You can get involved with the Trust in a number of ways, from making a financial donation, to donating school resources or even visiting The Gambia and helping directly with one of our projects. Here's a flavour of how a few of our supporters have got involved.
The Rotary Club of Bradford Bronte have supported the Gambian School Trust in a number of ways over the last few years. We are confident that all the money raised goes to where it is supposed to and we are all impressed by the dedication and energy of the Gambian School Trust Team. This year (2018/19) we decided to try and fund a solar well for the school in Jamwelly, which is “up country” and pretty remote. Hilary (Lawther) came to the club to talk and we managed to grasp the real difference a solar well would make over the traditional hand pump they already had. Of course to actually see what it would mean is different again and a few of us set out for The Gambia in February 2019. All but two had never been to the Gambia before and had no idea what to expect. Here are some of the impressions the trip made on the group.
Gambia is a popular winter sun destination. It's only a six hour flight, with no time difference; it's hot, it's cheap and it's safe, and the people are fabulously welcoming and friendly. Most visitors who stay at tourist destinations like Kololi will enjoy a beach holiday with cultural and wildlife extras: drumming, crocodiles, monkeys, exotic birds. The contrast between this and the world of Up Country is, frankly, indescribable. You really do have to see it to believe it. I'm not suggesting that the non-tourist world of Gambia is dreadful - it is what it is, and has its own logic. But it is fundamentally different from the world we know. A culture shock and, for me, a life changing experience of another reality, which will make me think differently about many issues. It was a real privilege to be able to visit the villages and schools that benefit from our support of GST, to meet the teachers and to be welcomed by the children, to see what has been built and what will be built with our modest contributions and the immediate practical difference it will make to them. By replacing hours of hand pumping, our solar well will give pupils and staff at Jamwelly hours of time to spend on better, more enjoyable things and will make their garden grow. Money and time well spent.
Visiting the school was a very humbling experience, so much love and sacrifice goes into the school and the children's education. Walking into the nearby Jamwelly village to meet the village Elder was a rare opportunity to see a glimpse of real African life. Travelling with such a wonderful (and fun) group of human beings (mostly Rotarians) made the trip very special. Overall, it was hot and tiring, but very rewarding and definitely unmissable.
For myself I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to The Gambia, both the Tourist area and up country. Our trip to the villages was the highlight for me, I found it both educational and rewarding thanks to the excellent guiding and planning by Hilary. The differences between the coastal “tourist” area and the villages were huge, indeed some of the Gambians at the coast had never visited the villages and had little knowledge of how the poorer part of their country lived. Our visits to the schools themselves were marked by the enthusiasm and warmth of welcome by children and staff. I was left with the feeling that our efforts to raise funds were appreciated and well utilised with very few resources wasted.
A great example of the difference a small charity can make.
Wow, to visit The Gambia is living another life completely. The sights, the sounds, the smells and the atmosphere are all a shock to the system (in a good way may I add!)
I first visited Gambia 7 years ago after being invited by one of the trustees of the Gambian Schools Trust. Since then I have returned at least once a year with my husband and sometimes other volunteers who are now firm friends.
The thrill of arriving there never changes when we are met by Hilary and Steve eagerly waiting for us, and we quickly settle in again as we revisit familiar people and places. We have travelled to all the schools funded by The Gambian Schools Trust, playing with the children in their breaktime, painting schools and libraries, stocking libraries and even helping the ladies of the village draw water from the well (all accompanied by braying donkeys in the background). To travel up country using the ferry for part of the journey is another experience in itself as the children are always so excited and happy to see all the volunteers, each one having something different offer. We arrive in Steve's truck usually piled high with maintenance equipment and donations ready to be unloaded and used time and time again.
Also each year, along with our family, friends, and other volunteers we hold a fundraising garden party at our home where we help to raise the much needed funds to help towards the continuation of The Gambian Schools Trust. A few hours of cake (most important), tombola, raffle, goods for sale, fun and usually sun!
I would recommend anyone to contact one of the trustees if you are interested in the fantastic voluntary work which is done by a few people who are willing to donate their time and skills for others in such a rewarding way.
Gloria sent us a lovely letter describing some of her experiences on her most recent visit to The Gambia in February 2018, here are a few extracts from that letter:-
I went to Nemasu school for a week or so, for the morning only, to do craft work with the children. I took a lot of resources along, paints, coloured card, pencils etc and Play Dough and cutters amongst other activities. I explained what the resources were to each of the 5 or 6 tables in the classroom, for the children to experiment with after I'd shown them what to do. The children were able to move from one table to another and experience the different activities. This went very well and they all kept busy. Building blocks caused a bit of a problem to some of the children at first but they got there in the end and the toy cars I took went down well with the boys!
The results of anything the children made I displayed around the classroom , which they quite enjoyed, being able to admire their own work.
The Head Teacher was asked by the staff to request that I go in one Saturday morning to do a "teacher training day" which I did even though it was a bit out of my comfort zone. It was good though to see the teachers are just as keen as the students to learn! I explained everything to the teachers as basically as I had done with the children. All the equipment was set out & I explained what to do etc and left them to it. The next couple of hours there wasn't a peep out of any of them as they were experimenting with all kinds of equipment. They were absolutely fascinated with the Play Dough along with the cutting and sticking and Lego building. The teachers found working with strips of coloured card woven onto black sugar paper quite tricky at first as they did with the cutting of straws and making a picture but they all persevered and got there in the end.
I also took several sets of laminated number and colour cards to a number of the (Trusts) schools which they all seemed delighted with.
I will be going to The Gambia again in February (2019), this will be my third visit. Each time I've been in February/March for a 5 or 6 week stay with Steve & Hilary (Lawther). I would definitely recommend anyone to go, it is so interesting and rewarding to see the children's smiles after they've achieved something new.
We have received this lovely update from Emily Blanchard about how her school, Ferney Lee Primary School in Todmorden, got involved with the Trust and made such a valuable donation of school resources that would otherwise have been scrapped.
In Summer 2018, Ferney Lee were lucky enough to move into a long awaited new school building. This was a move that was not celebrated by the whole community due to the old building holding a lot of sentimental and historical value, having previously been the Todmorden Grammar School for over 100 years. The new school building was eventually agreed due to the fact it would be cheaper to make a whole new build than to renovate the old one, which was never built as a primary school.
After weeks of packing for the ‘big move’ we soon realised due to the size comparison of old and new, we wouldn’t possibly be able to take everything with us. The old building had such a long history, which meant it contained resources which had gathered over several years, many of which hadn’t been used for a very long time but were in great condition. We had a huge library full of books and individual libraries in each classroom, along with a long resource room full of science and maths equipment and a kitchen full of big pots and pans – all of which would no longer be needed.
Unfortunately, due to the deteriorating condition of the old building and the regulations in which green spaces need to be replaced, it was decided that the old building was to be knocked down, which meant anything we left in the building would go to waste. This is where The Gambian Schools Trust came in. Paul (Neimantas) is a family friend so I knew of his fabulous work with the charity and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for both parties. Towards the end of the school year, once everything we were taking had been packed away, Paul came to look round and see what could be of use to the Trust. The answer was pretty simple and fantastic to hear – almost everything! Over the last few weeks of school, all staff were busy filling 100 banana boxes with anything we wouldn’t be needing or taking: toys, games, posters, exercise books, reading books, rulers, pencils, maths resources, science resources, water bottles, kitchen equipment, even an old sewing machine! Then in the summer holidays, Paul returned to collect 150 tables and 200 stacking chairs as we were lucky enough to be getting new furniture in the new build too.
As a school, especially as there were lots of mixed emotions about the old building being knocked down, it was amazing knowing everything wasn’t going to be wasted. To think that so many other children would also be benefiting from our new building made the move even more exciting and meaningful. We shared photos and updates with children and parents every step of the journey – from the packing up, the collecting, the storage container, the shipping, to the arrival of all our resources and furniture in The Gambia.
I speak on behalf of the whole school when I say we are happy, proud and extremely grateful for being given the opportunity to help such a worthy cause, and hopefully bring happiness to other children and staff working hard to educate, support and nurture children across The Gambia.
Although I've done a fair amount of travelling I had never been to Africa and so decided to join my brother on one of his trips out to The Gambia in February 2018. I spent a memorable week with two of the other GST Trustees, Steve & Hilary Lawther, who showed me round all the Trusts schools and then let me loose on one of their projects. I never thought that I would have THE best "holiday" of my life painting and helping to finish off the new library at Loumen School but that's exactly what happened. It was genuinely a pleasure to add real value to the great work that the Trust do and contribute in such a direct, hands on way. The Trust do such marvellous work out in The Gambia, there's nothing overly fancy or clever about what they do - they raise money, they collect unwanted school resources in the UK and they build & support schools in The Gambia with those resources & funds, as simple as that. Nothing is wasted, no money is used up in admin and I thoroughly enjoyed helping in my own small way.
I learnt such a lot about life in West Africa, it was both humbling and rewarding to spend time with people that really do appreciate the effort & work that is being put in by the Trust and its supporters ........ so much so that I'm planning on doing it all over again in February 2019!
I would fully recommend that if you've got the time (and a decent paint brush!!) that you get yourself out to Banjul to have the time of your life.
I visited the Gambia in December 2018 at the invitation of Gambian Schools Trust. I visited all their schools including the ones up country and then I helped out with the re-painting of the school walls at Kunkajang school. This experience was something else. By doing something so relatively small made a massive difference to the school and the appreciation you received was unbelievable. I met many different people and it was really good to hear their stories. Definitely makes you put things into perspective and it changed my mind set on certain things for sure.
If you want to do something different, maybe out of your comfort zone and make a difference then I would recommend you get in touch with The Gambian Schools Trust. A very well organised charity that is making a huge change for children in The Gambia. I’ll definitely be back !
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