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!!

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