OUR VISIT TO THE GAMBIA – DECEMBER 2008
We have just returned from a 10 day trip to The Gambia. We had a super time, spending some time relaxing by the hotel pool, and other times getting out and about meeting local Shina Africa contacts, and visiting schools supported by the charity.
Just before we left for our trip, one of our local schools, Wheelock Primary School, surprised us by letting us know that their chosen charity this year was going to be Shine Africa. We would like to extend our thanks to all of the children in Wheelock Primary School, who between them decided to support the Shine Africa charity this year. Charity money goes towards the provision of mosquito nets, and generally the complete running of and setting up of nursery schools in The Gambia.
Over the years, Shine Africa have provided thousands of mosquito nets. Without a mosquito net the probability of a child reaching their 5th birthday, is 1 in 5, but with a mosquito net to keep them safe, a child dying from malaria is reduced to 1 in 100.
Here is a picture of us on our most recent visit to The Gambia. The picture is of Manneh and Lamin in front of the market stall in the capital of The Gambia, Banjul selling mosquito nets. Manneh owns the stall and the charity buys all of their mosquito nets from him. Both Manneh and Lamin offer invaluable support to the charity, and are dedicated to all the projects that Shine Africa get involved in.
Whilst we were out in The Gambia, we had the opportunity of revisiting one of the schools that Shine Africa has built, and continues to support. Each teacher at the school is paid by the charity, and the school also benefits from regular visits and the provision of education materials.
On the 29th December 2008, all the children came together at the school and a party was held with music, balloons and food for each child that attends the school. The costs of the party were funded by iAuctionShop Ltd.
The children had a wonderful time, and it was lovely to see so many smiling faces. We even had a few fireworks at the end to celebrate the end of the year, and the start of 2009. You will see from the picture that the children all wanted to shake hands with our daughter Merridy, and in particular to touch her hair. She felt very special and loved all of the attention.
Last year we made the decision to sponsor one little girl through the school. For just £22 a year Shina Africa provide a child with 2 school uniforms (made locally to support the Gambian economy). The £22 also covers costs for schooling for one year, whilst also providing the vital mosquito net. It was such fun being able to meet Ida and her family again. Merridy was delighted to have her photograph taken once again with Ida, and this time to meet Ida’s mother, little sister and new baby too!
We had many experiences during our stay in The Gambia. We visited the famous Alex Haley’s Roots village, called Juffureh. Many people will be familiar with the Roots series which was aired in the 1970s. The story Traces Kunta Kinte’s ancestry through six generations - slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lawyers and architects - back to Africa. The village has a slave museum there, and it was very interesting and extemely moving to imagine all the Gambian families that had been captured and taken as slaves so long ago.
The picture below was taken in front of a replica slave ship, and the one above shows Merridy standing along the side wall of the slave museum.
We also went to visit to a super place called Lamin Lodge. This is a unique multi levelled timber construction over the creek at Lamin. There is a restaurant there, boats and a local Oyster factory. We had a super hour boat trip, and the guide pointed out some of the local birds whilst showing us the oysters visible on the mangrove roots. We were interested to discover that the Gambian women work for 3 to 4 hours at a time collecting oysters from the mangrove roots which are usually covered by the high tide. The larger oysters are collected and sent to the hotels, and the smaller ones are sent to the local markets. Once the oysters are cooked and shells empty, the shells are then crushed and made into a powder that is used to make white paint. Nothing is wasted.....
Lamin Lodge is set in beautiful surroundings and with amazing views. In fact mangroves stretch as far as the eye can see. We took some local children with us, family of Lamin Badjie. It made the trip even more enjoyable. As a treat for the kids we stopped in the Lodge for orange Fanta and plates of chips. Monkeys roam freely in The Gambia, and particularly around Lamin Lodge. You have to be very careful not to lose your food to the monkeys who spot opportunites for a free snack almost immediately.
Pictures taken at Lamin Lodge.
Our final picture shows the Shine Africa headquarters, which is situated about a 10 minute taxi drive from the Senegambia strip in Kololi.
For anyone travelling to The Gambia, who wish to organise a visit to the schools, or to the headquarters where you can sample a traditional Gambian meal, please feel free to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Indeed for any further information about the charity, please feel free to contact us using the above email. Mosquito nets at £3.50 can be purchased here, and a years sponsorship for one child can be purchased here.
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about our trip.
Our daughter with our sponsored Gambian girl Ida in January 2008