Friday, 31 December 2010

End of year report.

In some ways we were not looking forward to our final visit of 2010. There seemed to have been more than a fair share of tragedy in the lives of some of our Gambian friends this year. Life in sub-Saharan Africa can be very tough.

It turned out to be a very happy visit. We made new friends and were able to see that the Charity funds which we had invested in a variety of projects had been put to excellent use. We were able to come to the assistance of people whose ages ranged from 1 hour to 80+ years. We visited a maize mill similar to the one we are funding for a village, agreed to fund a sheltered meeting place in the grounds of a school, saw the beautiful decoration which had been applied to the school gate which we paid for, and inspected the water supply which had been laid on in a nursery school - not just for fresh drinking water but for washing in the toilet block. We were only sorry that our friend David, who had supplied the funding, had not lived to see it in action. The school garden for which we gave the initial funding has grown into a sizable small-holding. This will provide funding for the school and experience for the children as they learn to manage it.
We owe a deep debt of gratitude to another charity, Chain of Hope, which saved the life of a young boy whose education we have been sponsoring for several years. Chain of Hope gave him the heart valve replacement which he needed, here in the UK at Papworth Hospital, together with all costs involved in transporting him and his sister, accommodating them and caring for both of them while here in this country. The operation would not have been possible in West Africa.

We supplied mobile 'phones to several people, clothing and shoes to a number of families, seeds to a gardener (she's also a teacher and mother!) A young student benefitted from the gift of a CD player - she had never seen one before. We gave small grants for medication - mainly skin conditions - to several children and adults. You helped us to provide education, mainly IT courses, to a group of young women. There were bags of cement which helped two families re-build their homes after storm damage in the rainy season. Children now have school uniforms, school bags and books for the first time. An old lady was given the money to pay for dental treatment. A village clinic (where we met the 1 hour old baby) received a grant to buy antibiotics and a supply of reading glasses. Joyce lent her laptop to a student practising for an Excel exam, who said it had helped with the questions that came up. Ten children were invited to swim in our hotel pool (not all at once!)
We received great kindness from our hosts in the villages we visited. We were very well fed and entertained by lovely hoards of children.
The staff in the hotel - especially Sanou, Jay, Cas and Neneeh - were just super helpful people. Our drivers, 'Eric' and Ams were reliable, fair and went to no end of trouble to assist us.
The GOES charity account was just about spent up by the time we boarded the 'plane home. The money you gave has been used, not squirreled away. Thanks to everybody who helped - our regular contributers, Vale Royal Writers, Snips and Hatters, family and friends. And a special thank you to fellow guests in the hotel, who astonished us with their generosity and support. We are grateful to Thomas Cook travel who enabled us to take several items of clothing and educational material by allowing an extra 40 kilos of baggage. It was good to travel on a TC 767 with ample leg-room too! We thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts.
We have now appointed a young Gambian to act as our (paid) agent there. This should enable us to save some of the money transfer fees which can mount up considerably at times and give him a small but much needed income.
We have been learning more about some of our friends who told us their family histories involving adventure and fortunes gained and lost.

Then the icing on the cake was arriving home to another substantial donation which has given the bank account a sound basis as we approach 2011.

Again, our thanks to all of you who have helped in so many ways. May all your dreams come true in the New Year.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Back home.

Just a short note to say that we're safely back home after one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling trips ever.
Lots of good news, which we'll write up after we've caught up with our sleep, our family and the washing!
Thanks to all our friends, both home and abroad, who made this possible.
Our love and best wishes to all of you, and may your dreams for 2011 come true.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Ready for the off!

Well, almost. The bags are (nearly) packed. Thanks to Tracey at Warrington Thomas Cooks for all her help. Thanks to Snips and Hatters' for the collecting boxes, to Val & Joan & Bob & Lynne & Ruth & VRWG & Warrington Poets & Tafique at Superdgrug & The Forge Medical Practice (especially Sister Sue and her needles) & Janice & Len & Roy & Eileen & the lady from Wales and all the other people who have helped so generously. A special thank you to the wonderful people at 'Chain of Hope' who are working as I write this to help repair the damaged heart of Moses, a boy we're sponsoring through school. The Chain of hope charity has flown him, with his big sister N'yanya, to Papworth Hospital for an operation which will save his life.
Bless one, bless all. There are so many good people in the world.
Best wishes for Christmas and may all your dreams come true in 2011.
Really must get on with the packing - the taxi will be here in just a few hours.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month ...

Tomorrow is the 11th of November. I will go into the town centre and stand for a couple of minutes in silence, surrounded by other townspeople as we remember those who died as a result of war.
No war is ever over. After the ceasefire has been declared people still mourn, lives are changed for ever. To my mind it is not a time to think of victories and defeats, of glory or disgrace. It is a time to think of mothers, fathers, lovers, children torn apart by violence.
As I stand in my hometown I will be thinking of war graves three thousand miles away. Fajara War Cemetery in The Gambia. White stones, inscribed for the most part, with the names of young men. Young men who died in the service of a country they had never seen but were willing to give their lives for. A tiny, Third World country, the size of Yorkshire gave the flower of its youth for us. There, in blistering tropical heat people will stand in silence as we do, though we most likely, will stand bare-headed in the rain.
Fajara graves carry the memories of 200 or more West Africans, 63 British people, 15 men from other Commonwealth countries, and a French Foriegn Legion Colonel. The crew and passengers of flying boat G-AFCZ 'Clare', which took off from Banjul (then Bathurst) harbour then crashed into the sea are remembered there.
The killing, the dying, goes on. Why is peace so difficult?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Chance encounters

Really nice how things work out. We chat to someone on the way home from The Gambia last April, then, a few weeks ago, a 'phone call offering help, today, a meeting in the car park of a local hotel and now - a car boot full of reading glasses/mobile 'phones & children's clothes, all of which, thanks to Thomas Cook, will be finding new Gambian owners before Christmas!
You know who you are - many thanks. Sometimes words aren't enough!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


Football isn't one of my great interests in life nowadays.
When one player can 'earn' more in a couple of months more than many people (me included) earn in a lifetime of work I begin to think that something has gone sadly wrong. I love to see the game played by youngsters who play because they love to play. The boys in this picture play with great enthusiasm and skill and good humour.
Maybe they do dream of playing for Man United or Chelsea or ... and there's no harm in that. Meanwhile, they play with great energy and enjoyment and that I can and do respect, greatly. It's something a lot of the richest players in the world could learn from them.
Rant over! Just a thought though - Joyce would love to watch a team of Gambian girls playing in the Cricket World Cup on day soon - how about it, girls?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Slowly getting there!

We've booked! Next stage is writing the Thomas Cook to see if they'll allow extra free baggage - they usually are very good because we're a registered charity, so fingers crossed. We've been offered educational and medical supplies together with some clothing and we've made to usual requests for mobile 'phones, laptops and reading glasses. We're also taking out a few tin and bottle openers - seeing friends opening bottles of Malta with their teeth is frightening!
Paul and Jenny have been working on the new web site and we'll let you know when it's up and running.
We sold the old broken outboard motor for scrap and the money is in the charity a/c - thanks to the generous buyer.
I'm working fairly hard on the next book but it's not flowing very well - must lock myself away somewhere and put nose to keyboard ...
Each time we go into town we buy a few tubes of ointment, bandages, plasters, skin cream and that sort of thing. We get great medical advice from the travel clinic at out local surgery and from T. at Superdrug.
We've renewed our travel insurance and we have permanently crossed fingers to avoid any of the illnesses that put us out of action earlier in the year - crossed fingers make typing very difficult!
Looking forward so very much to seeing our Gambian friends again.
Best wishes & thanks for reading,

Friday, 8 October 2010

Next visit

Booked! Packed? Don't be silly - there's heaps of time! We had a surprise 'phone call from some one we'd spoken to on our way home last March and were delighted to find out they have been busy collecting things which will be of great value out in The Gambia. We expect a delivery shortly!
As you're reading this just check to see if there are any surplus laptops, mobile 'phones or reading glasses longing for a longer life in the sun! Email us at the usual address or leave a message on 01925-264926. We also take medical supplies which we donate to hospitals and clinics - we're not qualified to prescribe ourselves.
£3 0r £4 pounds (depending on the exchange rate) provides protection from malaria and provides the netmaker with an income.

Best of all - go to The Gambia yourself, if you can. There are some really good travel bargains about at the monent.

Thanks for reading this. Our new website should be up and running shortly (thanks, Jenny & Paul).
We'll keep this blog going as well.

Best wishes & thanks to all our supporters,
Joyce & Tom.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Gambia in the recession.

I'm not sure whether we're having a good year or a bad year.
On the one hand, contributions are still coming in at about the same rate as in previous years, but on the other the money is going out much more quickly! We never intended to build up a large balance in the bank, being firmly of the opinion that if there was a need money should go there rather than gather dust in a bank's vault. We tithe our income and many of you have been more than supportive.
Low exchange rates are a great hurdle to small charities, and, linked with rising prices in The Gambia, mean that a GOES pound doesn't go as far as it did.
We hope to be travelling there again - wonder: can we claim Gift Aid on travel expences???
Please don't be discouraged: we are still able to help many people cope with the difficulties of life, and we have no intention at all of quitting.
Best wishes to all of you, and thanks from your Gambian friends.

Joyce & Tom,

Contact at newhutte at dsl dot. pipex dot com

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Summer update..

We've reported some really sad news to you recently.
The man and wife who lost their children are slowly coming to terms with their loss. We've spoken to them to convey our sadness and to pass on the condolences of those of you who have been moved by the tragedy. Thank goodness for text messaging, by which we can keep in touch with them.
That is one of the difficulties of this sort of work - very often there is only a poor 'phone signal available in the villages where we work.
Another difficulty is that we keep running out of money! To be honest, we had a very good year last year (2009-2010) and managed to get a lot of things done. This year, unsurprisingly, is being quite hard going. Money everywhere is tight, but we can only do what we can do. We promise you that every single penny you donate goes to The Gambia without deduction.
To help us remember the good days here are some of our Gambian friends who have invited us into their homes - maybe you should come and meet them? Be careful though, it's very hard to go to The Gambia just once - it's habit forming! (Jolly good habit to have, though!)

Monday, 14 June 2010

Time to come round seeking donations!

We took out nearly 60kgs luggage in April (our cases weighed 21kgs on the trip home! So, we're collecting again.
Mobile 'phones, school materials, watches, reading glasses, tin-openers (to save accidents happening when chef attacks a tin with a machete!)
First aid kits are welcome, plasters, crepe bandages, safety pins - you get the idea.
Obviously we don't reject money! £3 saves a life - the cost of a mosquito net.
Everything you give goes to The Gambia. We take nothing from donations for our own expenses.
Thanks for your interest,
Joyce & Tom.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Update on house fire.

We love to bring you good news about how you have helped H gain her degree or helped F qualify as a nurse or N repair his storm damaged house. Sadly, not all news can be good.

In our last post well told you about a house fire which injured two little girls. We told you that the family had to travel to a neighbouring country for treatment. We now have to tell you that both children died as a result of their injuries. We were trying to help their father as he endured the nightmare of bringing home, first one then the other of his children, by taxi, for burial in their village. Finally, he brought his wife home. She too had suffered severe burns but she survived.

Imagine having to haggle the fare home with the body of your child in your arms. Twice.

We cannot do anything, other than count our blessings and our immense good fortune that we, here in England, will never experience this situation. We count our blessings, and thank all of you who have, by your kind donations, slightly eased the burden of the parents. We have their permission to tell you this story.
The picture we show you today is that of a Gambian five dalasi note. It's worth about ten pence. It's the standard fare in a communal taxi for a short journey. A single journey home from the hospital in Dakar cost three thousand dalasi. That was after the price had been haggled down from three thousand five hundred. GOES sent the money. The family - now reduced to husband and wife, send their thanks and are trying to rebuild their lives and home.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Why the title G.O.E.S?

Gambia Occasional Emergency Support - what sort of 'emergency support'?
Let's suppose that your wife has lit a candle to see how your babies - aged 3 years and 18 months - are doing. There's no electricity, and the torch needs new batteries. A gust of wind blows the door curtain across the candle. It bursts into flames and the flames spread to the bedding on which the babies are sleeping. Her hands are very badly burned as she struggles to rescue the children. Sadly, the children are badly injured. Somehow you get them all to hospital. Immediate assistance is given but the children require operations which are just not available in the country. If they travel to the capital of the next country (Dakar in Senegal) the required operation is available. The Gambian government will fund the medical care but it's up to you to provide the cost of transport. You have very little savings; what can you do? Fortunately you've heard of G.O.E.S. and you risk a 'phone call. The money for your travel and subsistence is in your hands the next morning.

Thanks to people you've never met - things that were impossible become possible.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Our bags are packed (nearly!), we're ready to go!

Well, the flight is booked, the hotel knows we're coming - all we have to do is to pack our bags and jump on the plane! We have about three weeks left to search for mobile 'phones, watches, old spectacles, medical supplies, educational materials and anything else that would be treasured out there! Sadly, such things seem to be in short supply this year. People seem to be hanging onto their belongings now, hoping that times will get better. Fingers crossed, though, for something to turn up!

It's very hard even at the best of times. GOES is a very small charity and for everyone we can help there are ten, twenty, a hundred people we have to say, sadly, "No, very sorry, we can't help you." It was easier when I was associated with another charity which confined its activities to the very worthy cause of building and funding nursery schools. This was a very clearly defined remit. GOES's brief is much wider - education, welfare, health, food, building repairs - where there is need we try to help. This little girl plays happily with her friends in her home compound, unaware of the difficulties her family face. We can do our best to ensure she will be educated, medically cared for and that she won't go hungry. Sadly though, there are so many, so very many, children and adults who need our help - your help - we can only try, and learn not to give up even when we have to say - "Sorry, not this time."
Best wishes to all of you for a happy and secure year.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Bedtime Reading

Well, it makes a change from trying to write books! We've had a request to help a village in a very practical way, in particular, the help would go to the women of the village. One of the defining sounds of sub-Saharan Africa is the rhythmic pounding of maize. Women spend hours pounding the grain in a large mortar, using a pestle as tall as themselves. I've tried it, it's hard work. The alternative to this hard labour is to bundle-up your maize crop, take it to the nearest maize mill and pay to have it ground there. You'll also have to pay the taxi fares there and back. In the end you'll save a little time and labour and spend a fair amount on the taxi. Now, what if the village had its own mill? The women would save on time, travel and labour. They would pay a small fee which would go to keeping the mill in good working order but their lives would be a lot easier.
Of course there's a snag. These things cost money. A lot of money - think a couple of thousand pounds for a diesel powered, Chinese built machine. There would be dock charges, transport charges, import duties.You'd need a secure shed to keep it in, regular servicing, fuel; it all adds up. This is where the bedtime reading comes in. Some mills don't have engines to power them. They have people power - a big wheel with a handle on to turn the grinders and produce the meal. They village has strong men and women ... So, we have to find a suitable machine which could cope with the quantities of maize the village produces (some research needed), somewhere to keep it - and some money to buy it! Then we can go shopping!
and a hand powered mill is a lot cheaper than a diesel powered one! Anyone happen to know how to calculate the amount of maize grown on a typical Gambian small-holding? Like to help?
Thanks for reading this.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Jean - please get in touch.

Jean - we spoke at Badala Park about Gift Aid - I'm sorry but I've lost your 'phone number.
Plaese call me again and I'll try to help.
Best Wishes,

Monday, 4 January 2010

Rain damage.

This shows the damage a rainy season can inflict on a mud brick house. The owner has made one attempt to repair his family's home but he needs several bags of cement to strengthen the bricks in order to prevent further damage. Really, the long term answer is to re-build completely. GOES, with your help, will offer assistance in this project. The house of another family has been similarly affected, and help has been offered there as well.
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