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.
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.