19 April 2014


Home again, home again.....

All safely home again after a good (if rather bumpy) flight home.  At one stage it seemed as though we were still travelling on the Gambian country roads.....
MANY thanks to all the team - what stars you all are.  The impact of what you are all doing continues to 'ripple out' - see below.

Here are some extracts from a few emails that have arrived from various folk we met on our trip:
"I just wanted to thank you so so much from the bottom of my heart for the amazing day I spent with you all and the unbelievable kindness and welcome you showed me.  (We) have never stopped talking about when and how we could return to The Gambia and support what you do further since we got back. The country, its people and Pageant have touched my heart greatly.  I hope you are continuing to have a fantastic time making such an unbelievable difference to people's lives and giving people such hope which is fabulous to see."
copied into email to friends....."I just wanted to email you about a fabulous charity that I have discovered doing great work out here in The Gambia.  Essentially (we) are planning to donate some money to support the projects that they do"
" It was lovely to see you in Gambia albeit very briefly - I really don't know how you manage to do all what you do.. you are a true inspiration!!  As soon as we book our next visit I will let you know....... Please do let me know if there is anything else that I can do in the meantime."

So, the next things will be the annual newsletter, the Pageant summer party in July and then packing stuff up to ship out in the summer (pallets this time, as I don't think funds will allow for a whole container) - I hope to see as many of you as possible during the summer.

Oh, I nearly forgot - the start to every day of our trip was a really good Pageant breakfast....


Day 12 - happy birthday Wandifa!!

After an early breakfast and some last minute sorting and packing, we surprised Wandifa with a real birthday cake, which we had made in the hotel. His face said it all and he approved of our singing!! We presented him with a birthday card in which we had all written special messages! We piled in to 2 taxis and headed for the airport - a straight forward journey one might think... But not in The Gambia!! The first stop was to receive a handful of knitted mobile phone cases thrust through the window that had been specially made for us by Fatoulisa's daughter, Haddy. Next we greeted Seedy who had been instructed to 'pick' the cake from the roadside and take it to Wandifa's compound. Finally we were hailed by Goodboy who had come to deliver a sponsored child's letter. We checked in and enjoyed a final drink with the PAGEANT team, sadly missing Abdoulie, still suffering from malaria.

Thanks for another great trip - to the Gambian team including Linda, you have been fantastic company, support and have worked very hard to ensure a successful trip - thank you for all the laughs and good times! We wish you well in the coming months and are counting the days until our next meeting!

And now for the PAGEANT prize giving....
Best dressed... Ellie 
Most competitive... Page and Ian (how are they going to fight that one out??!)
Most organised... Pippa
Consistently late to breakfast... Frankie and Caroline
Best goat negotiator... Yankuba
Best dinner... the Bishop's sauce
Best story teller... Tina
Biggest tease... Wandifa
Most adventurous compound toilet visitor... Frankie and Ellie
Most active (often to be found in the gym)... Caroline
Best artist (and fish designer supreme)... Page
Best ladies wine drinker (according to the Bishop)... Ian

Thank you team!! Until next time x x x x

Ps a huge thank you to Dave for sprucing up the blog always written in haste and usually late at night!!


Day 11 - all Christmases came at once!


Our last full day was certainly a busy one! We headed off early to the women's group at Brikama, stopping at the GTTI to see Fax, founder of Humanity Nursery School, on our way going (Gambian lingo!). With Fax we discussed his latest project ideas for the school and the progress of the PAGEANT bus which is set to be out of action for a while until a good gear box comes along (4 have been tried already!) 

We arrived at the women's group where Pippa and Fatou explained all about the new loan scheme in English then Mandinka. The 6 chosen women then presented their business proposals to the rest of the group and asked for their support. Their ideas included selling soap, washing powder, wonjo ice and palm wine. After the women's group we stopped at a local market to go in search of rice sacks and mosquito nets. Ellie and Frankie managed the 50kg bag of rice between them which they were quite proud of... However shortly after a Gambian lady strolled past carrying her baby on her back, heavy buckets in her hands and a 50kg rice sack on her head!! We will have to practise this next time! 

The market was an amazing sight... Full of vibrant colours and fascinating sights and sounds. As usual it went on for rows and rows. Eventually we found some mosquito nets which passed the Wandifa test so we headed back to the van with our goodies. On our way we stopped to buy dictionaries as prizes for a school to give out on their prize giving day, as well as oranges for our lunch! Then we called in to see Baba, Wandifa's brother. He showed us his wedding material as he is due to get married at the end of the month. All 300-400 guests will be dressed in similar material - we can't wait to see photos!

Next it was the moment we had all been waiting for... Earlier in the week we had come across a family in total despair. They had recently lost their father, leaving the mother and grandmother to feed more than 10 children in the compound. We decided to help out, starting by giving them 2 family sized mosquito nets to protect the whole family at night. The grandmother was delighted with these as she wasn't expecting anything from us! Next we surprised her with the sack of rice which will feed their family for more than a month! Again there were smiles all round. Finally we had one more present to give to her... Before we arrived with her we had struck a deal with the family across the street to buy two goats for her family. Yankuba lead the goat negotiations and we managed to get a good deal which would also help their family to complete work on their roof which they had been struggling to find money for... While at the compound Caroline, Frankie and Ellie had been shown how to make a mud block, Gambian style - we were pretty good but again, practise is needed next time!! Anyway, Wandifa explained to the grandmother hat us girls would like to show her the blocks we had made (he is such a tease!!) so we walked across the road to view the blocks! We surprised her with the goats and at that moment, she was certainly the happiest Gambian alive! All her Christmases had definitely come at once! The goats were transported (around shoulders!) to her compound to their new home. We gave out some footballs and small toys and hair bands to the children at the compound and then left them with their goodies... It was a pleasure to help such a lovely family. 

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off to surprise one more student with a netbook which was enthusiastically received! Ebrima was delighted with the netbook and, as a University student AND part-time teacher in an Upper Basic School, it will help him greatly with his studies and planning. 

Back at the hotel we began the laborious chore of packing... Although it took us about 3 minutes due to our cases being so empty!! We then glammed up and headed to the Senegambia strip for our last evening meal where we were joined by Yankuba, Wandifa, Linda and Sainey and Alhassan Darboe. It was great to catch up with everyone - there were lots of laughs all round. Sainey produced his latest article in the local newspaper which would you believe included a feature length article about our 10k run!! We are now famous in The Gambia!!! The highlight of the evening was definitely singing happy birthday to Wandifa and seeing his face when his cake along with candles and sparklers appeared!! Happy (almost) birthday Wandifa!!!

16 April 2014


Day 10 - Treat day


After taking bets on a) on what time the bus would turn up, b) which bus would turn up and c) who would be driving, 9 sponsored children/ young adults and 3 slightly older pageant members arrived for a trip to Albert market. We gave them an hour to go off in small groups and buy things just for them. Each person arrived back at the van with their bags of goodies, (for which they had managed some good bargaining techniques) and large smiles. Meanwhile....we headed to our trusted market traders and did some hard bargaining ourselves for drums, sarongs and a giraffe called Wanto.

Then it was time to head to Billy's for lunch, which consisted of many plates of chicken and chips. Whilst we waited for the food we played a competitive game of rounders and volleyball. After lunch we played more games before saying goodbye to the children, clutching their shopping and doggy bags full of chicken and chips.

Unfortunately Abdouli was unable to join us toady as he not feeling well, we missed him and hope that he is able to join us again before we leave. 

This afternoon we invited Modou Jeng to the hotel to join us for a drink where we surprised him with a tablet. The look on his face was a picture and we know he will put it to good use. 

Tonight we are dining at the a la carte restaurant in the hotel for some much needed vegetables. We may even fit in a competitive game of cards (anyone notice a theme?) and Frankie is hoping not to lose!!

Lots of love

15 April 2014


Day 8 - goat day!


Yesterday, we left the hotel at 6am for Kanni Kunda armed with lots of presents and packed breakfasts as well as armfuls of pillows (we still haven't got our PAGEANT van back) but unfortunately no mosquito nets as the replacement van does not have a roof rack. We were entertained on our journey by the lack of cutlery... Ellie found a way round this by cracking her egg on the window while others dipped their bread in the butter! We arrived safely after 3 and a half hours at Kanni Kunda LBS to check up on the progress of our latest projects. The computer suite is looking great with a tiled floor and electrics all in place. They also have the solar panels to power the computers and safety grills to put on the windows. We all thought it looked very impressive and they are due to start work on their new dining room next term. We collected Fatoumatta (one of Tina's sponsored students) from the bus stop as she had travelled from Jarreng that morning to spend a few days with us in Banjul. 

We stopped off to see Nurse who is in charge of the women's group and micro loan project. She is only 22 years old with a new baby but has managed the micro loan project with efficiency and good humour. The ladies are on track to pay their loan back in full by July which means another 6 ladies can start again. We seemed to be playing a game of how many people you could stuff into one room - we had over 30 at one point which as you can imagine was rather warm!!! Reading glasses and toys were handed out - we had an impromptu opticians service in the crowded room! 

Next stop was to see Wanto, Wandifa's sister for goat negotiations! She looked very well and was keen to be the next recipient of a PAGEANT goat, courtesy of Caroline's family! We managed to get a bargain - a pregnant goat with some hard bartering by Yankuba! Wanto was delighted with her goat and waved us off clutching it tightly! 

We stopped for a roadside drink before calling in to see several other sponsored children to take photos and check reports. We had a very long hot journey back but because it was in daylight, for the first time ever we saw groups of women heading to tend their crops with their water buckets on the heads, many people working in the fields and lots of traditional houses and sights. Yankuba returned with a single feather (much to his disappointment but our delight!!) following a slight incidence involving the bus and a guinea fowl! 

We were exhausted when we arrived back at 8pm so we ordered a quick dinner and fell into bed!!


Day 9 - Humanity day

Good evening!

Today we visited our last school of this trip, Humanity Nursery School. Although they were on their school holiday, the children came in especially to see us! We began with lots of messy art where the children collaged, painted, hand printed and coloured lots of exciting pictures. We created some really lovely classroom displays to brighten up their rooms. The children then enjoyed some parachute games and some singing before waving us off! 

We went and collected Fatou from Gambia College and stopped at a cafe to discuss setting up the new Brikama women's group and micro loan. She seemed really receptive and full of good ideas for the new scheme. Ellie had her hair braided by Fatoumatta while we waited! After this we went to meet the women but unfortunately as we arrived, the village had just been informed of a bereavement and so we have arranged to go back on Thursday. 

On our way back to the hotel we called in to see Wandifa's brother Baba and all his lovely children. They were very happy to receive some new clothes, colouring books and toys and enjoyed playing some games with us. Back at the hotel there was just enough time for a quick swim and gym session before dinner at Billy's with Linda and some of her colleagues. 

We are all looking forward to treat day tomorrow where we are going to take lots of our sponsored children shopping and then to lunch. Bring it on!

X x x

13 April 2014


Day 6 and 7 - Manneh day and Ellie's knottage day!


After such a busy few days we have had a slightly more relaxing weekend to prepare for our trip up country tomorrow. Saturday started with a trip to the gym followed by a boat trip from Denton Bridge to Lamin Lodge and back, along the River Gambia. As you can see from the pictures, our boat wasn't the most stable device... But still worked better than the van which remains out of action! We played lots of games and enjoyed the views from the boat. The usual monkeys joined us for a drink at Lamin Lodge and on our return to Denton Bridge we tried to hijack Yankuba's bike but he spotted us very quickly!! 

In the evening we headed to the Senegambia strip where we met the Manneh family, Linda and the PAGEANT team for a lovely dinner. It was great to catch up with them and see them all looking so well and full of life. 

Today we started the day with a water aerobics workout (Gambian style - our necks have never been so fit!!). We were joined by the team and set off for a couple of compounds to visit sponsored children and to see Abdoulie's new baby goats which we have Christened Page and Frankie (Ellie and Caroline goats are due next week!!). We ended up at Fatoulisa's compound where we enjoyed a delicious Gambian feast of chicken, rice, aubergine, onions, peppers and bitter tomato. We entertained the children with some parachute games and a game of rounders. As usual, the children were delightful and we continue to be amazed by their fantastic English and bubbly personalities. The eldest three are doing brilliantly at school.

We are off to Billy's for dinner tonight so we can get an early night before leaving at silly o clock to go on our up country adventure! Hopefully no Gambian hiccups await!!!! 

Love to everyone at home! We hear the sunshine we sent your way has finally arrived!!

X x x