Trip Diaries 2014
A major component of our work in The Gambia is supporting children in school. We primarily support orphaned students – paying the school fees, the school badge cost, paying for 2 uniforms, 2 pairs of shoes, books, supplies and a daily lunch. Some of our program beneficiaries are below:
Today and yesterday we visited Banjulinding Primary and Upper Basic Schools to connect with the children we are supporting. At fundraising events in Seattle, donors have the opportunity to purchase a backpack full of school supplies for $75. Those backpacks were given out here.
Today the article came out in the Point Newspaper covering the Banjulinding Handing Over Ceremony. As a result Essa Camara, GambiaHELP Country Coordinator has been receiving requests for assistance. We plan to review these requests after our planned trip up-country to the provinces this Thursday.
The Point article:
Gambia-HELP donates school materials to Banjulinding LBS
The school headmaster, Momodou A.L. Sonko, extended gratitude and appreciation for the gesture, saying the school was established in 1994, and currently has a total enrollment of 2,020 students.
He assured the donors of a proper use of the items, saying that 60 per cent of the students are from the surrounding communities.
Sunkari Jammeh-Darboe, on behalf of the village mothers’ club, thanked the donors for enhancing their children with the learning materials, which, she said, would greatly ease the educational burden on parents.
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.
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.
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.
It was a wonderful day – full of promise and joy.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!