news > Gambia Trip -
Pippa and Ian visited The Gambia again during
October 2009. details of their visit have been posted on our
We have collected all the posts and pictures together on this page.
Tuesday 13 October - Arrival in The
We met at the airport by Wandifa, his
3-year-old son Mo Lamin and our great driver from last April,
Abdoulie. Having been unable to take any excess baggage on this trip
we arrived with a mere 4 cases - however, that was soon rectified as
we drove to the hotel via Linda's, where we collected a large number
of packages that had arrived on the container in August. When we
arrived at the hotel we managed to completely fill the lobby (those
of you who know the Atlantic will know that is no mean feat!) so it
was fortunate that the tour bus had not yet arrived from the
Having squeezed all the parcels into our room
we were marched firmly to the pool bar by Mo Lamin for 'juicy'.. his
English is improving all the time! Loads of welcome back hugs from
all the hotel staff - it was great to be back.
Wednesday 14 October - Campama LBS and
We started our family visiting to pay
sponsorship money - mainly in Banjul today. We visited
to discuss assembly of the book shelving we had sent on the
container and agreed to start on theirs the following morning. We
also dropped in to GTTI to take a couple of packages of useful
stationery from the container, and found that the Automotive
Department has just started running a new Practical Automotive
course, rather on the lines of our NVQ course, which would be
suitable for the less academic but practical students who have not
done too well in their Grade 9 (similar to GCSE) exams. We discussed
this with Malik Faal, the Automotive Department Head, and it seems
to be a very positive step on their part - we could well have some
students for him in future years.
Thursday 15 October - Campama LBS and
Off to Campama LBS again to do the shelving. Wandifa, Abdoulie and Yankuba provided the muscle, assisted by a
number of eager Campama pupils and Ian directed operations -
Campama nursery class
Ian and team assemble the shelving
Pippa took photos of the new nursery class
and discussed work done since our last visit (tiling the verandah
and part of the kitchen floor) and future improvement plans. We then
went off to one of the Senior Secondary Schools where one of our
students had been excluded from school despite having paid more than
the first term fees and all his book fees. We sorted that out, Lamin
went back into class, and we then went off to Latrikunda and nearby
areas to deliver more sponsorship money to another seven families.
Friday 16 October - King's Kid Academy,
Lamin Touba Nursery
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Prize-giving Day!! Today we visited
Kid Academy (in the company of Holly, Gemma and Sara, fellow guests
at the hotel) with three things to do: First, to give out the prizes
for the Art and English work we started with Tina in April... Tina,
Frances and I had selected three winners from each of the two
classes who had submitted the work and it was my pleasant task to
present the prizes. Some of the children were absent, but the
donation of some large class packs of coloured pencils as well as
the individual prizes (dictionaries plus either geometry sets or
calculators) went down well with all those who were present. I have
no photos of the prizewinners yet, but hope to get one from Gemma
later. We felt that Mr Michael also deserved a prize, so we gave him
a very smart academic year diary/planner.
Then, more bookshelves - the assembly team
went into action while Pippa went with Pastor Dennis to discuss
projects (do you see a pattern emerging here!!??) and the donation
of additional funds that had been made by supporters of the school.
The Pastor was really thrilled with this support - he says that the
day that we first visited his school was the luckiest day of his
new furniture at Lamin Touba Nursery
After paying some more sponsorship to the
families associated with King's Kid we went off with Mbemba to
visit a nearby nursery school that has been started with his
help by a couple of Pageant members, called the Lamin Touba
Nursery. The children had left for the day and the place was
deserted when we arrived, but we looked through the windows to
see the furniture that we had sent on the container.
When we turned to go, word had obviously got
round that the 'toubabs' had arrived and Gemma and Sara were
soon surrounded by eager children. (I don't know where Holly was
when I took this photo - probably completely buried in
Gemma & Sarah surrounded by children
We thought our guests had probably had enough
by now, so we finished off our trip with a visit to Lamin Lodge and
a very welcome drink before returning to the hotel.
Saturday 17 October was a day devoted to lots
of family visiting in the Serrekunda and Abuko areas to pay
sponsorship and to discuss future courses with several of the FE
students. It is always a real pleasure to go to visit these
families and young people who have now become such good friends and
we thank them all for their hospitality.
Sunday 18 October - Gunjur
We collected Linda and the Darboe twins en
route and were in Gunjur by 11.00am. We parked the minibus in the
twins' family compound as has now become our custom and walked along
the lane to the Sheik Hatab Memorial Nursery School. As on other days, we had three
things to do...
Ian and his assembly team set to work on the
nursery school bookshelves (the team was getting really expert by
now) and I went to start a PAGEANT Loan scheme with the ladies of
the Mothers' Club associated with the nursery school.
The details of the Gunjur Loan Scheme are reported more
fully on our
This photo shows the 'start-up' group of
ladies. The lady on the extreme right Binta Jammeh, who teaches Home Science at the Gunjur Upper Basic
School, and has agreed to act as Pageant's go-between for the group. As well as
this, she has decided to
lead from the front and take one of the first 'start-up' loans
the 'start-up' group
Once the bookshelves were assembled and the
loans arranged it was time to discuss projects with Ahmed Manjang,
the founder of the school and his committee. We have agreed to fund
improvements to the school, with Wandifa checking at each stage that
work is progressing properly. The first thing to be addressed is the
perimeter wall (or fence, as the Gambians call it) - the kitchen
will follow if the first project is completed satisfactorily.
Having completed our work at the school we
returned to the Darboe compound, where we had a warm welcome from
Kaddy, the twins' Mum and a delicious meal cooked by Musa. Nfansu,
the twins' father, returned from his farm shortly before we left, so
we did not have as much time to talk with him as we would have
liked.... next time, maybe.
We returned to the hotel, dropping off Linda
on the way, and just had time to change before a couple of our FE
students came to see us for a drink and a discussion about their
One of them, Lamin, is doing a Community Nursing course in an
up-country hospital. He had asked us to bring him a blood pressure
measuring machine (a sphygmomanometer, as he had correctly called
it) for his course and we were able to give him one for babies as
well as the normal adult-sized version - he was delighted as he said
that the clinic did not have such a thing at all. The other, Momodou, is our first PAGEANT
University student. He is now in his third year at the University of
The Gambia and is doing very well - his is a real triumph for
sponsorship as he would not have been able to even progress through
Secondary School without the help of his sponsor and his undoubted
talent would have been wasted.
Monday 19 October - Brikama
Today we set off early for a trip to Brikama
via New Yundum (where we stopped off to pay some sponsorship to a
couple of families). Our main destination was
Nursery School, where we were to assemble yet more bookshelving in
their little store-room and to give out a considerable amount of
school uniform donated by Southwater County Junior School. It is
always a pleasure to visit this little school and today was no
exception - and the children were thrilled with the uniform.
Particularly popular were the white polo shirts that carry the Southwater crest in red on the front - these were given to the elder
children who take some responsibility in the classroom.
new uniforms at Brikamadina Pipeline
While the shelving was being assembled (no Yankuba today as he was in college)
the teachers and I discussed what additional materials they would
like: a First Aid box and contents were top of the list followed by
a handbell to ring for the end of lessons, a seesaw for the
playground, a mattress on which tiny children could have a nap, some
posters (simple numbers, shapes and colours) and a bucket and
drinking cup for the second classroom. We will see what we can
Back to the hotel via a couple more families - another busy day....
Ian was not feeling too good today so he
stayed in the hotel while Wandifa, Abdoulie and I did a grand tour
of the south of The Gambia - my goodness, it was a long day.
road at Banyaka
newly sponsored child with pencil case
Modou Lamin Jammeh
We visited Tanji (family visiting), Banyaka (school and sponsored
children's families), along the road (see the photo!) to Jambanjelly (where we gave a pencil-case
to a newly sponsored child and saw little Modou Lamin Jammeh getting
around really well on his new crutches), Siffoe (family visiting
plus checking on the considerable amount of shelving to be assembled
at Siffoe SSS), Brikama (to see a family me missed yesterday) and
finally to Farato (to take photos of some children in need of
sponsorship) before returning to the hotel! When I got back Ian
looked and felt a lot better - and he had a Julbrew ready!!
Wednesday 21 October - North Bank
North Bank day, so we decided to give
Abdoulie a rest, catch the ferry as foot passengers and get a Barra
taxi for our journey around the places we needed to visit. Ian was
feeling a lot better by now, so he, Wandifa and I caught the second
ferry of the day as planned - goodness, could this really be
happening? A North bank trip going to plan - unheard of! We found a
really excellent Barra taxi driver (must remember his phone number
for our next trip!) and set off - Essau UBS first stop. Here we had
the very pleasant task of telling the headmaster about the wonderful
sponsorship raised for his school by the efforts of Sarah Hayes (see
Sarah's webpage for details). To say he was delighted would be an
understatement... we took some photos of the areas (bookstore and
the staffroom) that are to be renovated first - again, Wandifa will
check progress and release more funding as the stages of the work
staffroom at Essau UBS
office and bookstore
Bakalarr BCS - just a quick visit
today as our time was so limited, but I am delighted to say that we
were able to partake of our favourite Gambian meal - a Bakalarr
breakfast! All our friends at the school were well and the Grade 9
results had been pretty good (with the exception of English - what
has happened there, I wonder?). We discussed a couple of possible
projects and will see what funding becomes available later in the
year. We were able to give out more sponsorship to families in the
Bakalarr area and then set off for Albreda, where we visited
Wandifa's brother's family and the little cafe by the jetty. Our
friend Abdou at the cafe was sad to find we were not staying the
night at the rest camp this time - next year, we said....
After some cool drinks (heaven!) back in the
taxi for the very hot ride back to Barra for the ferry ride home. We
arrived at Barra and - good heavens, a ferry was waiting... could
this continuing good fortune be possible?
And then.... the ferry took one hour forty
two mintes to make the crossing!! (For the uninitiated it usually
takes 40 minutes - an hour on a bad day). It was 40 degrees
Centigrade, no shade on the ferry, no breeze and the ferry was
barely winning against the tide... my word, it was hot! We
eventually got back to the hotel - too late for Happy Hour - and
flopped into chairs by the pool bar, where Julbrews and cold Sprites
appeared as if by magic. Thank you, lovely Atlantic staff...
Thursday 22 October
- Wellingara LBS & KMJ Nursery School
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After yesterday we decided to have a slightly
less taxing day - we went to Wellingara LBS, where a lot of the
school furniture from the last container had been sent, as well as -
you've guessed it - more bookshelving!
Wellingara LBS Library before and after
This was the last of the shelving to be
assembled and by this time the team (complete with Yankuba again now) was really slick. In no time the room that was to
be the library was cleared, swept, the component parts of the
shelves were brought in (many on the heads of the pupils) and the
shelving assembled. The headteacher could not believe it had
happened so quickly - he was truly amazed!
He showed us the difference made by the
classroom furniture we had sent - it had enabled him to double
his intake for the year and had meant that his school could be
used for some of the area examinations that are carried out at
the start of each year.
new classroom furniture at Wellingara LBS
We had sent nine bays of shelving to
Wellingara as we did not know how much space they had, but they only
had room for seven. So, as we had been introduced to Wellingara by
Ansumana of KMJ Nursery, AND he had come today to help with the
shelving, we decided to take the surplus two bays to KMJ - Ansumana
was delighted! We loaded all the bits onto the roofrack of the
minibus and took them directly to the school, where they were
While we were there we were introduced to the
new members of staff (some of last year's teachers have now gone to
college) and two little girls showed us how they are using the green
uniform skirts we sent out on the container. Another school it is
always a pleasure to visit!
Friday, so we just went out in the morning
and were back in time for afternoon prayers at 2.00pm.
We took three
microscopes and some revision workbooks for Maths and Science to SOS SSS in
Bakoteh - the headteacher was delighted.
We then visited a
number of families in the Kotu - Kololi - Bakau areas, after which
we returned to the hotel.
After prayers Yankuba and Wandifa rejoined us
at the hotel and we showed Yankuba a small printer we had brought
with us for him to try out, with the idea of him being able to take
and print both ordinary prints and passport-type photos - many
Gambians are constantly in need of the latter for ID cards, student
registration cards and so on. He and Wandifa were very enthusiastic
about the printer and found it very user-friendly, so we will see if
it is a success.
SOS SSS headteacher with the microscopes
Saturday 24 October
- Party for Grade 12 students at Linda's
We spent the morning at the hotel by
the pool! Wow, so this is what a holiday is like..... However,
by the time Abdoulie arrived to collect us at 2.00pm we were
getting a bit bored, so we were ready and eager to go again -
particularly as this was the day of the party at Linda's for
last year's Grade 12 students. Now we would find out who had won
the promised netbook for the best Grade 12 results...
We had decided to add to the party
atmosphere by celebrating the 18th birthday of two of our
PAGEANT students, Fatou and Amie - the hotel chef had made us a
lovely cake (WITH candles) so we collected that from the hotel
kitchen and set off for the party.
When we arrived we found that two of
Linda's colleagues from the Peace Corps had decided to join us,
as they were keen to meet some of our older students and to see
PAGEANT in action.
So first - the Grade 12
results: each student came in turn to sit with me, to go through
their results and to enter them into my chart. There are three
streams for Grade 12 - Arts, Commerce and Science - and some
students had take eight subjects, while others had taken nine.
The fairest method seemed to be to total the points for each
student and then divide by the number of subjects taken.
After working out the numbers Modou Jeng (St
Augustine SSS) was the winner by a small margin from Sainey
Darboe (Nusrat). Modou was delighted - he wants to go on to
study Medicine at University and is currently doing an Access
course in preparation. He is a thoroughly nice, as well as
intelligent, young man - we wish him well for his future and
will help his sponsor to fund his studies.
<< Modou Jeng gets his prize from Pippa
All this excitement had made everyone
hungry, which was just as well as Tida, Linda's maid, had made a
wonderful meal of chicken yassa and rice - really yummy!
The birthday part of the celebration
then took over, with the cake making a perfect dessert... Fatou
and Amie blew out all the candles and cut the cake in the
approved manner, everyone sang 'Happy Birthday' and the cake was
polished off pretty quickly by the assembled company.
It was a really good afternoon - great
to catch up with nearly all of our Grade 12 students, all of
whom we have got to know well over the past few years, and Amie
and Fatou felt that their birthdays had been celebrated in
style. Abdoulie took most of them home and we gave bus fare to
those travelling in the opposite direction.
Fatou and Amie's birthday party
We stayed on and worked out
outstanding finance and sponsorship with Linda, as we would be
leaving money with her to bank, to enable Wandifa to deal with
the few items we had not managed to complete during our stay.
The morning saw us in the hotel once
more, but this time we were busy taking photos and details of
several children that had been recommended for sponsorship, who
would now go onto our waiting list.
We also saw some children who had
recently been sponsored and who had come to meet us to receive
their 'welcome to PAGEANT' pencil-cases.
child waiting for
sponsorship and two newly sponsored children >>
In the afternoon we went down to
Wandifa's compound where more families and children either
received their sponsorship payments or were entered onto the
waiting list. We took some PAGEANT members with us who had
arrived at the hotel - we were as surprised to see them as they
were to see us - and we all enjoyed a great afternoon of games,
dancing and chatting - thank you, Wandifa, for making us all so
Monday 26 October
- Microscopes and football kit
One of the most important things left
to do was to go to visit some Upper Basic Schools with a view to
seeing which would be willing and able to host some Practical
Microscopy Workshops for Science teachers in February 2010. We
had recently been awarded funding for the Workshops by the Royal
Microscopical Society (RMS) - I had been notified of our success
in winning one of the Vice President's Awards for 2009 while we
were in The Gambia - so we were eager to start the ball rolling.
We visited several schools and decided on three from the South
Bank and one from the (less populated) North Bank. All the
headteachers we approached were very keen on the idea (and it is
the organisation of these Workshops that has been keeping me so
busy since our return!).
At one of the schools we presented
some football kit that had been donated to us - several children
appeared as if by magic to model the kit for us, including a
couple of PAGEANT sponsored girls. They told me that the kit
should definitely be for the girls as they had won all their
matches whereas the boys had lost several!!
<< football kit
As well as visiting these schools we
went to the Hotel School to check on the admission of one of our
students, visited a few last families and children in school -
then back to the hotel in time for our last Happy Hour drink,
supper... and packing.
Tuesday 27 October
- Last morning
Our last morning.. could two weeks
really have gone by so quickly? Lots of goodbyes to our good
friends, the staff at the Atlantic (don't go, the plane is not
flying today, stay with us, you are Gambians now...) and a few
more last minute visitors - Ousman arrived from the North Bank
with some new pictures, others arrived with small gifts for
sponsors and friends in UK. At last it was time to go - we left
the hotel with Wandifa and Abdoulie (Yankuba was again at
college) and then stopped at Billy's for a last lunch and drink
before our final drive (via Linda's again, to drop off a few
things) to the airport. We just beat the tour bus again, checked
in, had a farewell drink in the Airport Lounge with Wandifa and
Abdoulie.... and then flew home.
A pretty good trip, all in all.... and we look forward to
February 2010. See you then, everyone - get the rooms ready and
the Julbrew on the table, Atlantic - we'll be raring to go