Part of my role working for Serenity Holidays and The Gambia Experience is leading their School Development Fund team here in the UK.
Earlier in 2010 I was passed a letter from two of our customers telling us about a nursery school that they had visited that was in desperate need of assistance.
As it happened I was visiting The Gambia myself the following week and took the opportunity to pop into the school. I wasn’t exactly sure where the school was… somewhere in a district of Brikama called Dairuharu… but after asking around we were taken to a family compound.
What I found really shocked me.
I was shown into a dark, tiny room with one of the walls looking as if it was about to collapse. My lower lip started trembling as I made out 15 children, with their teacher Amie, sitting amongst the rubble. I’ve visited many schools in The Gambia but I have never reacted like this before.
Pulling myself together, I had a long chat with their teacher, Amie and the children and, although I didn’t make any promises, I said I would try to help.
There are over 100 children in the area that need a school. The villagers had built the original building in mud bricks but did not have the money to finish it before the rainy season and the school fell down.
Amie, Fatou and the headmistress, Yama, are trying to continue with the school in the room I saw which is in someone’s compound (home) but apart from the terrible conditions the owner now wants the space back.
Unfortunately the SDF couldn’t help as they can only work with government schools for children over 7 years old but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
As chairman of the community group “Nyodema” I told the rest of the committee about the school. They were just as concerned as I was, however, we do not have anyone based in The Gambia and have never been involved in a building project before.
We felt it was too much for us to take on alone. What to do?
I approached another charity, Karmic Angels, and when I told them about the school they selected a project manager to oversee the building work if we could raise the funds.
In April 2010 Shelagh (Nyodema’s treasurer) and I returned to The Gambia and met up with the Alkalo (village head), teachers and parents as well as Lamin and Pa Louis from Karmic Angels.
The project had begun!
Travel diary shared by Kathryn