In May 1999 two members of the Interest Group went to The Gambia. Their task was to find a place where a nursery school could be built. After a long search and lengthy negotiations with mayors in different villages they decided to build up a nursery school in the village Labakoreh. This decision was accepted by the Interest Group.
Labakoreh is situated south west of Jambul, the capital of the Gambia, in the middle of the bushland. From Jambul to the village it takes you 45 minutes if you go by car, i.e. 30 minutes metalled road, the rest isn’t metalled.
There live about 2000 people we were told by the mayor. The two group members got the impression that the inhabitants, grown ups and children, hadn’t had much contact to white people. The atmosphere there was so original and impressed the two Germans very much. Isatou Konateh lead the negotiations with the mayor who put about 1500sqm of land at our disposal, free of charge, to build a nursery school.
Our projects – step by step. Patiently.
From the 27th of October to the 11th of November Monika Thomsen and Hella Gutzmer with her husband spent their holidays in Gambia. During that time they saw by themselves how things developed and gave the money for building up a new school.
They realised the difficulties to build up a house in the bush. The most important thing in Africa is a well. The first works to build on were done. The stones for the school buildings were made of sand, gravel and water and dried in the sun on the spot. All the materials had to be taken with carts pulled by donkeys over a distance of many kilometres. But the first steps were done and the first walls of the building were erected.
The “holiday makers “ themselves helped to build the school. On the other hand the had to talk to the authorities, to study the project documents and to control the whereabouts of the money.
The children of the village beamed with pleasure when the three Germans opened a case full of shoes.35 pairs of new, coloured shoes -a donation from Gerd and Petra Schulz, Bützow – were given to the village children.
In addition to that T- shirts, medicines and first- aid kid , donated by the two Bützow chemist’s shops,
pencils, exercise books and other school materials were given to Isatou to keep for the new school.
The first step is done! One school building is built up.
Since April, 5th 2000 30 children, aged three to six, from the small village Labakoreh and its surroundings attended the nursery school.
Eight women, members of our society and sympathisers of our project, took part in the opening celebration of our small school. The Gambian women from the surroundings came to cook and later to dance. Also governmental and district representatives came. There were tears in the parents‘ eyes because of happiness to improve the education of their children in the middle of the bush.
Now every morning the children can learn the alphabet, the numbers, reading and writing in English, taught by the engaged teacher Isatou Konateh. Together they will sing and play, too.
The participants of the opening celebration will never forget the bright children’s eyes.
Thank you so much for your help!
This is the school uniform of the children in Labakoreh. It’s red and white checked.
We make progress (2003)
Our next project, to build up a well, could be finished in 2003. But according to our experiences in Africa, sometimes projects were not easy to realize. It’s never easy, we learned especially during our visit in May/June 2003.
Thanks to Alagie’s commitment and talent for organisation and using shovels, buckets and ropes the well was prepared to 15 metres deep till May. Now it was possible to draw water with the help of a rope. But it should be easier for the two handicapped teachers. A pump was needed. After hours of searching in Jambul an Indian firm was found which took on the installation. Again there were difficulties and faults to overcome, nevertheless after three days everything was working although one bolt was still missing.
Now our teachers are able to draw the water easily and needn’t use buckets any longer.
After having cleared this hurdle we invited our 80 children to take part in a trip to the sea on the occasion of the International Children’s Day. Only four or five of them had ever seen the ocean although Labakoreh is situated 15 to 20 kilometres from the sea.
Monika Thomsen told:” When the children saw the sea, they were so surprised that they didn’t move. But then you couldn’t stop them and we only saw a huge, red dusty cloud.”
After having swam in the sea for the first time in their lives their appetite was enormous. Their parents had prepared a meal with rice, sweet potatoes, maniok and chicken which was eaten greedily.
On the spot in May 2004
Our second chairperson went to Gambia together with five friends, who were very interested in our work, to stay there for 14 days.
First and foremost technical work was to do, like to repair the pump, the production and installation of the equipment for the playground and some administrative tasks were to do, too. To finance these works we got support from: “NUE-Dornum”, students of the John-Brinckman Grammar school and our godparents and many other sponsors. Especially we were happy being able to continue to pay our helpers and teachers in Gambia. In Labakoreh nearly 100 children, two to seven years old, attended our school and so it was necessary to build up more rooms.
During their stay the Gambia friends who were with us could see by themselves the teachers‘ work at school and how the children were treated according their age. We visited children who had attended our nursery school in a state elementary school some kilometres away from our village. The headmaster wished to get more of so well prepared children.
As expected we organised a little party for “our” children – a real beach party including a fine meal and playing games. Many things we brought with us ( there were 180 kg in our luggage) were given to the children. It was a wonderful day at the beach, for the children as well for the adults.
Our new aims are now the expansion of the school building and a school garden, which can be used to provide the children with vegetable. Furthermore we always need money to buy teaching materials and to pay the teachers.