Sunday, 30 December 2007


We heard late last night that the boy has received some treatment for his condition, and is due to meet a specialist on the 10th Jan 2008. He is in a little less pain. Phew! (But fingers still firmly crossed ...)

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Nobody said it had to be easy ...

A post-Christmas flurry of emails and 'phone calls between home and The Gambia about the condition of the youngster with osteomyelitis. I've sent money for antibiotics, which are available over the counter there. I only hope the pharmacist has supplied the correct type. Hence the attempts to speak to a doctor there. It underlines the responsibility we have not only to try to help but also to ensure that any help we do offer is appropriate.
The book is on sale again on Ebay - we need to sell quite a few copies to cover the costs of hospital treatment, if indeed we can find such treatment before the boy suffers the loss of his leg.

Monday, 24 December 2007


Nearly Christmas, and Eid just over. A family time, but not free of worries. Adama is depressed. Her eldest daughter, Fatou, has just left home to live in Serrekunda with her husband John and baby Matti. Adama's other daughter, Ami, is doing well at school. Her son Mussa is also at school. Adama feels that she is an old woman (late forties?) and who will look after her? Fatou is miles away and has her own life to live. Mussa must get an education. Traditionally Ami, the second daughter, would take this role ... There is also the care of Adama's mother and her step-father to be considered. Adama has had this caring task but now she feels old and unwell. She has had health problems for years and it's all too much for her now ...

Monday, 17 December 2007

The next hurdle ...

Ousman's kid brother, a boy of about fourteen, is seriously ill. He was diagnosed as suffering with osteomelitis in his upper left leg, which is terribly swollen and ulcerated. His family have been trying to treat him with local herbal cures for twelve months but his leg is worse and causing him great pain. We managed to get him examined at the Medical Research Centre at Bakau but they do not have the facilities to operate - he will probably need a bone graft. A friend at MRC is trying to find a hospital somewhere else in West Africa and it seems likely that an operation may be available in Senegal, at Dakar. We are trying to find out if this is possible, and what the cost will be. Just hope the sales of the book hold up! The boy lives in a village with few mod cons - none I can think of. Again we think of all that we here in England take for granted, and count our blessings.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Time for a very big grin.

Recovering from a really wonderful time at the book launch. People had worked very hard to make it go and it did! Ran like clockwork, smooth as silk and very professional (you might think they did it every week). Greeted at the door, led to the mince pies and mulled wine then escorted to the book room. Wow! At last - "The Cheshire Collection" in the flesh - well in a beautiful binding: a real book we could be proud to be associated with. A dream come true.
What has this to do with G.O.E.S? Those great folk, the Vale Royal Writers Group, have decided to give G.O.E.S. the profits - and already this amounts to £500. I really can't take it in. I've spent today in a dreamworld, thinking of all the good this money can do. Thanks and thanks again. Bless you all.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Eve of the big day

Tomorrow is the book launch of the Vale Royal Writers Group first anthology. Very excited and nervous. So much hard word has gone into this work; poems and stories written, edited, corrected, printers sought, proofs read, a beautiful cover designed, and tomorrow we present it to the public! Tonight mince pies are being baked, wine mulled, glasses and plates collected, readings practised and nerves calmed ... The press have been notified, posters designed and displayed, invitations issued and fingers crossed. Only twenty four hours to go. How does this concern G.O.E.S? Well, the Group has nominated us as recipients of any profits! It's so kind of them. We were surprised and delighted and very moved by this wonderful gesture. There are times when the slog of running a small charity seems too much, then something like this happens. People are so kind. I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Whatever next?

Feeling down in the dumps since the Charity Commissioners deemed us to be too small an operation to be registered as a charity. We haven't topped the required turnover of £5000 in the past twelve months, though we're only a few pounds short. We immediately emailed the given address but have not received a reply yet. The bright side is that we are able to register with the Inland Revenue, or whatever they're called now, for Gift Aid status. This will enable us to claim 28% on tax paid donations and will enable us to help many more people.
Much better news is that the Vale Royal Writers Group have selected GOES to be their charity of choice to receive any profit from the sale of their first publication - an excellent anthology of members writing, both poetry and prose. Knowing how much work has been put into this book with very little help from us we are very moved by such kindness.
Snips, the barber in Warrington Market, raised a wonderful £60 for us from a carboot sale. This could feed five families for a month, pay the school fees for five nursery school children for a year, buy forty mosquito nets - really practical help, generously given.
Just tried and failed to download pictures from the last trip using Picasa2. Fingers crossed, here goes again. Ah well ... please try later ...

Friday, 9 November 2007

Home Again.

Back home after two wonderful Gambian weeks. Very hot weeks, but rewarding. I did like the accommodation Adama had found for me - it even had running water and electricty most of the time. I like Bakau; not a tourist town but a fishing village come market town. It even has Timbooktoo, an air-conditioned bookshop with a coffee bar - I wish Warrington had its equal!
I spent several happy days living in Mandinari as guest of Ebou. He's decided not to try to enter Europe by the back door, thank goodness. I'm trying to help him set up a little business so he can feed his family.
GOES managed to help a small boy with a horribly swollen and ulcerated leg to receive medical attention. Poor kid had been suffering for twelve months while his mum hoped he would get better.
We helped several schools with funds, and made contact with a number of other charities in the same line of work. I sometimes think that every other person on the Banjul flight is engaged in an attempt to improve life for Gambians, and it infuriates me that the British government has done so little. I stood in the Military cemetery at Fajara and looked at the war graves of young men who had given their lives for a far-away country. I wept for their dedication and devotion to an ungrateful nation which makes it difficult for their descendants to visit their "motherland".
Memories? Lots of laughter, babies, wonderful food and kindness. Photographs back on Tuesday, and the skin infection should have cleared up by then!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Sponsoring Lamin

We really should make a list of all the students/mothers/children we sponsor. Lamin, for instance, has been a friend and student for five or is it six years now? I first met Lamin on a pitch dark night, chatting to a group of the local boys - Sanchabo Football Club - as it turned out. I was very impressed with the intelligence of one of the lads who asked lots of questions - and still remembers my replies to this day! I realised the gulf between our respective ways of life when he asked me to describe what a computer looked like.

Since then we have sponsored him through school and college in The Gambia and now during his studies at university in Lodz, Poland. Throughout this time he has accounted for every penny and has returned money when we have "overpaid" him. Here he is at Banjul airport seeing me off before I return home from a visit to his village.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Panic packing

Three more sleeps then off to Africa. Suitcase is the problem - people are so generous. Our office cleaner turned up today with loads of lovely baby clothes, books, paper & pencils - and soft toys. Sarah offered to let her two children sponsor a Gambian child each. The kindness of strangers. I feel so moved by the generosity of these friends who take my word that there is a need and offer help to people they will prbably never meet. I suppose they could, and I take comfort in the fact that GOES is accountable. We can direct people who are thinking of a holiday in The Gambia to the children and parents they are helping.
Don't suppose that we'll hear about the Registration of the Charity as I'd forgotten that although our posties are back at work when we posted it off the Liverpool posties were still on strike. It will be another reason to sweat a bit more while I'm out there. The main reason is that the temperature out there is in the 90's. Should be a little cooler at night ...
28 tabs of Malarone for £49 from SuperDrug, and cut rate garlic tabs from Holland and Barrett should see the mozzies off. Adama still won't tell me where I'm staying except that it is very nice and I WILL like it. I think that means the room has a bed and not just a mat on the floor.
Really looking forward to seeing my friends - Ma, my adopted sister and her husband; Adama and her family, of course; friends Manneh and Modou who have been so reliable and helpful while I was with SHINE-Africa; Ras-Bai who I met running on the beach at Bakau; Awa and her children - she has asopted Joyce as her sister - so many lovely people.
Back to the packing!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Moving on ...

Greetings, again. Postal strike over so application forms posted off to the Charity Commission at Liverpool. Just noted that the strike isn't over in Liverpool. Drat and bother. Hoped to hear that we had managed to register before I trot off to The Gambia again next week but this now seems unlikely. Lots of things to organise - decide what to leave behind as T. Cook failed to grant me a few extra kgs of luggage space. The medical supplies must go, anf the books I'd promised people out there. Lucky I learned to travel light back in the cycle camping days ...
Travel clinic for the Malarone on Thursday; weigh everything twice, more things to leave behind. Adama tells me she has found a room for me, probably in Bakau, but refuses to be more descriptive. Exchange rate seems to be against the GBP at the moment, down from 52 to 38 last week. Hope to meet Ras Bai again, running on the beach. Missed him on the last trip.
Large, overflowing suitcase on spare bed. Thinks "Why not drive instead of fly? Only 3000 miles, only 1500 miles of Sahara ..." Carbon footprint glowers over my shoulder. Sounds like contortion feat/feet.

Friday, 5 October 2007


The writing group which tolerates my poetry has very kindly agreed to donate any profit from the sales of its first anthology to GOES. This is a lovely thought and very encouraging. Members have worked really hard to compile, edit, seek out publishers and printers. We have a couple of pieces of work accepted and hope that more will follow. The group are extremely supportive and constructive with ideas and comments. My barber has been interested in the charity for a while and has arranged for a publicity display and will offer the profit from a car boot sale. We've nearly completed the documentation for the Charity Commissioners to decide, we hope, to award us charitable status and we can then register for Gift Aid (which will give us an extra 28% of refunded income tax on all donations). The Postal Strike actually gives us a few days of grace to get everything ready to send off! Beautiful day - travelled by scooter to do a few hours voluntary work and call on a couple of friends who also run a charity which supports nursery schools in The Gambia.
I'll try to post a few pictures next time.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Cross more fingers

At last managed to 'phone Lamin, discover how Western Union works and send our student some cash towards his permit to stay in Poland for the duration of his studies. Fingers crossed that it works in practice! Sending money to West Africa is quicker (same day) and much cheaper. Now, just time for a quick bath, a hobble down to the chiropodist, a meal, write something for the writers' meeting tonight, post this, send a couple of emails. Time flies and so must I. Uncross fingers.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Sorting Lamin out

Long phone calls and emails to Lamin, the young man we are supporting while he studies at Lodz Uni in Poland. Trying to transfer some zloty to his account so he can show the authorities that he is not destitute and so receive a 12 month visa, then he can enrol on the study course he has already paid for ...
How many zloty to the pound - is it better to change sterling here or there - what does it cost?
Spend yesterday on the net and this morning at the Carers' Centre, filling in a DLA claim for a lovely couple. How people can remain cheerful in such dreadful circumstance both humbles and heartens me.
Must say that the Co-op bank has turned up trumps with advice and patience. Settle down with a coffee and a plate of biscuits and indulge in a little problem solving.
I've booked a flight to The Gambia for a couple of weeks in November/December. Can't afford an hotel but several Gambian friends have offered a bed and meals. Come to think, they offered the same when I was a complete stranger. They still offer and I'm happy to accept. Home is a mud brick house, bed is a mat on the floor, food is rice, rice, rice. There's lots of fun, bags of laughter and good company. We're a rich nation but we have lost so many things that really make a wonderful quality of life.
Trying to find out if Ibo has attempted to enter Europe. There are so many dangers but West Africans, desperate for work, will risk their lives in flimsy boats, trust their life to complete con-men, exercise outstanding effort and courage to undertake a journey which so often results in death, disaster or arrest. We take education, health care, good housing and all the rest of it for granted. These young men risk their lives for a slight chance to gain one tenth what we take for granted.
So that's the reason for G.O.E.S. We try to help a little, sponsor a child, care for a young mother's health, take out medical supplies, a few books, repair a house or two. And still feel guilty.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Back to work at last.

Great boat holiday. Managed to cover 28 miles and work 14 locks in fourteen days. Explored the Grand Union Canal (well, a few miles of it) visited some beautiful villages, spent too long in some very friendly pubs, met some lovely people. There's something about boating that attracts wonderful laid-back folk with time to talk and chill out.
Home to the emails. Lamin, at Lodz University, has problems with his visa, Ousman almost passed his final teaching qualification exams, Ami must have her school fees - and my barber is holding a car boot sale to raise funds for us. He'll guarantee a minimum of £50. I'm searching for a cheap flight to Banjul so I can visit some schools and hospitals and take out some medical equipment friends have given us.
The Co-op Bank account is up and running, the application for Charitable status is almost complete and we've got information on how to apply for Gift Aid, which will mean an extra 28% on every donation from tax payers.
We promise that we cover our own expenses, so that every penny of every donation goes to The Gambia.
We've sent our local newspaper a press release, which, if published, will hopefully attract interest, funds and volunteers.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Ebou's emergency.

Just about to leave for holiday, check emails. One from friend in The Gambia telling us Ebou is attempting, madly, to enter Europe. So dangerous, so often fatal. Young men pay all their money, hand over passports to alleged agents who promise to get them safely into Europe and find them work. Young Ebou, a man who didn't get an education, fatherless, responsible for his aged mother, for his brothers and sisters, longs to find work so he can care for them. He is reluctant to accept 'charity' and wants to work. There is no work - so the 'solution' is to emigrate to Europe. Everybody in Europe is rich - there will be lots of work. He will not have to beg.
And, if anything goes wrong, will I adopt and care for his son?

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Slow boat to somewhere ...

We need a break. Too many late nights filling in forms for the Charity Commission, Gift Aid, writing newsletters, seeking advice about how to set up a fool proof Web site - so we're off to frighten the ducks with a friend's narrow boat for a few days. We've sent a copy of the newsletter to the local paper in hope of a bit of publicity, told the dog he's going on holiday and done a frantic shop so we don't starve. We've sent school fees to Ami, Fatou, Lamin, Haddi, Bubba and the twins. Awa gets a bag of rice, Adama has her hospital fees - we're up to date with the important bits. I'll write some letters for N'fally, Ma, Mamie, Sulayman and Ousman. Maybe even a couple of chapters for the book. Do canal boats steer themselves? Let's try to publish a picture. Wow - it worked. She's Abi. We paid her mum's medical bill when there were complications. Both fine now.

Monday, 3 September 2007

GOES moving on - slowly.

Setting up a Charity is hard work. We imagined that all the effort would be concentrated on raising money. Not so. Cash is coming in at a steady trickle. It's the form filling that's the head ache. Setting up an acceptable bank account, keeping accounts, filling in the forms from the Charity Commissioners, finding out about Gift Aid, promising to do an hour's form filling for every hours spent on enjoyment. Thank goodness for horrible rainy days. Meanwhile, the requests for help roll in. Horija would like support, Haddy's mum wants her to start school, Eba's house is falling down, Bubba (the deaf & dumb little boy) needs special help - The Gambia is full of deserving cases, all genuine. We know these people and it's heart-breaking to have to say "No". Gift Aid is essential; we will get a tax refund of 28% on all donations made by tax payers. That will be a wonderful help to people. We need a web site but haven't the foggiest idea how to set one up - more research. If we can afford a trip out there in October/November we'll be able to take out some medical supplies we've been give, together with a load of children's clothing. Must find out how to post pictures on this site ... Help.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

"GambiaGOES" is the diary of a couple of oldies trying to set up a charity (Gambian Occasional Emergency Support) and struggling with the unfamiliar work of blogging, registering as a Charity, setting up a special bank account, raising funds, getting publicity, staying sane, fixing the printer, editing the newsletter ... resisting the temptation to pack it all in and buy that new car. Then we think of the pure joy on Lamin's face when he was accepted by the University, or of Ebou's relief when he received the cash to enable him to repair his mum's house before the rainy season, or - so many people who need occasional help.