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Gambia

Team Size: 6 Undergrad students and 1 ARC staff member

Projects completed:

Regular computer classes

Geography, biology, spanish, french and arts and crafts lessons

Female and male hygiene workshops

Sex education workshops

Mural painted for sponsorship of children

Worked on the local Woman's Garden Co-operative

Learnt to cook, wash and fish Gambian style!

 

Diary:
Day 1. We arrived into the heat of Gambia and Musa and Jobe, our super friendly teachers, met us at the airport ready to take us to Bakau school. Spirits were high and there was a lot of singing on the way. We arrived to most extravagant welcome we'd ever seen, with the kids running by the bus, singing, dancing and handing us letters professing their love. We got a moment to unpack our things and then walked down to Jobe's house, where his beautiful wife cooked us a dinner we could only dream of back at uni. We ended the day playing with maracas and ukeleles into the night and went to bed wondering what the next two weeks would bring.

Day 2. Today was our first full day in the beautiful Gambia. We awoke early to the sounds of school children playing before lessons. After a quick breakfast of pastries we chilled around the school for a while, popping in and out of some of the classrooms throughout the morning. We took a further tour of the school, discovering the schools sustainable chicken farm and yet more kids singing to us. Musa then took us on a tour round Bakau 'city' showing us the markets and fishing ports. Really beautiful town with very friendly people always wanting to shake your hand and welcome you to their country. The culture comes across as very rich and diverse with tight knit communities. We were also treated to the priviledge of a trip to Musa's beautiful home where we took a while to relax and meet his family. In the evening we went to the fish market, bustling with the catch of the day being brought in and sold. Dinner was Domida - a peanut butter type curry and my favourite (rice smile ) - nice and full now. Just making a start on the lesson plans for tomorrow teaching an array of lessons from male hygine to geological landforms.

Day 3. In the morning we split into three groups; arts and crafts, biology and geography to do some teaching. Art was making the organs of the body out of clay to make one giant and colourful clay organ system! In biology lessons, we covered animal and plant cells with lots of enthusiasm and then we led the children in song on a ukelele! In Geography lessons we taught the kids about the upper, middle and lower course of a river, using The River Gambia as an example where it starts in Guinea Bissau and ends at the Atlantic Ocean. Lots of colouring in, just as geography should be and lots of enthusiasm for learning. Really attentive students!
In the afternoon we held seperate male and female hygiene workshops with the older grade 6 classes. The girls were making washable sanitary pads out of absorbant material so that they did not have to use rags or expensive and wasteful disposable ones. Each girl cut out the pattern, sewed it up and added poppers to attach it to pants. They all learnt about how to wash them and how to deal with pains. We thought that the girls would be shy but they spoke openly about their experiences and asked questions, so we are holding another session tomorrow.The boys ran a male hygine workshop where they talked about the importance of practising safe sex. We covered many of the areas that the boys had never learned about such as the effects of puberty and the realities of sex, before finishing with some good old fashioned banana/condom practice. Once they had got over their initial shyness, the boys really engaged and asked lots of questions (one of them even decided to show his penis to the class all in the name of learning).

Day 4. Today we visited the school where we will be completing the construction project next week. It is more rural than the first school but very similar in layout. The furniture is a problem, and many kids were squashed together onto one desk because others were broken, so we will take out all the broken desks and fix them and make a lot of new ones. Some of the classrooms were really dark because the windows were just slits in the walls, so we will be taking them out and putting in some bars for windows in stead so that the natural light can get in.

After lunch of delicious egg sandwiches from Bakau School's new chicken farm, we again held some classes. The boys taught spanish and french and the girls taught female hygine again. The hygiene class was used to finish off any washable sanitary pads and a q&a session about condoms and periods. The grade 6 girls said that they were too scared to talk to their mothers about this so it had proved successful.

In the evening we visited the nearby women's garden, a cooperative massive allotment!!! Phoebe says it made her very happy because she loves co-operatives, especially woman's ones! It was huge, as far as the eye could see and has been running for 25 years. Each woman has 10 beds and anyone can ask to have a plot. They then sell the veg and keep the money. We helped weed, plough and water the beds and were given a load of vegetables in return!
 
Day 5. Today we left at  9am from Bakau school to travel to Mr Jobe's (deputy head teacher) village for the naming ceremony of his newest nephew. We travelled through Banjul the capital of the Gambia past all the hustle and bustle of the big city. To cross to the North of the Gambia we were going to be travelling by ferry, exciting times. Seeing people, cars and donkeys on the ferry was a great spectacle.

We were greeted in the village by Mr Jobes's family and so many children. We met some of his 12 brothers, his grandmother, grand father, uncle, cousin and many more relatives. All of them were so nice and grateful for us simply coming there. It was hot. We were asked to join the village in dance and song. After more greetings we eventually settled in the main village square and played with some of the children. It was still hot and we were given large plates of delicious smelling foods. We all got stuck in using our hands. The elders of the village joined us, the women began to sing and the children were thrown sweets by the handful. We joined in the dancing and celebrations. The name given to the child was Mohammed Jobe, a great name. Good Day.

Day 6. Today we took a boat to James Island where slaves used to be kept before being transported across to America. Musa and Mr Jobe did a great job letting other tourists know about the chairty! On our way coming back we saw some dolphins swimming along side the boat, and we of course did soome singing and dancing to the surprise of the other tourists! After the trip we headed to the BIG Serrekunda market where we all chose material to get clothes made. At the tailors we played make-shift drums with the kids from nearby houses and danced into the night.

Day 7. We woke up, got our daily baked goods (which Suraj secured with his trusty haggling skills) and then set off for the beach for a bit of relaxation, volleyball and real showering, with soap and everything! We then headed back to school where we spent some time trying to reorganise and reconnect the school computers which haven't seen any use for a while, before giving some computer lessons for grade 6 in basic typing and computer skills. While half the group were doing this, the other half got on painting a message in big letters along the outside of the school walls advertising the sponsorship scheme to passers-by. We finished the day with a bit more benachin and then bed, as all good Gambians do.