I shouldn’t have favourites I know – but there is always something very special about going back to The Gambia. It’s where people and places was conceived. It was also a joy to be in the sunshine – remember what that feels like?
I had a pretty jam packed time, visiting the projects and communities we already work with and meeting new ones. I spent a lot of time with Mariama who has day to day responsibility for the volunteer programme in The Gambia. So, lots of news!
I have to say my visit scored a good 90% and that wasn’t just because I was able to catch up with old friends like Geri and Maurice from The Safari Garden Hotel, which is where people and places volunteers stay. Oh no!
The serious result was that I met everyone I had hoped to meet when I planned my trip … meetings may not have been in the right place – I held one meeting on the side of the road in 38 degrees in the middle of a mango field (don’t ask – suffice to say the man I wanted to meet was not in his office and the intrepid Lisong was determined we would meet him – hence our tarmac assignation!)
I spent a few days working with Lisong on the Early Childhood Development Programme. Interestingly, she is still struggling to get the training programme and resultant Diploma licensed by the Department of Education. This is not because there is anything wrong with the programme at all. In fact the reverse. There is no-one in The Department of Education with the skills to assess the efficacy of the programme – to date Lisong is the Department’s expert in ECD. On my last day I heard that the Minister of Education is going to sign it off himself. I met with the woman responsible for developing ECD in the Gambia – which is a priority for the government. As soon as this paperwork is sorted, she is ready to work with Lisong to roll the programme out into the schools and communities, training local people in Early Childhood Development. For more details take a look at
I’m thrilled to announce that we will also be working with Bijilo School. The school is very keen to work with skilled pre-school and early primary volunteers – all at Bijilo remember Joan fondly and want to assure her that all the work she did to help them set up the resource room is being continued … and I have photos to prove it!
Bijilo has some 300 pupils, ages 3 and a half to 7, with 7 teachers. There is a kitchen but rarely food – so the principal Babou Carrjobe is trying to grow his own food.
We hope to recruit volunteers to help with education, childcare, nutrition and gardening, the development of play and sports equipment. We’re just finalising the details of the project, then it will be live on the site. Let us know if you’d like us to notify you when it’s live.
The work we’re doing for wealth creation through tourism is developing apace. We’re now working with Gambia is Good (GIG) an award winning initiative funded by The Travel Foundation. Take a look at the volunteer programme here. The lunch I ate with GIG has to be one of the best lunches I have ever eaten … anywhere! This programme has so much to offer volunteers – close work with communities, the opportunity to learn about sustainable horticulture and micro-culture whilst sharing business and practical skills.
I had a series of meetings with Mr Ngum, Director for Training for the Department of Health, and he is keen to work with us to develop healthcare skills particularly in the community clinics. I suspect it may take us a while to finalise the details but we hope to be able to start recruiting healthcare volunteers later this year.
Seven years ago I stood on a beach (the one at the beginning of this post) with Geri and Maurice as they shared their dream with me.
They dreamt that they could work with the local community in Kartong to create an eco lodge which would benefit the community and give travellers a taste of the real Gambia, whilst taking all the steps they could to be sustainable. It’s now a reality – challenging and frustrating, but wow is it beautiful – and we think that volunteers will love it there! So we’re looking for business and sustainable technology volunteers to work with Sandele. I of course had to spend some time there … as the pictures show it was tough! Details will be up on the site in a couple of weeks.
Some thank you’s to:
Adama, Lisong and Mariama – our tireless local partners in The Gambia. I am in awe of the selfless work you do – whenever anyone asks how I “train” our local “suppliers” I point out that you train us … thanks for your enthusiasm, commitment and inspiration.
Geri, Maurice and all at Safari Garden ( too many to mention!) – for your support of the volunteer programme. How ever do you find the time, with everything else you have to do? All at Sandele for you warm welcome.
Bakary for your patient and unerring navigation when all I could tell you was that I needed to visit someone whose compound was close to the shop that sells football shirts in Bakau, or something just as oblique.