PAGEANT - "Education is the future"
How things get to the Gambia
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. 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 inand links to more information
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, 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.
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, and these were sent to Gambia College (the teacher training college) and to several Scondary Schools. We also had a , which were mainly used for our . The Royal Microscopical Society has launched a . 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.