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FOUR UNFORGETTABLE MONTHS IN THE GAMBIA

Two young women from the district have left their usual home for four months and are going to West Africa for an internship.

In the interview they talk about their experiences in Gambia, their work at the school and what they miss most since their return to Germany.

Going abroad after graduating from high school, that is the plan of many school graduates in Germany. Two young women from the district of Amberg-Sulzbach have dared a special adventure and completed a social internship in the West African Gambia for four months. This was made possible by the Amberg-based association Socialis for The Gambia, which supports the educational work in the small African country by financing a pre-school and primary school as well as a training centre. In an interview, Iris (18) and Julia (19) talk about their experiences in Gambia, their work at the school and what they miss most since their return to Germany

How did it come about that you decided to do an internship in Gambia?

Julia: I always wanted to go abroad for a longer time, because you can get to know a country very differently when you live there than when you are only there as a tourist for a few weeks. After my high school diploma I decided to put this into practice.

Iris: I also wanted to try something new and improve my English, but at the same time I wanted to make use of something from my surroundings. And so I went to Gambia through the Amberg-based association Socialis for the Gambia.

What was your first impression when you arrived?

Iris: Ohjemine, where have I landed here! [laughs] It was a little bit poorer than expected.

Julia: I can remember exactly how we were picked up from the airport and suddenly a cow ran in front of the car and we had to stop abruptly. Besides, it was unbelievably hot and there was sand and garbage everywhere. But from the very beginning I was especially fascinated by the women in their colourful dresses, carrying their children on their backs and balancing a fruit bowl on their heads at the same time.

How was your daily routine?

Julia: During the week we took our bikes in the morning and on the way to school we took our breakfast in the shop next door. Then from 8 to half past 4 we were at the school and have often passed by friends on the way back. Then we had to rest, drink tea and play a round of Yahtzee. Later we often went shopping at the market and in the evening we cooked together and sat together with friends on the terrace. On weekends there was always something to do, for example a trip to the beach, an invitation to a wedding or we explored the country as tourists.

What were your duties at school?

Iris: Mainly realising creative ideas with the children, be it handicrafts or photography. And otherwise taking care of the reading lessons and first aid, solving minor technical problems on the computers and designing posters for the classrooms.

Julia: And sometimes we were given special tasks, such as a photography project, or to carry out an art project on climate change.

Which day in particular did you remember?

Iris: There are too many to choose a particular one.

Julia: Our trip to Janjanbureh, in the poorer interior of Gambia. There we got to know the typical Gambian life and found out that our accommodation provided by the organisation was nevertheless a lot more western than we thought. For example, we had fixed toilets there, which is by far not standard in Gambia.

What fascinated you most?

Julia: The smile of the children. The sweet shining white teeth and their contentment, although they hardly have anything. There was really almost no day when I saw a child crying.

Iris: And that the Gambians don’t constantly burn their fingers when they eat, when they shape the rice into little balls.

Would you recommend the internship to others and if so, why?

Iris: Definitely, especially because you will meet some really nice people there, but also to experience a completely different lifestyle, some of which you can take home with you. And you will see your life there much more relaxed, there is just a super relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Julia: You also learn an incredible amount for yourself, including independence and openness. At the same time you can support people in a country that is still far away from our level of development.

What do you take with you from your time in Gambia?

Julia: I realized that we should appreciate what we have here in Germany much more and how important it is to take time for the things and people that are close to your heart. Besides, I learned through the Gambian way of life to see life more relaxed and to make myself less pressure and stress.

Iris: A lot, but mostly probably to realize that you don’t need a thousand of the same things and you can be happy with little. And far too many Wonjo flowers to enjoy the traditional drink at home.

What do you miss the most?

Julia: The people with whom we have made such incredible friendships.

Iris: The sun and my new friends

If you are interested in an internship in Gambia or if you would like to support the association you can find all information on the homepage www.socialis-for-the-gambia.de or on Facebook. Questions can be asked at info@socialis-for-the-gambia.de or under 09621/31754.

Final report by Julia and Iris

During the first week, when we were allowed to look at everything at the school and get used to things, we supported the nursery teachers of the first two classes.
Otherwise we spent most of our working time in the Roundhouse. There we organized the lessons partly alone, partly together with Mr. Jatta.
In the first weeks we glued all the books for the libraryessons and sorted them again by class level. This way we could put books for the respective classes on their places before the lesson, so that the children could start reading immediately without a huge chaos before.
For the art lessons we drew and copied pictures for the lower classes, which we then prepared on the tables with pens before the lessons. From the originals of the colouring pictures, as well as a few newer ones that we designed especially for this purpose, we created a kind of colouring book, so that Mr. Jatta and other trainees will have templates in the future that they can copy and colour in the children. For the older students, we mainly thought up craft projects, which we used to decorate the ceiling and walls of the Creative House after completion. The biggest project was probably the dragon, as the children were able to use a lot of materials for it and the whole thing took several hours. Apart from that, of course, the long garland for the ceiling, the fish garlands on the windows, the stars, the little pigs, the big snail and the big poster with the colourful hands should not be forgotten.
Towards the end of our stay we designed a kind of handicraft book for Mr. Jatta. For this we first collected handicraft ideas and then photographed step by step the process of the respective basic ideas up to the “finished” end product. We wrote a short sentence or text for each of the photos, so that we could finally compile a complete manual. Thus, this handicraft book contains both the instructions for the things we had already made with some classes as well as some completely new ones.
We also collaborated on an art competition on climate change. With the help of Mr. Jatta, we selected particularly artistic pupils from two age groups each, who then designed two posters in groups. With our support, they exchanged ideas about the content of the posters until they decided on an idea. We were always open to questions from the students during the design process, so it was like supervised group work.
After thorough planning we were also able to carry out the photo project together with the students. When planning the whole thing, we focused mainly on the fact that the children could have fun, for example by putting together shapes in groups, but also by showing the basic daily routine, such as brushing teeth, cooking or just a normal lesson.

Often we designed wall posters for the classrooms or for the nursery on behalf of the respective teachers. For each letter there was a respective page with a term and a drawing, each of which started with that letter.
Apart from that, we often solved smaller technical questions and problems in the computer room and also gave tutoring for two afternoons in the matter of writing. This was then dissolved, because it didn’t quite work out as everybody had imagined and besides that we were of the opinion that the selected students didn’t need this tutoring.
In addition, we helped to heal and bandage smaller or even bigger wounds, which mainly occurred during the sometimes wilder sports lessons.
Apart from the school lessons, we had planned the vaccination of the teachers against tetanus as a kind of Christmas present. For this we phoned around until we found someone who could do the vaccinations, but this was a long back and forth, also because of the costs, so that we unfortunately could not finish the project. But it is planned that as soon as the vaccine is available and someone can do the vaccination, the action will be made up for.

Thanks to the good atmosphere at the school we settled in very quickly and felt part of the school family from the very beginning. Of course, we also owe this to the warmth and openness of the teachers and students with whom we were welcomed from the very beginning. We were always met with friendliness.
We also noticed positively how well it works with lunch. The cooks know exactly how much they need so that everyone gets enough to eat. The distribution of the food is in principle going really well in our opinion, because starting with Nursery 1, every quarter of an hour or so, another class always receives lunch and then takes it together.
Towards the end of our stay we were also really happy to see how and above all that the school garden was repaired and planted with new vegetables and fruit.

In principle, we found everything positive about our stay except for a few small things and will definitely recommend it to others. Thanks to Sara and Wolfgang and the fact that the teachers and students welcomed us so nicely at the school, we were able to settle in very quickly and find our way around very well, which quickly eliminated the initial “everything is new” feeling. The work at the school was also a lot of fun for us, because we could let our creativity run free, but basically we all just embraced each other immediately. We also made very good friends outside of school, which made for a lot of variety and made sure that we never got bored. Thanks to several excursions, once even into the interior of the country to Janjanbureh, we had the incredible opportunity to see a lot of the country and take a lot with us. All in all we learned a lot about the country itself, as well as about the life and the people there, which was exciting and interesting and through which we also learned a lot for our own lives.
There were also some less nice things we had during our stay. Unfortunately, the change of hygiene and food has led to some “physical” difficulties, through which we can now definitely ward off some stomach and intestinal problems with a wink. We also missed our regular bus service more than once, when we had to wait forever for a car back to Brufut. Apart from that it was a bit disappointing that the implementation of a well-intentioned project, the vaccination of the teachers, took an incredibly long time and even after the planning was done, we still didn’t know if it would work or not, because the idea involved an eternal back and forth.

We are proud and happy that we were given the opportunity to experience a completely different life, with a different culture and religion. In the future we will certainly be more open to other ways of life etc. than we already are in principle. Furthermore, we definitely take with us the fact that one can be very happy with much less. We are happier about our high standard of living (infrastructure, sewerage, hygiene, …) because of what we were allowed to experience, but now we also know that it can’t hurt to reduce it in some points. And last but not least we have learned that we should appreciate much more, that we as women here in Germany have the same rights as men and are not a “lower” gender who should be denied rights.

Iris and Julia

Internship report from September by Julia and Iris

As soon as we arrived in Gambia, we were warmly welcomed by everyone, so that we got used to the – for us – new country very well and could find our way around very quickly.
In the first week we supported Nursery 1 to find out about all the customs and habits. For example, we helped with the English lessons or showed the children how to assemble the Lego bricks – a present from Germany – which the little ones really enjoyed.
In the second week we stayed at the Roundhouse and started with our current daily routine. In the meantime we have already completed several different handicraft projects with the classes.
For the first and second class we have set ourselves the task of designing mandalas, for example, which the children can then colour in with enthusiasm in art lessons. Class three was very happy about the painting and folding of subjects, because the sun here in Gambia creates a completely different temperature than in Germany. Class four brought a large wall project to light, which not only the children are happy about, but also the initial emptiness in the Roundhouse. A big one was made from small woollen snails, which is now admired proudly by the pupils.
For the time when there are no pupils in the Roundhouse, we do not run out of tasks. So we have designed a book with the whole alphabet and pictures matching the letters for the nursery or designed several posters to embellish the classrooms. We also give the 6th grade private tuition in calligraphy at the request of a teacher.
If we have had enough of the “creative” tasks, we can also help the teachers with smaller problems on the computer or give lessons in using Power Point.
Finally, we are also responsible for treating and dressing minor wounds of the students on the days when Wolfgang and Sara are not at school.
And so we hope to enrich the school with imaginative ideas for the next two months and to enjoy the delicious Benachin and are looking forward to what is to come.
Julia and Iris
(Interns in Gambia September 2019 – February 2020)

Letter from Africa

on March 27 Hatab wrote to our members: Thank you Team, On behalf of all the staff and students of all our projects in the Gambia, we want to wish each and every member of our association to stay safe and healthy from this COVID 19 Our prayers and thoughts are with you in this trying moment and hope that with unity we will over come this sickness very soon. May God protect and guide you and your family from this dreadful virus. Wish you all the best. Hatab would also like to thank the sponsor of his car engine. A few months ago and despite several repairs, the engine of the club car has given up the ghost. Thanks to a sponsor Hatab was able to buy a used engine for the car and have it installed. Since March 18th, the schools, the Skill Center and the universities in Gambia are closed and the teachers try to work from home. They prepare lessons and try to provide their students with tasks via e-mail. But this is relatively difficult, because many of them do not have computers at home. Some teachers also bring their students the teaching materials from nearby. All our employees in Gambia continue to receive their salary. A sewing instruction for protective masks was passed on to the tailors. They can now make and sell masks.
Also the government in Gambia announced restrictions on March 27th: All non-essential food outlets at all markets will be closed. All public places and places of worship will be closed. Family celebrations will be limited to 10 people and transportation will be limited to half the usual number of passengers. Prices will be frozen to prevent hoarding of all essential goods. The government has also approved an emergency fund.

Sponsor for education in Gambia

For 20 years, the Amberg-based association Socialis for The Gambia e.V. has supported school and vocational training in The Gambia through memberships and donations. “The Regensburg company Fronteris made a significant contribution to this last year”, reports board member Thomas März-Kronfeld of Socialis. A delegation from Fronteris recently visited the West African country and met the young trainees in person.
The charitable organization founded a kindergarten and a school in the West African country of The Gambia, where more than 600 children up to grade six now receive free schooling. In addition to the school, the association runs a training centre for about 50 prospective tailors and hairdressers in the village of Brufut.
Thanks to the great initiative of the company Fronteris from Regensburg, even more young adults can now start an apprenticeship. Already since September, the company has been supporting three young women and one young man to complete a vocational training by covering the entire training costs.
The chosen occupational groups of the trainees are very different and range from business management and tourism management to teaching profession for the upper school. Fronteris would like to give especially the young Gambian* women a chance. After graduating from school, they would otherwise not have the opportunity to do an apprenticeship, as they cannot afford the sometimes high costs themselves.
For the coming training year, the company would like to include further school graduates in the sponsoring programme and, above all, promote local trades and crafts. The board team of the Amberg-based association Socialis for The Gambia. e.V. thanks Fronteris “for the great support of the former students of the Sannehmentereng-Lower-Basic-School and wishes the young trainees all the best for their start into their professional life”, says März-Kronfeld.

Caption: Thomas März-Kronfeld
Our photo shows the German delegation in Brufut with the trainees (from left): Abdou Joof, Gunilla Janner, Haddy L. Bojang, Werner Engelhardt, Yama Sanneh, Kai Pawelka, Nyillan Joof.
Photo: Waltraud Haid

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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