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Yakanu International Nursery School

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In 2006, Alex Odell started a project to help the Yakanu International Nursery School in Serrekunda. She was supported by an enthusiastic group who called themselves the Gambia Crew - John Dutton, Martine Foreman, Stephanie Kruger, Dom Ross, Gen Dutton and Simon Marrollo. Their plan was to to build a complete new nursery school from scratch at Yanaku. Subsequently, Pageant began helping with this project.

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Background

Alex Odell visited The Gambia in January 2006, mainly for a holiday, but she also squeezed in an eye-opening visit to the Yakanu Nursery School in Serrekunda. Alex had read a lot about The Gambia as a country and the culture and found it fascinating. One of the things that caught her attention was the education system. Yakanu Nursery School was very basic. All of the desks, writing and reading materials had been donated, and parents had to provide everything needed by their children. Three of the four teachers worked for free. The headmaster Lamin Kandeh had worked at the school for 4 years, and had put every last penny he had into sustaining the education of the children living in the surrounding compounds.

children at Yakanu Nursery
children at Yakanu Nursery
in the classroom at Yakanu
in the classroom at Yakanu

They leased their premises, and had only eight months left before they needed new premises. It had taken three years of fund-raising by a Dutch group to raise the money to rent the school for this long, but they were unable to do any more. Lamin and his school needed permanent premises.

Fundraising

Alex had raised 2,495 from a sponsored Sky Dive and Simon had raised 800 by running a marathon in Berlin. The immediate target was 5,000. The Gambia Crew held an Auction and Quiz night on the 25th October at the Railway Tavern, Liverpool Street, London, and to raise more funds.

Simon & Isaac with their Berlin medals
Simon & Isaac with their Berlin medals
Simon cools off with champagne
Simon cools off with champagne

Gambia Crew's November visit

The money raised went towards buying a plot of land, before making a start on the building work. Alex and the Gambia Crew visited The Gambia in November 2006. All the crew members spent time with the children, and met the teachers, headmaster Lamin, Pageant's agents Kemo and Wandifa, and many others in connection with the bulding project. Here is their report on their visit:

"We The Gambia Crew (John Dutton, Martine Foreman, Stephanie Kruger, Dom Ross, Gen Dutton) are back from Gambia and the good news is we are in the process of purchasing some land!!

For the first few days in Gambia we spent lots of time at the school talking with the committee members and the head master about the various options in terms of plots of land. Between the six of us we ran some classes and generally spent lots of time with the children which was brilliant.

Steph K and I visited the plots of land and a technical college that has recently been built by a Dutch Charity. In the hot Gambian sun we bartered the price of the land down with all parties present. Mapping out the land with a stick in the ground was very surreal and at the same time necessary. I don't think either of us will ever forget that moment. We were always accompanied by Kemo or Wandifa.

After much bartering we agreed the price on the land. The land is near a Technical College that Lamin the headmaster is associated with so they can use the colleges well and sanitary facilities which is a big bonus. The land will also be easy to build on.

The next day we visited the solicitor in Banjul and talked in length about the papers, who's name was on them and what kind of deposit the landlord wanted and by when. This experience again was made easier by the presence of Wandifa and Kemo.

So in theory we have done it and managed to secure the land for the Yakanu children. I hope that the land will always remain for the purpose of education and any decisions will also come through the parental committee and other community members

Lamin expressed his thanks to us and gave us a presentation in which he said the following: 'I would like to paint a picture for you of what I have in my mind so you could see how happy you have made me and the school in making our dreams real. Every day I look at the sky and pray that you would return and help us. I did not believe that you coming for us. You came and kept your promise for this I am proud of you and all your friends in the UK for helping us. Thank you and may the god almighty bless you'

The whole experience from start to finish, the fund raising, running the classes and seeing Lamin again cannot be beaten."

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