Report by Miss Bernadette O’Neal

Very early on Monday December 14th, the Gambia team 2009 finally met at the correct terminal at Manchester airport to begin a wonderful adventure. Once again, the trip to Gambia was very successful and fruitful, with all the girls and the staff finding the experience both rewarding and enjoyable. Leaving behind arctic conditions, we quickly and happily adapted to the hot temperatures and began to adjust to GMT-“Gambia Time!”

Throughout the week, the girls worked hard and formed a very effective team. Their painting of Pat’s nursery school in the hot conditions was a real tribute to their efforts and commitment and we managed to redecorate all three rooms plus the outside of the building in just one day. Withington Girls’ School had originally funded the building of this much needed nursery school and now we are helping to set up an adult skills centre there. Pat was delighted with her newly painted classrooms and we look forward to seeing how the skills centre will develop next year.

The girls also helped to collect the eggs produced by the ‘Withington chickens’ at the new poultry farm that has been established and is now a flourishing business for the local people.

The knitting project was a huge success at Illiassa, where the girls taught the local women how to knit. My goodness, they were fast learners and the girls made excellent teachers. Some of the girls themselves had caught the knitting “bug” and they were still knitting on the plane home using pencils! A huge thank you to all those who donated wool and needles for this project – our bags were certainly much lighter on the way home! The girls who taught a lesson at the nursery school were also very impressive and resourceful and gave the children a wonderful experience.

All of the girls really threw themselves into the week’s activities with enthusiasm, energy and good humour. Not even the breaking down of the jeep, or the delays due to the tide could dampen their spirits and they all adapted to the African way of life very well.

I would like to thank all of the girls for their hard work and good company throughout the week, as well as for all the preparations and fundraising that were done in the preceding months to ensure that the trip was so successful. Thanks go to the parents and friends who have supported us this year and made sure that enough money was raised to keep our projects running. The people from the local communities in The Gambia asked me to extend their gratitude to you for helping to improve their lives and allow them to better look after their children. I would also like to thank Mrs Bailey, Senora Lopez and Mrs Browning for their help and support on the trip.


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