> Pageant News Blog postings - April 2009
Frances and Claire have just returned from a two week trip to The
Gambia. Frances and Tina posted news items on our
during and after the trip, and both Sainey and Alhassan Darboe added their
descriptions of the 'up-river' trip to Jarreng. We have collected
all the posts and pictures together on this page.
2 April 2009 -
Hello from The Gambia!! [see blog]
Here we are in The Gambia again for two weeks of work, play and
enormous fun! This time the team includes Pippa, Tina, Frances and
Claire - it's Claire's first ever trip to The Gambia!!
Today (Thursday 2nd April) we started our day with a visit to Abuko
Nursery School to see how well the new water tap was functioning and
providing for the children and staff there. We had realised there
was an urgent need for this tap due to safety concerns about the
well that was previously their only source of water. Whilst Pippa
was busy in conversation with the nursery teachers, we entertained
all the children with a few rounds of The Hokey Kokey which they
Abuko Nursery visit - the
new tap >>
After our brief stay we piled back into the van with Wandifa and
Yankuba and headed to King's Kid Academy which now has nursery aged
children up to grade 5. We had promised that this visit we would
teach the older children of the school so we spent a couple of hours
in the top two classes doing English and Art activities. With each
class we discussed different environments including the desert,
jungle, river and ocean. The children collaged their own backgrounds
using coloured tissue paper and then cut or tore silhouettes of
animals/plants/objects found there and then stuck them on. The
pictures looked really effective as we encouraged the children to
let their creative flare run wild!
Kings Kid Academy art lesson
On our way back to the hotel we stopped for a much-needed refreshing
drink at Lamin Lodge, a restaurant which floats on the River Gambia.
We saw many herons, lots of fish and several monkeys - we held on to
our belongings very tightly, especially our sunglasses and PAGEANT
We had a couple of hours swimming and relaxing at the hotel before
setting off to meet Sainey and Alhassan for dinner. Linda also
joined us! It was great to catch up with the twins and see them both
looking so well and hearing all their latest news. They are very
much looking forward to accompanying the PAGEANT team on our trip up
country next week as it'll be the furthest they have ever travelled
in The Gambia!
<< Dinner at Billy's
Sainey, Frances, Claire & Alhassan
Today was another wonderful day!
We spent the morning in KMJ Nursery School
where we started off by doing a sensory story. The story was
called 'Rain' and we used many props to help tell the story and
make it more interesting for the children. We used bubbles which
the children were fascinated by, rain makers to demonstrate the
sound of the rain, a lightening stick and a thunder tube. After
the story we sang a version of the 'If you're happy and you know
it' which used animals!! The children (and teachers) all loved our
impressions of the animals and all were very keen to join in!!
Tina telling a sensory
the most popular 'prop' - scented bubbles!
Yankuba with two
Claire with one of the
After the songs we then did some art. We let the children tear up
tissue paper strips and create pictures by overlapping the strips
and adding feathers and sequins! The teachers joined in with great
Starting the art session
Nearly finished now
just adding the feathers and sequins
On our return trip to the hotel we called in to see Linda's new
house which was lovely. We had a couple of hours relaxing at the
hotel and then had enjoyed a meal out at a local fish restaurant. A
Today we took 6 sponsored children from Wandifa's and neighbouring
compounds out for the day! Wandifa, his wife Mariama and Yankuba
also came! We started off at Albert Market where all the
children had some pocket money to spend on whatever they wanted.
We took the opportunity to buy some material and get measured
for some Gambian outfits to be made up for us! We can't wait to
see what they'll be like!!
After the market we went to Billy's, a local
cafe, for lunch with the children. They tucked into chicken and
chips and also had ice cream for pudding which they really
enjoyed!! We then took the children up the Arch which is the
highest landmark in The Gambia. We had a brilliant view of the
whole of Banjul and the children were very excited to be up so
high and also to see the sea as they knew we would be going to
the beach next!
children's lunch at
Binta loved her ice-cream
After a drink at the hotel pool bar, we went to play on the beach
and take the children swimming in the sea! For two of them, it was
their first experience of the sea - the shrieks of excitement could
probably be heard on the North Bank!!! Lamin in particular did not
stop smiling and laughing the whole time we were in the water and
Claire and Frances nearly got pulled under by the enthusiastic
jumping and bouncing girls! The children had a wonderful day and
when we waved them goodbye we knew that they'd had an experience to
remember and treasure!!
Awa and Frances at the hotel
Claire and Jainaba
We went to an Indian restaurant in Senegambia for a relaxing evening
meal passing hundreds of very excited Gambian football fans rushing
towards the capital to celebrate their under-17's team winning the
African Cup. Quite an achievement for such a small country in a
Today we travelled to the north bank on the Banjul ferry, having
been joined by Jemma who was visiting her sponsored child for the
first time. We crossed the river as foot passengers and took a taxi
from Barra to Bakalarr where we met Ousman to check on the progress
of his new art studio. He's in the process of extending his original
studio and has completed the walls and roof. We're sure it'll look
very good when it is finished. He also showed us his current
portfolio which included some stunning pictures.
Ousman's new studio,
under construction >>
We took the opportunity to photograph the new block at Bakalarr
School which has now been completed and looks very smart. We thought
the school grounds were looking particularly well cared-for. Frances
and Claire were very pleased to be able to use the toilet facilities
and also wash their feet!! In true Gambian style the taxi needed a
little helping hand to restart so with a great push from six staff
members we finally set off for Albreda where we had a welcome cold
drink from Abdou.
Fatou and Jemma
the family compound at
Seedy and Frances
We then stopped off at Wandifa's brother's compound in Juffreh to
catch up with several sponsored children including Fatou, Jemma's
student and to update our records. We were pleased to see they were
all in very good health and had some excellent reports to show us.
Frances met Seedy who she helps sponsor along with her dad, for the
first time. He and Fatou were very pleased to receive some presents
from her and Jemma and Seedy promised to keep up his outstanding
performance at school.
Next we went to Sika to see the brand new market place which has
been funded by PAGEANT and recently completed. We all thought it
looked very good and finished to a very high standard. Bakary Gitteh
met us there and explained that the market was in daily use every
morning where all the local women have the opportunity to trade each
day. We went back to his compound for a delicious lunch before
driving back to Barra to catch the return ferry. We were very
pleased to be met by Goodboy in Banjul who drove us back to our
hotel in high spirits!
Ferry trip home, just about to dock in
Monday saw us off to Bakau for an eventful morning visiting lots of
family compounds to give out forms to students so that they could
write letters to their sponsors. We saw no less than 12 students and
were able to update 6 photos as these pupils had changed
considerably since we last saw them! We also fitted in visits to 2
schools, Bakau New Town and SOS Senior Secondary. At the latter
Pippa gave an impromptu science lesson on how to use a laser raybox
and a set of lenses which demonstrate various optical phenomena. She
had an appreciative audience including the headmaster and science
teachers. The head asked the science teachers to let him know when
the next lessons were going to be so that he could join in and use
the new resources!
coffee at Timbooktoo
bookshop in Bakau
April - Brikama [see blog]
Today we went to Brikama to visit Brikamadina Pipeline Nursery
School to do some art work with the children. We arrived to find
over 60 very eager children waiting for us! They were extremely well
behaved even though they were very excited and were a credit to
their teacher Fatou who is married to Lamin Jammeh from the hotel.
We sang songs, told stories and then let them experiment with paint
and printing materials. A great and very messy time was had by all!
After this we visited Jambanjali School and Day Care Centre to see a
newly sponsored child and give out more forms. We were treated to
some lovely singing from every class!
children of Brikamadina
Pipeline Nursery School
Art class at Brikamadina Pipeline Nursery
Claire and Frances got MUCH
messier than the children!
We drove back to the hotel calling in at NARI
on our way, to discuss the latest progress with the Artemisia plant
project, plus several more family compounds. (see
Artemisia Project page) In the
evening we met Linda for a lovely meal at her local Italian
Today we started slightly later than usual after a brief lie in
which was wonderful!! First we took a couple of Atlantic visitors to
see a school with which they are interested in forming a link and to
meet two young children associated with the school. We then visited
Isatou's compound to see lots of PAGEANT sponsored children. All the
children were well and their grandmother was much better than when
we visited them last year. We gave the children their presents from
their sponsors which they were all very pleased with!
<< Wandifa in charge at St
Then we headed to Wandifa's
home. It was lovely to see his family and especially all the
children who live in his compound. We were treated to a lovely meal
and then Claire had her hair braided by some of the older girls
there. Pippa and Tina showed Mariama (Wandifa's wife) and Aminata
(one of Pippa's sponsored students) how to make some simple bags
which we thought perhaps they could sell to tourists and locals if
they made lots between them. Pippa gave Aminata a small sewing
machine which she was absolutely delighted with and she was able to
practice using it.
some of the younger children
Aminata's new sewing
this is where the batteries go
After being waved goodbye by practically all the children in the
area we headed briefly to Albert Market to collect Frances' outfit
and to buy lots of family sized mosquito nets to take to Jarreng.
These were bought with gift token money through the PAGEANT
website. We were very pleased to be able to buy 50 nets with
Albert market, new
outfits for Claire and Frances
We then enjoyed a nice meal back at
the hotel before watching the staff show which was very
entertaining! Claire and Frances joined in in a group dance at
the end which was a great laugh! After dinner we packed our
things for our trip up-country as it was going to be a very
early start in the morning!
We were up and ready to leave at 6am. Wandifa, Sainey and Alhassan
all arrived promptly with our fantastic driver Abdoulie and we
loaded up the car with all our belongings, presents for all the
children and families we were going to see on our trip, and all of
the mosquito nets that we were taking to Jarreng. We picked up
Yankuba on the way through Serrekunda and set off on our trip. The
first part of our journey on tarmac roads went well and we made good
time. However, the tarmac runs out very early on the South Bank, so
the greater part of our trip was taken at a much slower pace, due to
appalling road conditions. Sainey & Alhassan kept spirits high with
their infectious excitement as this was to be their first expedition
this far East in their own country.
Just arrived at Tendaba camp
Sainey's boat trip
Green tea at Tendaba with Sainey, Abdoulie
(our wonderful driver) and Alhassan
We arrived at Tendaba
Camp where we were to stay the night, soon after midday, and
everyone was able to recover from the journey by relaxing at the
riverside, with plenty of wildlife to watch. We spotted white
and black herons, kingfishers and even a pelican!
enjoyed the relaxing afternoon especially Sainey who went off on
his own adventure on a boat trip to the north bank! It was his
first ever boat trip and he was very excited to tell us all he'd
seen on his return!
We had a lovely evening
meal and then chatted and played games before heading to bed
ready for another early start!
Sunset at Tendaba >>
Another 6am start in
preparation for our long and busy day 'up country'. We loaded all
our belongings onto the minibus again and set off on the last leg of
our journey that would take us as far as Jarreng, the most easterly
village along the river in the Gambia that we support. This is the
home of many of our sponsored children, and Yankuba's home town, so
he was to be in charge today.
We made a brief stop in Soma
to buy some breakfast - the delicious Gambian equivalent of French
bread, called 'tapalapa', filled with meat (Gambian choice) or
banana (English preference on this occasion!). Soma is a main
thoroughfare for both Gambian and Senagalese travellers, as it has a
main river crossing here, so we met both French and English speaking
children who stopped to talk to us. One of the constant delights of
this wonderful country is the friendly nature of local inhabitants
who, on seeing white travellers, are very happy to engage you in
conversation - such a refreshing change from less gregarious
From Soma Abdoulie drove us
ever carefully on until we reached our destination, Jarreng. Here we
went in search of the young girl sponsored by Tina & Frances, and
were somewhat nonplussed to find that she had gone to visit family
elsewhere for a holiday! However, we were able to catch up with many
other students who we had not seen for some time and to deliver the
50 mosquito nets, a bicycle for one lucky sponsored boy, and
quantities of baby clothing so kindly made and donated by a ladies
knitting group back in Surrey, England. Yankuba took charge of the
distribution of all these items, and we would like to thank him for
his excellent organisation. We were very pleased with the delighted,
but ordered way in which these gifts were received, and we know they
will be well used and appreciated.
Moquito nets being distributed in Jarreng
Yusupha on his bike
Frances with the
recipients of the baby clothes
More letter forms for
students to write to their sponsors were delivered while we had a
delicious fish lunch at Yankuba's grandmother's compound, then all
too soon it was time to leave on our long trip back to Banjul. *T &
F caught up with their sponsored girl on the way back, at her
relative's compound, so they were very happy! We also caught up with
Lamin K, a nursing student at Soma on the return journey - we know
he reads this blog, so he gets a special mention here!
We finally got back to the
hotel via Wandifa's home village of Kanikunda, at 12.45am, having
been travelling since 6 the previous morning!! A long day indeed.
Yesterday marked the end of a mega-exciting trip up-country. It is
the furthest I have gone and it was quite interesting to see other
areas beyond my immediate environs. I was amazed to see for myself
how different other parts of the Gambia are from the part I hail
Shall I go on? Because I could. I was also lucky enough to go
bird-watching and my mesmerization had no bounds seeing lots of
beautiful birds with their colourful plumage on the banks of the
River Gambia. My twin brother and I took time out to talk to some
young people from Jarreng and asked them questions about life there,
which was by any stretch of the imagination interesting and
On the overall, the trip was enormous fun as the ever charming and
kind-to-a-fault Tina (don't mind me Pippa) was on hand to cheer us
all up despite the effect of the bumpy roads. We also had a lovely
time travelling with fabulous Frances and Claire to whom we both
enjoyed talking and asking, shall I say, lots of silly questions.
My Wonderful Trip
to Up Country - posted by Alhassan Darboe [see blog]
Prior to my going on the trip to Jarreng, my
excitement was broken when my oral examination was slated for the
day we were supposed to go to Jarreng.
I was so sad that I told my friend who broke the news to me that
"the only thing that would slow me down" (quote from Ian Senior)
quitting friendship with him would be breaking another news as bad
as the news that my trip to Jarra would not be possible because I
was going to have an exam.
My joy knew no bounds when Pippa told me on the phone that we would
be going on Thursday instead of Wednesday and I was so excited that
finally I was going to go on the trip.
The trip started from Atlantic happily, Tina and Pippa treated us to
some lovely songs from their late father one of which was so dear
and funny to my heart, it has some phrases like because, because,
because. And I would try to get the song written down for me by
One thing that really infected and could not stop me laughing was
Tina's sweetest sense of humour and I just unusually cannot stop
myself from laughing and at some point I felt like a fool as I just
cannot stop laughing with just one entertaining and funny word from
The trip was not all laughter and entertainment but also educational
as we learnt some aspects of science with explanation from Pippa
about evolution, and also that a black bucket will live longer in
the sun than a green, blue or red bucket.
We also were able to see two the historical places we learnt about
in history at school which were Jataba and Sankandi. Should I
explain a bit of history that happened between the two villages?
The two villages of Sankandi and Jataba quarrelled over the
ownership of a rice field. Sankandi was a Marabout village while
Jataba was a Soninke one.
The British commissioner in charge of the two places then,
Commissioner Sitwell ruled the matter in favour of the Soninke
village of Jataba. The villagers of Sankandi were not happy about
this decision. Commissioner Sitwell summoned a meeting in the
neighbouring village of Battering where he invited the chiefs of the
two villages, only the chief of Jataba, Mansa Koto, attended the
Bana Darboe of Sankandi refused to attend the meeting, which
Commissioner Sitwell interpreted as a challenge to his authority and
therefore asked for his arrest. It was during this time that
Commissioner Sitwell, his deputy Silver and some British official
who escorted him were killed by the villagers of Sankandi.
Bana Darboe and his villagers after killing the British commissioner
fled to Foday Kabba's (a Marabout leader) stronghold of Medina. This
happened from 1900 to 1901. [historical
Now back to the trip to Jarreng, I really enjoyed it at Tendaba camp
busily walking around, holding my bottle of water pretending and
trying to look like a British tourist.
In fact, literally I was not pretending to be a British tourist
because it is the British who took me there and I have to be a
Shouldn't I be one?
(Note from Pippa: the song that Alhassan liked so much was 'We're
off to see the Wizard!' from The Wizard of Oz...)
We stayed at the hotel, but
just in case you think that we were sunbathing / reading / sleeping,
we would like to assure you all that we were kept busy with a stream
of visitors all day, including 2 grade 12 students, who impressed us
with their calm attitude to their studies and forthcoming exams.
Good luck to all our grade 12 students in the next few weeks!
Grade 12 students, Modou and Fatoumatta
We did manage a little
relaxation - Frances had a massage, Pippa a pedicure & Tina a
manicure. (Claire - what were you doing meanwhile?!). In the evening
we stayed at the hotel to enjoy the A team show.
Today we went to Gunjur,
family village of the twins, and the final nursery school of our
visit. We spent the morning singing, storytelling and painting
with the nursery children, who were delightful.
Thank you to Ahmed who
gave us a lovely welcome.
Frances and Tina with
the nursery children at Gunjur
After this we were honoured
to be shown round his farm by Sainey & Alhassan's father, Nfansu,
and engaged in a lively discussion about how pleased we parents are
to receive practical offers of help from our children when they
visit us at the family home! (*Please take note A & S!)
We ate another delicious
lunch, this time provided by Musa, elder brother of the twins, and
later returned to the hotel.
We started by going to
Campama school to hand over money for their ongoing project and
admire the very smart and well-cared for school compound. Such a
difference from when we first visited. Then on to deliver more
forms to various students, and catch up with some of the
families we have known now for several years. Frances & Tina
were especially pleased to meet up with old friends such as
Ellen and her family, and Hawa and her family in their new
compound. All of us were delighted to be treated to a special
Domada lunch, courtesy of Wandifa's cousin. Our very favourite
Gambian meal - thank you Jonsaba. On to Wandifa's compound for
more hairbraiding (Frances this time) and sewing machine
practice at making bags.
Claire, Frances and friends
Frances and Hawa
On our return to the hotel
Wandifa, Yankuba and Pippa checked over all the student records to
ensure no forms had been forgotten - no easy task now that PAGEANT
sponsors so many young people! An evening at Billy's along the road
rounded off the day perfectly.
A very strange thing happened
today in the Gambia - Pippa, aided and abetted by Tina, Frances,
Claire, Wandifa, Yankuba and Abdoulie, took a whole day's
HOLIDAY!!!!! It's true dear reader, she really did have a
break..............what's more, she behaved like a tourist with her
accomplices, and went on a boat trip, from Denton bridge to Lamin
Lodge and back! And as if that wasn't enough, the 4 ladies decided
to finish the day in style, gathering Linda up in our wake, and
heading off to Ngala Lodge for a celebratory meal, a fitting finale
to a wonderful, action-packed, exhausting, exhilarating trip.
boat trip to Lamin Lodge
Thank you to all the amazing Gambians who
helped us over the fortnight, especially to Alhassan & Sainey,
who laughed with us (and at us!), to Yankuba who explained so
much about his country, to Abdoulie who drove us so carefully,
and most of all to Wandifa the wonderful, for all his hard work
and good humour. We couldn't have done it without you all!!!
<< Frances and Claire at Ngala Lodge