Missing our Gambian friends

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The group of 22 BACE volunteers who travelled to the village of Bonsa in The Gambia have been back in the UK for just over a week – and we’re all missing our Gambian friends very much.

I think I can safely say that for all of us our visit to Bonsa was a life changing experience, which will remain with us forever. Most of us have now gone back to work, or back to school, or have returned to our normal routines, but we all seem to have left a little part of our ourselves back there.

I’m trying to keep a little of what I learnt during the week with me. I’m trying not to get stressed over silly little things, like traffic jams or running late. I constantly remind myself how lucky I am and how easy my life is.

But what probably sticks in my mind most is the warm and loving people I met on the trip, along with how grateful people were for anything we did for them or gave them.

On our last day on the project our Gambian friends, who are employed by BACE, said a few words to thank the volunteers for their efforts and there was not a dry eye in the house.

As we sat outside BACE’s Favour Preparatory School, once the children had finished for the day, our Gambian friend Frances Mendy said: “This community is in need of help. Without you these children would not be able to speak English, to read, or write. I am overjoyed every time I see new faces come to help. It amazes me.”

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Some of the volunteers are keeping in touch with their new Gambian friends via Facebok and email and also via text messages and phone calls. However, not only can communication be expensive but it is sometimes impossible, as the internet connection in The Gambia can be a little hit and miss to say the least!

But one message did get through – loud and clear – and again it was from Frances, via Facebook.

He said: “I will take this opportunity to thank all volunteers who endeavoured to spend their precious time with us in the Gambia. I must say it was really awesome. We wish you were still with us.

“We love you all, our BACE family, especially the trustees who have be there since the beginning to provide and organise trips to visit us.

“Jerre Jeff, sunu mboka ak sunu harit nyi – thanks so much our relatives and friends.”

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Gambia – The Smiling Coast

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Having set the alarm clock for half past midnight to get ready for our journey to Gatwick we finally arrived at our accommodation at four in the afternoon

The good thing about our long journey was that it gave the 22 volunteers time to get to know each other and as we flew the chair of the charity also told us a little about the Gambian education system and public health.

We learnt that some children have to stop going to school because they can no longer afford the fees. For primary school children the lack of a pound could mean their schooling could come to an abrupt end. For secondary school pupils if they cannot find the fifty pounds they need to continue their education then they have to leave.

We also learnt that malaria and malnutrition are two of the biggest reasons that life expectancy is low.

For us volunteers our hard work starts tomorrow, beginning with an early 7am start, so we’re all off to bed very soon.