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The Diary of a Volunteer in The Gambia: Part 6

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Jonny describes one day with our medical team that has worked relentlessly throughout Senegal and The Gambia. People for Change in collaboration with Diritti al Cuore have seen more than 900 kids with conditions ranging from malaria to worms to extreme diarrhoea

Adama’s Marvellous Medicine

“Midway through our trip and our car has decided that it wants a rest, and who could blame it? Covering umpteenth miles in the blistering heat; the majority of the time being pushed to it’s top speed by our friend and driver Adama.

Adama has been with us from the moment we arrived at the airport. He has the calmest manner and the biggest smile either side of the equator! Using a healthy mix of Wolof, French and Italian he finds a way of communicating with everyone he comes into contact with. He is the definition of respect.

This morning we find Adama under the bonnet of the Peugeot with a look of concern on his face – fear not, even with his head (and heart) worrying for his car he still sports a lavish smile! His engine tinkering is in vain outside, help will be required.

Push-start.
Push. Start. These two simple words now illicit an instant response from my sweat glands. Pushing a car is hard. Pushing a car with space for seven people is harder still. Add in the factors of the heat, an empty stomach, a hill, flip-flops and sweaty hands and you will begin to imagine our struggle. Eventually the ignition sparked and Adama set off for the local garage.

An afternoon with medical team is ahead. I’m feeling nervous and excited. It feels real. Our medical team, made up of Laura, Monica, Krizia, Bepi, Daniele and two doctors from Central Africa called Cedrec and Cyriac, are ready for action. There shift began early in the morning and this second stint runs from 2pm until sunset.

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The Diary of a volunteer in The Gambia: Part 5

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Stefania, our volunteer, talks about our Education project and the situation in the school. We are so happy to be able to make a difference, but we know that there is a long way to go.

“Today we met with a representative from the Ministry of Education, the Headmaster and the teachers of the Balanghar Basic Cycle School. We’d spent hours collecting, counting and packing all the stationary to donate but first, we wanted to understand the struggles of working in a remote village where education is not accessible for everyone.

We’ve heard about the subjects they teach and the projects they coordinate. ‘Education is key’ echos in every conversation here. We share ideas about what could be improved, but resources are scarce. We’ve found out that there are 516 kids enrolled this year. 100 more then we expected. There is only one classroom available for ECD (Early Childhood Development) children which means that 90 kids have to stay in one small class. This class has no furniture so they can’t learn to write until first grade. None of the ECD has a uniform to wear, just like many of their older friends. We’ve also been told that there are not enough teachers here so classes are run both in the morning and in the afternoon to cover all grades. Two classrooms don’t even have furniture. All of this got us stumped. We started looking at the 25kg of stationary we had in our boxes. This seemed to be nothing compared to what they need.

peopleforchangeThe Diary of a volunteer in The Gambia: Part 5
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The Diary of a Volunteer in The Gambia: Part 4

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Jonny is our wittiest volunteer and we love his humour. He brings smiles on everyone’s faces at any point. He tells us a touching story of his meeting with Gibbie in The Gambia.

Vision Beyond Struggle

“Today was a great day, truly great. I spent the morning with Musa Sey. Musa works with children with a range of needs across 30 schools in The Gambia. After chatting with him for months via WhatsApp, I finally met Musa yesterday. He invited me to visit one of the children he works with, Gibbie Bah.

I woke up to the sound of a motorbike – this was a surprise! Musa told me he would be here first thing in the morning. Up to this point, being told someone would do something at a set time was seldom linked to the actual time it happened (“Gambia Time” is the affectionate term for this tendency towards delay). So I donned my crash helmet and hopped on, the taste of toothpaste offering a slither of freshness in this relentless sun.

Thankful for the breeze – and clinging on for dear life- we took the 20 minute drive to Kaur Senior Secondary School. I was greeted by some healthy looking goats and a donkey who looked far too warm for comfort. Our entrance was complete by off-roading through the school gates.

peopleforchangeThe Diary of a Volunteer in The Gambia: Part 4
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The Diary of a Volunteer in The Gambia: Part 3

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This time around, Martina, our Chair and founder tells us of how much she loved playing football with the children of Ballanghar. Martina plays football in her free time in Dublin, where she lives and loved bringing the joy of this game with her to The Gambia.

The football tournament 

“I love spending time playing with children. It is my favourite part of each trip. Children are not used to receiving so much attention from adults and they happily respond to any games we teach them.
They have learned my name by heart and it is repeated non stop to grab my attention.

“Martina, Martina, Martina, Martina…”

This year we planned to organise a number of different activities to entertain the children in the evening, from a movie night, to reading short stories to a football tournament.

Due to logistical reasons (lack of a converter for an apple laptop), we were not able to show them the Disney cartoons we brought with us: The Lion king and Aladdin. However the football tournament was a great success. We purchased a ball, bibs and some cones to define the field and just with the mentioning of football, the kids screamed of excitement!

peopleforchangeThe Diary of a Volunteer in The Gambia: Part 3
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The Diary of a Volunteer in The Gambia: Part 2

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For our Part 2 of the Diary of a Volunteer we are hearing Valeria’s storie from The Gambia.

The recycling women of The Gambia

“What strikes me most every time I come to Ballanghar is the lovely people and the breathtaking landscape. I have been lucky enough to have visited this country straight after the rainy season when nature blossoms and the old baobabs provide shelter from the unbearable heat.

What hurts me every time I walk around the village is the amount of plastic and any other kind of trash you can see everywhere. The worst of all is knowing that this amazing village has no other way to get rid of it other than burn it. For as much as I try to collect it, I know it will turn into fire whose smoke will pollute the air and the land of this paradise in the heart of Africa.

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The diary of a volunteer in The Gambia: Part 1

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Our volunteers are currently in The Gambia, spending two weeks with the kids of Ballanghar. When we go there, we focus our work and attention on the school where we decorate and run different courses for the kids, on the beautiful garden we built at the back of the school and on medical checks that our nurses do. We are on look out for symptoms of respiratory diseases, malaria and many more.

Our volunteer, Anisha is keeping a diary of their adventures. We want to share with you what we are up to there and also show what your kind donations go towards. Below are the first few days:

29th of October:

“Today we awoke to the sound of of cockerels and bleating goats. After saying goodbye to our neighbours (& WiFi) we began our 6 hour journey to Ballanghar. At the border, we were officially welcomed to The Gambia as VIP (can you believe it?!) and picked up a catchy song too “education is the key for me”. It’s safe to say that line was sung many times on our road trip.

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Reaping the fruits of our labour in our vegetable garden

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Thanks to your ongoing support and the hard-work of our volunteers our vegetable garden has come a long way since we first started sowing seeds in 2015.

Our most recent harvest is the biggest we have had so far! This is a great cause for celebration especially as farming had to be paused for a period in 2016 when the garden was without a water pump.

Thanks to your generous donations, our volunteers who took a new water pump during our annual trip last year and especially to our local supporters who have been working tirelessly, the garden is now almost double the size it was in 2015!  

11kg tomatoes, 9kg cabbage, 7kg aubergines, 1kg okra have now been harvested and will be used to prepare nutritious lunches for the children at our school in Ballanghar village.

In the words of Ebrima Jhahame, a teacher at the school.

“The garden, very very good… Never get this better”

We need your continued support to ensure the ongoing maintenance of the garden so please donate what you can.

We are also in the process of considering more ways of supporting the people of Ballanghar village to become economically independent through sustainable farming.

One option being considered is Aquapoinics the combination of raising fish and growing plants without soil. This is an option that would mean less dependency on water, pesticides, and manual labour, while also having the added value of adding a rich source of protein (the fish) to the children’s diet.

Résultat de recherche d'images pour "aquaponics"
We need people with agricultural expertise familiar with aquaponics agricultural technique, who can advise us and local supporters about further developing this idea. Please share with anyone who might be interested and/or get in touch at info@peopleforchange.org.uk

peopleforchangeReaping the fruits of our labour in our vegetable garden
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And we’re back… from Africa!

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In October, our volunteers travelled to Africa, some of them for the first time, to work on improvements and to ensure continued development in Senegal and Gambia. The group had a wonderful time, discovering local customs and learning about the people that you are helping to support. Without you, the village in Gambia might not have its new water pump bringing the villagers closer to self-sufficiency in their vegetable garden. Without your donations, our medical team would not have had the funds to buy vital medical supplies, treating the children and testing for malaria.

Some of our volunteers give a personal account of their experiences and update you, our wonderful supporters, on life in Gambia and Senegal.

Nutrition Project Round-up

“This was our first time in Balanghar, Gambia and this amazing experience has made us think about our life in Europe compared to such a different reality in Gambia.

When we first arrived there we noticed that the vegetable garden seemed a little abandoned with no one taking care of it, but as soon as the new pump was installed the work in the garden started again. We raised the money for the new pump and transported it to Gambia –such an achievement!

Another important task for us was to carry out questionnaires on nutritional habits of the people of Balanghar. We interviewed around 20 people representing 20 families, giving us a sample of eating habits of approximately 160 people in the village.  

We also held meetings with the gardeners and agreed on some improvements to make the garden more profitable.

We are thrilled to be managing this project and happy that the new crops will help feed around 450 children from the Balanghar school.”

-The Nutrition Project is managed by Valeria and Nicholas.

Health Project Round-up

“We arrived in Dakar at 1am and the first thought was “WOW it’s HOT!” with 30 degrees heat during the night. One of the Senegalese men, Malik, that helps us with our activities took us to Dakar city, where the Italian charity Diritti al Cuore owns a house.

Volunteer nurse Laura performs health checks

The first medical visit was to children, in the afternoon of the 29th. In Pikine, a suburb of Dakar.

Our medical visits are structured in the following way: we have a triage where the volunteers take information re: health problems, check the children’s weight, height and so on, then they wait to be called by the doctor, of which we have two. One of these was a Senegalese medical student called Joelle, studying for her final year, and  involved in the project for students of DAC. Communication with local people was easy thanks to Joelle, as not all the Senegalese speak French or English fluently. After triage, the children have routine checks and minor treatments with the nurse.

We normally finish visits at sunset time, then once at home, one of the most important activities in the evening is to complete “screening”, where we classify the diseases we found during the day, so that we can observe which are the most common health problems and adjust the quantity of medications we bring for the next medical check.

We spent the 31st of October getting ready to go to the villages. The plan was to divide the medical team in two: one group going to remote rural villages in
Senegal, where projects are already ongoing; the second group going to a rural village in Gambia, where the charities started their project only last year and
where People for Change is on route to take charge of the medical, educational and nutritional projects.

Our first stop was the Gambian pharmacy to buy the medication we needed for our visits in Balanghar; the pharmacy had already received our order and despite a delay we managed to collect all we had requested.

We spoke to the local nurses to learn how they manage health in the village: the government provides paracetamol, mebendazole and amoxicillin but in quantities not sufficient to treat everyone in need.

Conducting malaria tests on the children whose temperatures were spiking, we are happy that all results came back negative! The tests are simple, (similar to blood sugar tests) but very useful, as they allow to screen in a couple of minutes for one of the most tricky diseases in those countries. During our stay in Gambia we also
held educational/medical courses in the school: washing hands, brushing teeth and malaria prevention.

After another two days’ of tests, we reach 600+ babies and children checked! Quite an achievement!

PROUD OF ALL OF US and a big thank you to the school teachers who translated English to Wolof, and to Diritti al Cuore for supporting our efforts.”

-The Health Project is managed by Laura and Monica.

Education Project Round-up

Although it was not the first time for me in Africa, the charm of this land never fails to amaze me. Its colours, its rhythm and the warmth of the local people, who are always smiling despite the difficult situation they live in.

During this trip our group visited 4 different Senegalese villages and schools, then focused most on Gambian projects in the village of Ballangharr. Here we have started a partnership with the local Ballangharr basic cycle school (which has classes from nursery to 7th grade) initially built by The English during the colonial period, to provide assistance with education materials and to those children so poor that they can’t afford to attend school.

I was accompanied by 5 other volunteers and we arrived with 138 kg of donated goods from the UK:  from 4 bags full of clothes for poor students to 5 bags of stationery collected by employees of the company News UK, to books gifted to us by Harper Collins which were donated to the school library.

I was astonished to be welcomed with a show from local women and children who danced and sang for us to thank us for the help we were giving.

It was an amazing feeling to see many mothers who came to speak to each one of us and introduce us to their families, and to thank  us for the gift of education to their children.

After so many months of work in cold London, we were able to finally see the “fruits” of our projects in the Gambian sun!

The following days were spent redecorating one of the 8 classes of the school, the first year of nursery which had not been renovated in over 15 years.

We bought paint, brushes, stickers etc and transformed this rundown class into a more suitable environment for children. We also hooked up their electricity and purchased some fans to allow students to study indoors even in the most torrid days, where temperatures can exceeds 45 degrees.  

The kids were extremely happy to see their environment transformed into a fun and colourful place and could not even wait to let the paint dry before entering the room!

Here is a video from them thanking us all for the support.

 

We concluded our trip by meeting the new headmistress and all the teachers to better understand the school’s needs and how to scope our future projects.

It was empowering seeing ALL children with all the equipment needed to study, regardless of their family’s income! This year we can grant access to education for all, and that means so much to us, and them.

-The Education Project is managed by Martina.

 

peopleforchangeAnd we’re back… from Africa!
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What does it take to change a life?

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“One person at a time, one day at a time, and one project at a time. You can make a difference that will leave a lasting impact on the world.”

During one of our volunteering trips, while renovating a school in Senegal, Malvina – a volunteer, met Fatou.

A young girl of 19 from the village of Tataguine, Fatou had not been able to attend school because she was both dumb and deaf. As many young people usually do when volunteers visit their villages to work on projects, Fatou approached the group renovating the school to offer her help. Despite the obvious barriers, Malvina and Fatou found ways of communicating as they worked together. “As we spent more time together and got to know each other more, I began to think about how I could help Fatou to live independently. So I spoke with Fatou and her family about what she could do to earn a living,” Malvina said.

Fatou, along with her family and Malvina agreed that it would be best for her to learn a skill so that she could get a job. Six months after meeting Fatou, Malvina made a donation which was used to buy Fatou a sewing machine. Malvina was also able to arrange for Fatou to start an internship with a local tailor for 6 months, after which she was hired and she has been working for almost two years.

Speaking about the experience, Malvina said:

“Every time I’ve had updates from Fatou in the last 2 years, I can honestly say that she is happier every time and this makes me feel super optimistic about the big difference small donations can make to the life of someone who needs it. Fatou deserved it and she really wanted to become independent, that’s why she was able to make the most of my small investment.”

At People For Change, these are the encounters which inspire us. One person, day and project at a time, we hope to make small changes which have lasting impact.

If you share our values and would like to be part of our vision, contact us to discuss how you can make a difference.

No time to volunteer? You can still make a difference by sponsoring a child like Fatou to give them an opportunity for a decent life. Find out more about sponsoring a child in our education project or make a donation to help us improve the lives of more children.

Together we can make lasting change which will benefit generations to come.

peopleforchangeWhat does it take to change a life?
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