29 April 2009



Tuesday 14th April

A very strange thing happened today in the Gambia - Pippa, aided and abetted by Tina, Frances, Claire, Wandifa, Yankuba and Abdoulie, took a whole day’s HOLIDAY!!!!! It’s true dear reader, she really did have a break…………..what’s more, she behaved like a tourist with her accomplices, and went on a boat trip, from Denton bridge to Lamin Lodge and back! And as if that wasn’t enough, the 4 ladies decided to finish the day in style, gathering Linda up in our wake, and heading off to Ngala Lodge for a celebratory meal, a fitting finale to a wonderful, action-packed, exhausting, exhilarating trip.

Thank you to all the amazing Gambians who helped us over the fortnight, especially to Alhassan & Sainey, who laughed with us (and at us!), to Yankuba who explained so much about his country, to Abdoulie who drove us so carefully, and most of all to Wandifa the wonderful, for all his hard work and good humour. We couldn’t have done it without you all!!!
(Text by Tina)

Another visiting day

Monday 13th April
We started by going to Campama school to hand over money for their ongoing project and admire the very smart and well-cared for school compound. Such a difference from when we first visited. Then on to deliver more forms to various students, and catch up with some of the families we have known now for several years. Frances & Tina were especially pleased to meet up with old friends such as Ellen and her family, and Hawa and her family in their new compound. All of us were delighted to be treated to a special Domada lunch, courtesy of Wandifa’s cousin. Our very favourite Gambian meal – thank you Jonsaba. On to Wandifa’s compound for more hairbraiding (Frances this time) and sewing machine practice at making bags.
On our return to the hotel Wandifa, Yankuba and Pippa checked over all the student records to ensure no forms had been forgotten – no easy task now that PAGEANT sponsors so many young people!
An evening at Billy’s along the road rounded off the day perfectly.
(Text by Tina)

Visit to Gunjur

Sunday 12th April

Today we went to Gunjur, family village of the twins, and the final nursery school of our visit. We spent the morning singing, storytelling and painting with the nursery children, who were delightful. Thank you to Ahmed who gave us a lovely welcome.

After this we were honoured to be shown round his farm by Sainey & Alhassan’s father, Nfansu, and engaged in a lively discussion about how pleased we parents are to receive practical offers of help from our children when they visit us at the family home! (*Please take note A & S!)

We ate another delicious lunch, this time provided by Musa, elder brother of the twins, and later returned to the hotel.
(Text by Tina)

Rest day for weary travellers!

Saturday 11th April

We stayed at the hotel, but just in case you think that we were sunbathing / reading / sleeping, we would like to assure you all that we were kept busy with a stream of visitors all day, including 2 grade 12 students, who impressed us with their calm attitude to their studies and forthcoming exams. Good luck to all our grade 12 students in the next few weeks!

We did manage a little relaxation – Frances had a massage, Pippa a pedicure & Tina a manicure. (Claire – what were you doing meanwhile?!).
In the evening we stayed at the hotel to enjoy the A team show.
(Text by Tina)

Travellers’ Tales Part 2!

Friday 10th April

Another 6am start in preparation for our long and busy day ‘up country’. We loaded all our belongings onto the minibus again and set off on the last leg of our journey that would take us as far as Jarring, the most easterly village along the river in The Gambia that we support. This is the home of many of our sponsored children, and
Yankuba’s home town, so he was to be in charge today.

We made a brief stop in Soma to buy some breakfast – the delicious Gambian quivalent of French bread, called ‘tapalapa’, filled with meat (Gambian choice) or banana (English preference on this occasion!). Soma is a main thoroughfare for both Gambian and Senagalese travellers, as it has a main river crossing here, so we met both French and English speaking children who stopped to talk to us. One of the constant delights of this wonderful country is the friendly nature of local inhabitants who, on seeing white travellers, are very happy to engage you in conversation – such a refreshing change from less gregarious westerners.

From Soma Abdoulie drove us ever carefully on until we reached our destination, Jarreng. Here we went in search of the young girl sponsored by Tina & Frances, and were somewhat nonplussed to find that she had gone to visit family elsewhere for a holiday! However, we were able to catch up with many other students who we had not seen for some time and to deliver the 50 mosquito nets, a bicycle for one lucky sponsored boy, and quantities of baby clothing so kindly made and donated by a ladies knitting group back in Surrey, England. Yankuba took charge of the distribution of all these items, and we would like to thank him for his excellent organisation. We were very pleased with the delighted, but ordered way in which these gifts were received, and we know they will be well used and appreciated.

More letter forms for students to write to their sponsors were delivered while we had a delicious fish lunch at Yankuba’s grandmother’s compound, then all too soon it was time to leave on our long trip back to Banjul. *T & F caught up with their sponsored girl on the way back, at her relative’s compound, so they were very happy! We also caught up with Lamin K, a nursing student at Soma on the return journey – we know he reads this blog, so he gets a special mention here!

We finally got back to the hotel via Wandifa’s home village of Kanikunda, at 12.45am, having been travelling since 6 the previous morning!! A long day indeed.
(text by Tina)

21 April 2009


Our long trip east...

Thursday 9th
We were up and ready to leave at 6am. Wandifa, Sainey and Alhassan all arrived promptly with our fantastic driver Abdoulie and we loaded up the car with all our belongings, presents for all the children and families we were going to see on our trip, and all of the mosquito nets that we were taking to Jarreng. We picked up Yankuba on the way through Serrekunda and set off on our trip. The first part of our journey on tarmac roads went well and we made good time. However, the tarmac runs out very early on the South Bank, so the greater part of our trip was taken at a much slower pace, due to appalling road conditions. Sainey & Alhassan kept spirits high with their infectious excitement as this was to be their first expedition this far East in their own country.
We stopped off at Kalagie to meet Ensa, one of our Grade 12 sponsored students and his family, and then some of the party had a brief walk to visit his Mum's garden and then along the river back to the road to catch up with the car containing the rest of the party. We took a photo of Alhassan the tourist with Ensa and Yankuba beside the river.

We arrived at Tendaba Camp where we were to stay the night, soon after midday, and everyone was able to recover from the journey by relaxing at the riverside, with plenty of wildlife to watch.

We spotted white and black herons, kingfishers and even a pelican! Everyone enjoyed the relaxing afternoon especially Sainey who went off on his own adventure on a boat trip to the north bank! It was his first ever boat trip and he was very excited to tell us all he'd seen on his return!

We had a lovely evening meal and then chatted and played games before heading to bed ready for another early start!
Wednesday 8th
Today we started slightly later than usual after a brief lie in which was wonderful!! First we took a couple of Atlantic visitors to see a school with which they are interested in forming a link and to meet two young children associated with the school.

We then visited Isatou's compound to see lots of PAGEANT sponsored children. All the children were well and their grandmother was much better than when we visited them last year. We gave the children their presents from their sponsors which they were all very pleased with! Then we headed to Wandifa's home. It was lovely to see his family and especially all the children who live in his compound. We were treated to a lovely meal and then Claire had her hair braided by some of the older girls there. Pippa and Tina showed Mariama (Wandifa's wife) and Aminata (one of Pippa's sponsored students) how to make some simple bags which we thought perhaps they could sell to tourists and locals if they made lots between them.

Pippa gave Aminata a small sewing machine which she was absolutely delighted with and she was able to practice using it.

After being waved goodbye by practically all the children in the area we headed briefly to Albert Market to collect Frances' outfit and to buy lots of family sized mosquito nets to take to Jarreng. These were bought with gift token money through the PAGEANT website. We were very pleased to be able to buy 50 nets with this money! We then enjoyed a nice meal back at the hotel before watching the staff show which was very entertaining! Claire and Frances joined in in a group dance at the end which was a great laugh! After dinner we packed our things for our trip up-country as it was going to be a very early start in the morning!


Science and Art at schools

Monday 6th
Monday saw us off to Bakau for an eventful morning visiting lots of family compounds to give out forms to students so that they could write letters to their sponsors. We saw no less than 12 students and were able to update 6 photos as these pupils had changed considerably since we last saw them! We also fitted in a visit to Timbooktoo book- and coffee-shop as well as visits to 2 schools, Bakau New Town and SOS Senior Secondary. At the latter Pippa gave an impromptu science lesson on how to use a laser raybox and a set of lenses which demonstrate various optical phenomena. She had an appreciative audience including the headmaster and science teachers. The head asked the science teachers to let him know when the next lessons were going to be so that he could join in and use the new resources!

Tuesday 7th
Today we went to Brikama to visit Brikamadina Pipeline Nursery School to do some art work with the children. We arrived to find over 60 very eager children waiting for us! They were extremely well behaved even though they were very excited and were a credit to their teacher Fatou who is married to Lamin Jammeh from the hotel. We sang songs, told stories and then let them experiment with paint and printing materials. A great and very messy time was had by all! After this we visited Jambanjali School and Day Care Centre to see a newly sponsored child and give out more forms. We were treated to some lovely singing from every class!
We drove back to the hotel calling in at NARI on our way, to discuss the latest progress with the artemisia plant project, plus several more family compounds. In the evening we met Linda for a lovely meal at her local Italian restaurant.

12 April 2009


Travellers' tales!

Sunday 5th

Hello crew!

Today we travelled to the north bank on the Banjul ferry, having been joined by Jemma who was visiting her sponsored child for the first time. We crossed the river as foot passengers and took a taxi from Barra to Bakalarr where we met Ousman to check on the progress of his new art studio. He's in the process of extending his original studio and has completed the walls and roof. We're sure it'll look very good when it is finished. He also showed us his current portfolio which included some stunning pictures.

We took the opportunity to photograph the new block at Bakalarr School which has now been completed and looks very smart. We thought the school grounds were looking particularly well cared-for. Frances and Claire were very pleased to be able to use the toilet facilities and also wash their feet!! In true Gambian style the taxi needed a little helping hand to restart so with a great push from six staff members we finally set off for Albreda where we had a welcome cold drink from Abdou.
We then stopped off at Wandifa's brother's compound in Juffreh to catch up with several sponsored children including Fatou, Jemma's student and to update our records. We were pleased to see they were all in very good health and had some excellent reports to show us. Frances met Seedy who she helps sponsor along with her dad, for the first time. He and Fatou were very pleased to receive some presents from her and Jemma and Seedy promised to keep up his outstanding performance at school.
Next we went to Sika to see the brand new market place which has been funded by PAGEANT and recently completed. We all thought it looked very good and finished to a very high standard. Bakary Gitteh met us there and explained that the market was in daily use every morning where all the local women have the opportunity to trade each day. We went back to his compound for a delicious lunch before driving back to Barra to catch the return ferry. We were very pleased to be met by Goodboy in Banjul who drove us back to our hotel in high spirits!

11 April 2009



Prior to my going on the trip to Jarreng, my excitement was broken when my oral examination was slated for the day we were supposed to go to Jarreng.

I was so sad that I told my friend who broke the news to me that “the only thing that would slow me down” (quote from Ian Senior) quitting friendship with him would be breaking another news as bad as the news that my trip to Jarra would not be possible because I was going to have an exam.

My joy knew no bounds when Pippa told me on the phone that we would be going on Thursday instead of Wednesday and I was so excited that finally I was going to go on the trip.

The trip started from Atlantic happily, Tina and Pippa treated us to some lovely songs from their late father one of which was so dear and funny to my heart, it has some phrases like because, because, because. And I would try to get the song written down for me by them.

One thing that really infected and could not stop me laughing was Tina’s sweetest sense of humour and I just unusually cannot stop myself from laughing and at some point I felt like a fool as I just cannot stop laughing with just one entertaining and funny word from Tina.

The trip was not all laughter and entertainment but also educational as we learnt some aspects of science with explanation from Pippa about evolution, and also that a black bucket will live longer in the sun than a green, blue or red bucket.

We also were able to see two the historical places we learnt about in history at school which were Jataba and Sankandi. Should I explain a bit of history that happened between the two villages?

The two villages of Sankandi and Jataba quarrelled over the ownership of a rice field. Sankandi was a Marabout village while Jataba was a Soninke one.

The British commissioner in charge of the two places then, Commissioner Sitwell ruled the matter in favour of the Soninke village of Jataba. The villagers of Sankandi were not happy about this decision. Commissioner Sitwell summoned a meeting in the neighbouring village of Battering where he invited the chiefs of the two villages, only the chief of Jataba, Mansa Koto, attended the meeting.

Bana Darboe of Sankandi refused to attend the meeting, which Commissioner Sitwell interpreted as a challenge to his authority and therefore asked for his arrest. It was during this time that Commissioner Sitwell, his deputy Silver and some British official who escorted him were killed by the villagers of Sankandi.

Bana Darboe and his villagers after killing the British commissioner fled to Foday Kabba’s (a Marabout leader) stronghold of Medina. This happened from 1900 to 1901. (historical background)

Now back to the trip to Jarreng, I really enjoyed it at Tendaba camp busily walking around, holding my bottle of water pretending and trying to look like a British tourist.

In fact, literally I was not pretending to be a British tourist because it is the British who took me there and I have to be a Gambian-Gunjurian-Black-British Tourist.

Shouldn’t I be one?

(Note from Pippa: the song that Alhassan liked so much was 'We're off to see the Wizard!' from The Wizard of Oz...)


Yesterday marked the end of a mega-exciting trip up-country. It is the furthest I have gone and it was quite interesting to see other areas beyond my immediate environs. I was amazed to see for myself how different other parts of the Gambia are from the part I hail from.
Shall I go on? Because I could. I was also lucky enough to go bird-watching and my mesmerization had no bounds seeing lots of beautiful birds with their colourful plumage on the banks of the River Gambia. My twin brother and I took time out to talk to some young people from Jarreng and asked them questions about life there, which was by any stretch of the imagination interesting and eye-opening.
On the overall, the trip was enormous fun as the ever charming and kind-to-a-fault Tina (don't mind me Pippa) was on hand to cheer us all up despite the effect of the bumpy roads. We also had a lovely time travelling with fabulous Frances and Claire to whom we both enjoyed talking and asking, shall I say, lots of silly questions.

05 April 2009


Treat day for children!


Today we took 6 sponsored children from Wandifa's and neighbouring compounds out for the day! Wandifa, his wife Mariama and Yankuba also came! We started off at Albert Market where all the children had some pocket money to spend on whatever they wanted. We took the opportunity to buy some material and get measured for some Gambian outfits to be made up for us! We can't wait to see what they'll be like!! After the market we went to Billy's, a local cafe, for lunch with the children. They tucked into chicken and chips and also had ice cream for pudding which they really enjoyed!! We then took the children up the Arch which is the highest landmark in The Gambia. We had a brilliant view of the whole of Banjul and the children were very excited to be up so high and also to see the sea as they knew we would be going to the beach next!

After a drink at the hotel pool bar, we went to play on the beach and take the children swimming in the sea! For two of them, it was their first experience of the sea - the shrieks of excitement could probably be heard on the North Bank!!! Lamin in particular did not stop smiling and laughing the whole time we were in the water and Claire and Frances nearly got pulled under by the enthusastic jumping and bouncing girls! The children had a wonderful day and when we waved them goodbye we knew that they'd had an experience to remember and treasure!!

We went to an Indian restaurant in Senegambia for a relaxing evening meal passing hundreds of very excited Gambian football fans rushing towards the capital to celebrate their under-17's team winning the African Cup. Quite an achievement for such a small country in a large continent!

Love to all at home and pictures will follow tomorrow when we can get to a better computer!! xxxxxx


Latest from The Gambia!! (Friday 3rd April)

Hi all!!

Today was another wonderful day! We spent the morning in KMJ Nursery School where we started off by doing a sensory story. The story was called 'Rain' and we used many props to help tell the story and make it more interesting for the children. We used bubbles which the children were fascinated by, rain makers to demonstrate the sound of the rain, a lightening stick and a thunder tube. After the story we sang a version of the 'If you're happy and you know it' which used animals!! The children (and teachers) all loved our impressions of the animals and all were very keen to join in!!

After the songs we then did some art. We let the children tear up tissue paper strips and create pictures by overlapping the strips and adding feathers and sequins! The teachers joined in with great enthusiasm!

On our return trip to the hotel we called in to see Linda's new house which was lovely. We had a couple of hours relaxing at the hotel and then had enjoyed a meal out at a local fish restaurant. A brilliant day!!

03 April 2009


Hello from The Gambia!!

Hello everyone!

Here we are in The Gambia again for two weeks of work, play and enormous fun! This time the team includes Pippa, Tina, Frances and Claire - it's Claire's first ever trip to The Gambia!!

Today (Thursday 2nd April) we started our day with a visit to Abuko Nursery School to see how well the new water tap was functioning and providing for the children and staff there. We had realised there was an urgent need for this tap due to safety concerns about the well that was previously their only source of water. Whilst Pippa was busy in conversation with the nursery teachers, we entertained all the children with a few rounds of The Hokey Kokey which they loved!
After our brief stay we piled back into the van with Wandifa and Yankuba and headed to King's Kid Academy which now has children from nursery up to grade 5. We had promised that this visit we would teach the older children of the school so we spent a couple of hours in the top two classes doing English and Art activities. With each class we discussed different environments including the desert, jungle, river and ocean. The children collaged their own backgrounds using coloured tissue paper and then cut or tore silhouettes of animals/plants/objects found there and then stuck them on. The pictures looked really effective as we encouraged the children to let their creative flare run wild!

On our way back to the hotel we stopped for a much-needed refreshing drink at Lamin Lodge, a restuarant which floats on the River Gambia. We saw many herons, lots of fish and several monkeys - we held on to our belongings very tightly, especially our sunglasses and PAGEANT caps!!

We had a couple of hours swimming and relaxing at the hotel before setting off to meet Sainey and Alhassan for dinner. Linda also joined us! It was great to catch up with the twins and see them both looking so well and hearing all their latest news. They are very much looking forward to accompanying the PAGEANT team on our trip up country next week as it'll be the furthest they have ever travelled in The Gambia!

Keep watching for further news!!
Love to all at home, Frances and Claire xxxxxx

PS Note from Claire to mum.... have you phoned the dentist? Love you!