By Alan Dick, Trust Director - see previous posts for first two extracts.
Monday 13th December
Our last project visit is Gunjur. The last time I was here, the school was just a shell, quite literally. But what a transformation! The 3 classrooms were a joy to behold and every bit of praise should go to Ali and Kira for all their efforts.
We also visited the small onsite clinic, which we created in the grounds of the lower basic school. This facility means so much to me, as it was only possible because of the generosity of my former employees at Greggs in the midlands.
It was their kindness on the occasion of my retirement that funded this project. Again we have managed to create a small, yet hugely important resource which is appreciated by all the staff and pupils.
Tuesday 14th December
Time to say a few fond farewells and reflect on a week which again seems to have flown by. We board the plane and arrive back late at night to be greeted by miserable Birmingham weather (rain and + 2 degrees), but at least it wasn’t snowing!
Reflections? Humbling, always. Uplifting, absolutely. Rewarding, definitely.
I return, completely reassured, that what we (the African Oyster Trust) are doing, is making a tangible, substantial and positive difference to the lives of many people in the Gambia.
Alan J. Dick
By Alan Dick, Trust Director - see previous post for first extracts
Thursday 9th December
Off to Jappineh (central Gambia) for my first visit to see the nursery school and clinic. Kira did warn us about the condition of the road – half the distance was tarmac, but the remainder was Africa in the raw viz. dirt tracks with many potholes and diversions! I had the ‘luxury’ of sitting in the front whilst Kira did her impersonation of rallying at its best! We stayed in the Moses hostel, Soma, which just happened to be hosting the Gambian equivalent of a rock festival that evening – an interesting experience, but not much sleep.
Friday 10th December
What another delight and what a welcome at the Jappineh nursery school!
Their appreciation of what we have done and indeed their effection was so apparent, and so very humbling. However, we badly need a 3rd. classroom – Kira has plans (as always!) and this could be our next project.
In the afternoon, we visited the clinic. Although I’ve seen many pictures of this facility, I had to experience it to believe it – I was blown away.
In the middle of nowhere, here we have an operation, which quite simply cares for people and saves lives, where nothing existed before. Ansoumana, the doctor, is a revelation, working 24/7, 365 days a year looking after the people of his village and surrouding ones as well (boy does he deserve a break!) The day culminated in a meeting with all the village elders, chiefs and the like (there must have been circa 150 people in attendance). Speechifying was the order of the day and fortunately Ansoumana was on hand to translate the Mandinka language for us. What came out above all else was their very genuine gratitude and overriding desire to work together to ensure the longevity of this project. However, the ‘piece de resistance’ was at the end when Steve and I were made honorary citizens of the village of Jappineh! They have very little, yet had made the effort to wrap and present Gambian shirts to both Steve and myself to mark the occasion – that moment will last a lifetime!
And finally…….to conclude the day, a special display of Gambian dancing from the ladies of Jappineh village – truly amazing!
Trust director Alan Dick has just returned from a visit to our various projects, and kept a comprehensive diary of his trip. Over the Christmas period we will be publishing a few extracts, which will hopefully help give you one man's perspective on the work the Trust is doing in The Gambia. We'll also try to gather and publish some of Alan's photos in the New Year.
Merry Christmas, with a special and huge 'thank you' to all of our supporters for everything you have been able to do in 2010.
Weds 8th December
Straight into our hectic schedule with a visit to Kunta Kinteh nursery school. Although it has now been opened for 4 years, it still looks in pristine condition and thus bears great testimony to Fanding and Kira.
Onwards to our newest project, the Hilary Emery Nursery School, which started in September of this year, and indeed was the raison d’etre for Steve visiting the Gambia i.e. to formally open the school. (His wife tragically died in December 2009 and it was her wish and indeed that of Steve, his family and friends,that any money raised in her memory, should go to the African Oyster Trust.)
The school looked superb – right from the colourful name on the perimeter compound wall, to the wonderfully decorated classrooms and the Hilary Emery t-shirts, adorned by all the children. It was quite an emotional occasion (a real ‘quivering lip’ job!), but Steve was brilliant, said a few words at the opening ceremony and then proceeded, with gusto, to impress everybody with his version of African dancing!
Most importantly, everybody we spoke to was so grateful to Kira, Steve, and the AOT for transforming their facilities and their lives!
(More diary updates from Alan to follow after Christmas...)
By Alan Dick
Just in time for Christmas, a consignment of boxes arrved in the Gambia marked for the attention of Kira Dalton. They contained a whole load of 'goodies' which were the result of generous donations of clothes, books and so on from various people and organisations.
Birmingham City Football Club kindly donated football strips, tracksuits and training gear.
Expect a Banjul branch of the Birmingham City Supporters Club to open soon!
Photos Two and Three (right and below): Children of Bothwell Primary School near Glasgow, and Berkswell Primary School near Coventry rallied round last year to support young Gambian children less fortunate than themselves, by donating t-shirts and football strips.
All were greatly appreciated as you can see right and below.
Photo Four (below): Last year, Eleanor Elcock, a student from Lichfield and former part-time worker at Woolworths, managed to persuade her local store, prior to its final closure, to donate childrens clothes and gym shoes to the African Oyster Trust.
The photo shows just some of the many happy recipients.
By Alan Dick, Volunteer and Fundraiser
However , the real highlight for me was the trip to Gunjur in the Southern part of gambia to see the nursery school that was being created from derelict buildings on the site of the present primary school.The project had been conceived and started by a lady called Ali Calvert and I was only too happy to assist with the funding of this project in order to help bring it to fruition - hot off the press, the 'clerk of works' (the redoubtable Kira) has reported excellent progress.In the fullness of time, the AOT would also like to provide first aid facilities at this school, and hopefully this will be funded by the recent generosity of the Greggs of the Midlands employees.
My week in the Gambia also afforded me the time to experience other aspects of the country, most notable of which was our trip up river to Juffureh ( the village brought to fame by Alex Haley's novel Roots) - this visit left me with mixed emotions as the abject poverty of the villagers was only too apparent and you left with the feeling that any financial benefit from the marketing of this attraction did not actually find its way into the pockets of those that most needed it.Given the plethora of bird-watching opportunities that exist in the Gambia, James did also try to turn me into an ornithologist - he failed to do so, but at least I can now tell the difference between a violet turaco and a purple glossy starling !!
The News Diary is a regular account of all that is happening at The African Oyster Trust. Please pop back for regular updates, follow us on Twitter or sign up for our RSS feed to have the latest news sent straight to your computer!
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.