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Gambia

Team Size: 7 Undergrads, 2 Postgrads, 1 RAF member and 2 ARC staff

Projects completed:

  • Exterior repainting of 7 classrooms
  • Internal painting of 1 classroom
  • Building of 30 new desks
  • Fitting of 12 new windows
  • Repairs on the school market
  • Painting of 2 murals
  • Links made with staff, school scouts and mother's club.

 

 

Diary:
Day 1. (Week two for some students) This morning we finshed the painting on the wall which surrounds the whole school. We have painted a huge sign advertising the charity's website and letting passers-by know about the child sponsorship scheme that it runs. Hopefully all the tourists going by in their buses to hotels will see and we'll have loads of sponsors!
Some of us took more computer classes, we taught some more complex typing including punctuation and caps lock and used paint to help the children get control of the mouse. They went really well and the classes went on way over the time we had set because the children didn't want to leave. It would be great to get a computer teacher for the school. Phoebe, Jobe and Musa then went to pick up the group from Bristol uni from the airport. They are joining us for the project week at Mandinari Lower Basic School.

After welcoming them with the Gambian songs and dances some of us gave them a tour of the school and some of us went to Jainaba Jobe's house to help her do the cooking. She was making Chicken Yassa for our supper, a delicious lime and onion stew. She cooks on an open fire in a yard at the back of her house whilst looking after her 4 small children and doing the washing. It was really enjoyable to help cook and wash. In the evening we went fishing on the seashore with Tumbulu, the master carpenter and secret fisherman! He showed us how to fish on the shore using long rods and heavey weighted string. Looking forward to getting started on the real hard work as one big team now!

Day 2. Breakfast consisted of the usual bread and bananas, and after a quick wash we were invited to a whole school assembly. As always Musa led the children through various Gambian songs, before Luke was introduced to present two Full sets of England football kits to the school (thanks 'Taking Football to Africa'). We continued to impress all by encoring with an impressive version of 'I like the flowers', including a round, harmonies, stonking bass line and bobbing.
Our journey to the new school in Mandanari was a great way to see more of the surroundings of the Gambia. We are arrived to a colourful and Musical welcome from the Mothers union and Scout band. We were made guests of honour at the school assembly, which included music, drama (wifebeating etc), speeches and some impressive acrobatics from the Scouts.
After an introduction to the children and tour of the school (seeing work needed doing) we rested up over lunch, and then got to work on our first building, scraping, sanding, sweeping and hammering, the building was ready for our next days work. The cooks made us an incredible mix of flavoured rice, sauce, vegetables and meat. Twas glorious.

Day 3 and 4. So work properly began at Mandinari school - our intention is to replace some windows, paint a block and create 30 new desks, and we got off to a good start. The most exciting and hardest work was knocking through the windows of a block of classrooms because they were to dark for students to learn in. Overseen by Lamin and Timbulu a few of us broke off from the group to start bashing away with sledge hammers. Another few people sawed up peices of wood, ready to screw on to readily made frames to make shiney new desks. A bit of varnish on them and they're magic - hopefully seating around 100 kids. The rest were set down to the task of sanding, filling and painting five classrooms and the outside of a block. So far it's taken us two days to sand the entire block and put a base layer of paint round the block enlisting help from eager kids and Scouts.
Apart from hard work we've done a few other things including a colourful wedding where most of the girls got local dresses made - it turned out we were some of the most underdressed at the wedding which was a very colourful and loud affair. We also have the priviledge of living next to some camping scouts for the week who absolutley LOVE their drums. All. Night. Long. And their campfires which is a singing, dancing, clapping party. The kids are really full of energy and soon had us dancing and limbo-ing round the campfire.

Day 5. Today was our last full day in Mandinari and we have completed all our major targets. Two whole blocks have been externally refurbished - painting, replaced windows, cementing gaps (some bigger than others). We have had a really good response from the school and the local community but most importantly Timbulu and his team who have been showing us the 'Gambian' way.
There's been a few upset stomachs recently but morale as remained high after purchasing a crate of fizzy pops. Everyone is tired but it is all worthwhile. Yeah!
We took a little trip yesterday with most of the village down to the 'beach' which turned out to be THE scariest bridge ever over a bog leading to a lovely mangrove surrounded river which we had to launch ourselves into - only then did we find that it was very difficult to get out with no real steps up to the platform above.
We've only got a few things to finish off tomorrow including a bit more cementing and final few touches of paint and then we're set for an afternoon in Bakau and a trip to the real beach. A few of us have sponsored children in Bakau so tomorrow hopefully we'll be meeting their families which should be very exciting.

Day 6. We finished off the last bits of the project today and did a big tidy up. The staff are so grateful to us and they gave us a huge thank you leaving ceremony with certificates and dancing galore! It was sad to leave but we have made great firends and some really good links with a new school which has lots of potential for ARC to bring more teams in the future. We spent our last evening back in Bakau syaing thank you to the staff who have made sure we were happy and comfortable all week and purchasing last minute souvenirs at the craft market. What a great trip with so much done!