24 April 2011


Day 12: 22 April - Signing off...

Always so sad to leave The Gambia, and leave behind our wonderful team who work so tirelessly and with such good humour! Thanks to you all. See you next time!!

Love from us all x x x

23 April 2011



I have always looked forward to my trips up-country in general, and Jarreng in particular. On my first trip in 2009, I was shocked at the level of poverty and deprivation the people in one of the poorest swathes of one of the poorest countries in the world have to endure.
And yet, I was substantially impressed with their determination to make things better for themselves. I have, through my conversations with people my age, the High School Principal and parents, known that the daily scrimp and scrape for survival in the rural areas has deprived many children of the chance to acquire education. Many young girls abandon school to get married at an early age, whilst boys provide labour on the farm. Their parents simply cannot afford to keep them in school.
I could not but be impressed with the countless positive impacts (and I mean countless) that Pippa's work and the contributions of PAGEANT members, big and small, have had on the precarious lives of the beneficiaries.
At the Senior Secondary school we were informed that the students being sponsored by PAGEANT have been doing well: Yusupha had "A" in Science in his exams, which is no mean achievement.
We then moved on to Yankuba's compound to see his lovely extended family, and also give mosquito-treated bed nets to a group of women who accumulated in the compound to protect themselves from one of the diseases that deprive most people their dear and loved ones in Africa - Malaria.
And welcomed is what we were. They revealed that the mosquito bed nets they have received over the years from the charity have immensely reduced the rate of Malaria sicknesses in the village.
Tina's extremely good sense of humour was sorely missed. She was ill and was not her normal self, and Pippa tried to step into her shoes, but with less success. Tina is indeed my comedienne-in-chief!(I hope am not getting into trouble).

Note from Pippa: This photo shows us playing 'Jenga' at Tendaba on our overnight stop on the way to Jarreng... Sainey (in the stripey shirt) found this VERY difficult, but persevered manfully!! Abdoulie won the set to take home - I don't remember that he ever lost a game. We also played Scrabble - modesty forbids me to say who won.....

22 April 2011


Day 11: 21 April – Rounding off the trip

Today we spent a wonderful morning by the pool in a last ditch attempt to achieve a tan... before heading home tomorrow. Perfect weather, lovely sunshine and nice breeze. We then headed to the first of three compounds to see Kumba and her family. Although this is a very sad time for them as one of their family members has recently passed away, they seemed pleased to see us. Ebrima in particular was very pleased to tell us that he is enjoying his course and achieving excellent marks in technical drawing. He proudly showed us a car that he had made out of a model kit – beautifully done!

Next stop was Wandifa's compound where we received a very noisy and enthusiastic welcome! LOTS of very happy children, all eager to see what we had brought for them. Tina and I were delighted to meet Ebrima Ian, Wandifa's youngest son, for the first time. He was not so sure about us!! We gave out some presents, played football with the children, admired Wandifa's crop of pumpkins, and looked at the newly dug toilet pit. We were then treated to a delicious lunch cooked by Mariama, Wandifa's wife.

Finally, we called in at Abdoulie's compound where we were shown round the beautiful vegetable garden and introduced to his mother and other family members. We had a refreshing drink under the shade of an olive tree, while we chatted, before stocking up on peanuts on our way back to the hotel.

We had a lovely dinner with Linda before lots of sorting and packing! I am very much looking forward to seeing everyone back at home. Going to miss the smiling people and beautiful sunshine, but definitely NOT the mosquitoes! A huge thank you to Wandifa, Yanbuka and Abdoulie who have worked tirelessly on our behalf, and with such good humour. They are an amazing team and PAGEANT are very lucky to have them.

Until next time... x x x


Day 10: 20 April - Science, Socialising and a New Discovery!

Notes from Tina (before I forget!):
To Sheila H – Yusupha from Jarreng (sponsored by Chris & family) would like you to know that he thought you were a 'very good Science Teacher'. Joe B & Chris – you should know that Yusupha was able to describe in some detail what he had learned from the February Science workshops to his teacher, who was so impressed, he awarded Yusupha an 'A' grade! Bos & Lyn – Seedy was speechless with pleasure when he received his gifts from you, and he really enjoyed his treat day. To the Skinner family – Goats are SO much fun!! To Gill and Bob – the birds have been fabulous! Including huge vultures, tiny sunbirds, hummingbirds, and pretty little hornbills. To Chris and Charlotte S – we have missed you these last few days!

Day 10
While Pippa was doing complicated things at the bank this morning, Tina wrote up the blog for yesterday, and Frances nobly spent two and a half hours trying (and succeeding) to fix Yankuba's Netbook, which had lost the ability to connect properly to the internet. Working in a different mode to Windows was not easy – Dave G you would have been proud of her!

Today saw the team heading out to Sukuta Nema to visit a new Senior Secondary School and the adjacent Basic Cycle School. Pippa's most senior sponsored student is now teaching at both these schools, and had asked if we could provide any resources as they had none. He was right – we could certainly not see any evidence of any teaching resources, useful or otherwise. We had great fun introducing some Year 12 pupils to a Ray Box with lenses, in addition to a range of magnifying glasses, and eventually, a microscope. When attention flagged, we reverted to the tried and tested 'quick reaction' test using the falling ruler!

Driving away from the schools, our driver Abdoulie stopped the car to show us a 'Jackfruit' Tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus) – a leafy tree with the largest fruit we have ever seen – much larger than a rugby ball, and quite spiky to touch. It was really spectacular!

Next we went to visit a lovely young Gambian friend of ours, who is now a married lady, having married a Dutchman last year. We were very pleased to meet her husband, and they both showed us round their lovely home. We were able to see their wedding photos, and Hawa, as ever, looked lovely in these also.

We were pleased to make it back to the Hotel just in time for 'Happy Hour' – what a great invention for the thirsty worker in the heat!

We rounded off a lovely day with a meal out in The Senegambia with Linda and Fatoumatta Saho. We decided Fatoumatta was by far the most skilled person at the table, as she can speak 5 languages no less. A very clever girl!

Lots of love x x x

19 April 2011


Day 9: 19 April - Meeeehhhh.... meeehhhhh (Gambian goat speak!!)

At last the day arrived – Goat buying Day! This is a first for PAGEANT, and we were quite excited at the prospect of a new 'Gambia experience'! Our first stop was to ensure that the shelter we had arranged for had been built, to prevent the new goats from being stolen. We arrived at the family compound to find an excellent shelter, complete with ventilation, food and water, and lockable door had indeed been built! Furthermore, the goats had already been purchased at the market, and were installed in their new surroundings, looking very much at home. This was very good news, as we had been quite nervous about the prospect of leading several possibly reluctant goats through dusty streets, with amused onlookers to help or hinder our progress! So as of today, we are proud to announce that Bill, Sophie, Eloise, Buzz, and Eli goats are installed, and that Nia and Huw will be joining them soon! MANY grateful thanks to all of you who have so generously donated money towards this new project, which has been so rapturously received by the locals here. We have decided that when a family receives donated goats, they must donate two baby goats to another family in need as soon as they can, to spread the good fortune. As one of the goats is heavily pregnant in our first 'batch', this should not take too long to achieve! We note that the goat fund is still growing, so plan to arrange for two more shelters and sets of goats to be distributed before we leave, giving two more families real help to prosper through the rainy season ahead.

As you will see from the photos, this particular family also received a large bag of rice, and a mosquito net to feed and protect their young children during the months to come. To say they were speechless with pleasure is an understatement!

On with our day, the next stop was to visit a newly sponsored 5 year old boy, take his photo for our records, talk to his mother, and check that all was well. He was a real cutie and very happy to receive his PAGEANT pencil case!

Next was a visit to the family compound of an old friend from GTTI, whom we have always previously met at the college. This time we were to see what he does in his spare time at home, and we were not disappointed! He has had the forethought to form a village Association, to look after the needs of the local community. The first task they set themselves was to clean up the streets so that there are no snakes lurking in the rubbish. This seemed an excellent start to us, and the results were certainly impressive! Next they have begun to build a small nursery school, with one classroom already up and running, which doubles in the evening as a space - with lighting no less – for Grade 9 students to revise and study for exams! Not content with that, Fax has organised teams of young people to dig toilets and do other od jobs for the elderly in the village who need help. A truly community spirited man! You would really approve Chris R!
In the evening Linda joined us at the hotel for a meal, and we managed an early night for once. Not really living on the wild side, are we?!

Lots of love to all xxxx

18 April 2011


Day 8: 18 April – Happy birthday Wandifa!!

Today we left the hotel at 9.30 bound for Gunjur, along with Wandifa, Yankuba, Abdoulie, Sainey and Chris. Schools in The Gambia have officially closed for the Easter holidays, but SHM Nursery School in Gunjur had promised to have some of their children in school as they were so keen to see us! On arrival we discovered that the 60 or so children we were expecting had increased to the entire 207 children in the school!! Rather more than we were anticipating for an art activity, however we contrived! We started with some songs and action rhymes lead by Tina and Pippa, including 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes', and 'The Hokey Cokey', whilst Yankuba, Abdoulie and I mixed brightly coloured paint and set up the art lesson. We then brought the children in, 20 at at time to have a go at various printing techniques using paint, bushed, sponges and fingers! Fantastic fun had by all 207 children! And several adults! We then finished the day with a story brilliantly translated to the children by Yankuba, and acted out by the rest of the team. The children very much appreciated the quacking ducks and croaking frogs!

After some goodbye songs we headed to Sainey's family compound, where we had a lovely chat with his mother, and took photographs of his sisters to send to Alhassan out in USA, who is missing his family. The Darboe family all seem very well and it was lovely to see them again. Back at the hotel we had arranged a surprise birthday treat for Wandifa, including a birthday card, cake and presents. Lots of the hotel guests and staff gathered to sing him happy birthday and present him with his first ever birthday cake! Many thanks to Charlotte who made a fantastic card for him whilst we were out at Gunjur. Wandifa was delighted with all the gifts and especially pleased to have another cake to take home to his family. Very mush deserved! We managed a quick swim before dinner by the pool with a relaxed evening to follow. Tomorrow looks set to be another busy day! Let goat buying commence!!

Lots of love to all x x x

PS. Thanks to Chris for some brilliant camera work today! We shall miss Chris, Charlotte, Paula and Alan when they leave tomorrow. Thanks for all your support and the laughs! X


Day 7: 17 April – Treat day!

This is one of our favourite PAGEANT days where we treat several sponsored children to a fun packed day. Today, we started with a shopping trip in Albert Market where each child had some money to spend on whatever they wished. The children on the treat day today were Isatou, Muhammed, Seedy, Awa, Alieu, Sandy, and last but not least, Mo Lamin. They managed to buy a mixture of shoes, football kit, clothes, swimwear and toiletries, all of which they were very proud to show us! Next stop was Billy's Restaurant where we took them for a chicken and chips lunch followed by ice cream – always a favourite! Linda joined us and a fun time was had by all. The treat did not stop there however, as we then walked back to the hotel, for football on the beach, swimming in the pool, and drinks by the pool bar. Many thanks to Esme who was fantastic assistance in the pool with some thoroughly over excited non-swimmers, desperate to throw themselves into the fun!

Exhausted, but extremely happy, the children left with Wandifa, Yankuba and Abdoulie, full of stories to tell their family and friends when they got home. We staggered to the nearest sun loungers to plan the next days activities and recover!

Very lazy evening after a busy fun-packed day! Enjoy the photos x x x

17 April 2011


Day 6: 16 April – Catching up with old friends...

Today we awarded ourselves a little R&R time beside the pool at the hotel. So this is what they call 'holidaying'! Very restful it was too, but somehow, after a few hours we were in need of more entertainment. So, accompanied by Chris (for the second time!) we headed off to visit the family compound of a very good gardener we happen to know, by the name of Abdoulie. He has been conducting an experiment for us to see how easy it is to grow Artemesia plants, and to see if he could raise new plants from the seedlings. Abdoulie and his family welcomed us with huge smiles, and we were all shown round his truly impressive garden to see a good variety of food crops, ranging from tomato to parsley, cashew and lettuce. He had taken great care to plant the Artemesia in a sheltered and secluded spot, and told us how his own family and several neighbouring families had benefitted from the anti-malarial properties of these plants throughout the rainy season and beyond last year. He is well on the way to raising a new crop for this year. We gave him a second experiment in the form of a self-watering system (large bucket, lots of hose, string and sealant!) to see what he can do with these. We are sure he will have some fun making this work!

Next to the Manneh family who had specially invited us for lunch. One of our favourite families, not least because they have, with some help from PAGEANT members, been able to pick themselves up from sheer despair after their father died very suddenly, and also have a really brilliant attitude to education, and a strong work ethic. They also happen to be a very attractive family, full of fun and laughter, and their hospitality was amazing! Fresh fruits to eat on our arrival were swiftly followed by a delicious fish lunch, as they all told us of the various jobs that they were doing, whilst still studying at school and college courses. The youngest daughter, too young to work as yet, had come first in both her school Grade 5 and exam. The whole family were so proud of her, as are we!

Back to the hotel for a small supper, and an early night! Lots of love x x x


Photos from Jarreng trip

16 April 2011


Day 4 & 5: 14-15 April – The road to Jarreng!

Where to start... bump...rattle...jolt...ouch!!! On Thursday we began our long journey up-country to the village of Jarreng, home of Yankuba's grandmother and many PAGEANT sponsored children. If you have travelled up-country in The Gambia before, you will know that the roads (or lack of them) always make the journey very exciting!! A true Gambian experience every time. And this trip was no exception!

However, since my last visit two years ago, the roads have dramatically improved. There is now tarmac from Banjul to Kanalai and then Soma to Jarreng. Even bus stops and village names now exist too! We decided to split the journey and stop half way at Tendaba camp for one night. Wandifa, Yanbuka, Abdoulie and Sainey accompanied us girls on the trip and very much enjoyed their holiday! At Tendaba camp, the PAGEANT team enjoyed swimming in the pool (which had water Claire!!), reading, bird watching, making green tea in traditional Gambian fashion, and the highlight – playing Jenga and Scrabble! Very entertaining, especially with Wandifa who is a massive cheat!! We met three ladies from Kent who were teaching in the local schools for a week and exchanged experiences. We all had an early night to prepare for our long journey the next day.

Unfortunately, Tina was very sick in the night, so Abdoulie promised to drive as carefully as he could. We left very early and, after a flat tyre and holding the windscreen in place over the bumps, we stopped in Soma for some breakfast – tapalappa and omlette – delicious! Then, weaving in and out of donkeys...chickens...goats...dogs...cows...sheep....children... we made it to Jarreng Basic Cycle School. There, we met with all the PAGEANT sponsored children from Lower and Upper Basic, as well as Senior Secondary. The Deputy Headmaster showed us the results for the children from term 2 – not hugely impressive, but as the school results as a whole go, all our students were in the top half.

From there,we went round the corner into Jarreng Village, where we were given a warm welcome at Yanbuka's grandmother's compound. Here, we dished out presents for all the sponsored kids, toys for all the children, and pretty jewellery, scarves and clothes for the ladies. We had the opportunity to have a really nice chat with some of the sponsored children - Yusupha and Tina had several very good conversations – his English is truly amazing. Also, after attending the PAGEANT science workshops in February, his science was graded 'Excellent' – a brilliant achievement. He sends lots of love to Chris and family. I had a lovely catch up with Fatoumatta, the girl Tina and myself sponsor. We were very pleased to hear that Fatoumatta's family have moved to a nicer house with the extra sponsor money after her school fees were paid.

We visited the local skills centre and were somewhat disappointed to find that their garden where they had previously planted the artemesia plants, was now a car park. We discussed the importance of keeping these plants going and agreed that they needed some training, which we are doing our best to organise. Back at the compound, we distributed 22 mosquito nets, thanks to the PAGEANT gift voucher scheme. They were met with great enthusiasm.

Next up, was a visit to Jarra, Wandifa's home village. We found everybody in very good spirits, and Wandifa's family traits were to be seen through all generations! Huge smiles, bandy legs, and cheeky personalities! We delivered another 22 nets to the people of Jarra which again were received with huge thanks and happiness.

Finally, en route back to Banjul, we had a true Gambian style journey – hot, incredibly dusty and very bumpy! We lost a window, I got covered in petrol, and then the water pipe burst!! We considered our options for mending the pipe which consisted of chewing gum, hairbands, money... but these were all rejected in favour of a stick! This seemed to do the trick, and we arrived safely back to the hotel before midnight! Definitely a first! What a trip!

Lots of love x x x

PS More photos to come - having trouble with cameras!!