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Team size: 4 SEBD students plus 2 ARC SEBD trained volunteers

Projects completed: Gambia Arts Project 2015

Almost time to go...

Well, it's almost time to go!  The final three-day countdown is on to Gambia Arts 2015.  This is a new adventure for Affecting Real Change, combining arts, volunteering and teaching.  We are excited that four young people and two ARC adult volunteers will be embarking on this adventure on Saturday 14 February 2015.  Keep up with our project here!!

First Day of Work

Where do I start..? We've only been here for one day and we couldn't have been made to feel more welcome; it's obvious now why this place is known as the smiling coast! We were woken up to the sound of the local mosque but all managed another hour’s sleep before actually getting out of bed. This morning was spent painting one of the classrooms in Bakau New Town School. It's amazing what a lick of paint can do to a place! We'll finish it off in day or two with another coat of paint, but back to today! 

Then not lunch. After hitting the local supermarket (that was branded as Asda!) we tucked into lunch. Fresh bread and the sandwich filling of our choice. It's fair to say that some were, however, not quite what we expected! Fruit and vegetables over here and unlike any I have ever seen in the UK: none of the supermarkets have fresh produce like they do here!

After lunch it was time to head to the crocodile park. Previously I had assumed that these creatures would be behind glass or at the very least a fence. No; I was wrong. Alligators were literally walking the same paths as us and we then each had the chance to touch one and, to my surprise, I actually obliged!  

Now it’s time to sit back and relax in the hotel for a while..!


Monday smile

Yet again another eventful day here in Gambia. Starting with the breakfast run, all of us got up early to go to the bakery, we got our bread and then on the way home the tyre failed us! To get back to the school we had to get into a Gambian taxi which we were all apprehensive about at first but it wasn’t as bad as we all thought! Leaving Musa's beloved car with the mechanic for the rest of the day.

At eight thirty this morning we had our first assembly with the children and so this was the first opportunity we had since we arrived to meet them all, they sang songs and made us feel even more welcome than we already did! There were some awards given for house competitions to teachers and the students, it was great to see them all come together as a school.

After assembly we taught an art class to the younger students, asking them to draw 'what Gambia was to them'. We had a lot of trees and fruits, and footballs. All the kids were very enthusiastic and were so excited to use paints and different colours on small canvases, we took photos of all the drawings that the children did, and we are going to make a mosaic on the wall in the school of all of the art. After spending the morning with the students they were becoming more comfortable with us a time went on, we got to know some new names, they were very excited and you couldn’t get passed a group of children with a camera without them needing to get their photo taken!

We went to the village do take part in some Batik artwork, we watched the Gambians do it first and then we attempted to do our own. Obviously they were not as good as the Gambians who do it for a living, but they surprisingly turned out okay! Now we have our own batik artwork to bring home as another memory of our week here smile

We finished off the day by the pool to cool down, then back to the school for dinner, and everyone is spending the rest of the night planning tomorrow’s activities and getting some rest.


Keeping busy...

Another day and more painting!  The schools were out today because of the Independence Day celebrations tomorrow.  Alpha was off, practicing his marching.  He has been chosen to march in the stadium in front of the president and he is very proud of it! 

We did a second coat of painting on the grade one classroom.  We had thinned down the paint so it was pretty watery and a bit see-through.  We put the second coat on and it looked much better.  We also cleaned up all the paint that we had spilled everywhere!  Thank you Emily, for taking the white spirit to the floor!

After lunch, we went to the studio of an acrylic artist near Katchikally.  As usual, we were surrounded by kids as soon as we got there!  Georgie, Emily and Nas made some new friends, whilst Jamie and Lamin made friends with a baby goat.

We spent hours perfecting our paintings.  Jamie and Nas stuck with the 'I love the Gambia' theme, whilst Elicia, Emily and Georgie copied some colourful pictures of Gambian women and Josh created a fantastic Gambian landscape!

That evening, after another fantastic Gambian dinner made by Jenoba Jobe, we went night fishing.  Or rather, Jamie, Emily, Nas and Alpha went night fishing with Tombolu while Elicia, Georgie and Josh had an amazing coffee and visited a night craft market.  Unfortunately, the most that anyone caught was a crab!


Gambian Independence Day

Today is Gambian Independence day!  It means that there is no school today and that the big celebration is happening at the Independence Stadium.  And we went to go see Alpha march in the Independence Day celebration!

After we woke up this morning, Georgie, Emily, Josh and Nas went with Musa to the Independence Day ceremonies at the stadium.  Jamie decided to stay back at Bakau New Town School with Elicia, Mr Jobe and Lamin.

As soon as the celebration group left, the group that stayed back at the school got to work. We decided not to thin down the paint (at first, it was a bit of a mistake!), so it took us only one coat to paint the grade two classroom!  We worked really hard and had the whole classroom finished in two hours!! There was a big hole in one of the walls and Elicia asked some of the workmen who were fixing the toilet blocks for some cement.  They came and filled it in and it was good as new!

After the group got back from the Independence Day celebrations (they said it was loud and crowded!), we ate a quick lunch and we were off for the afternoon.

We spent the afternoon at the Monkey Forrest.  We bought a few bags of peanuts and entered the park.  We took some fantastic photos!  The monkeys were so friendly and climbed all over us!  


Moving on to Mandinari School

After finishing up work this morning (we had to paint the edges of the second classroom and then clean up our spills!), we packed up the SUV and moved on to Mandinari School, in a village near the airport.  Packing up was not easy!  We had to pack our mosquito nets and supplies for the night, as well as a generator, as Mandinari does not have electricity.

When we got to Mandinari, we were surrounded!  Children, parents and staff were all on hand to greet us, even though school was finished for the day.  We were welcomed by Noah and the Scout Band, who played, sang and paraded around the school grounds for us.  We had special seats on the porch of the head teacher’s office.  We felt like celebrities!

With the help of a generator, we set up our mosquito nets and ate another delicious dinner made by Jenoba.  As we were eating, the Scouts set up a roaring campfire.  Parents and children returned to the school and we joined them in singing and dancing around the fire until the early hours of the morning.  It was wonderful to have such a welcome!  We felt at home immediately!


Our last full day!

It's our last full day here in the Gambia!  Time has really flown by! It seems like we have only just arrived.

Today we started really early.  Emily and Nas walked to the bakery to get us bread for breakfast, which we ate in a hurry before getting down to work.  We started painting a classroom and were soon joined by Noah and the scouts.  With some many people, we barely had enough brushes to go around, but we finished in record time!  Noah and the Scouts stayed to finish up, whilst we got ready for our second art class.

For our second art class, we had another grade one class.  However, this class also had five students that were still in nursery!  Emily took the nursery group, which was quite a challenge.  These children had never seen paint or a paintbrush before!  Emily started by getting the kids to fingerpaint!  Jamie and Josh spent a lot of the class refilling water pots, cleaning brushes, distributing paint, sharpening pencils and taking photos of the children with their paintings.  Georgie sat with a group, who focused on the food of the Gambia in their paintings.  There were a lot of bananas!  We had learned a lot from our first class, and this one ran like clockwork, with all of the students having a great time and learning some new skills, with some colourful, amazing results!

After our workshop, we packed up again (once again, not easy, due to all of the equipment that we had with us!) and headed back to our base at Bakau New Town School.  We set our mosquito nets back up and headed to the Senegambia Hotel to celebrate our final night in the Gambia.  

We spent the afternoon with our Gambian friends: Alpha, Abdou, Musa, Mr Jobe and Lamin.  Emily even got her hair braided, Gambian style!  The orange was really bright!  We swam and went for our last walks on the beach.  In the evening, we had a celebration dinner, which was delicious!  We stayed late and enjoyed music and dancing- Alpha and Lamin can really shake it!

It was a late night, full of fun and laughter, but we were also a little sad, with it being our last night in the Gambia!


Going home!

Today is our last day in the Gambia!  Since our flight is not until this evening, we still have a day of activities planned!

Josh, Jamie, Lamin and Elicia spent the morning at the Bakau Craft Market in a sandpainting workshop.  We first picked images to create and drew them out on primed canvasses.  We then painted the outline in black paint, before adding glue and different coloured sand, in layers, to make our design.  We are really proud of how well our paintings turned out!  We can now take this skill back to the UK and teach children there!

Whilst we were sand painting, Georgie, Emily and Nas headed back to Mandinari School.  They had decided to sponsor children and families at the school and were sorting out the details for this with Musa.

In the afternoon, we packed up, showered and got ready to go. We had our final home-cooked meal, courtesy of Jenoba, before heading off to the airport for the long flight home.  We have learned some much, have made so many new friends and can't wait to help our new friends when we return to the UK.

Jamie and Josh