Monday, 28 December 2009

Follow-up to previous post.

Strange old world it is. In emails responding to the previous post I received two points of view.
The first, from someone who doesn't know me, berated me for 'making fun of someone's death'.
The next post, from someone who does know me, offered help to the bereaved family.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Home from Home

Back in England after an exciting trip, full of surprises, not least that of developing Banjul Belly (don't ask!) on the plane home. Recovering nicely, thanks - may move on to eating again by Christmas Eve, I hope.
Very mixed memories: the death of a friend's wife in childbirth. Baby delivered dead and mother died three days later. Counter that with the discovery that a girl whom you have helped to sponsor has completed her nurse training and is doing a third year to study midwifery.
Two friends have had their houses very badly damaged in the rainy season. You've helped them, too. A girl GOES has supported through high school has completely fluffed her exams this term - 'fail' in nearly every subject - and was in a blind panic about failing her finals in May. A bit of reasoning - she normally scores 'excellent' and 'credit' marks, and the promise of a maths tutor helped to calm her.
All the mobile 'phones and spectacles, the knitted bonnets and clothing, the medical supplies and books found good homes.
Met representatives of two other charities and talked about ways in which we can be mutually supportive.
Had a day off and stayed in the hotel for one whole day: fourteen of our students visited me! Highlight of that day was the girl who had never set foot in a swimming pool and ended the day, supported by a buoyancy, aid swimming twelve circuits of the pool with a huge grin on her face!
Happy day spent at the home of a lady who had just returned from Mecca; sad day at the 'forty day charity' following the death from a heart attack of a 19 year old boy who had been treated for asthma ... his mother was so distressed and a hundred people wishing her well didn't help much on the day.
Thanks to all the friends there who fed me, gave me a bed for the night, gave advice, kept me up talking till the early hours, escorted me and told me off when I walked too far in the hot sun or helped to push-start stalled taxis.
Thanks to all the friends here who support us, encourage us to carry on, donate materials and money and listen to my interminable droning on about The Gambia.
May you all enjoy long life, good health and happiness.
When I'm a bit more organised I'll post some photographs. Probably!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Leaving, on a jet plane!

Countdown in progress; tickets, accommodation, insurance, packing. Packing? Not quite finished! Oh for a self-packing bag! Had hoped that Mr Thomas Cook would be as generous as he has been in the past, not this time. We've had to refuse some kind offers but rest assured, everything we have accepted to date will go out on this trip. Many thanks for the gifts of mobile 'phones and reading glasses: the gifts of simple medications will go to village clinics. After a somewhat bleak couple of months donations have been rolling in; a lady in Bulgaria gave a donation to Joyce, friends have been very generous, several local businesses have been very kind, our loyal standing order friends are also most appreciated. Gift Aid next April should equal or exceed this year's figure. We've been busy supplying bags of rice to hungry families but have drawn the line at providing sheep for slaughter at the festival of Tobaski. At up to a hundred pounds a time we have to draw the line somewhere! We'll be visiting Manneh the mosquito net maker in Banjul market again with an order. It's so much cheaper to have them made there, it provides employment to local people and puts money directly into the local community. (As compared with the efforts of an English 'charity' which pushed a plastic bag through our door last week. The idea was that we should give them good quality clothing which they would then sell to third world countries and the money raised would then be used to benefit people in this country!
Hope to have word about the web site soon, and lots of new photographs when I return to the UK just before Christmas.
Thanks to all of you for your help and support;
Best wishes,
J & T

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Doesn't time fly? Just hope the luggage will too!

The next visit to The Gambia is only a few weeks away. Insurance? Fixed! Flight? Booked! Accommodation? Probably arranged - won't be a problem! Packing? Ah. Well. Garden shed stuffed with goodies - thanks, everyone. But: no extra baggage allowance forthcoming yet. Thomas Cook usually very understanding, certainly have been in the past, but we seem to have drawn a blank this time. Can't afford to pay the £10 per kilo they suggested! I wonder if the new 'see-through' scanners at Manchester Airport will see through about 6 layers of clothing? We've been busy trying to enlist the support of M.S.F. to secure operations for a seriously ill child in one of the villages and we hope to have some positive news before we see him. He's being very brave but an operation which would be routine here just isn't available there.
The students we're sponsoring are all working hard. One girl, excluded from taking an exam because her fee had not been paid sneaked in and took the exam - very enterprising, Ami! We sent payment next day in reply to an urgent text message. Mobile 'phones are a life saver there - any to spare, please? We now know that BAYBA money transfer works as far up-country as Basse. This enables us to extend our almost immediate response to calls for help to people in even the most out-lying areas.
We have a very bright young student helping us with work on the web-site and newsletter. Time for Tom to attempt another appeal to Thomas Cook. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

We have been busy - honestly!

Sorry for not keeping you up to date - time flies! However we can report (with your help and support of course) that:
M.B. has been able to waterproof her house (it's the rainy season now) and attend a course which will help her with her teaching career.
A.G. has been helped with funeral expenses and given a little help for the 40 day charity giving after the death of her sister.
Y.N. has received help with medical expenses for her young brother who has a serious heart condition. You've also given help so she can set up a stall in the local market which will provide employment for another member of her family.
O.S. received help to hire a tractor to prepare his smallholding for the growing season.
F.C. was helped with a grant to buy books for her nursing course, and a little 'fish money' so she could eat while studying!
E.F. was able to buy rice and medical care for his family.
T.S. also received a grant so she could rent and stock a stall selling cosmetics in the local market.
M.N. and his sister A.N. received school fees and money for uniforms and books so they can continue their studies at 6th form level.
Other people have received small grants to buy cement for house repairs, grants towards nursery education - the list goes on.
A provisional newsletter has been sent to contributors and friends - please contact us if you've not received yours.

Afterthought - if you're a newcomer to GOES and would like to make a donation please email us

Thanks for reading this.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Another page from the newslettr.

Where does the money come from???

I wish we knew - or at least, where it's going to come from in the future! I suppose that it's natural in the charity world to worry about the future - there will for ever be a need for resources and money is a prime resource. Food, clean water, shelter, education and health care don't come cheaply nowadays.
So, many thanks to all our contributors! The collection tins bring in a steady amount - thanks to Borders, Hatters and Snips! Not only for the donations but also for the interest and support.
Thanks also for Easysearch (like Google but donates 0.5p per search) and Valued Opinions (market research which pays from 50p to £2 per questionnaire answered) and Ebay.
Of course thanks to Joan and Bob and Val and Ruth and Richard and Sarah and Sheila and VRWG and everybody else (you know who you are and I'm not mentioning those of you who have asked not to be mentioned).
Credit crunch or not we promise to carry on.
Today I was looking at articles about owning 'only' a hundred things. I look around our small but hugely cluttered little house and feel ashamed. Many of our friends in The Gambia would consider themselves wealthy if they owned a hundred things.
Good health, long life and happiness to all of you.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Monday, 29 June 2009

Plans for the future.

We spent a pleasant afternoon with Jenny, our D of E Gold helper. Friut scones with jam and cream didn't spoil the enjoyment either! It's such a hard life being a charity trustee ...

Jenny's been doing some research about web sites and the pros and cons of free sites v. the paid for variety. Any one like to sponsor a web site?

We're going to run a feature about Manneh, the chap who makes mosquito nets in Banjul market. Over the years he's become a family friend, advisor and problem solver. He and his brother run the business, making excellent nets at a fraction of the price you would pay here. I really must find a good photograph to illustrate the article - I know I have some - somewhere!

We're also planning to move our activities even further up-country, away from the touristy areas. The picture above shows the damage done to a friend's property during the rainy season. Without building insurance where does the money come for repairs?
You're right - from the contributions you make to G.O.E.S. Thank you. Every penny you give to GambiaGOES finds its way to some body in need. We do not deduct anything for costs. That's part of our responsibility. Your £1 (converted at the moment to 42.5 dalasis) goes where it's needed. We do not drive around in a 4x4.
When we're in The Gambia we use bush taxis and when we're here it's either hop on the bus or coax the 12 year old Skoda into action! (Excellent car, greatly under rated! Honest!) for more information.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Where does the money come from?

We take a lot of time to show where the money goes (GOES?) Well, it's mostly your money.
We do more than coming round to you rattling a collecting box! Apart from from your very generous donations (still waiting for HMCR to stump up the Gift Aid) we have used Ebay and Amazon quite a lot over the last twelve months. We're trying to empty the shed and fill the GOES Co-op account. Why the Co-op? It has very good green credentials AND the travel insurance, which we had thought would be massively expensive after our health took a plunge last year, was very reasonable.
Amazon we using for books; sometimes take several weeks, months even, to sell but sell they do.
Ebay takes me a little longer to organise but has brought in much needed funds. Old curtain poles, a canoe, all sorts sell. Even my beloved but old two-stroke scooter pootled off to a new home.
The news letter is taking a while to produce chiefly owing to the printer having a hissy fit. I hadn't noticed - I'm colour blind - but photographs were turning out pictures of people with green faces! All will be well, soon ...
If you would like to help please email us at

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Up the creek with a paddle

Great news! The little canoe sold on Ebay and the new owner seems to be well pleased! (Thanks, buyer.) The amount raised was exactly that required to send Moses and his sister Ami to school for another term. They're bright kids and deserve the chance for a good education. There was enough left over to buy some rice for Fatou and her mum. Fatou has been having a very rough time lately and has fled a bad domestic scene with her young daughter. She's gone home to mum, which has stretched the family finances so your help has come just in time.
Thanks again to all who help - why not take a trip out to The Gambia and see for yourself?
Next job is to dig out the wireless router which we (me!) bought and then found that the latest computer didn't need ... should be good for a few bob!
Waiting for the arrival of the Gift Aid cheque. HMR&C tend to be a bit busy at this time of year so we'll just keep our fingers crossed for a while.
Thanks to all of you.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Boat for sale!

The Sevylor canoe is now on Ebay and the bidding has risen to £1.24 ... keeping fingers crossed for a week is so restrictive!
Managed to write another two thousand words for the book. Hope it sells as well as the Cheshire Collection, which raised more than £1000 for GOES last year. Thanks again, Vale Royal Writers Group. Borders Books in Warrington has a few copies left.
Demand from The Gambia seems to be for food (rice), adult education, (I.T. and Accounting) and hospital expenses.
We chatted to a Vet in training earlier last year; wonder if she ever made her way out there?
If/when the canoe sells we'll invite bids for the wireless router (sad confession: we found the computer works perfectly well without it ...
Off to night-school* tonight to attempt to acquire enough skill to illustrate the book. Don't hold your breath!

*or whatever they call it nowadays ...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Back to barter??

Trying to organise exchanging an inflatable canoe and a wireless router for mobile 'phones and/or a laptop. Why? Well, mobile 'phones are really a necessity in The Gambia; owning a mobile can save a small fortune over there because it can save numerous, possibly futile, journeys by bush taxi - and save all the time involved in waiting for a taxi to turn up. They are especially valuable during the rainy season when some roads become impassable. And the laptop? Well, I remember talking to a highly intellegent young man (whom we later sponsored through university) asking me what a computer looked like. Had he been a student in this country he would of course been using one for years. He had never seen one. So far we've supplied several laptops to students but there is always a need for more. We can at least be certain that the people we give them to will make good use of them and not just sell them on to raise a quick profit. So, Ebay, begging letters and dropping hints to friends. Fancy a canoe?!
Best wishes. Get well soon, Jenny!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Moving on

Finally completed the accounts for the last financial year and looking forward to the coming twelve months. Seems to be starting well; we've resolved the problems we had obtaining travel insurance. The bank where we keep the GOES account (Co-p Bank) have been most helpful and we have joint annual insurance with all our 'existing conditions' taken into consideration for a little less than we paid last year. It's a great comfort.
Horija, one of the students you've been supporting, moves into the final term of her MA at Kampala University. She's been seriously ill but she's better now.
Fatou has arrived at the training school where she will study to become a nurse. She'll be living in a village house and has to provide her own bedding and cooking equipment - you've helped with this, too!
Tida has completed her first steps back into education. I thinks she's worried about not doing too well but those of us who have returned to education after a long break will understand her fears. Once more you've been instrumental in helping her and her children.
On the home front we've been interviewed by a student who is considering helping with GOES as part of her work to obtain Gold in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. Fingers crossed, she'll be most welcome and there's plenty for her to do!
Best wishes to all of you, and thanks for your support.
Joyce & Tom

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Seeking Sponsors

These children from Mandinari Village would like sponsors so that their education can continue during the next school year.

For information please email us -
Posted by Picasa

Monday, 30 March 2009

Apologies - but we're still here!

Sorry for not posting for a while - blame mixed health, family fortunes and misfortunes and domestic difficulties such as not having a fully functional kitchen for three months ... but here we are again. We have been keeping busy with GOES business, funding students, giving grants for housing repairs, small improvements to schools and food for hard pressed families. The cost of rice continues to rise, the value of the pound continues to fall and donations are increasingly hard to come by. However, due to the continued loyalty of friends and family we manage to maintain progress. The end of the financial year is near and we expect our income (after finding all our Bayba* counterfoils to top the £5,000 mark for the first time. This will mean more paper work because we will then have to re-apply to the Charity Commissioners for full charity status (we,re registered for Gift Aid** with HMRC already and this of course will continue).
Once we've managed to buy adequate travel insurance (last year's health problems still haunt us and our 'best' quote so far is in excess of £1000!) we'll be out there again - at least the Rainy Season in The Gambia is warm as well as wet!
Back to work now any questions? Email us on and we'll try to help - if you're thinking of visiting The Gambia we're happy to provide advice - go and see what we're doing!
Best wishes,
Joyce & Tom Ireland.

*Bayba is the money transfer agency we use; Costs £5 to send up to £100 and generally the money arrives in The Gambia the same day so is excellent for sending urgent help. We, of course, pay the transfer fees ourselves.

** Gift Aid; a wonderful and easy way that a registered charity (GambiaGOES reg no. is XT7385 with HMRC) can claim back income tax paid by donors. The rate is 28% at the moment.)

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Happy New Year!

Sorry to have been away from the blog for so long - blame age and decrepitude! Good news; Tida's children are now at nursery school and she has bravely returned to education after a break of eight years. We found an I.T. introductory course which also covers English and maths in the next village. She's a bright lady and life hasn't been too kind to her lately. Thanks for your help.
Y.B. completes his advanced I.T. course and is looking for work. He'd llike help with further study and needs a sponsor.
F.C. is due to move to Bansang Nursing School to begin her training, and sends her thanks to all who have supported her so far. Her nursing training is funded by the state.
Ami and Musa and Adam and Matty and Haddy are doing well at their schools, but N'dey and Sally and many, many others need help. School fees vary from about £25 a year, including 2 uniforms, for a child at nursery school, to £60 a term (or more) for a youngster at Upper Basic school. At this level there are lots of top-up fees for extra tuition and activities!
An introduction to I.T., such as Tida is embarking on, costs a basic 3,500dalasis (plus 1,200dalasis for books). I've changed from Sterling to Dalasi because recently the value of the pound has dropped steeply. Just over a year ago I was able to exchange at a rate of 50D to the £. In December I could obtain 40D/£, since Christmas the rate has been about 37D/£ and there is talk of the rate falling as low as 30D/£.
Add this to the 'Credit Crunch' and the situation becomes serious. Think in terms of a bag of rice. Rice is the staple food and a 25kg bag will feed a family of six people for a month.
Reverting to Sterling for the sake of comparison; Two years ago GOES could donate a bag of rice for £12. Now it costs £25 to fund the same gift. If the rate falls to 30D/£ we are looking at a price of £31 - assuming the price of rice remains at present levels.
We enjoy running GOES - it's made many friends both here and in The Gambia, but I have to confess to lying awake at night trying to decide which of two or three or more deserving cases gains the support they need.
On the other hand the generosity of both friends and strangers continues to amaze and delight us. Thanks also to our sources of regular income - you know who you are. Also to Hatter's and Snips and Borders. I'll repeat the invitation - visit The Gambia and meet the people you've helped!
Thanks for reading this - comments/advice/suggestions welcome!
email us at
Happy New Year!