Wednesday, 26 February 2014
Volunteering in The Gambia
Some of our favourite photos from The Gambia
Ever since leaving The Gambia 12 years ago, I had always wanted to return. I finally made it back this month and this time with my wife Emily. The Gambian people are so friendly, fun and positive. Paradoxically even though so many of them have so little, they are the happiest people I've met.
Emily and I spent an amazing two weeks volunteering at Mansa-Colley Bojang School, which was set up by a friend of mine called Mucki, who I met during my school visit 12 years ago.
Mucki was the tour leader for our student group, the first to go to The Gambia from Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire. Following the trip, Mucki and Carol, the school's sixth form secretary, set up a charity called Sponsor A Gambian Child. Many of the children who attend Mansa-Colley Bojang School are sponsored through this charity, as their families can't afford to pay the school fees and costs of uniform and equipment.
As well as teaching at this school, we visited other local schools, played football with the children (Emily included!) and helped them to write letters to their sponsors in England and Holland. We also spent time volunteering in an HIV clinic in the nearby market town of Brikama which was a very moving experience. Part of this role involved registering new patients who had just been given an HIV diagnosis and taking their blood pressure, weight, height etc.
Away from the tourist areas in The Gambia the need is great and there are plenty of ways you can help if you're interested in volunteering. None better than at Mansa-Colley Bojang School. If you are interested in applying to volunteer, have a look at this website and I'd be happy to tell you more about the opportunity. You will get to experience the real Gambia away from the beach-side resorts while avoiding having to pay costly fees for volunteering as you do with travel companies.
In preparation for volunteering we raised money so that Mansa-Colley Bojang School can train local people to become teachers. They particularly look to give opportunities to those who might be excluded elsewhere such as people with disabilities. You can read more on our fundraising page here.
While we're on the subject of The Gambia - five years ago when I was working for ITV, I covered the story of a slave ship assembly at my old school in Oxfordshire when Mucki went there to visit...