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.