PAGEANT - "Education is the future"

How things get to the Gambia

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An important part of Pageant's support for Gambian schools is supplying them with educational equipment and classroom furniture. UK schools and businesses often donate tables, desks, cupboards, shelving and other things to us when upgrading their facilities. Though the cost of commercial shipment is not trivial, it is still very worthwhile to send these items to Gambian schools which often lack the most basic furnishings. Pageant also runs workshops for Gambian teachers. We need to send teaching kits and equipment such as microscopes for use in the workshops, and these are subsequently distributed to schools and teachers.

Links to sections on this page are in Menu 2 and links to more information at the bottom of this page

How we do it

Small items are often taken out in hand luggage when our members visit The Gambia. We are extremely grateful to carriers such as Thomas Cook Airlines, who make special generous arrangements for excess baggage. Bulky items need to be sent in containers or as pallet loads, and we have a well established routine for packing these. Until 2005, Pageant was able to utilise space in containers being sent out by Friends of Gambian Schools (FROGS), but FROGS no longer has a warehouse for storage and packing. Consequently we are now more selective in what we send, and now organise our own containers as required. For smaller loads, we pack items onto standard pallets, and then take these to shippers for onward transportation.

Furniture and Larger Items

Items for The Gambia may be donated at any time of the year, so we rely on members and friends who have space in lofts, garages, sheds and spare rooms to store things until we organise a packing session. Obviously donations of large quantities of furniture need to be dealt with more quickly, as long term storage may not be possible. In these cases, Pageant organises transportation from the donor's premises to a suitable location where containers can be packed or pallets assembled. For several years we were fortunate to be able to use a barn belonging to Tim Bailey, a neighbour of Pippa and Ian. He has now sold this barn, so we have now made arrangements with a local farmer to use one of his barns for container packing.

tables and chairs at Southwater Junior School ready for loading
tables and chairs ready for loading at Southwater Junior School

a modern sculpture? - the chairs in the van
chairs in the van going to the barn for loading a container

Microscopes and Smaller Items

Pageant also gets donations of educational or scientific equipment which require special handling. For instance, in 2005 Leeds University gave us 42 compound optical microscopes, which we sent out for use in Banjul University, the Banjul Teaching Hospital and some Secondary Schools. In 2011, 20 more microscopes were donated by Tyne Metropolitan College, and these were sent to Gambia College (the teacher training college) and to several Scondary Schools. We also had a donation of 50 new microscopes by Motic Europe, which were mainly used for our 2012 Microscopy Workshops. The Royal Microscopical Society has launched a microscope recycling scheme. Pageant has benefited from this with donations of around 40 microscopes from Headington Girls Schools and Highgate School.

Football is a national obsession in The Gambia. Even small villages can have several teams, and every school has at least one team, usually two, as both girls and boys play. We often get donations of last seasons strip from UK teams. These are particularly appreciated by Gambian teams, as it means they can field a uniformly kitted side. Our packing teams also appreciate these donations, as plastic bags filled with football kit, other clothing and soft deformable things (we call them 'squishies') can be used as padding between large items in containers.

20 microscopes donated by Tyne Metropolitan College

20 microscopes donated by Tyne Metropolitan College

the more than 700 parcels at the Old School
Parcels of small items in Ian and Pippa's lounge

<< 20 microscopes donated by
   Tyne Metropolitan College

Packing Containers

On or shortly before packing days, all the items for shipment are brought together at a suitable location, such as Tim's barn. When the container arrives, it is essential to get it packed quickly, as the truck and driver can only wait for a limited time. Pageant's highly skilled packing team now has accumulated experience over many years, and are able to utilise the every last nook and cranny in the container. Larger items, such as furniture, determine the overall scheme for packing. As the container fills smaller items are inserted into the spaces, followed by 'squishies' (see above).

We have put together a list of links to some news items with lots of photos and more details of how we pack containers and pallets further down this page.

the team in the barn, ready to start
the packing team in the barn, ready to start

the container arrives
the container arrives

Southwater chairs are the first to go in
Starting to pack with some chairs

sports kit and other squidgy stuff for packing
a car load of 'squishies' to fill the spaces

the last few items
the last few items go in

the container leaves for the docks
the container leaves for the docks

Pallets

Where there is insufficient stuff to justify a container load, our packing teams assemble items onto standard pallets. There are a number of restrictions: Everything on the pallet must be within the length and width of the pallet; there is an overall height restriction, which may vary depending on the shipper; everything must be firmly attached to the pallet by banding; and finally the whole thing has to be wrapped in tough plastic film. A big advantage is that pallets can be assembled one at a time, and need much less space to do so. Nevertheless many of the skills developed for packing containers can be transferred to assembling pallets. We normally take completed pallet loads to our shippers in Crawley on a small trailer.

In 2007, we packed approximately 7 cubic metres onto four pallets. This consignment contained furniture and ride-on toys donated by Bramley School in Surrey. in 2011, our team packed four pallets of classroom furniture, exercise books, sewing machines, microscopes, the contents of a hairdressing salon (for an up-country skills centre), overhead projectors and the usual 'squishies' containing clothing, bedding etc. In 2014, 15 cubic metres of classroom furniture and other goodies were packed onto nine pallets. In this case Pageant had the use of a lorry with tail-lift to take the pallets to our shippers. In 2015, more classroom furniture, together with the usual 'squishies' was packed onto 5 pallets.

Starting to build a pallet, using tables to make 'walls'
starting to build a pallet, using tables to make 'walls'

stacks of chairs are added
stacks of chairs are added

squishies' ready for filling the spaces on the pallets
'squishies' ready for filling the spaces on the pallets

pallets on a trailer ready for to go to the shippers
pallets on a trailer ready for to go to the shippers

Unloading in The Gambia

We normally try to send things out to The Gambia in late summer. This gives plenty of time for the containers or pallets to get there by sea and to clear customs. Things are then available for distribution when Pageant teams make their regular October/November visit. The containers are normally moved from the docks by road to a convenient nearby school, where they can be unloaded and sorted for onward distribution. FROGS used Bakau New Town LBS but we have usually used Campama LBS as it is nearer to the port. Representatives from all of the schools due to receive goods are told when the goods are being unloaded so that they can come to collect their items. Pallets contain smaller quantities of goods, but these are also unloaded at the central distribution point for collection by the recipients.  Every item sent (each table, chair, box or package) has been labelled in UK with the name of the eventual recipient so that there will be no arguments about what belongs to whom – this has been found to be absolutely essential!  

a container arrives at a school compound
a container arrives at a school compound


Ian unloading chairs from a container

unloading a container - note goods being grouped for final destination
unloading in progress
note goods grouped for final destination

Edrissa and Wandifa sorting packages
Edrissa and Wandifa sorting packages

classroom furniture off to its destination
classroom furniture off to its destination

tables being loaded onto the Pageant minibus
tables being loaded onto the Pageant minibus

Goods in use

Containers and pallets are usually timed to arrive in The Gambia so that unloading and some onward distribution can take place by our Gambian team before the regular UK Pageant autumn visitors arrive. Pageant team members – Gambian and UK - are often able to help with assembly and installation of items like furniture.  However, an enormous range of things is sent out, and we hope these photos give you some idea of what happens to the things you donate.

Ian and team assemble shelving at Campama LBS
Ian and team assemble shelving at Campama LBS

donated shelving in Kanikunda LBS library
donated shelving in Kanikunda LBS library

JTT Nursery - furniture donated by Southwater County Infants School
JTT Nursery - furniture donated by Southwater County Infants School

donated classroom furniture at Wellingara LBS
donated classroom furniture at Wellingara LBS

Campama LBS boys team in their football kit
Campama LBS boys team in their football kit

Campama LBS girls team in their football kit
Campama LBS girls team in their football kit

Bakalarr Nursery children trying out tricycles from Bramley Nursery School
Bakalarr Nursery children trying out tricycles from Bramley Nursery School

Didicars in use at Unity Nursery
Didicars in use at Unity Nursery

dresses, shorts and T-shirts for a village community
dresses, shorts and T-shirts for a village community

pencils collected by Westdene Infants School at Albion LBS
pencils collected by Westdene Infants School at Albion LBS

More about packing and unpacking containers and pallets

The following list has links to news items giving more information about packing, unpacking and distribution. Some older news items have been archived in a single page, but others are in their original format. None will be updated.

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