2014, Feb. 12 Shopping & The Tailor

Today we went to the grocery store and purchased more staples. Spending $D1,700.00.

Tonight we go to the airport to pick up Diane Lang.  Diane was a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia in the early 1980’s, when I was.  Her arrival time is 6:30pm.

After picking up Diane we traveled to the tailors where we are having dresses made for the Handing Over Ceremony scheduled for tomorrow at Banjulinding Primary School.

Although exhausted, Diane was measured, I was measured and the dress style was selected.  I learned later that Essa’s mother had gone in person to the tailors earlier to stress upon him that they needed to be made for tomorrow’s presentation – where we expect television and newspaper coverage to be present.

The tailor said he would work through the night to make sure the dresses were completed on time.



2014-Feb. 11 Housing Found

Y2K Flat

Y2K Flat


Essa has equipped the refrigerator with my favorite staples, Diet Coke, Vimto, bread, eggs, cheese, water, bread and margarine to name a few.

He has purchased the bottled water needed for the entire trip.  He goes to the bottling company and as a result received a good price for the cases of bottled water.  There are 15 cases of water lining the hallway with several sitting in the refrigerator getting cold.

I am spoiled.  Essa does an excellent job getting everything ready prior to my arrival so no time is wasted doing routine household, maintenance chores.

Today we set up the QCell wireless system so that I can send/receive e-mails and access the Internet from The Gambia.  We also purchase calling cards so that I can make local and international phone calls.

For dinner,  Essa’s mother made Benechine with chicken, one of my favorites!


2014-Feb. 10 Arrive in The Gambia!

Finally I arrive in The Gambia – in fact, ½ hour earlier than scheduled.  I look around at the throngs of people getting into either the ECOWAS passenger line, a Gambian Nationals Line or one for All Others – I am in the All Others line for customs processing.

I completed the required form while on the plane so I am ready for processing, passport/VISA ready.

Passing through customs I meet several baggage handlers eager to get my business.  I select someone I don’t know.  The man I am used to working with is not on duty today.

We locate my bags – the multi-colored strap around my bags makes identification a breeze.  I only wish I had taken a picture of all of the travelers, baggage handlers, security folks present so that you could see how chaotic it seems to me now.

After collecting my bags, and going through screening I enter into the airport lobby.  No Essa.  I start to feel that sinking feeling and wonder if he forgot me.

A man gently tugs at my shirt – it is Lamin Camara, an Airport Security ID Unit from the airport. He says he has been looking for me since the plane set down. Essa is on his way I am told. Ah, the feeling of peace.

We sit down and I order a Coca-Cola, Fanta and a Malta for Essa.  He does arrive at the airport in short time and we enjoy a beverage together.  The plane between Dakar and Banjul did not serve water or juice so I am thirsty!

On to greet the family in Banjulinding.  As a Gambian custom, it is important to greet the family before starting your business here.  Actually it is one of my favorite first, then business.

It is late, about 9:45pm when we arrive in Banjulinding (which is near the airport) and greet Binta Badjie, Essa’s mother and the rest of his family – brothers and sister.

We talk and I share my stories about traveling from the USA to The Gambia.

It is about 11:30 pm when we get to Y2K, a self-contained flat in Latrikunda, where I will stay for most of the 2 weeks that I am here.  We have reserved a two bedroom flat.  There is a kitchen, dining area, sitting room equipped with electricity, television, generator back-up and a good security system.

I get to bed about 1 am.  Exhausted, but happy I am finally here.



2014-Feb. 9 Enroute to The Gambia

Ready to travel to Sea-Tac Airport – 2 full suitcases weighing roughly 50 lbs each, a carry-on bag and my purse.  Cristina and Gerry help me carry my bags to the United Airlines check-in desk.  Noting that one of my bags is heavier than the required 50 lbs., we open it up and take out a pair of shorts (whenever have I worn shorts in Gambia??- and taking out a jar of peanuts) brings it into compliance.

Tomorrow I’ll be landing at the Banjul airport – officially named Yundum International airport since it is in Yundum and not Banjul.

From Seattle to Banjul the flight time is  20.25 hours with an additional “wait time” between flights a total 8.4 hours.  No wonder I am tired!


Book Sorting Party, Sat. Feb. 1st

Please come help us sort donations for sending a container to The Gambia in February.

Packing 10am-12 noon
Hansen Brothers Moving and Storage
10750 Aurora Ave N.
Seattle, WA 98133

Coffee and Donuts provided!

Dress Warmly – we are working in an open warehouse.

RSVP is appreciated 206-660-5826



January 11, 2014 – Packing and Sorting Party

On Saturday, January 11th we will be packing boxes full of books and educational supplies for shipment to The Gambia in January, 2014.
Please join us as we sort through clothing, books, and other donations for inclusion in boxes destined for village schools.
Dress warmly as the warehouse is open to the elements. Hot chocolate, coffee and assorted pastries will be on hand to nourish and keep us warm!!
Please RSVP by Thursday, January, 9th to Shelby at 206-660-5826 or
Looking forward to seeing you soon!!
For the Children,
Shelby Tarutis
Executive Director

Top-Rated Award from Great Nonprofits!


great nonprofitsCongratulations! GAMBIA HEALTH EDUCATION LIAISON PROJECT (GambiaHELP) has qualified for a 2013 Top-Rated Nonprofit award from Greatnonprofits. This is a great honor, given less than 10% of eligible nonprofits have received this distinction.
Thanks to our supporters, we are one of the first winners of a 2013 Top-Rated Award from GreatNonprofits! Read our great reviews and add your story!

Book Sorting Party Dec. 7th, 2013

On SATURDAY, Dec 7th, 2013 we will be having a

Hansen Brothers Moving & Storage
located on 10750 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98133

Please come to the back of the building.

TIME: 10AM – 1PM

Pizza will be served!


The best boxes for packing items are liquor boxes.

Packing takes place in an open warehouse so DRESS WARMLY.

We need many hands as the container ships at the end of December!

RSVP to Shelby Tarutis by December 5th! to 206-660-5826.



Gikoo ‘Hope” Benefit Concert for the Children of The Gambia, Nov. 24, 2013


Tickets $10 Advance   206-709-9442

Doors Open at 8pm
Presented by OPENHEART and


At The Barboza

925 E. Pike, Seattle, WA 98122

Featured Performances by:

Mickey Davis

(Little Hearts, Cali Giraffes)

Hearts Are Thugs

Rebels Rising

Whitney Monge’


Nancy Colton



Exclusive Limited Edition
T-Shirts Available
Only at this Show

T-Shirt Art by Eelus



West Africa Live October 19, 2013 at Town Hall Seattle

Africa Live Graphic copyYou are invited to


experience the drumming, dancing, music,
food and magic of West Africa
A Festival to Benefit Children in Africa.
WHERE: Town Hall Seattle 1119 8th Avenue, Seattle WA
WHEN: Saturday, October 19th, 6:30pm

Featuring performances by:

Gansango Music & Dance Company
Senegalese percussionist Thione Diop
Kora masters Kane Mathis & Sean Gaskell
Mandinka drummers Modibo Traore and Bob Thompson of “Wulibaa”

More on our great performers

For more information and to purchase tickets

Eventbrite - West Africa Live

You can also buy meal tickets in advance to guarantee
the plate of your choice

Proceeds from this event will go to the children in the village of Kerewan in The Gambia. We will be expanding a nursery school and developing a garden to supplement the children’s diet. Data indicates that this village has too few children attending school and many suffering from malnutrition. The community identified this project and we have come on board to assist them. The community is contributing 25% of the project costs as well.

Special Thanks to our Sponsors: Car Tender, Summit Law Group, Stanford, Munko and Co., P.L.L.C., Tarutis and Brunstrom, PS.


2013-09-28 ganzago ganzago2
Gansango Music & Dance draws on the stunning talent of a multicultural group of international dancers and musicians presenting traditional and contemporary dance and music from West Africa. The company is directed by Etienne Cakpo, originally from Benin and now a teacher and choreographer based in Seattle.
thionediop_2-1 Thione Diop, a percussionist from Senegal, West Africa, and his band Yeke Yeke is widely recognized for his powerfully expressive Djembe performances. He is descended from an ancestral line of Senegalese griot drummers – traditional musical storytellers – and is a master of the djembe, sabar, tama, and djun djun. thionediop_10
Performing on the 21-string Mandinka harp, Kane Mathis renders compelling interpretations of  West African kora music, the traditional medium of Gambian griots or historical poets. Years of study with masters in The Gambia have given Mathis a rare opportunity to share this tradition with other cultures. Over the past 10 years, his performances have earned him recognition by the Gambian president, the Gambian minister of culture, national television and radio in The Gambia.  kane mathis 2 crop
Seattle-based kora player Sean Gaskell has toured throughout the United States, and been featured at numerous music festivals in The Gambia and Senegal. He released his first solo album “Kora Music of West Africa” in 2012.  sean-gaskell crop

Modibo Traore and Bob Thompson of “Wulibaa” perform Mandinka and Jola rhythms and songs from The Gambia and Senegal. Traore, a drummer, singer, and dancer from Casamance, Senegal, specializes in the musical styles of the Mandinka and Jola ethnic groups. Thompson is a Seattle-based drummer who studies Mandinka drumming and singing.