2014, Feb. 13 Banjulinding Handing Over Ceremony

We arrived at the tailors this morning in time to pick up our Handing Over dresses and rush to Banjulinding Primary School for the presentation.  I hadn’t prepared a speech and so was using the travel time to mentally prepare something in my head.


Primary School Children Singing Strong

Primary School Children Singing Strong

The children, parents, school committees, and people of the village of Banjulinding were present and filled the school yard.  The news crew arrived right after we were seated at the high table.  Sitting along side us was the Chief of Banjulinding, the Headmaster of the school, the Head of the Village Development Committee, President of the Mother’s Club and others.  Essa’s mother Binta Badjie, her sister, Joks Camara and other members of the core family were also present in front as contributing members.


Banjulinding Comunity

Banjulinding Comunity


We handed over 14 bicycles, backpacks, 14 boxes of books and paint supplies, yarn, slippers (flip-flops), pens and other educational materials.  In addition to the supplies we paid school fees for 8 children.  The fee payment included payment for two school uniforms, a daily school lunch, 2 pairs of shoes, books, a school badge, and test fees.


Mother's Club President Handing Over Backpack

Mother’s Club President Handing Over Backpack

14 Bicycles for Students

14 Bicycles for Students

It was a wonderful day – full of promise and joy.


Cultural Presentation by Banjulinding Students

Cultural Presentation by Banjulinding Students


Shortly after the presentation, Adama, a reported from The Point newspaper interviewed me in the Headmaster’s office. Using a tape recorder he taped responses to his questions which covered many of the topics mentioned at the handing over.  He told me that the report would be printed the very next day.  The only thing he needed me to do was to send a photo for the article. I promised I would and he left with tape recorder in hand.





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 customs..family 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 shelby@gambiahelp.org



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 Shelby@GambiaHELP.org.
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!   http://greatnonprofits.org/org/gambia-health-education-liaison-project-gambiahelp

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

www.thebarboza.com   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