Update 22-01-18: Report of 2021

Traditionally, here is a report at the end of the year about what is happening in Gambia and about the work is done there.

On October 2, after an interruption of one and a half years, two members of our association flew to Gambia again. Due to the pandemic circumstances, the preparation and execution of this trip was somewhat more complex than in previous years. (PCR test, digital vaccination document, mouth guard, etc.) In addition the thought: How do I behave with the children and with our friends in the village? How long can the new distance be endured for us and the children? (Mouth protection and keeping distance?)

In Gambia, strict rules apply. Only vaccinated people are allowed to work in public institutions. Our many contacts have told us that the young generation has a positive attitude towards vaccination and some of them have been vaccinated during mobile vaccination campaigns. Also the teachers are all immunized. Our organizer Lamin had to be convinced to vaccinate – we went to the hospital together. The vaccine is very scarce in The Gambia. We had the information that there had been few corona cases in the last months. So we behaved as we had in previous years. And we came back to Germany after four weeks stay in Gambia healthy and without Corona infection. Seeing Gambia bloom and green was a great balance to the efforts of everyday life. It was rainy season and very hot. Temperatures around 40 degrees and oppressive humidity are normal then.

Now to the happenings in the village of Labakoreh. The day after our arrival we went to meet our children and the staff of the Nursery School. As in all educational institutions in the country, classes had been back in session for three weeks, after nine months of school closure.

The joy about our visit was great on both sides. Of course, the already almost obligatory lollipop for the children and the staff could not be missing. We were touched by the joy of the villagers about the spontaneous help from our sponsors after the heavy storm on July 8. The storm had caused considerable damage to the houses. Many families had no roof over their heads – and that in the rainy season. The Alkalo (mayor) and the local council showed great gratitude in conversation, to an extent that I have not experienced in the last 24 years. Lamin had immediately informed me about this. We reacted quickly, among other things through the German press. Spontaneously, people from our region, but also beyond, donated money for the urgently needed repair of 15 houses.

We got an overview of the condition of the school, made first arrangements, among others with the Alkalo and agreed on a date for a meeting. At this and four other meetings, attended by many women and men, plans for the new „Women’s Garden Project“ were discussed. Some men disagreed with the name, feeling that after all, they were building and preparing the garden. Monika expressed her excitement to see how this will be agreed upon.

The garden area will be about 4500 square meters. Several women’s groups in the village will grow vegetables and do the marketing. The women will take over the plant on their own responsibility. Our maxim in the association is also for this project „help for self-help“. Through the communal cultivation of vegetables, the village – including our school children – will be sustainably supplied with healthy food. We hope that construction can begin in January. First, two wells will be built for the water supply. The cost estimate of the well builder is about 4200 Euro. In addition, an enclosure, a storage building for equipment, as well as material for the vegetable harvest are needed. Additionally we finance the first seeds. We hope that this project will develop into an economically self-sufficient enterprise in the near future and thus improve the lives of the people in the village.

All the residents, especially the women, are full of anticipation for their community garden. Our plan was actually to have the official formalities for the project completed in the four weeks of our visit. However, the presidential election in The Gambia took place at the beginning of December, so we simply could not meet the Alkalo or the appointments were canceled because meetings with the authorities took forever. A few days before our departure we finally found an appointment to measure the garden land. At the end of December it was clear that the formalities of the project were done.

So now it can start!
We hope that this project can be financed by donations.

As always, we also had to complete other elaborate tasks. Due to various circumstances, Lamin and Monika had to do most of the work in pairs. Several sponsor families were visited and supported with rice, oil and onions. The money had also come from the godparents.

Monika had many interesting conversations with young people whose education is financed by our long-term sponsors. Simply great to hear about the plans of these young people. Interesting video recordings were made. At the moment there are 29 personal sponsorships. Among other things, Monika learned from several acquaintances who previously worked in the tourism industry that they have changed to a skilled trade.

At the request of our long-time principal and teacher Mustapha, there was a change of leadership at the school. The leadership was taken over by Fatu, a trained teacher who has been working in our Nursery School for one year. Fatu shows a courageous, no-nonsense attitude. On her advice, 80 writing boards were made for the younger groups. We also agreed on a salary increase for all staff. Our monthly expenses for staff salaries and children’s meals amount to 580 euros.

For a very sad reason we are again missing a trained teacher. Njima, a young teacher who was very popular with the children and the staff, died unexpectedly a few weeks ago. On Friday she was still working and the following Sunday she passed away on her way to the hospital. No one could really believe it. A villager, a young woman with two children, suffered a similar fate.

The health care of the people is on a low level. Examinations and medicines have to be paid for expensively on their own. Fortunately, we were able to help a woman in the village who had been seriously ill for several days in time.

Monika wrote about this in the Christmas letter 2021:

„I am always shocked when I hear about it, especially when it affects someone from our village. My thoughts are then all the more with the people in Labakoreh and give me strength and motivation to work together with our association members and hopefully also further with you, dear helpers and friends of the association, for the benefit of the weak on earth.“