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home > news > Pageant News Blog postings - April 2011

In April 2011, Pippa, Tina and Frances visited schools and families in The Gambia, and also looked for some goats to replace those stolen from a poor Gambian family (see news item). Frances made regular postings on the Pageant News Blog. This page contains a collection of these postings.

10 April Off to The Gambia tomorrow!!
11 April Day 1: Hello from The Gambia!
12 April Day 2: a VERY busy first day!
13 April Day 3: More lesson fun!
14-15 April Days 4 & 5: The road to Jarreng!
14-15 April Photos from Jarreng trip
16 April Day 6: Catching up with old friends
17 April Day 7: Treat day!
18 April Day 8: Happy birthday Wandifa!!
19 April Day 9:  Meeeehhhh.... meeehhhhh (Gambian goat speak!!)
20 April Day 10: Science, Socialising and a New Discovery!
21 April Day 11: Rounding off the trip!
22 April Day 12: Signing off...

Off to The Gambia tomorrow!! - see original post by Frances

Some fun, messy and creative Art and Science lessons at King's Kid Academy, Brikamadina and Gunjur; a no-doubt very hot and dusty trip up country to visit the wonderful people of Jarreng village, armed with a roof full of mosquito nets and goodies; a beach party with swimming, football and chicken and chips for some dear PAGEANT sponsored children (and I'm sure several big kids too!); and a PAGEANT first - a goat buying expedition! Just some of the plans for the next few weeks out in The Gambia! Pippa, Tina and myself are jetting off tomorrow to the 40 degree heat for another PAGEANT adventure! My eighth visit to the sunshine coast looks set to be a brilliant trip - catching up with old friends, visiting schools and families, and being met at the airport by 3 of my favourite people - Wandifa, Yanbuka and Abdoulie! Bring on the adventures!

Stay tuned for (internet permitting) daily updates from the team! Love to all, Frankie x x x

11 April - Hello from The Gambia! - see original post by Frances

Greetings from The Gambia! The PAGEANT team have arrived safely in Banjul after a very early, but efficient flight. The three musketeers, namely Wandifa, Yankuba and Abdoulie, greeted us with open arms and huge smiles at the airport, and, our multitudinous bags were first out from the plane definitely a first! At the hotel we had a lovely catch up with the crew who are all well and very pleased to see us. We then started our preparations for our first school visit tomorrow - Wandifa and Yanbuka have been practising their best duck and frog impressions ready for our story telling! Definitely a sight not to be missed!!

Musa, Frances, Yankuba, Abdoulie and Wandifa

Pippa and Tina are just packing up all the paints, paper and other art equipment, so we're nearly set to go! Goat research is also due to take place tomorrow... I have told Wandifa that if any goats are to be transported from A to B, then the goats will be inside the minibus and he'll be on the roof rack!!!

A special shout out to Claire and Chris R both asked after by LOTS of Gambians so far! Love to all at home X x x
12 April - a VERY busy first day! - see original post by Frances

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A brilliant first day! Our first stop was Brikamadina Pipeline Nursery School, a small school with just two classes. Our story of 'This Way Ruby (aka Rougie!)' went down a treat with the children. Helped by Pippa and myself, Wandifa, Yankuba and Abdoulie starred as the ducks, frogs and other features of the book, like the storm, rain and waterfall, whilst Tina read! The children all joined us in acting out the story - we had a room full of very excitable quacking ducks, bouncing frogs, and stormy weather! A great lesson! Then, to top it all off, the children did some fantastic art work with sponge and finger painting, and hand printing. Very messy, but great fun!

After a fabulous send off, it was back to our goat research. We visited the compound from which the goats were stolen, to measure up for a shelter in which to house the goats at night. After giving the money for shelter, which is going to include a secure roof, windows for ventilation, and a door with a padlock, the new goats will be very spoilt!

Our next stop was Gambia College where the very successful science workshops took place in February. We delivered the certificates for the participating students, and, some more science and maths resources. We then met two sponsored students from the university, both of whom appear to be doing extremely well. One of them was the very lucky recipient of netbook, which he received with the biggest grin we have seen in a long time!

We were not so fortunate at Nari, our final stop of the day, as they did not have any artemesia plants for us to buy to take up-country. Artemesia is the plant with anti-malarial properties which we have been planting in Gambian villages. The cuttings they had were too small and fragile to take all the way to Jarra, so Wandifa is going to take them as soon as they are ready.

We made it back to the hotel for a quick swim and Happy Hour, and rounded off the day with dinner in The Senegambia with Sainey and Linda. Both are very well and as good company as ever! Then back to the hotel to sort more equipment! Looking forward to tomorrow... but for now, sleeeeeeep!! Love to all at home x x x
13 April - More lesson fun! - see original post by Frances

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Today saw Pippa, Tina and myself heading out into the hotel gardens immediately after breakfast, clutching plastic containers apiece. Our mission was to collect samples of hopefully interesting items to view through magnifying glasses and under microscopes. We then headed to Kings Kid Academy in Lamin Village a fantastic school which has now, thanks to PAGEANT funding for extra classrooms, developed into an Upper Basic School as well as a Nursery and Lower Basic.

Chris and Charlotte, two very keen new PAGEANT members staying at the hotel accompanied us on the visit. We held a microscope workshop with Grade 7 students which was hugely successful. They were given the chance to look at a variety of objects from leaves and flowers, to sponge, paper, ribbon and even ants. First they looked at the objects with the naked eye, and then compared their first impression with a succession of magnifying glasses and microscopes. No blackboard teaching purely investigative!! Grade 7's biggest surprise was that the sand from Banjul beach looked just like glass beads or 'diamonds' as one of the girls described! While Pippa lead the science activities, Tina lead some creative art lessons in Grade 3.

The children drew fabulous pictures from nature, including butterflies, snakes and dragonflies, and then collaged them with tissue paper, feathers and foam shapes. After lots of encouragement, the pictures reflected the growing confidence in the children's creative skills, and will definitely brighten up the classroom!

We then visited the new nursery block which has been relocated around the corner from the main school buildings. Three very nice light and airy classrooms of happy children who sang lively welcome songs to us in true Gambian tradition! After a lovely drink and late lunch at Lamin Lodge,we headed back to the hotel for some R&R before our trip up country early tomorrow.

No blog for two days as we will be out of wi-fi range, but hope to be back at the weekend! For all those waiting with baited breath, we are still researching goats! Lots of love, F, T and P x x x
14-15 April The road to Jarreng! - see original post by Frances

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Where to start... bump...rattle...jolt...ouch!!! On Thursday we began our long journey up-country to the village of Jarreng, home of Yankuba's grandmother and many PAGEANT sponsored children. If you have travelled up-country in The Gambia before, you will know that the roads (or lack of them) always make the journey very exciting!! A true Gambian experience every time. And this trip was no exception!

However, since my last visit two years ago, the roads have dramatically improved. There is now tarmac from Banjul to Kanalai and then Soma to Jarreng. Even bus stops and village names now exist too! We decided to split the journey and stop half way at Tendaba camp for one night. Wandifa, Yanbuka, Abdoulie and Sainey accompanied us girls on the trip and very much enjoyed their holiday! At Tendaba camp, the PAGEANT team enjoyed swimming in the pool (which had water Claire!!), reading, bird watching, making green tea in traditional Gambian fashion, and the highlight playing Jenga and Scrabble! Very entertaining, especially with Wandifa who is a massive cheat!! We met three ladies from Kent who were teaching in the local schools for a week and exchanged experiences. We all had an early night to prepare for our long journey the next day.

Unfortunately, Tina was very sick in the night, so Abdoulie promised to drive as carefully as he could. We left very early and, after a flat tyre and holding the windscreen in place over the bumps, we stopped in Soma for some breakfast tapalappa and omelette delicious! Then, weaving in and out of donkeys...chickens...goats...dogs...cows...sheep....children... we made it to Jarreng Basic Cycle School. There, we met with all the PAGEANT sponsored children from Lower and Upper Basic, as well as Senior Secondary. The Deputy Headmaster showed us the results for the children from term 2 not hugely impressive, but as the school results as a whole go, all our students were in the top half.

From there,we went round the corner into Jarreng Village, where we were given a warm welcome at Yanbuka's grandmother's compound. Here, we dished out presents for all the sponsored kids, toys for all the children, and pretty jewellery, scarves and clothes for the ladies. We had the opportunity to have a really nice chat with some of the sponsored children - Yusupha and Tina had several very good conversations his English is truly amazing. Also, after attending the PAGEANT science workshops in February, his science was graded 'Excellent' a brilliant achievement. He sends lots of love to Chris and family. I had a lovely catch up with Fatoumatta, the girl Tina and myself sponsor. We were very pleased to hear that Fatoumatta's family have moved to a nicer house with the extra sponsor money after her school fees were paid.

We visited the local skills centre and were somewhat disappointed to find that their garden where they had previously planted the artemesia plants, was now a car park. We discussed the importance of keeping these plants going and agreed that they needed some training, which we are doing our best to organise. Back at the compound, we distributed 22 mosquito nets, thanks to the PAGEANT gift voucher scheme. They were met with great enthusiasm.

Next up, was a visit to Jarra, Wandifa's home village. We found everybody in very good spirits, and Wandifa's family traits were to be seen through all generations! Huge smiles, bandy legs, and cheeky personalities! We delivered another 22 nets to the people of Jarra which again were received with huge thanks and happiness.

Finally, en route back to Banjul, we had a true Gambian style journey hot, incredibly dusty and very bumpy! We lost a window, I got covered in petrol, and then the water pipe burst!! We considered our options for mending the pipe which consisted of chewing gum, hairbands, money... but these were all rejected in favour of a stick! This seemed to do the trick, and we arrived safely back to the hotel before midnight! Definitely a first! What a trip!

Lots of love x x x
Photos from Jarreng trip - see original post by Frances

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16 April Catching up with old friends - see original post by Frances

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Today we awarded ourselves a little R&R time beside the pool at the hotel. So this is what they call 'holidaying'! Very restful it was too, but somehow, after a few hours we were in need of more entertainment. So, accompanied by Chris (for the second time!) we headed off to visit the family compound of a very good gardener we happen to know, by the name of Abdoulie. He has been conducting an experiment for us to see how easy it is to grow Artemesia plants, and to see if he could raise new plants from the seedlings. Abdoulie and his family welcomed us with huge smiles, and we were all shown round his truly impressive garden to see a good variety of food crops, ranging from tomato to parsley, cashew and lettuce. He had taken great care to plant the Artemesia in a sheltered and secluded spot, and told us how his own family and several neighbouring families had benefitted from the anti-malarial properties of these plants throughout the rainy season and beyond last year. He is well on the way to raising a new crop for this year. We gave him a second experiment in the form of a self-watering system (large bucket, lots of hose, string and sealant!) to see what he can do with these. We are sure he will have some fun making this work!

Next to the Manneh family who had specially invited us for lunch. One of our favourite families, not least because they have, with some help from PAGEANT members, been able to pick themselves up from sheer despair after their father died very suddenly, and also have a really brilliant attitude to education, and a strong work ethic. They also happen to be a very attractive family, full of fun and laughter, and their hospitality was amazing! Fresh fruits to eat on our arrival were swiftly followed by a delicious fish lunch, as they all told us of the various jobs that they were doing, whilst still studying at school and college courses. The youngest daughter, too young to work as yet, had come first in both her school Grade 5 and exam. The whole family were so proud of her, as are we!

Back to the hotel for a small supper, and an early night! Lots of love x x x
 17 April Treat day! - see original post by Frances

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This is one of our favourite PAGEANT days where we treat several sponsored children to a fun packed day. Today, we started with a shopping trip in Albert Market where each child had some money to spend on whatever they wished. The children on the treat day today were Isatou, Muhammed, Seedy, Awa, Alieu, Sandy, and last but not least, Mo Lamin. They managed to buy a mixture of shoes, football kit, clothes, swimwear and toiletries, all of which they were very proud to show us! Next stop was Billy's Restaurant where we took them for a chicken and chips lunch followed by ice cream always a favourite! Linda joined us and a fun time was had by all. The treat did not stop there however, as we then walked back to the hotel, for football on the beach, swimming in the pool, and drinks by the pool bar. Many thanks to Esme who was fantastic assistance in the pool with some thoroughly over excited non-swimmers, desperate to throw themselves into the fun!

Exhausted, but extremely happy, the children left with Wandifa, Yankuba and Abdoulie, full of stories to tell their family and friends when they got home. We staggered to the nearest sun loungers to plan the next days activities and recover!

Very lazy evening after a busy fun-packed day! Enjoy the photos x x x

 18 April Happy birthday Wandifa!! - see original post by Frances

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Today we left the hotel at 9.30 bound for Gunjur, along with Wandifa, Yankuba, Abdoulie, Sainey and Chris. Schools in The Gambia have officially closed for the Easter holidays, but SHM Nursery School in Gunjur had promised to have some of their children in school as they were so keen to see us! On arrival we discovered that the 60 or so children we were expecting had increased to the entire 207 children in the school!! Rather more than we were anticipating for an art activity, however we contrived! We started with some songs and action rhymes lead by Tina and Pippa, including 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes', and 'The Hokey Cokey', whilst Yankuba, Abdoulie and I mixed brightly coloured paint and set up the art lesson. We then brought the children in, 20 at at time to have a go at various printing techniques using paint, bushed, sponges and fingers! Fantastic fun had by all 207 children! And several adults! We then finished the day with a story brilliantly translated to the children by Yankuba, and acted out by the rest of the team. The children very much appreciated the quacking ducks and croaking frogs!

After some goodbye songs we headed to Sainey's family compound, where we had a lovely chat with his mother, and took photographs of his sisters to send to Alhassan out in USA, who is missing his family. The Darboe family all seem very well and it was lovely to see them again. Back at the hotel we had arranged a surprise birthday treat for Wandifa, including a birthday card, cake and presents. Lots of the hotel guests and staff gathered to sing him happy birthday and present him with his first ever birthday cake! Many thanks to Charlotte who made a fantastic card for him whilst we were out at Gunjur. Wandifa was delighted with all the gifts and especially pleased to have another cake to take home to his family. Very much deserved! We managed a quick swim before dinner by the pool with a relaxed evening to follow. Tomorrow looks set to be another busy day! Let goat buying commence!!

Lots of love to all x x x

PS. Thanks to Chris for some brilliant camera work today! We shall miss Chris, Charlotte, Paula and Alan when they leave tomorrow. Thanks for all your support and the laughs! X

19 April - Meeeehhhh.... meeehhhhh (Gambian goat speak!!)
see original post by Frances   (read more about the Goats Appeal)

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At last the day arrived Goat buying Day! This is a first for PAGEANT, and we were quite excited at the prospect of a new 'Gambia experience'! Our first stop was to ensure that the shelter we had arranged for had been built, to prevent the new goats from being stolen. We arrived at the family compound to find an excellent shelter, complete with ventilation, food and water, and lockable door had indeed been built! Furthermore, the goats had already been purchased at the market, and were installed in their new surroundings, looking very much at home. This was very good news, as we had been quite nervous about the prospect of leading several possibly reluctant goats through dusty streets, with amused onlookers to help or hinder our progress! So as of today, we are proud to announce that Bill, Sophie, Eloise, Buzz, and Eli goats are installed, and that Nia and Huw will be joining them soon! MANY grateful thanks to all of you who have so generously donated money towards this new project, which has been so rapturously received by the locals here. We have decided that when a family receives donated goats, they must donate two baby goats to another family in need as soon as they can, to spread the good fortune. As one of the goats is heavily pregnant in our first 'batch', this should not take too long to achieve! We note that the goat fund is still growing, so plan to arrange for two more shelters and sets of goats to be distributed before we leave, giving two more families real help to prosper through the rainy season ahead.

As you will see from the photos, this particular family also received a large bag of rice, and a mosquito net to feed and protect their young children during the months to come. To say they were speechless with pleasure is an understatement!

On with our day, the next stop was to visit a newly sponsored 5 year old boy, take his photo for our records, talk to his mother, and check that all was well. He was a real cutie and very happy to receive his PAGEANT pencil case!

Next was a visit to the family compound of an old friend from GTTI, whom we have always previously met at the college. This time we were to see what he does in his spare time at home, and we were not disappointed! He has had the forethought to form a village Association, to look after the needs of the local community. The first task they set themselves was to clean up the streets so that there are no snakes lurking in the rubbish. This seemed an excellent start to us, and the results were certainly impressive! Next they have begun to build a small nursery school, with one classroom already up and running, which doubles in the evening as a space - with lighting no less for Grade 9 students to revise and study for exams! Not content with that, Fax has organised teams of young people to dig toilets and do other od jobs for the elderly in the village who need help. A truly community spirited man! You would really approve Chris R!
In the evening Linda joined us at the hotel for a meal, and we managed an early night for once. Not really living on the wild side, are we?!

Lots of love to all xxxx

20 April - Science, Socialising and a New Discovery!
see original post by Frances

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Notes from Tina (before I forget!):
To Sheila H Yusupha from Jarreng (sponsored by Chris & family) would like you to know that he thought you were a 'very good Science Teacher'. Joe B & Chris you should know that Yusupha was able to describe in some detail what he had learned from the February Science workshops to his teacher, who was so impressed, he awarded Yusupha an 'A' grade! Bos & Lyn Seedy was speechless with pleasure when he received his gifts from you, and he really enjoyed his treat day. To the Skinner family Goats are SO much fun!! To Gill and Bob the birds have been fabulous! Including huge vultures, tiny sunbirds, hummingbirds, and pretty little hornbills. To Chris and Charlotte S we have missed you these last few days!

Day 10
While Pippa was doing complicated things at the bank this morning, Tina wrote up the blog for yesterday, and Frances nobly spent two and a half hours trying (and succeeding) to fix Yankuba's Netbook, which had lost the ability to connect properly to the internet. Working in a different mode to Windows was not easy Dave G you would have been proud of her!

Today saw the team heading out to Sukuta Nema to visit a new Senior Secondary School and the adjacent Basic Cycle School. Pippa's most senior sponsored student is now teaching at both these schools, and had asked if we could provide any resources as they had none. He was right we could certainly not see any evidence of any teaching resources, useful or otherwise. We had great fun introducing some Year 12 pupils to a Ray Box with lenses, in addition to a range of magnifying glasses, and eventually, a microscope. When attention flagged, we reverted to the tried and tested 'quick reaction' test using the falling ruler!

Driving away from the schools, our driver Abdoulie stopped the car to show us a 'JackFruit' Tree a leafy tree with the largest fruit we have ever seen much larger than a rugby ball, and quite spiky to touch. It was really spectacular!

Next we went to visit a lovely young Gambian friend of ours, who is now a married lady, having married a Dutchman last year. We were very pleased to meet her husband, and they both showed us round their lovely home. We were able to see their wedding photos, and Hawa, as ever, looked lovely in these also.

We were pleased to make it back to the Hotel just in time for 'Happy Hour' what a great invention for the thirsty worker in the heat!

We rounded off a lovely day with a meal out in The Senegambia with Linda and Fatoumatta Saho. We decided Fatoumatta was by far the most skilled person at the table, as she can speak 5 languages no less. A very clever girl!

Lots of love x x x

21 April Rounding off the trip! - see original post by Frances

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Today we spent a wonderful morning by the pool in a last ditch attempt to achieve a tan... before heading home tomorrow. Perfect weather, lovely sunshine and nice breeze. We then headed to the first of three compounds to see Kumba and her family. Although this is a very sad time for them as one of their family members has recently passed away, they seemed pleased to see us. Ebrima in particular was very pleased to tell us that he is enjoying his course and achieving excellent marks in technical drawing. He proudly showed us a car that he had made out of a model kit beautifully done!

Next stop was Wandifa's compound where we received a very noisy and enthusiastic welcome! LOTS of very happy children, all eager to see what we had brought for them. Tina and I were delighted to meet Ebrima Ian, Wandifa's youngest son, for the first time. He was not so sure about us!! We gave out some presents, played football with the children, admired Wandifa's crop of pumpkins, and looked at the newly dug toilet pit. We were then treated to a delicious lunch cooked by Mariama, Wandifa's wife.

Finally, we called in at Abdoulie's compound where we were shown round the beautiful vegetable garden and introduced to his mother and other family members. We had a refreshing drink under the shade of an olive tree, while we chatted, before stocking up on peanuts on our way back to the hotel.

We had a lovely dinner with Linda before lots of sorting and packing! I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone back at home. Going to miss the smiling people and beautiful sunshine, but definitely NOT the mosquitoes! A huge thank you to Wandifa, Yanbuka and Abdoulie who have worked tirelessly on our behalf, and with such good humour. They are an amazing team and PAGEANT are very lucky to have them.

Until next time... x x x

22 April Signing off... - see original post by Frances

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Always so sad to leave The Gambia, and leave behind our wonderful team who work so tirelessly and with such good humour! Thanks to you all. See you next time!!

Love from us all x x x

That's it!

We hope you have enjoyed reading these posts taken from our Pageant News Blog. If you haven't visited our blog before, please keep checking. We get regular postings of news from The Gambia, and you can keep up to date on many and varied topics with Sainey Darboe's  excellent articles.


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