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 café 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.

15 February 2018


15 February - A short day

Quite a short day today, prior to our early start for the North Bank tomorrow.  We visited a couple of schools to check on particular students, gave a pencil case plus associated school materials to a newly sponsored girl and paid out sponsorship to several of the more local families.
Jereh was driving for us again (Abdoulie did not return until late afternoon today) and we were back in the hotel at around 2.30pm.  This meant that, having sorted out some more money with Wandifa, I spent nearly three hours lying very lazily in the shade of a palm tree beside the pool!  Very pleasant, but I would not want to do that every day.... however, once in a while is truly delightful.
I had a very early dinner with Linda at Luigi's and am now just about to go to bed at the amazingly early time of 9.30pm!
Wandifa and Abdoulie are due to arrive at 5am tomorrow, so that we can catch the first ferry - however, as several of you will know, that does not always go according to plan.  Fingers crossed......
posted by Dave for Pippa

14 February - Brikama & the South

Wandifa and Jereh arrived a little later than planned as Wandifa had forgotten the money he had changed for me the previous evening and they had to go back for it!
We decided to start in Brikama and do our southern round trip from there, leaving out Banyaka as Jerry's car is not good at coping with "too much of sand".
We visited twelve family compounds in all and in many of them we were given a bag of oranges.  It is an amazingly good orange crop this year and we passed many orange orchards where the trees were almost completely golden with fruit, really beautiful.  I think I must have had my vitamin C intake for the year!  Wandifa and Jereh assured me that all would be eagerly consumed by the children in their compounds when they returned home, and the goats would eat the remains, so nothing would be wasted.
We arrived back at the hotel mid afternoon and Jereh agreed to come and collect me in the evening to take me to dinner with  David and Jenny, two Pageant members who have just arrived out here and are staying at the Kairaba hotel.  It was only when I sat down to dinner in the restaurant and looked at the beautifully decorated menu that I realised it was Valentine's Day!
Nick Taylor also joined us for dinner - you may remember that he has been fund raising for a Gambian project for some time and this was his last evening, following what had obviously been a very rewarding week.  He will be sending us a report after he gets back to UK.
I hope that Abdoulie will be back with us today, but will not know until whichever car it is arrives.......  to be continued tomorrow.
posted by Dave for Pippa

14 February 2018


11 and 12 February

Family visits and farewell

On Sunday we had a late start as we were all tired after two long days doing the workshops. We had planned to visit Yankuba and Fatou at their house to give them a wedding present and then we were invited to lunch at Fatou Lisa Janneh's family compound where Alaghie lives. He is the recipient of the Ian Howard memorial award and is a bright and engaging young boy.

The day was very hot with a strong wind. The weather has been cold for the time of year, by Gambian standards, with strong winds and often days with cloud and even some light rain. It was good to sit inside out of the sun today however, which seems odd as it is lovely to see such sunshine in February. We see that the weather in the UK is quite cold and are not looking forward to that at all!
Before leaving the hotel we brought the blog up to date and Pippa and Kathy looked through the list of student teachers attending the workshop to decide who should have the microscope kits when they go out teaching.

So firstly, to Yankuba and Fatou. We had bought them some cooking pots and dishes and personal gifts which they really appreciated. We had also bought two iced fruit cakes and made a tier with a wedding topper for them to cut the “wedding” cake, explaining that it was traditional in the UK. A photo of the happy couple is below.

We then drove to Fatou Lisa's family compound to be met by Alaghie and his sisters as well as his parents. We had cooked a marvellous lunch of chicken benachin and also chicken domada. The benachin was really superb and we had a great time chatting and laughing with the family. When we had seen them last February Alaghie had quietly asked whether we could bring him a football. Like most 11-year olds he was mad about football and a Chelsea supporter. He has a wide knowledge about the Premier League teams and their top players and would like to be a professional footballer when he grows up. If that isn’t possible then, at the moment, he would like to be a bank manager! His favourite subjects at school are Maths and English. We had taken him a football and he was delighted with it. He was playing in the local competition semi-finals later that afternoon and was confident they would win.

We got back to the hotel at 4.30 in time for a swim and lie in the sun before meeting Linda at Luigi’s for dinner.

On Monday Kathy stayed at the hotel for a bit of a rest (she has to go back to work on Wednesday) so Pippa and I went out. We went back to Kotu Kala school and were pleased to see that most of the electrical safety work has been done. All that needs to be done is to make the box in which the equipment sits watertight. A simple job 5 minute job with a tube of flexible sealant to fill up the hole where the cable goes. Ebrima, the school's administrator has the other job of making the water tower safe in hand. It is quite a big job as the tank has to be drained and removed from the tower. He is planning to have it done at the end of February.

Pippa and I spent the rest of the day going round schools and compounds paying sponsorship monies and taking photos of those students and of some who are seeking sponsors.

As Dave has posted, Kathy and I are now back in the UK after an uneventful flight back. I have enjoyed writing this blog and I hope that you have enjoyed reading it.

I hope to see as many as possible of you at the PAGEANT AGM on Sunday March 4th.

Best wishes



13 February - Goodbye Andrew and Kathy

Many thanks to Andrew for his posts bringing us all the news from The Gambia. Pippa has now taken over the reporting role, and hopes to send daily updates by email, which I (Dave) will then post on the blog. Unfortunately, there probably won't be any photos until Pippa gets back.

Pippa writes:
"Andrew and Kathy returned home yesterday - very sad to see them go, we have worked hard but have had a lot of laughs along the way.
On our way to the airport Abdoulie received a phone call telling him that a family brother had just passed away after a long illness, while staying in southern Senegal.  The burial was to be in Senegal later that same day, so Abdoulie set off very soon after we arrived at the airport in order to get there in time.  We had checked with Jereh, our long-standing relief driver, and he was able to come to the airport to collect Wandifa and me.  We waited for the incoming flight to arrive, saw Andrew and Kathy go through immigration, and set off to see some families and pay out sponsorship in the Bakau area.
Wandifa is due to be arriving with Jereh at 9am this morning and we hope to 'do' the southern part of the coastal region today.
I'll try to report on that tomorrow, internet permitting."

11 February 2018


9th and 10th February

Microscopy workshops

Friday and Saturday were spent carrying out the workshops we had planned for with Gambia College.

On each day we arrived promptly at the university in Brikama shortly before 8.00am. We had prepared the lab the day before so it was just necessary to unpack our stuff, lay out samples and be ready

Each workshop was given mostly to  student teachers  but we had a few lecturers from the college there too. Some of the students had already had some teaching experience; others had not. The workshops were given to 20 people each day. We had taken with us 20 small stereo microscopes and 10 larger transmitted light microscopes, with some kits boxes containing useful tools for preparing samples to look at and simple lenses and jewellers’ loupes.

At the end of the workshops the 10 student teachers whom we judged to be the best overall would receive a kit containing a stereo microscope and tools to take with them to their first teaching post.
The first session on each day explained what equipment they had and how to us it. The teachers were shown how to use a simple magnifying lens, a jeweller’s loupe (which was theirs to keep) and how to use the microscopes, including how to work out the area you can see, using simple measurements on graph paper. 

We then stopped for breakfast which consisted of a sausage, onion and salad baguette or cold fried egg baguette and tea or coffee plus water.

After breakfast (at about 11.15) the teachers had about two hours to choose and look at samples. We had taken a number of samples with us including cheap and expensive tea in teabags, different types of fabric, flowers and leaves, insects, potatoes, onion and parsley and small electronic parts. The students were especially interested in the tea where they could see the cheap tea contained mostly stalks and the expensive tea was mostly large pieces of dried leaves. We found some brackish water in a puddle. The students were amazed to find that under the microscope they could see small mini-beasts darting around that were not visible to the naked eye.

Towards the end of the session the teachers were put into groups of 4 and asked to prepare a lesson for students from local schools and the college who were due to come after lunch.

After lesson preparation we stopped for lunch and prayers. On the first day lunch was fish benachin. This consists of savoury rice, baked fish and vegetables including cabbage, carrots and cassava and a tamarind sauce. On the second day we had chicken yassa which is plain boiled rice, spiced roasted chicken and a thick sauce containing roasted onions. On each day bottled water was provided.

The afternoon sessions went well, with all teachers coping well with the students. We had about 30 students each day, We could see much animated teaching with the students clearly engaged with using the equipment, which is the aim of the workshop.

After carefully packing up we returned to the hotel and now have the difficult decision as to which 10 teachers will receive microscopes and kits. We would love to be able to give them all a set.

08 February 2018


8th February

Preparing for the microscopy workshops

On Friday 9th and Saturday 10th February we will be delivering our microscopy workshops to student teachers from Gambia College. These will take place at the University of The Gambia which is next door. The workshops will be delivered by Pippa, Kathy, Abdoulie, Wandifa and, we hope, Yankuba for at least part of the time, and me.

We spent the morning at the hotel unpacking the microscopes from their boxes and checking they worked. We were joined by Karamba (the young man referred to in an earlier blog who hopes to become a chef). We recognise that whilst Yankuba is working at the Atlantic Hotel he might not always be available to help deliver workshops, so we think it will be useful to give him some experience. We also put together the kits that go with the microscopes for the students to use.
That done, we went down to the University to unpack and get the laboratory ready. We were pleased to see that the lab had recently been very well decorated.

Once finished we headed back to the hotel, stopping off en route to give out some sponsorship monies. We were delighted to be given presents of three freshly picked grapefruits at one compound; and some oranges at another.

My next blog will cover the two workshops and I hope to have some good photos to show then