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3rd photo evening Gambia “up close”

Despite the summer holidays, almost 50 visitors came to the 3rd photo evening of The Gambia “up close” in the Lebensart Cafe in Dortmund. Reports from our school in Brufut and Sintet as well as many small stories from on the way were followed with great attention. During the break Miriam Lehmann collected donations for sewn items of our tailoring or for the honey brought from Gambia. We were again supported by the drummers around Anke Filipiak. We are especially happy about three new memberships.
Further information among other things a small film compilation deposited with the new association anthem of the Gambianer to the 20-year old association anniversary finds you on Heike Hagemann´s Blog https://gambia-dortmund.de

Soccer is for everyone

As soon as the Gambian children and men have a football in front of them, no matter where, they kick. Also in Raigering (district Amberg) football is successfully played in the Pandurenpark. The youth handed over discarded jersey sets and footballs to Socialis for The Gambia e.V., which are then handed over to football teams and enthusiastic footballers in Gambia.

Rainer Ehbauer on the left handed over the jerseys and balls to Thomas März-Kronfeld, Bild Mitte, with the children of the F youth.

Women only – a garden for women

A newly established women’s garden on the property of the training centre in Sintet, The Gambia, enables more than 15 women to grow fruit and vegetables independently.
Despite a large school garden, there was still unused space on the extensive grounds where the Socialis for The Gambia e.V. association has already set up an agricultural school and a tailor’s shop. At the request of the inhabitants of Sintet village, this area is now being made available to committed women who can grow fruit and vegetables there for their own needs and for sale on the market. Through the proceeds, the women can contribute a part to the livelihood of their families. A drilled well hole with pump and elevated tank supplies the entire property with water, so that the plants can also be watered outside the rainy season. The yields are also independent of the actual irrigation system in the village, which sometimes carries inedible water.
The women are now overjoyed to be able to cultivate their own bed in the women’s garden and come daily to sow, water and care for the various plants. From November, the first tomatoes, onions or sweet potatoes can be harvested. Since the rainy season in Gambia did not begin until August this year, instead of June as usual, the harvesting season is also postponed by a few weeks. Nevertheless, everyone is looking forward to a good harvest.
In addition to the women’s garden, the training centre has also reopened after the summer holidays. This school year 10 agricultural students will start their training. The tailoring has 20 trainees.
Thanks to Techniker ohne Grenzen Amberg, a modern sanitary facility in the form of a dry toilet is also available on the property.

Gambia always worth a visit!

Someone once said, “Once Gambia and then never again or it won’t let you go.”
The second is true for me, because now it was my third Gambia trip and I would love to plan the next one again. After each of the past trips, my statement was: “No, I won’t go on a group trip anymore”. But what can I say, after this one in June, with the great troop and the many warm people who accompanied us on site, there will certainly be another one in the coming years.

Since my focus was very much on our projects and the anniversary celebration at our school, I would like to briefly tell you about these two experiences. A detailed travel report of the country and its people and the small round trip will follow.

Now that the group of 20 people, later 22, had arrived on Friday, June 7th, we settled down in our hotel. On Saturday everyone tried to arrive mentally and to explore the surroundings. Around noon two tailors came to the hotel to measure us all, because it is a tradition in Gambia that all those who celebrate together show togetherness by wearing the same fabrics. Since in 6 days the anniversary celebration should take place at our school, we were curious what Haruna, our instructor, in the tailoring and Fatou, the wife of our coordinator Hatab, would conjure up for us.

On Sunday we started our little round trip to get to know the country and its people. But there will be an extra report, because I leave this to a “newcomer” from the group. Only so much of me: since I was here for the third time, as I said, I saw the progress that happened, even though poverty was still visible everywhere. Since we were just before the rainy season, I was very surprised how many tourists were still on the way and how well the hotels were visited. The direct flights to Gambia, which started in spring, are bearing fruit. I only hope that this development goes in the right direction and doesn’t end in “single flights”.

Our first stop was Sintet, 150 km inland. There we were given a warm welcome and to my surprise I was able to hand over certificates and a sewing machine to the fully trained seamstresses. This already triggered a good feeling and also some pride in me, if one can contribute a part to give young people an independence. Afterwards the property and the recently developed women’s garden were visited. At 40 degrees we all looked for a shady place and waited for the food, which was prepared by the tailors and the women from the village for all traditionally on an open fire. Some of the group tried their hand as “assistant cooks”.

In the late afternoon I left the group with many new impressions to drive back to the hotel with Waltraud, Lamin and Samba. During the next two days I wanted to support our teachers at the school in their preparations for the festival.
When Hatab picked me up from the hotel the next day, I was very excited and a little nervous about what it’s like to go to school alone. The warm welcome of the director and individual teachers quickly took away my nervousness. I also noticed immediately that no matter in which country a celebration is prepared, there is the same hectic and hustle and bustle everywhere. There was brushing, painting, setting up tents, dragging chairs, running back and forth, giving lessons, singing, practicing dances and much more that makes a party.

In this well-rehearsed hustle and bustle I felt somewhat out of place and so I retired to our creative house with a few students. Together we made flowers out of sandwich paper, which were then hung in the tents. At the end, the children proudly presented their work. I also had a lot of fun being a part of the whole for a short time.

What we were offered on Thursday put everything in the shade that I had ever experienced at school parties in Gambia. By the way, our clothes and shirts fit perfectly, except for a few small things. It was a great feeling to be one with all the staff! Impressive was also this stately number of children and parents to see, approximately 800-900 persons. What was a special joy was that about 20 former pupils helped to shape the celebration. Full of pride they presented themselves with printed T-shirts as “ex-students”.

When the official part of the greeting, the review of the club’s history and the many speeches were over, the students greeted us with their own “Welcome in Sannehmentereng” song. Dances followed, a theatre play about the everyday life of a family that wants to offer its children a better future and cannot afford it. If it weren’t for the neighbours that tells of a Nursery and Lowerbasic School where anyone can go…Impressive performance!

Then loud applause and roaring from the audience attracted our attention. A song was played in the background and a young man started singing and dancing. As it turned out, he was a former student who is already a well-known rapper in Gambia. The evening before he had quickly composed a “hymn of praise” to the school and all the teachers and had performed that day. Which in retrospect gives me goose bumps. Also our Skillcenter with the tailors and hairdressers showed an impressive presentation of their braided hairstyles and sewn clothes at a fashion show!

Of course, honours could not be missing at a jubilee celebration and so we could honour the long-standing affiliation of all employees, especially those who could already look back on 19 or 20 years of co-designing. Each of the staff received a certificate, a polo shirt with club logo and, important for the whole family, a bag of rice. From our campaign “A Heart for Gambia” our participants distributed more than 700 painted hearts (which we carried in our suitcases) to all the children. We had to make sure that each of us got out of the action safe and sound.

In retrospect, it is not easy to write about something in which feelings play an important role. I can only say this much: The dedication and effort in all the preparations, the cooking for so many people, the many hours practicing with the students…. at the end of the event nobody had thought about it anymore. Everyone went home with a happy face and in a party mood.

A longtime member of our association, who already made the first group trip with me in 2004, wanted to see the progress after 15 years and was there again. With her statement I would like to end this report. She said: “You know Karin: It makes me a bit proud to have made a contribution and to be a part of this community. Let us burn for it again and carry it on! that tells of a Nursery and Lowerbasic School where anyone can go…Impressive performance!

Then loud applause and roaring from the audience attracted our attention. A song was played in the background and a young man started singing and dancing. As it turned out, he was a former student who is already a well-known rapper in Gambia. The evening before he had quickly composed a “hymn of praise” to the school and all the teachers and had performed that day. Which in retrospect gives me goose bumps. Also our Skillcenter with the tailors and hairdressers showed an impressive presentation of their braided hairstyles and sewn clothes at a fashion show!

Of course, honours could not be missing at a jubilee celebration and so we could honour the long-standing affiliation of all employees, especially those who could already look back on 19 or 20 years of co-designing. Each of the staff received a certificate, a polo shirt with club logo and, important for the whole family, a bag of rice. From our campaign “A Heart for Gambia” our participants distributed more than 700 painted hearts (which we carried in our suitcases) to all the children. We had to make sure that each of us got out of the action safe and sound.

In retrospect, it is not easy to write about something in which feelings play an important role. I can only say this much: The dedication and effort in all the preparations, the cooking for so many people, the many hours practicing with the students…. at the end of the event nobody had thought about it anymore. Everyone went home with a happy face and in a party mood.

A longtime member of our association, who already made the first group trip with me in 2004, wanted to see the progress after 15 years and was there again. With her statement I would like to end this report. She said: “You know Karin: It makes me a bit proud to have made a contribution and to be a part of this community. Let us burn for it again and carry it on!

Your Karin Neumüller

A moving journey to West Africa

With an area of just over 11,000 km², Gambia is the smallest country in Africa. But that doesn’t mean that Gambia is inferior to other African countries in anything! On the contrary, the West African country, which is completely surrounded by Senegal, impresses with an incredible animal world and is known as a natural paradise.

“The Smiling Coast of Africa” is the tourist motto of the country for the coastal tyre strip in the west. This credo, I think, applies to the whole country and its population. Everywhere one meets the warm smile, where one comes into contact with the “Locals”. A pleasant and thoroughly contagious experience.

It is a great challenge when more than twenty people, fortnightly, meet every day. In addition: all participants of the group journey knew each other before beginning only fleetingly and it succeeded in developing already on the first day after the arrival a feeling of togetherness.
Thus the journey was from the outset very pleasant and characterised by harmony.

Round trip inland
To get a good first impression of Gambia, it is advisable to visit the country. After a day of acclimatization, we went on a round trip of several days.
Our trip started after breakfast and together with our good German speaking tour guide Ibrahim we went from our hotel via Banjul with a more than thirty year old Mitsubishi bus to the “West Coast”, one of the six regions of the country. More precisely to the combo Saint Mary Area.

A view from the bus window to the street shows that you are in Africa. Less paved streets, no sidewalk, red earth and often the bus overtakes a donkey cart.

The first destination was a traditional goat market. Already there, a distorting picture for European eyes showed up, as there was also slaughtered on the spot. Another look upwards showed how the vultures were circling in the sky.
Here we did not stay long and went on to one of the classic, traditional Gambian wood markets. We came into direct contact with the traders and bargaining is part of the good tone and is a core area of African trade.
In order to negotiate a good and fair price for the hand carved works of art, the following strategy is recommended very well: after the goods were presented and observed, the dealer suggests a first price. If you now go down two thirds of the mentioned price and agree at the end approximately in the middle, both sides are usually satisfied.
After some of them gathered their first experiences in African trading and bought beautiful fabrics, drums and figures at auction, we were able to continue our sunny journey.

On the highway, which reminded rather of a simple country road, we passed now our first checkpoint. There are several of them in the country. They mark a certain section.
It is noticeable that the checkpoints are not guarded by Gambian military, but were often soldiers from Senegal or Ghana. In spring 2017 there was a change of power in Gambia. Jammeh, the former autocratic president, lost the elections to Adama Barrow, the current president. But since Jammeh did not want to recognize the result of the elections, there was unrest in the country at first.
But the African Union, with the support of the UN Security Council, sent soldiers from Senegal and combat troops marched into Gambia, the dictator Jammeh fled to Equatorial Guinea.
Since then, soldiers from Senegal, Sierra Leone and Ghana, together with the Gambian military, have ensured the stability of the country and these checkpoints.
It continued on the sandy road. We crossed the border to the Lower River region and arrived at our first camp “Tendaba Lodge” in the late afternoon at about 40 degrees Celsius.
In the inland the temperatures are higher than at the coast and there is no fresh breeze. We all sweated a lot. Only in the evening it usually cooled down by a few degrees. There was electricity here only between 19 o’clock to 2 o’clock at night.
After a short break and moving into our rooms we immediately went on a somewhat bigger, shaky wooden boat.
Now we were for the first time on the famous river that gives the country its name: River Gambia – and off into the mangrove forest, where there were numerous bird species to observe. On the way back we had a good “sea state” and almost nobody came dry to the shore, but with the high temperatures it was less bad.
The following day we left the camp after breakfast and visited a nearby “Nursery School”. We were warmly welcomed with singing and dancing. Gambian children only learn the official language English at school. As there are many different ethnic groups living in Gambia, which are mainly characterized by their own language, the English language is the official language.

Here the poverty of the country was shown consciously and visibly. The children had hardly any pens, the teacher hardly any teaching material and the playground lay rudimentary and dreary on red earth, with a slide and broken swing. Nevertheless, the warmheartedness was palpable. Children hugged us, took our hands, laughed, were happy and didn’t want to let us go anymore. We didn’t have these experiences only once on the round trip.

Now we went south from Tendaba to Sintet. Here the association “Socialis for the Gambia” runs a Skill Center with the main focus on agriculture and tailoring. With a lot of singing, converted pots and canisters as drums and dance the colourfully dressed women of the village greeted us and led us into the shady huts of the Skill Center. It is an enormous challenge to manage fertile soil in the scorching heat of the dry season and to maintain it adequately. On this day we were allowed to witness how eager young seamstresses received their certificate of passed training with joy and pride. Afterwards we were entertained by the women with the highest skills of African cuisine.
In a settlement near the Skill Center we stopped in the late afternoon and were able to distribute our first bags of clothes to the inhabitants. The gratitude was great. Sweaty and wet we drove back to the camp, enjoyed a functioning air conditioning in the rooms and spent the evening at the coast of the Gambia River.

The next destination of our journey took us further inland and we crossed the river for the first time over the Senegambia Bridge, which was opened in January 2019, and drove on to Farafenni. A vibrant city where life takes place on the streets. After refilling our water reserves, our bus drove on to Wassu, to the Senegambian stone circles, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The stones were erected around the 8th century by a megalithic culture on former graves. Traditionally, visitors leave small stones on the stone blocks to bring them luck.
A local museum director tried to explain the worldly phenomena to us with broken “Denglisch” about esoteric, mystical number games. Whether one believes in it or not, he was quite convinced of it. But he was always a nice person.

Now came one of the most beautiful parts of our round trip. We got into a big motorized wooden boat near Wassu and after we had seen some Hippos for a short time we reached Janjanbureh (formerly Georgetown).

It became adventurous and at the latest here each of us became aware that we were in Africa. There was no electricity and running water only sporadically pumped out of the Gambia River. We also had to share the camp with the local monkey groups and many exotic animals and insects like birds. Our bus driver reached with his vehicle also the camp over the bumpy roads and the bus was occupied after short time already by a monkey. Reason: Ali, our bus driver, had left the window open. The “fight” for food with the monkeys was omnipresent in the camp. Funny, but you had to be careful.
After we had survived the night in the Janjanbureh camp well, we set over with an age-old ferry to Janjanbureh and visited the former colonial city with its pulsating markets and friendly inhabitants.

By bus we went under the glowing sun of Gambia back to Farafenni. We were well entertained in a restaurant by friends of our bus driver. Again it went again on the bumpy road. We stopped in a village and donated rice and sweets to a family of 14.

The next adventure was not long in coming. From the right rear wheel arch a strange, loud noise sounded. One of the twin rear tyres was badly damaged and the tyre literally disintegrated. We felt the African frugality again. “Ignore the noise” was the expert assessment of our driver. With a rubbing tire, worried thoughts whether we have to spend the night with a car breakdown in the middle of the Gambian Savannah, we went over pitted, red sand roads to our last destination of the round trip. Kunta Kinteh Island.

Since the island as a historical place documents the West African slave trade, it counts since 2003 to the UNESCO world cultural heritage. With Kunta Kinteh Island and associated sites, seven objects have been combined. The Fort James fortress, which was located on James Island, is only partly still existing today. Parts have been washed away by the tides, remains of walls can be seen on the core of the island. (Source Wikipedia)

Exhausted we reached Barra in the evening. Here exists the most important ferry connection of the country to Banjul. Once again it became clear which privileges the “Toubabs” (West African name for whites) enjoy compared to the native dark-skinned population. It is not uncommon for truck drivers to have to wait up to four days to take the ferry. We were the first on the ferry without a reservation. A paradoxical feeling crept in. We were ashamed and grateful at the same moment to be allowed to return to the hotel soon to spend the night in comfortable beds.

Even though this was only a short round trip, we got a very good impression about the smallest country in Africa and were very impressed by the smiling and friendly people during the rest of our stay in Gambia.

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