted with his new PAGEANT (personalised)
hat! He's looking well and is very much looking forward to
accompanying us on all our trips. Here is a photo of Frances,
Wandifa, Lauren and Rosie modelling the new PAGEANT caps! We'll
hopefully be able to update the blog every two or three days with
photos and news of what we have been doing so far, but the internet
is not overly reliable, and power cuts are quite frequent as we have
Frances, Wandifa, Lauren
Friday 8 February - First lesson at KMJ
posted by Frances 8 Feb
(KMJ Nursery is one of the schools where
Frances and her mother Tina carried out an art project in 2007.
After an early start, we had a few problems
finding the school as it's positioned in amongst hundreds of
identical-looking family compounds, sandy tracks and other
buildings. Eventually we arrived, laden with all our art equipment;
we took paint, brushes, sponges for printing, palettes, large
pictures of animals and palm trees that we'd already drawn, a large
roll of brown paper to use as a background for our display, crayons,
sellotape and blutac for attaching the finished work to the walls.
We spent the morning with the youngest class
(age 4) and started by reading a simple story involving lots of
African animals. We then gave each child two pictures of animals to
colour with wax crayons. This was the first time these children had
ever used crayons so they were anxious at first but soon got the
hang of it and really enjoyed it.
We then split the class in half to do sponge
printing and painting - for many of the children this was also their
first experience of using paints and brushes, but after a
demonstration from us they got stuck in! They sponge printed large
palm tree leaves and a brightly coloured background. We then sung
some traditional English songs including 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees
and Toes', 'If You're Happy and You Know It' and 'The Hokey
Kokey'.The children loved the singing and followed along with the
words as well as the actions.
We put up the animal drawings in their
classroom which really brightened the place up and added lots of
colour to the blank walls. Each child also took their painting home
which they were very excited about having something of their own to
show friends and family. Ansumana, the headmaster, and the class
teacher, Fatou, thoroughly enjoyed themselves and joined in with all
the activities. They all waved us off when we left, and the teachers
said they were looking forward to our return on Monday!
We took loads of photos and these are just
some of them, showing the children having fun doing their drawing
and painting, as well as all the equipment we took with us.
On Friday night Sarah arrived at the
hotel to join the Pageant team. Although she had had a long day
travelling she had much more energy than us. Saturday was quite
a busy day; in the morning we all went to see Fatoumata at her
senior secondary school. Fatoumata is studying science and hopes
to go on and study medicine at the university. There are only
six girls in her class, nearly all of whom want to study
medicine or engineering when they have completed grade 12. The
schools classrooms were fairly well equipped with science
equipment materials, microscopes, test tubes and Bunsen burners
and Fatoumata told us that she enjoyed her studies and doesn't
find them too difficult.
Next we visited Isatou's compound were we met
some of Pageants sponsored children and gave out presents, mainly
clothes games and a football. We stayed and played with the children
- two of the children had malaria but they didn't seem too ill as
they were well enough to play football! Afterwards we also visited
another compound to see other sponsored children and met a gorgeous
week old baby before returning to the hotel.
Sunday 10 February
by Frances 11 Feb
On Sunday we drove to the independence
stadium to meet Linda, a Pageant member living in The Gambia,
working with the education department.
The cars from the Plymouth-Banjul rally
were being auctioned there to raise money for two charities -
ASSETT (helping small businesses across the country) and the
Gambia national Olympic committee (helping Gambian athletes). We
were hoping to buy one of the rally cars to use as a Pageant car
- the cars were fascinating. One was made to look like a cow
with horns, spots and a nose ring; another had no reverse gear
and there was even one with no working engine. The one we were
bidding for was the red 4x4 driven by the Titans which in the
end was sold for an amazing D167,500 - double what we were going
to pay. However we were very pleased it sold for so much money.
Linda invited us to her house for lunch -
we had pizza in her beautiful garden and had a tour of her amazing
Monday - today was another day doing art and
crafts at KMJ. We were with a slightly older class this time (age
5), which included Mohammed Lamin, one of the sponsored children.
They coloured in fruit pictures taken from the book "Handa's
surprise", painted their own pictures to take home and
sponge-painted another palm tree. We sung songs with actions again
which the children really enjoyed and understood better than the
younger ones. Afterwards we were invited to the namingceremony of a
week old baby whose name was to be Mariama. We were pleased to miss
the sacrificing of a sheep but got to try some of the traditional
food and see the water with local herbs in that were put on the
baby's head like a christening. On the way home we stopped at a
school in Banjul, Campama Lower Basic, where we will be teaching on
Thursday and Friday, to visit asponsored child there. We then
returned to the hotel.
Tuesday 12 February at KMJ
by Frances 12 Feb
We spent this morning at KMJ with nursery 2
(age 5-6). The children spoke better English and were more
appreciative of the art lesson. Firstly they drew their own pictures
with crayons to take home.
This was followed by symmetrical shapes
where the children painted half the shape and folded it to make
a symmetrical shape. The main excitement was the masks - each
child had a mask which they painted and were then able to put
glitter and feathers on to. They thoroughly enjoyed painting and
wearing the masks. We then did songs and games including
over-and-under with a balloon. After KMJ we visited a school,
Latrikunda Lower Basic to see a sponsored child before returning
to the hotel. Later in the afternoon we went shopping in the
Banjul market to buy some of the gifts purchased through the
Pageant gift token scheme. This included cooking pots, mosquito
nets and serving bowls.
Today was our last day teaching at KMJ. We
had the older class (age 6-7) and did similar activities to
yesterday. Firstly each child drew their own wax crayon picture
which they thoroughly enjoyed. Their English was very good and they
knew quite a lot of the songs we sang. The masks were again a big
success as you can see in the photos. When we had finished we gave
out prizes for the children who we believed were the most
enthusiastic and hardworking during our visits. They each received a
small drinking flask and a chocolate coin. We gave Ansumana some
presents - a folder, some file dividers and a game which he loved.
The teachers expressed their thanks to us and said how much they
enjoyed the days we were there and learnt lots from us. They said
they hoped we would be able to visit before we go home for a small
party to thank us.
We visited a sponsored girl called Sandy
at her school Abuko Nursery School. We then had a relaxing afternoon
at the hotel!
Today we taught at a different school,
Campama Lower Basic. We were quite excited at going to the new
school and were looking forward to meeting the children (roughly
English year 6). Firstly we did some mental arithmetic using
maths cards. One side of the card had a question and the other
side of the card an answer. A child would say their question on
their card and then which ever child had the answer on their
card would stand up. It took a while to get the hang of it but
by the end they were very good. Although we were surprised to
find the boys more encouraged than the girls they all did well
when given the chance.
After this they drew their
own wax crayon picture, which they loved. We also did symmetrical
shapes like we had previously done at KMJ. We played games with them
and sang songs including Alice the Camel and the children sang to us
as well. (Read more about Campama LBS
In the afternoon we went to visit schools to see children
sponsored by Pageant members. We went to Kings Kids Academy where
the children greeted us with poems and songs. (Read
more about Kings Kid) We also went to the
Hotel School, Nusrat Senior Secondary, Rosekali Upper Basic and New
Yundum Lower Basic.
Friday 15 February -
by Frances 16 Feb
On Friday we did a lesson with the other
grade 4 class at Campama; first we did the maths game again and
then they did their own colouring and painting which they really
got into. We found this class slightly quieter and better at
listening than Thursday's class, and so they finished their work
more quickly, leaving more time for games and songs! We played
'Over and Under' again with the sponge balls, and some other
ball games which were fun and were met with great enthusiasm! We
were all very sad that Sarah had to leave us to go back to
school in England; thank you for all your help and energy (we
miss you Sarah!!!) However, Chris joined the PAGEANT team that
evening which was good.
Saturday 16 February - Visits to
by Frances 17 Feb
top of page >>
Today we went round visiting family
compounds which included lots of sponsored children. They all
received presents from their sponsor's which they loved. We
played lots of games with the children, football and catch with
the new balls they were given, pairs , snap and dominoes. We saw
a mixture of poor and smarter compounds - one had a television -
and ate some specially picked mango at Wandifa's compound which
we visited last. All the sponsored children we saw today will be
be joining us tomorrow for a big shopping trip and beach party!
We are all looking forward to it a lot!
16 -18 February -
catching up - from Chris
by Chris 18 Feb
Catching up a bit here. As
the girls say, we visited several compounds a couple of days ago.
Everyone we visited was so gracious in receiving us. This is a
particularly lovely shot.
Yesterday, I slobbed in the morning but
when the kids all arrived it was all action. We played beach
footie. The Gambian lads are quick and skilled, but sand and
size helped me. I played for the girls team who tended to swarm
round rather than pass. Shades of Thisbe for me in defence.
The girls jumped the Atlantic breakers
and were surprised by a big fish but no one was eaten.
Frances meanwhile lounged luxuriantly on
the beach (how long before she spots this?).
Tomorrow, we are off up
country for two days and have get up at some unearthly hour to
sample the delights of the ferry. I think I'm pretty much packed and
have been putting in ineffectual training on the volleyball court in
We were up at 5am ready to
catch the Banjul ferry across to the north bank. We were really
lucky to get on the first ferry as it's done a first come, first
served basis as so it was a bit of a squeeze. Accompanying us on our
trip were two drivers, Fax and Foday, Wandifa and Yankuba (20) whose
home village is Jarreng where we were heading later on our trip.
Our first stop was Bakalarr
Basic Cycle School. We were welcomed with a huge breakfast and
dancing which we joined in - Pippa has a video which will probably
be posted when we're home - arghhh!!!!!! We saw the latest
improvements to the school buildings and saw the progress that had
been made with the new staff accommodation block. (more
about projects at Bakalarr)
After a short (!) ceremony we
gave out the gifts that we bought for the school. These included a
new football strip for the senior team, footballs, badminton sets,
skipping ropes, art equipment and science kits. We then visited two
of the local Artemisia gardens - a plant which can help to cure
malaria.They had been planted in different ways to see which would
be the most successful. Once this has been established, cuttings
from the plants will be transferred to different villages. (more
about the Artemisia project)
Next we drove to our small
guest house in a village called Albraeda - our huts were really
nice, however the electricity wasn't working so we had no lights or
fans. That evening we visited the village of Sika where Bakary
Gitteh, the headmaster of Bakalarr lives and where the PAGEANT loan
scheme has been running for several years. We were greeted by more
than a hundred people singing and dancing. We sat to watch
traditional dancing and eat and didn't arrive back to the guest
house until half past one very shattered!!
After four hours sleep we were loudly
awakened by Ian crashing down the door of our hut. Without being
able to see, we packed up back into the minibus for a six hour
journey to a remote village called Jarreng.
We travelled half the way on the north
bank and then crossed back to the south bank - the reason why we
don't do the whole journey across the south bank is because the
roads are impassable! The roads were still very bad in places,
and it was very bumpy which meant a few banged heads!
We arrived at Jarreng Basic Cycle School
to see all the sponsored children there - Frances' sponsored
girl, Fatoumatta, ran across the school yard as soon as she saw
Afterwards we drove into
Jarreng village to meet the children's families and to give out
sponsorship money and gifts. This was also the first time Chris had
met the boy he sponsors, Yusupha, and they got on really well! We
found all the children well and they were all very pleased with
their gifts. We also gave out the PAGEANT gift token items which we
bought earlier on during our stay, to the people whom Yankuba
thought needed them the most. The mosquito nets went to the pregnant
women, and the cooking pots and serving bowls to the poorest
families. We were given lunch at the village before we set off back
to our guest house. After a few mishaps, including a puncture
(luckily a new tyre only cost D160 which is about four pounds!),
smashed wing mirror and cows falling in the river, we arrived back
ready for bed.
We woke up in the daylight
today for a change to drive to Jurunku Lower Basic School to see
sponsored children and make plans for a new kitchen there - the
people were very welcoming and friendly. After leaving Jurunku we
headed home, again getting the ferry across the river which took
about half an hour. And that's our trip up country! We've posted
photos of us meeting sponsored children, in the minibus which we
hired for the whole trip, and the people in the villages receiving
their presents. (more
Friday 22nd February - Chris's last day in the Gambia
by Chris 23 Feb
My first experience of Banjul
market. The craft area is tucked away in a warren of stalls behind
the main market street. The girls have done this before; Lauren and
Frances take charge of negotiations and fetch us a keen price.
Pippa, Ian and the girls
still have a packed programme of visiting over the next few days and
it is with considerable sadness I cannot join them for this. We say
our farewells and I get my final bits and pieces together while
waiting for the transfer coach to the airport. The fundamental
question, 230 dalasi left - is this enough to buy lunch? One toasted
sandwich and a Fanta later I'm down to 60 dalasi. I give a miserly
10 dalasi note to the bag loader on the coach keeping 50 dalasi for
a bottle of water after immigration.
The plane is late arriving and I chat
with several groups who have visited schools on trips organised
by hotels or are doing something ad hoc to help. Several others
have not stirred from the tourist ghetto.
We take off 75 minutes late. I am feeling
very tried now; we touch down at about 23:30. I make the last
train out of Gatwick with 7 minutes to spare and crash out at
home after a shower at 01:50.
An amazing trip with amazing
people. As a sign off from this Blog here is the only video I took
to give you an idea of what Gambian roads are like. We are driving
on just dirt track here - disintegrating tarmac is far worse... [You
will need to see the
Blog posting to view this video]
My experience has been of many Gambians who are stoical, gracious
and welcoming. It has been a privilege.
In the morning we visited the
market with Chris as he's mentioned to do some shopping (and
bargaining!) as it was Chris' last day and he wanted to buy some
presents. Later we went to visit the girl who Lauren and her family
have decided to sponsor. Her name is Fatoumatta and she's in grade 2
at a very nice school. Lauren took her a school bag filled with
goodies including a purse, hat, pens, board games, dominoes, a small
handbag and sunglasses. Fatoumatta was extremely excited to meet
Lauren and was delighted with her presents. Her English is excellent
and we're sure she'll do well at school as she enjoys it very much.
We then visited another family compound to meet two sponsored
children and their family. We returned to the hotel quite early in
time for Wandifa to attend 2 o'clock prayers. We also got back just
in time to say goodbye to Chris. In the afternoon we joined in with
a sand painting class which was fun. We then had a lovely evening
meal out with Linda and a sponsored Gambian woman called Mary.
Saturday 23rd February - Family Compounds
by Frances 23 Feb
Today was a long day as we
drove to 12 different family compounds and shops visiting lots of
sponsored children. They were all very well and pleased to see us.
They each received their final batch of sponsorship money for the
school year, exercise books, pens, pencils, and in some cases,
presents from their sponsors. One of the girls we met early on
called Isatou came round some compounds with us which was great
because she (as well as us) really enjoyed spending girlie time
together! Tomorrow we are going to take another group of children out
shopping to Banjul market, and out to eat as well, before hopefully
going up the Independence Arch, from which you can see the whole of
Banjul and beyond!
First of all, apologies for
the last instalment of our blog being so late - we ran out of time
to type it up in The Gambia and since our return we've all been
working back in our normal jobs! But here it is...
Sunday was one of the best
days of our trip! Like last Sunday, we took 12 sponsored children
shopping in Banjul market, and gave each child (and Wandifa) 250
Dalasis to buy whatever they wanted. We then took them to a local
restaurant, Billy's, for lunch, which they thoroughly enjoyed
(chicken and chips!). We gave out prizes for the two best shoppers -
earrings for the best girl and a wind-up torch for the best boy.
They were then desperate to come back to the hotel beach for a drink
and swim in the sea; some of the children had never been in the sea
before so they were extremely excited. Rosie and Frances got pulled
in fully clothed while Lauren was left in charge of the little ones.
Pippa played a game of pairs with a group of the children, whilst
the rest of us tucked in to a big bag of chocolate coins!
The baby that Frances is
holding in this photo is Pippa Gitteh, Bakary & Mariama’s
youngest daughter. She is a real cutie.
In the evening, we'd all been
invited to a thank you cocktail party at KMJ nursery (where we taught
in the first week). This was even more fun than we expected - we
arrived to see a big 'Thank U PAGEANT' banner on the wall, and lots
of seats around a long table decorated with flowers! All the
teachers were there - Jai, the headmistress, Ansumana, the
administrator, Ousainou, the accountant, and the class teachers;
Fatou, Tumani, Mamadi. Ansumana's family also joined us for dinner
and after a bit of dancing we were presented with lovely presents
and a certificate each to say thank you! The teachers said they had
learned a lot from us and that they had really enjoyed our visit,
and we said how much we had enjoyed ourselves there and that we're
definitely hoping to come back next year!
On Monday we had an exceedingly lazy day at the hotel whilst Pippa
and Ian had a mad and very long day visiting loads of schools,
including Brikama, Siffoe, Jambanjali, Banyaka, and loads of
sponsored children to give out almost all the rest of the
sponsorship money. Back at the hotel, we treated ourselves to a
pedicure, and watched the best entertainment of the trip (water
aerobics in the hotel pool!)
In the evening, we took some of PAGEANT's older sponsored children out for dinner
which was really fun as we were all similar ages and had lots in
Tuesday 26th February
- St Augustines, Sinchu Baliya & Campama
by Frances 4 Mar
On Tuesday we visited lots of
schools including St Augustine's where we gave a trekker microscope
(see picture on left) and lots of sports equipment including basketballs and
football kit. They were so delighted with all the gifts especially
the football kit as they had been renting kit for their tournaments.
We visited Sinchu Baliya LBS where we saw huge improvements that
had been made to their classroom blocks - the scouts had painted all
the outside walls and were in the process of renovating the insides.
We also visited Campama where we did several days teaching earlier
in our stay to agree plans for 2 new standpipes for the school yard.
In the evening, the PAGEANT
team enjoyed a lovely meal in the beautiful surroundings of
Lodge Hotel in the company of Linda - it was a great way to round
off a fantastic visit and celebrate all our hard work!
We all had an amazing time in The Gambia and were looking forward to
seeing everyone back home but were very sad to be leaving! We are
already making plans to return next year! We three girls would like
to say thank you to all the Gambians who helped us along the way,
especially Wandifa who looked after us so brilliantly and was an
This is us signing off - Frances, Rosie and Lauren xxx
Thanks for your company and all your hard work, girls....
by Pippa 5 Mar
This is just to say a big thank-you to
our intrepid threesome for all their hard work with the schools,
for getting all the news up on the blog during our trip and for
all the laughs we had during our various Gambian experiences in
February. We really enjoyed having you with us - my main fear is
that the Pageant webmaster will now expect this sort of news
update on EVERY trip....
This is a photo of you all on our last
evening, when, for a change, we were all clean and tidy! Do come
again - it won't be the same without you.
PS Our thanks to Sarah and
Chris, too - they may only have spent a week each with us, but they
both made their mark. We hope they each enjoyed their first Gambian
trip - we did!
Dave the Webmaster would like to say a
big thank-you to Frances, Lauren, Rosie, Sarah and Chris for their
hard work in The Gambia, and for keeping us all up to date through
Pageant News Blog.