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Gambia

Team sizes: Two teams of 12 and 10 students plus 2 staff and an ARC leader
Projects completed at Mandinari Lower Basic School:
• A new Dining Hall
• 10 new school desks made (enough for 20 children)

Travel:
At the start of a morning school day, we remembered we were travelling to Gambia! We all rushed to the Phoenix Centre, and swiftly unpacked out bags for Miss Holt and Mr Ralls to check and take all our luxuries out! Some people even brought chairs (Devon) and over priced designer face products (Emma.) We all trekked to the bus and threw our bags on the bottom of the bus and jumped on the bus ready for Gambia! Arriving at York Train Station we hopped on board a train, which was going to be along journey ahead! We arrived at Premier Inn, relived that we weren’t spending the night in Travel Lodge. Woke up bright an early and headed to restaurant to tuck in to a massive full English breakfast, the last proper English meal we would get before departure! We got on the plane ready for a 6.5-hour flight and then being surprised because some travellers (not from our group) didn’t turn up for the flight, so we waited for another 1.5hours before we couldn’t set off! Meryem unfortunately already ill was sick several times before even boarding! After a very long flight we arrived in Gambia and were welcomed by the WHOLE village, even the mayor from Mandanari! Having listened to all the speeches and the Boy Scouts completing their entertainment, with some pretty amazing lifts, we retired to our room and set up for an early night!

Day 1:
An early start 7am we made our way to the local bakery with Musa leading us and translating, we arrive at a very dark room made from leaves, which had nothing more than a bath to make the dough and wood burner made from wood to cook the bread. One 40cm loaf of bread was only 6 Dalasi, which is only 1.2p!!!! After bread and jam we started the days work, and by god did we go in with a Bang! Having to remove 3 tree trunks from deep in the ground, and 500 bricks with only 1mould! After removing the 1 tree trunk we screamed with happiness, we then realized the other 2 looked impossible to move! Meryem joined us from Bakau having recovered from her illness, we were very happy to see her! The ladies from village joined us with the food they have cooked, and wow it was so so so yummy! After tea the Boy Scouts arranged a big bonfire for us to sing and dance around! We had such an amazing time, singing Rudolph and being taught lots of other Gambian songs! We went back to the room to find a friend had joined us, this friend wasn’t really a friend, it was a Bat! We all jumped to the floor and hid away from the bat shouting for the boys to remove it! Ellie found out that she was very scared of bats, and Miss Holt found it hilarious! After the bat flew away, we had a baby wipe wash and jumped into our sleeping bags and Millie made us all giggle with the fact she knows ALL the words to Mean Girls and wouldn’t stop reciting them! We eventually fell to sleep ready for another hard day of work!

Day 2:
We woke up to another early morning ready for another hard days work, really eager to finish the foundations. We all started by digging a two foot trench to the make our own concrete and fill the trenches. We also managed to make another 500 bricks too now have 1300 bricks for the new building. As it got very hot by midday Jake decided to pour water all over the girls. Then Ellie and Lucy covered his face in mud. We carried on with the hard work making EVEN MORE cement!! Dan then poured water all over Millie and Meryem so Millie got a huge bucket of water and covered him. Surprisingly Mr. Ralls turned up with Levi and Emily, which was lovely. We then all went to visit the village which was very little and different to anywhere in the UK. Once again we had another amazing night at the campfire singing even more songs. We also were treated with fruit and the fruit was delicious.

Day 3 - Happy birthday Georgie:
This morning we all woke up at 7 o'clock sharp as we do everyday except yesterday when Miss Holts watch went off at 6… we where not amused to say the least, but at least we got an extra hour of much needed sleep. After a breakfast of bread with jam same as everyday we went to work. It was a relatively uneventful workday because all the fun started after we where done. After work we all where still full of energy so Miss Holt suggested that the men climb the tree. Mike gets up no problem just like a monkey and Jake gets up with a little help (and a lot of determination trying to make up for his earlier failed biking attempt in the sand) but the real fun is when Danny, the legend that he is, tries to climb the tree. As you can all imagine it went well. Attempt one jump at the tree trunk scrabble on up it for a second and fall back to earth; Attempt number two and my (Jake) personal favorite step onto a chair that’s on a table and jump onto the closest branch. He then continues to do a flying roundhouse kick into a small Gambian child. (PS he was ok) Mike Miss Holt and I (Jake) showed nothing but sympathy that is after we stopped crying with laughter. After this it was time for tea, we had some delicious chicken and rice. By this time Georgie had returned and it was time for her surprise, after singing happy birthday me (Danny) and Mr Ralls produced her Birthday cake (bought by me) and a number of fizzy drinks (from Mr Ralls). After this Mr Ralls and Lucy Kenney gave Georgie a present that they had carried for her from her parents and friends all the way from York. After an exciting night we all turned in to rest from what we knew would be another tiring day,
Afternote
We all miss our parents and we all cant wait to see you at 4 o’clock in the morning on the 22
Georgie says she has had an amazing day
And we have all agreed that if we hear Mary had a little lamb on the recorder on more time Mary’s little lamb will go somewhere very uncomfortable
Signing off
Jake and Danny.

Day 4
Today we woke up at the right time (7:00) thanks to Miss Holt finally getting the time right. We started work promptly after having bread and jam yet again for breakfast. Lucy, Millie, Meryem, Stuart and Becca started the painting in one of the classrooms. Stuart designed a number giraffe which we all LOVED along with the 42 letter sounds and alphabet, we all then decided to paint the map of The Gambia which the teachers really appreciated. All the paintings were very bright and colorful (even if half the paint ended up on our faces and legs, Oooops) After the painting, we all went to either start fixing the desks or help carry on with building up the wall for the new dining hall (WHICH WE HAVE NOW FINISHED ahead of schedule WOO). After finishing work, we went and washed up and put on some “clean” clothes. Tea was lush, we had white Domoda which was VERY spicy. Afterwards we had nothing else planned for the next then unexpectedly, a group of us (Alicia, Stuart, Dan, Jake and Lucy) decided to put on some entertainments for us by first of all sitting on one of the desks that we were fixing pretending that it was a roller-coaster and throwing the occasional bottle of water over their heads pretending that it was raining. They then moved on to getting inside a taxi then playing park bench, which was HILARIOUS. Jake pretended to be “camp” and Stuart was his “prey” ha. Lucy decided she was a snail by dragging her face around the sand which she ended up covered in with a mouthful of sand. Lucy then got bored and decided to throw her water all over Jake, who then rugby tackled Lucy to the floor, which then resulted in mike (one of the nurses) to tackle Jake to the floor and had him in a headlock. Whilst this was all going on, some of the kids and scouts were sat watching and finding some of this very very amusing for them.
After a few hours of this entertainment, it was time for bed (FINALLY!) However, Musa Saidy decided to turn up in the Affecting Real Change car and play music from his radio, which then resorted into a dance off between the kids and Alicia. Miss Holt hurried us off to bed, to then be greeted by more of Millies Mean girls’ quotes. Yet another amazing night at Mandinari.
Missing you all, but we still don’t want to come home…. Yet. wink

End of work:
After completing all of our work such as digging out all three massive tree trunks from the ground, digging the foundations very deep, and the building the wall 8 levels high, painting and sanding the classrooms, and fixing up to 20 desks for the classrooms, we were all exhausted and ready to relax. After completing the final day of work on Wednesday the teachers put on a mascaraed ball for us to enjoy. This was a pleasant surprise, but was slightly strange, Meryem did not enjoy it as she was dragged up to dance with them, and thrusted upon by one of the men, whilst this ball was happening, Georgie, Lauren and Emily were taken by Mr Ralls to go and visit the hospital in Banjul. This was a shocking and very eye opening experience, but all three have learnt something very important and are very glad they went to the hospital. After returning to the school where the ball had finished, we all enjoyed a fantastic dinner once again, (rice and meat…) and then the scouts put on a massive last campfire for us to enjoy, where they put on a show they had been practicing during the week. We then headed off to bed, exhausted after our long week. The following morning was our final morning in Mandanari, we all packed up our rooms, and put our rucksacks on the bus. It was a very long and emotional morning, and everyone was in tears as we said bye to our newly made friends. The teachers all gave goodbye speeches and as we got onto the bus everyone sang to us as we left. We were ready for our final night at Bakau with the year tens. After saying goodbye we headed straight to the monkey park, which was the beginning of our treats for the day. After the monkey park we went to the hotel where we were all glad to jump into the swimming pool and have a clean, we then had a very nice lunch, we then carried on sunbathing on the beach until it was time to go. We then travelled to the crocodile park where we all got our pictures taken with the crocs. We walked to the market where we used our bartering skills to buy lots of presents and bracelets; it was a very good afternoon. We returned to Bakau School where Alicia put on her Gambian dress she received from one of the teachers, it was a beautiful dress and very entertaining for her to wear. To finish off our final day by sleeping out under the stars, which was surprisingly comfy apart from in the morning when Meryem woke up to find she had been bitten on her eyes by mosquitos, it was very sore and frustrating. We all packed and lined our rucksacks up once again, we are now ready to receive our certificates and head off to the airport. See all the parents at four o’clock tomorrow morning. Unlucky for the parents, ha. SEE YOU SOON!
We have had an incredible week and thank you to all of the parents for letting us come to Gambia, and thank you to ARC and all the teachers for bringing us here and taking such good care of us.