Weeks 6&7 – How the other half live!

As some of you may be aware we were away in ‘The Gambia’ so I have rolled up 2 weeks in 1. Knowing a little about The Gambia I thought it an ideal place to carry out my next act of kindness.

Firstly as I know you are all thirsty for knowledge I’ll furnish you with a few facts about the county. It’s the smallest and one of the poorest African counties on the mainland with a population of 1.7 million. Only 6 hours flight time and same time zone as the UK so no jet lag! It was a British colony between 1886 and 1965 when ‘The Gambia’ gained their independence.

Its an extremely impoverished nation with an average monthly wage being just £40. It still has a strong tribal presence, I’ll stand to be corrected but think there are 8 different tribes using 5 different languages. 90% are Muslim with the majority of the remaining 10% being Christian.

A village girl who cannot continue in school after grade 9, may become part of the family’s work force, where there can be great pressure for her to be given in marriage.  Nearly all marriages are arranged by parents, and for a man, taking a 15-year old wife to supplement your other wives is seen as a sign of power and prestige.  The life of the youngest wife in such a family is rarely attractive.

The Gambian’s are known as the ‘smiley nation’ and it’s easy to see why. In short, both Vanessa & I loved the country and it’s people. No it’s not for everyone but for us, for all the dirt & poverty we can clearly see what’s beneath the surface, its charm, its naivety and friendliness.

We stayed in the main tourist area ‘Kololi’ with plenty of restaurants and nightlife. Average tourist prices are £1 a bottle of local beer and £4 for a main meal. Half decent wine is expensive at approx £9-12 a bottle. Of course eating and drinking in non tourist places would be a lot cheaper.

We booked a trip to see the locals at work in the market and fisherman’s market which is by the sea. Both very interesting and full of, let’s say, interesting sights (don’t want to spoil your lunch). Here are the ‘nicer pics’

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The most interesting part of the trip was the visit to a local school where, for a small fee children can attend, the only problem being a lot of families don’t have that small fee! We did our homework (note the pun) before we left the UK and took along some items that are badly needed by the school, such as pens & paper etc. We also took some sweets for the children where we were guided how best to ‘fairly’ give them out. An interesting fact that I was told is some children don’t eat their sweets for a day or two as they cherish the fact it was given by a westerner.

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We couldn’t have received a better welcome then we did at the school, as you will see the pupils are adorable and guaranteed to put a smile anyone’s face. We were invited to the head teachers office, well, a room of 4 stone walls, stone floor, basic table and chairs. We were told of the setup involving the children and the need to offer further placements to the many children on the waiting list in need of a sponsor. So, unlike the sicko Gary Glitter, you can pay for a child and feel good for the right humanitarian reasons! Its easy to see that my act of kindness is to sponsor a child, however, we will not be doing it though the school we visited as there is very limited information on them. We feel more comfortable going through an English run charity that has an office next to the hotel we were staying at, its called ‘The Tallinding Project’. Further details can be seen at the end of the below video. Who knows, if all goes well, maybe our involvement will extend beyond sponsoring? Watch this space!

OK, this video is just under 5 minutes long so if you like Michael Jackson, relax, grab yourself a cup of tea and some headphones and turn the volume up!

PS If you can’t expand to fullscreen click on the youtube wording.

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