13 June 2018


Help us choose a new Page Change Monitoring Service

You obviously want to keep up to date with Pageant's latest news, both on this blog and on our website. Maybe you check both regularly to see if anything has changed. You may not have noticed but for several years we had links both here and on our news page where you could enter your email address and get a message if there was a change in content. Unfortunately the service we were using is no longer available.

We would like to set up a new service for our users, but there is no obvious choice of a service which is both free and simple for users. Please read about the services we have shortlisted, and tell us your preferences on this feedback page on our website.

12 June 2018


Carol Grace awarded an MBE

Pageant is pleased to announce that Carol has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for services to the NHS and voluntary service to Education in The Gambia.

Carol, professionally known as Carol Peckham, is General Manager of Community Health Services for Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust. In an interview published on their website, Carol said "I feel very privileged, enriched and humbled to have been given the opportunities to make a difference to the lives of others, both personally and professionally. Compassion costs very little -  as the saying goes 'To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the whole world.' I now feel very honoured to receive this award but I also feel that I wouldn't be where I am, and doing the things I do, without the faith and support of others around me."

Congratulations from everyone at Pageant - so heartening to know that one of our fundraisers has been honoured in this way.

28 April 2018


Pageant Mailing List - You need to opt in

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25 May 2018, replacing the Data Protection Act 1998. Under this law you must tell us that you wish to continue to receive news and updates from Pageant. It doesn't matter if you told us this some time in the past, you have to opt in now. We have sent everyone on our mailing list an email message about this. All you need to do to opt in is click reply and send it back to us. If you don't reply, then unfortunately, we must remove you from our mailing list.

If you haven't had this message and would like to be on our mailing list, then please get in touch.

We confirm that we will only use the data we hold for purposes we are lawfully entitled to and that we will not pass on any information we hold to third parties unless you tell us we can.

23 February 2018


Photos for the past week... and a little visit on Tuesday on the way to the airport

Here, as promised, are some photos in illustration of the last week of my February Gambian trip:
Tuesday 13th February:
We suddenly had a visit of a very large number of the white egrets who feed in and around the hotel - something must have startled them, as several hundred of them flew up and roosted in the palm trees in the hotel garden.  An amazing sight...

Whilst at the airport waiting to see Andrew and Kathy off to UK, we realised that Abdoulie was in the process of gradually cutting off his hair (a few locks every day or so), so  we felt we should record what was left before it all disappeared.  Abdoulie has been growing his hair ever since we first met him, so this is quite a decision on his part!

Wednesday & Thursday, 14th & 15th February
These were days of school and family visits - lots of photos of children, amongst which is this one of a newly sponsored girl, holding her 'welcome to Pageant' gift.  As she is in Grade 7 (Junior Secondary school) we gave her a pencil case with the basic pens, pencils, ribber, sharpener etc for school, plus a simple calculator, a geometry set and a small English dictionary.  This ensures that she has the basic materials to help her in her school work - it is always a very popular gift.

Friday 16th February
Our trip to the North Bank.... this started very early in the morning, as you may remember. (I remember it vividly!)  It was so early that this photo of the family with the delightful gifts from one of our sponsors had to be taken in the pitch darkness in the compound outside the house.  No electricity in Barra, which makes for wonderful star-gazing, but is not so good for even flash photography.

Later that morning we visited Albreda LBS and saw the tap, sink and work surface that had been installed in the kitchen.  We suggested that the sinks and draining board could do with a bit more support - it was sagging a bit without any water in it(!) so they will put another support in, either along the front or between the two basins.  However, the tap works, the water flows freely and drains away back through the pipe in the wall to a soak-away outside, so that was all good.

Sunday 18th February
The work on the multi-purpose hall at Humanity nursery is going well - outside view at the left, inside, looking towards the existing school buildings, at the right.

These are some of Esther's beautiful little dresses (these were actually made by her Mum, I believe) - very popular with the little girls who were lucky enough to receive them.
The young women with them are two of the recently graduated Automotive Engineering students, still very happy to be working in the repair departments of some local garages.  Fatou, on the left as you look at the photo, is the person who is in charge of the women's group associated with the mothers of the children in Humanity Nursery.  She was pleased to tell me that the group is doing really well and that the money is now on its 4th iteration around the women.  Well done to her and to all the ladies of the group.

Monday 19th February
These are some of the tiny babies who received the hats at Brikama hospital - more thanks to Esther.  The youngest baby was 2 hours old, the oldest 2 days old!  I was a little worried about disturbing the mothers so soon after delivery, but the nurse said they would like to have the hats... and the photos...

Tuesday 20th February
On our way to the airport for my return trip to UK we managed to squeeze in one final visit.  This was partly to get the estimate for a cement floor for the temporary classrooms that have been erected to cope with demand at the Yundum Barracks school - the one for the nursery at the left is not quite finished yet, but the roof is expected to be completed next week.  Another one, further down the school compound, has been completed and is for the overflow from the Lower and Upper Basic schools.

The other reason was to collect the stack of letters that the LBS children are writing to Jeannette Mars' Worldclass club at Bishop's Waltham Junior School in Hampshire.  The Gambian school, pupils and teachers, are really enthusiastic about this and the school has funded special T-shirts for the members of their club.
I posted the letters off to Jeannette yesterday, so I am waiting to hear the reaction from her children.

That's all for now - I'm signing off until the next time.   Lovey sunshine today - but brrrrrrrrr, isn't it cold!!??

20 February 2018


19 February - Final Visits

Monday was announced as being a public holiday, so our original plans for school visits had to be changed.
We started off in Brikama, visiting the large hospital there to give out some beautifully knitted baby hats to the maternity wards.  Then to the local market to buy some fertiliser for the gardens organised by the ladies in Wandifa & Abdoulie's compounds.  These bags are extremely heavy and even Abdoulie could not lift them onto the top of the van unaided.
Next stop, Gambia College, to drop the list of prize-winners and some microscopes in to the Science department.  Nakulang (head of science) had come in, even though it was a holiday, and was busily engaged in clearing out his office when we arrived.  We discussed the workshops, which we all felt had gone well, and agreed that we hope we will be able to manage to do some Physics, Electronics and Chemistry as well next year.
Back via Abuko to drop off the fertiliser (the minivan was labouring a bit under the strain!) and then visits to a couple of old friends: Samba, an erstwhile sponsored student, who is now an Inspector in the  Gambian Police; and finally Billy, who used to run the cafĂ© near the Arch in Banjul, beloved of many Atlantic Hotel visitors.
We reached the hotel in time for me to have a last short sit in the sunshine...  to be remembered with great fondness and not a little envy once I am back in UK tomorrow, I am sure!

I will add some photos to illustrate some of the past week's events once I am back in UK, so keep watching this space for a few more days...
Posted by Dave for Pippa.

18 February - Independance Day

Sunday was Independence Day, so many Gambians were heading for Banjul where the main celebratory parade was to be held.  We set off in the other direction, picking up David & Jenny en route to see Faks at Humanity Nursery in Farato, which is a little to the south of the airport.
This visit was mainly to see how our latest project there, a multi purpose hall to be used by both students and the village community, was progressing.  The shell of the building has been built to a very high standard and I had no hesitation in paying the second portion of the money for it to be completed.
Following some discussions with regard to finance and school policy we travelled the short distance to the chicken farm, which is in Faks' compound.  It has been enlarged considerably since our last visit there in November and now holds around 1,000 chickens.  Egg production is good, with upwards of 18 trays of 30 eggs being collected and sold every day.  This is now going a long way towards paying the salaries of the teachers, which is the main purpose of the whole enterprise.
This was David & Jenny's first experience of a Gambian school.... I did point out that this was starting at the top end of the range of schools they were likely to see!
We then spent some time in Faks' compound, giving out some of Esther's beautiful dresses to several little girls and chatting to two of the young women who had graduated from the Automotive Engineering Diploma a year or so ago.
We dropped David & Jenny back to their hotel after what they agreed had been a delightful Gambian Experience and I then spent the afternoon going through all the admin with Linda.
Having successfully completed that, we decided we deserved a dinner at Samba's Kitchen, so the carvery for Linda and a steak for me completed a very good day.
Posted by Dave for Pippa.

18 February 2018


17 February - Microscope Kits for Upcountry Schools

The morning was spent at the hotel, where we (Wandifa, Abdoulie, Karamba and I) spent a considerable time organising and packing our remaining microscopes and associated materials into quite generous kits for four schools.  We were able to give each school a total of nine microscopes, each set containing three different types, so these schools will be very lucky.
We spread out all our stuff over a large portion of the hotel lobby and attracted interested questions from quite a few of the guests.  The hotel staff are very good about the chaos we cause....
We were almost finished when Modou, our delightful medical student and a couple of Pageant members, Kate and Diane, arrived to see us.  Modou had come to collect what will be his final sponsorship payment - next time we see him he should be Dr Jeng!
Kate and Diane had come for a coffee and to have a look round the hotel, with a view to possibly staying here next time they come to The Gambia.  They left at around 2pm, after which I phoned Linda to suggest that she could bring the children of the Gambian family who live in her house for a play in the pool.  I could hear their shrieks of delight over the phone!
They all arrived at about 4pm and, despite the breezy conditions, had a great time in the children's pool until nearly 6pm.
Just time to change and then go out for dinner with Linda at a very nice Indian restaurant called the Clay Oven.  Quite a full day, really, considering it was supposed to be one of the quieter ones.
Posted by Dave for Pippa

17 February 2018


16 February - North Bank

Success!! Wandifa and Abdoulie arrived almost on time and we made the first ferry with several minutes to spare.  It seems to leave earlier each time we go - we left Banjul at 6.05am.  We were fortunate to be travelling on the new ferry, Kunta Kinteh, which is considerably larger than the older ferries and coped with the really choppy water conditions pretty well.  Even so, it was definitely a "wet ride" for those at the front, as the spray was quite impressive.  Some of our members would have found it less than comfortable.....
We arrived at Barra while it was still dark and negotiating the roadway to the taxi was a little adventure of its own.  I was pleased I had taken my torch. I was also very pleased to find that our trusty north bank driver, Alieu, was to be driving himself - many of the drivers over there drive incredibly fast over the very rough roads, which can be quite terrifying at times.
Our first stop was at a compound in Barra itself, where we have two sponsored children.  Mary, who has only recently joined Pageant and become a sponsor, had sent a collection of very thoughtful gifts for "her" young boy and his family: two mosquito nets, a cooking pot & serving bowl, three small buckets for carrying water to the garden and a watering can.... and a football for Sherrifu himself.  To say that the family members were delighted would be an understatement.  Even though it was still so early in the morning (the sun was just rising while we were there) the two sponsored children were dressed ready for school and all the other children and adults came out into the compound, exclaiming with wonder and gratitude for their good fortune.  Thank you so much, Mary, it was a wonderful start to the day.
We then set off for the long and bumpy ride down to Albreda, where Wandifa's brother and  family live.  We picked up a sack of rice along the way, a gift for Bakary from Andrew & Kathy, and bounced off down the dusty red road.  We were early enough to see several groups of monkeys playing in the grass at the side of the road, some of them with babies - always a lovely sight.
Our first stop in Albreda was at the local primary school, at which we have done several projects.  There is a new head teacher at the school now, but we did not meet him as he was at the regional office in Kerewan.  We were greeted by the deputy, who we have known for some time, and went to inspect the new tap, sink unit and work surface in the kitchen.  It looked pretty good in general, but we spent some time peeling off the protective blue plastic layer from the stainless steel, which had been left on the draining board surface and was now ingrained with soap and sand!  We explained about the need for cleanliness and how easy the steel itself would be to clean - and that the blue plastic was only for protection during transportation.  It looked a lot better after our ministrations, as everyone agreed.
The deputy had spoken to his headmaster on the phone, who had agreed that we could go ahead and deal with him regarding the next project, already approved, which is to be a small, two cubicle toilet facility for the female staff.  We have planned to provide a small block of living quarters for the female teachers, so these toilets will be for them.  We left the money for them with the deputy and Wandifa will go back to check on them when they are completed.  If all is OK we will then proceed with funding the living quarters.
Next to see Bakary and family.  They all seemed well and were very pleased to receive the rice.  We had a discussion with Bakary about second wives.... he said that he needs a second wife to collect more water for him, but that Ida, his current wife, is not keen on the idea!  He asked me if I agreed with Ida and I replied that I certainly did. This is a very good example of  a Gambian joke, as he certainly has no intention of taking a second wife!
Having left the family still discussing wives, we went to the little cafe beside the river for a drink before returning to Barra.
So far, so good... we arrived back at the ferry port at just after 12noon.  Amazing, we said, we will be back in Banjul in time for two o'clock prayers.  But no, the ferry "had a little problem" and it was stuck over in Banjul for some considerable time.  The queue got longer, the day got hotter and the small kids were crying.  We peeled our remaining oranges, passed some round and ate some ourselves...still no ferry.  At last, after a wait of two and a half hours, it arrived, absolutely crammed with foot passengers and vehicles.  We eventually boarded and had a much calmer voyage back to Banjul, arriving just before 4pm.  The tide was by now very low and they said that it would not be able to leave the port again until after 6pm, so I guess we were lucky we got back as well as we did!
Back to the hotel, where I managed a short nap before getting ready to go out to dinner with David and Jenny to Mama's for their wonderful fish buffet - sorry you couldn't be with us, Andrew!
Posted by Dave for Pippa.