By Ali Calvert
The Mariama Mae Pre-school is celebrating. A lot has been happening in the past twelve months. The latest big event is brand new metal playground equipment, which all the children and staff love.
This wonderful playground was made possible by a very dear friend of mine Sue, who came out to visit the school with me in February this year. Unknown to me she had been raising funds from family, friends and colleagues who wanted to do some sort of project for the school. I would at this point like to thank all of those people for providing our school with one of the happiest pieces of equipment it has ever received. Thank you.
After a week of living and being in school with Fatou (our head teacher) Sue and Fatou had decided on their project. Their first port of call was to visit the Iron Man in Brikarma, a much larger town a bush taxi ride away, who would be making and supervising the installation of the playground. After talking with him Sue and Fatou now knew how much equipment could be bought, so all that was left to decide was what was needed, where it would be placed in the playground and to arrange transport, cement and labour and to make sure everything was safely installed.
All of this came to a little over Sue’s budget but I had been given some money from my local charity shop here in Porthleven which made it possible to complete the playground. Thank you Winston.
Unfortunately our visit was over before the playground equipment had arrived so we had to wait patiently to receive photographs of the finished project. My heart sang when I saw the photographs. The school now has a fantastic outside play area which is more than we could have dreamed of. Thank you.
You will see by the pictures that the school walls are gradually being brightly decorated and this is thanks to Jo and Butch who have directed some of their youth project teams to the Mariama Mae School, and therefore we would also like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped with this.
The school, both inside and outside, is looking good. It was completely repainted this year and has been maintained to a high standard, which is important if we want to be taken seriously as a school looking to make changed in pre-school education and to show that every penny is spent on providing as good a school as possible.
I am very proud of the Mariama Mae School and want to say thank you to everyone connected to it especially to all those who donate monthly, because without your support our school would not exist. You really are the foundations of the school and always have been. Your commitment is what pays wages, maintains the building, buys essential equipment and enables Fatou and her staff to have the security of knowing they have a school to teach in. Thank you for all your help.
As I said Sue spent time in school with us which was lovely but also very useful to me and helpful to see the school through fresh eyes. What I was reminded of by Sue was how calm our school is and how able the children are to complete tasks set for them and how automatically they help each other and explain things to each other. Something which sounds fundamental, but is not always found in Gambian Pre-schools. Here, in our school, children are actively given responsibility and allowed space to discuss their own learning. I know we are doing a good job and the children that pass through the Mariama Mae School are getting a comprehensive and full education.
My next concert is to make sure that all the staff continue to be inspired and that they have the time and energy put into their development.
By Rob Bagnall
When I was considering what I wanted to pursue after I left university, I felt that a career in economic development would be one of the most exciting and rewarding areas of work I could be in. However, I didn't really know an awful lot about the sector, and because of this I wanted to visit a developing country and witness the current conditions individuals are facing, and during December of 2011, the African Oyster Trust provided me with an exciting opportunity to find out about the work they do in the Gambia.
During my stay, Kira showed me the amazing facilities the charity had set up and were running, including all the nursery schools, the Greggs clinic in Gunjur and the Medical facility in Jappineh. My stay in the country significantly changed my view of thinking the bigger a charity is the better, as I was amazed by how much a small charity can significantly impact the lives of so many people. The amount I learned whilst staying with Kira in that short space of time was a lot more than how much I would learn during a whole year of studying, and my time with the charity has made me want to pursue this career even more!
Given the amazing experience I had in the Gambia, I was passionate about raising money to contribute to the great projects the African Oyster Trust are running, and running the Bath Half Marathon was a great opportunity to do so. Raising the money was relatively easy given that the African Oyster Trust is listed on the Charity Choice directory, meaning that I could create my own web page to keep track of how much money I had raised and who had sponsored me.
Although training for the race was pretty difficult, given the bitter winter we just experienced, raising money for the African Oyster provided me with the motivation to put in the extra sessions in the run up to the race. On the day itself, Bath was packed with spectators cheering us on and thousands of people were participating in the race itself, I had never seen Bath so busy! Given this massive turn-out, I was so pleased I was participating in the event and was very happy with my finishing time of 1 hour and 40 minutes!
More importantly though, the race was a great opportunity to raise money for this amazing charity, and I would like to day thank you to all those who supported me and contributed to the £606 I raised as a result of this race.
It is more than likely that I will be taking part in the Bath Half Marathon in the future, and according to him my Dad will be joining me (I’ll believe it when I see it!). If this is the case, I hope I can raise even more money for the great work that the African Oyster Trust is part of in the Gambia.
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The news diary is written by a number of people close to the work of the African Oyster Trust, including founder James Holden, his co-directors, trustees and volunteers.