Saturday, 26 December 2015

Boxing Day 2015

Well, friends visited and cake eaten, forgot about crackers but enjoyed the holiday. We've escaped the worst of the heavy rain and flood damage - in fact, it's unseasonally warm. We've managed to 'phone or message or text most of our Gambian friends and we'll keep trying to contact the others.
best wishes to all of you - long life, good health and happy nest!
Hope to see all of you in the village early next year!

Friday, 18 December 2015

Free book!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Happy-Nest-Malinding-Village-Archive-ebook/dp/B017Q5X3NM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1450441344&sr=1-1&keywords=Happy+Nest


Hope this works - it's a link to 'Happy Nest', the latest in the Malinding village series. It's the village archive, to which the villagers have contributed mini-auto-biographies, poems, and in one case, a short story which relates how the writer, a teen aged village girl with a longing for education and a career as a nurse, encounters Ed, the anti-hero of the series, with hope but little expectation. Happy Nest is on offer, free, at Amazon, for five days from 18/12/2015
Enjoy!


PS
Of course we hope you'll buy the rest of the Malinding books - they fund the charity (Gambian Occasional Emergency Support - GOES) which supports education and the provision of medical care in the Gambia.



Thursday, 17 December 2015

Sorry, Gambia

Apologies and explanation, especially for our Gambian friends: GOES paused activity because of the sudden serious illness and death of a close family member. We're slowly returning to normal and hope to be able to back to our usual quick service.
Thank you for your patience, and for the expressions of sympathy and goodwill,
Joyce & Tom

Monday, 7 December 2015

The power of Tweet!

I've been running a series of adverts for the Malinding eBooks on twitter. In each edition one of the minor characters - Jodie - gives her opinion of her fellow characters and bits of advice for travellers to the Gambia. Seems to be working quite well ... fingers crossed. Who knows what she'll get up to next time!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Plodding on ...

Trying to get back to normality. Starting an ad campaign on Twitter for the Malinding Village eBooks which help to finance GOES. One of the fairly minor characters, Jodie, who features in the opening paragraphs of the first book, Empty Bananas, has volunteered for this task and has selected a photograph of her as a child and is using that to introduce her comments on the stories (and incidentally her own life story). She was too modest to submit a mini-autobiography in Happy Nest, the Malinding village archive - perhaps when it's time for the second edition she'll be brave enough and know that she's made friends with the readers!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Personal sad news

Apologies for neglecting the blog. My sister-in-law, J's kid sister, had died. She was diagnosed, on the day after her birthday, with cancer. She survived a four hour operation, and a second one two weeks later. We we convinced she would pull through but it was not to be. She died a week ago with her family around her bed.
We are devastated.
The day before she died we attended the funeral of the son of a friend of ours. He was 25. His father had died a couple of months before. We thought we couldn't feel worse. We were wrong.
So, sadly the blog has been neglected. The business of the charity carried on, somehow.
Thanks to all who expressed their sympathy. I'll write more when I feel that I can.
Tom

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Happy Nest

Well, that's the title of the latest eBook in the Malinding Village series: it's also the shortest! It's 13k words long and is a series of short messages, stories and poems written by some of the villagers of, and visitors to, Malinding. Selling steadily here in the UK. All income from the sale of these books goes directly into the account of GOES, and from there, without any deduction, to help people in need in The Gambia.



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Happy Nest: Malinding Village Archive [Kindle Edition]

Tom Ireland

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    Tuesday, 10 November 2015

    Back to beginnings in Gambia.

    Another day dawned, already hot. It was time to revisit the very first village we saw on our very first visit to The Gambia. We had joined a tour -  Crocodile pool, Craft market, Village school and Clinic. The crocodiles had been very sleepy (probably a good thing, a very good thing!), the craft market spectacular with beautiful tie-dyed materials and hand carved wooden models of every African creature but it was the clinic, busy with patients young and old together with the little school room full of enthusiastic youngsters anxious to shake our hands, practise their English and sing for us that grabbed our hearts. We'd been back many times over the years: children and teachers had come and gone but two at least had remained and become our very good friends.
     Ams was on time and we set off. The smoke from the huge rubbish dump that always seemed to be on fire drifted across the road to the SOS Children's Village where orphaned or abandoned children were given a home and a good education. GOES occasionally contributed to the funding but we were happy in the knowledge that the place was well run so we did not interfere. On through Serekunda, a huge sprawling town with an equally large market. If you couldn't buy an item in that market it probably didn't exist.
     Half an hour later we arrived. We parked in the shade of a large Baobab tree near the school gates and wandered into the school's compound. We were surprised to find that there had been a complete change of staff - teachers, gardeners, cleaners were all strangers. We were greeted by the new head of the school and shown round as if it was our first visit. We made a donation to the school fund and left, wondering what had happened.
     As we walked round the village a number of people with children at the school greeted us and asked if we had ever thought of taking on the management of the school.
     We have realised that there are ways we can help and that there are situations we cannot resolve. We cannot take on the task of running another school. The problems in this case appeared to have arisen due to a dispute between the European sponsor and the village education committee, though even that was not clear. We hope that by our next visit the difficulties will have been resolved.

    Sunday, 8 November 2015

    A day off in The Gambia - or not!

    We decide that we are due a rest day - we haven't stopped dashing around since we arrived. The heat is very tiring so we decide to be sensible. We stay in bed longer than normal, have showers, dress and amble down to the terrace dining room. So far this trip we've not been hit by Banjul Belly - you don't want to know the details, you really don't! Usually one or both of us is struck down so J has developed a 'paranoia kit' - disinfectant, rubber gloves, wipes and disposable cloths with which to clean toilet areas we use before we use them! It seems to be working, fingers crossed. If it fails we have Imodium and re-hydration drinks ready. We stay out of the sun as much as we can and drink lots of bottled water. As I say, it's working, so far!
     We chat with people as we queue up for breakfast. It seems that every European wed meet here is contributing to humanitarian aid in some way, either as an individual or as a member of a small charity. Somebody is helping Gambian ex-servicemen with medical expenses, someone is supporting a group of nurses trying to eradicate the practice of FGM, a woman has given away nearly all her clothes an is worrying about how she will manage when she lands back in Gatwick in the middle of winter wearing only flip-flops, shorts and a skimpy T-shirt.
     As we finish breakfast one of the gate-keepers arrives with news that we have visitors - would I like to come to the hotel entrance and sign them in? This isn't going to be a rest day - tomorrow, may be.
     By the time I reach the gate there are three people waiting for me. First, a student nurse we support, complete with her certificate and exam results. She wants to thank J especially for her support and encouragement. I sign her in and she goes off to find my wife.
     Next, a messenger from a village school: money has been stolen from the school fund: the thief has been caught but the money cannot be found so the teachers will have no wages. I make a 'phone call to check the story, which is confirmed. I agree to visit the school tomorrow and give the messenger a little cash for his return journey.
     Next in line is the lady from the bureau-de-change and her young sister, the one who wants to be a doctor. The youngster has had a long spell of good health and wants to show me her school certificates. Not a single day absent from class, top marks in every subject and a glowing testimonial from her teachers. I sign them both in and we set off to find J and celebrate by the pool. So, it's mainly a good news day (apart from the robbery, but we can deal with that tomorrow). Who wanted a day off any way?

    Saturday, 7 November 2015

    Back to school, Gambian style.

    Just a thought before I embark on a new day: when I say 'we did this or we did that' I mean the charity, GOES, did this or that! True, much of the funding comes from us or from the sales of the eBooks in the Malinding series of Kindle books, or from events staged by Vale Royal Writers' Group, or from donations by family or friends. Anyway, it's all done in the name of Gambian Occasional Emergency Support (GOES). On with the story!
    Ams, on time as usual, collected us after breakfast and took us to visit one of the schools we support.
    Sorry! One of the schools GOES supports! We greet the headteacher in the usual way - Is there peace? How are you? How is/the family? Is everything fine? When the exchange ends we are invited to visit each of the classes. As we enter the room the teacher greets us and the children stand up and say 'Hello.' Sometimes we are invited to sing or tell a story or recite a poem and then the whole class will sing for us. We return to the head's office and are shown inspectors' reports on the progress of the children. The school is doing well; the staff are all qualified, the school compound is securely fenced and there is a good gate to exclude intruders. (Thanks again to GOES) Together with one of the teachers I try to fix the office computer and come to the conclusion that the printer needs a new cartridge. A price is agreed, the head suggests that a repaired printer will require paper - we agree - money is handed over, we are given a receipt, and the teacher departs for the market. Later in the day we are invited to a demonstration of the printer working and given change (which we count carefully) because the teacher haggled a better price than we had expected.
    Why did we count the change so carefully? It was a small amount by our standards - did we not trust the man? Of course we trusted him, but we were required to count the money to demonstrate that he was honest we were not foolish.
    We looked around the outside of the school and noted that beautiful pictures had been painted on the walls by another member of staff - initially at his own expense. We discussed staff wages with the head and agreed to make a contribution every month.
    At one o'clock the school bell rang and all the children (about 100) trooped through the staff room to shake hands and say goodbye. The school seemed a friendly place, the children were happy and proud to demonstrate their knowledge.
    Ams drove us to the head's compound and we greeted the extended family - trying our Mandinka and being gently corrected when we said the wrong thing. The head's sister in law had been cooking - fish Benechin - and we all sat round the bowl to eat as part of the family. We are not skilled at eating rice with our fingers but we tried yet again. We do try, but were quite happy to be given spoons to eat with. We drank Ataya, prepared by the head's oldest son, laughed and joked with the small children, nursed the babies and caught up with the gossip since our previous vist a few months ago. Ams drove us back to the hotel. We agreed to fund a very bright seven year old girl (how many seven year olds do you meet who speak six languages?) through her next year at school. We were too full to eat a full meal so we settled for a sandwich and a Malta. A five piece Jazz band rolled up, and we danced for a while wirh one another, then some of the staff joined in. We slept well that night - we did the accounts next morning before breakfast.

    Friday, 6 November 2015

    Banjul Hospital

    Another day in the 'GOES on Holiday!' saga. We sort medical supplies out on our bed - reduced in quantity because of our donation yesterday to the village clinic. Today we're taking some stainless steel medical implements (I didn't want to know too much about their use), dressings, catheters and drugs to the country's main hospital in the capital, Banjul.
    Ams turns up on time and some of the hotel staff help us to load the heavy boxes and bags into the car. Ams is familiar with the route because his father is an in-patient. We make our way upstairs to the office of Mrs Ceesay, the PPS to the CMO. She thanks us and promises a letter of thanks to the donors. We learn that there is a desperate need for paper rolls which record information from the ECG machine, which appears unobtainable in the Gambia. (When we return home we track down a UK supplier who ships a tear's supply out for us.)
    From the hospital we drive the short distance to Bakau, a market and fishing village, to visit a family we've been helping for a year or two. There's a lovely new baby boy, born to a young woman we've sponsored at school and college. While baby sleeps we feast on Chicken Yassa with both rice and chips, followed by fresh fruit. I'm sent to entertain him while his mother takes a shower. Not a happy chappy, even though I sing to him and dance round the room. The return of his mother and the promise of food calm him down and peace returns. We all snooze until it's time to return to the hotel, where we help an old lady with toothache, refuse a rather dubious young man who wants money to either buy his girlfriend a car/re-roof a shop/or just hand money over and he'll decide what to do with it later!
    Back to the room to do the accounts for the day. We're waiting for some people from a school a distance up-country to visit. We've brought money for equipment - they need paper & pens and blackboard paint and boards to put the paint on - everything, in fact. They have started the school from scratch, 'borrowed' an unfinished house on the outskirts of their village, and admitted as many children as would fin into the one habitable room. They deserved encouragement!  Because of transport difficulties they arrive about 3 hours late, but that gives us time to check that money given last visit to a young mother for the education of her children has been wisely spent - we are present with receipts from the school and copies of the first school reports. We congratulate her and promise another year's support. A young man arrives and reports he has at last secured safe employment but at a considerable distance from his compound. We offer him half the price of a bicycle and he goes away happy. (He really does buy the bike and we receive reports on his work later.)
    The teachers arrive, full of apologies. We do know about the difficulty of travelling in this country. We chat for a while, remind them that we will require receipts for all the money to show how it has been used, treat them to a round of Malta drinks and send them off with money for their fares home.
    Another friend calls with a bottle of Baobab juice (delicious, and said to cure all tummy complaints) and we dine off Butterfish and chips and drink Julbrew and watch the bats hunt mosquitoes across the swimming pool.
    We slept well.
            

    Thursday, 5 November 2015

    Next day in The Gambia.

    Sunday. I'm up early and ramble round the roads and paths skirting the hotel. Busy pedestrian traffic, crowds of hotel workers hurrying to their jobs, all with time to smile or nod or call a greeting. Breakfast is my usual coffee, cereal, and more coffee. For the rest of the day I'll eat and enjoy West African food but after seventy-odd years my breakfast has evolved into a ritual. We know most of the staff and exchange greetings - 'Good morning, Mala, how is the day? How are your family, are they all well?' I amble down to the Western Union office, forgetting it's closed on Sundays. I'm anxious to talk to the woman who runs the office because we're sponsoring her kid sister, a highly intelligent girl who wants to be a doctor but suffers from sickle-cell anaemia, a condition which gives her great pain and interrupts her education. J has sorted out the medical equipment we've been given. Ams, friend and driver turns up at exactly the time promised. We sit by the pool and discuss our plans for the day. Keluntang, our local agent, will meet us at the village clinic and we will hand over the medical stuff to the nurse in charge and take photographs so we can show our supporters exactly where their help has gone. After that, and a ritual round of Ataya (hot sweet tea, flavoured with mint leaves) we drive the short distance to K's compound. A child is sent to fetch K's wife, N, from her mother's compound. She is staying there till her baby is born, due any day now. We're sponsoring N's education at a craft college: her studies are suspended till the infant arrives. We learn that N has cancelled her pre-natal check at the medical centre in the next village so she could greet us. Ams looks worried and we arrange to take her to the centre the next day. More villagers call into the compound and we begin to wilt under the hot sun. A meal arrives, river fish, bony but delicious, cooked in an onion and tomato sauce, on a bed of rice. We sit round the bowl with the family, and choice morsels of fish are piled onto the rice in front of us, picked clean of bones by loving fingers. N beams with delight as we feast.
    We try to ease ourselves into the African climate by doing as little as possible for a couple of days, usually, as today, unsuccessfully! Early to bed.

    Wednesday, 4 November 2015

    From the Archive - one of last year's visits to The Gambia.

    Saturday morning, alarm goes off at 04.30hrs. Shower, dress, coffee & breakfast Last minute packing & papers. Call taxi which arrives at 06.15hrs. Off we go. Five minutes later back we go - to collect spectacles, watch, earrings and rings. Taxi driver gets us to the airport on time and a good tip for being so calm and helpful. Check in luggage and go to buy papers and coffee. Gate 23 welcomes us - only delay is the alarm set off by J's hip. Ah, and answering questions about why we are carrying so much money. Uneventful flight - crammed seats and cheerful staff. Taxi out on time and straight up and away. Good view of the lakes at Tatton Park as we set off. Ams our driver is waiting for us even though we're 55 minutes early due to a strong tail wind. Exchange of greetings and news with Ams and then off to the hotel, stopping off on the way to buy water, Dettol and Bop (insect spray). Dump bags and join Ams by the pool for a first drink. First drink is Malta, a non-alcoholic energy drink made locally. We listen to Ams as he answers our questions about local property law. We offer him a meal but he wants to get off home, so after arranging a pick-up time for the next morning we settle back to enjoy our omelette and chips (I know, the genuine Gambian cuisine starts tomorrow!) and my choice of drink changes to Julbrew, the local lager brewed for tourists. We chat with the hotel staff still on duty - they have become family friends over the years. Eventually we have to stop talking and go to bed. There is still a slight hint of insecticide in the air but the fan soon disperses that (at least from my side of the bed ...) Twenty hours after the alarm woke us we're sound asleep.

    Sunday, 25 October 2015

    Late again, sorry!

    May we wish all our Muslim friends, both in Gambia and the UK, a very Happy New Year. May it bring you peace, good health, prosperity and a happy long life.
    Sorry I'm a couple of days late (again).
    Best wishes,
    Tom

    Friday, 16 October 2015

    Hello again!

    Sorry I've not written lately - please don't feel neglected. There's been a lot going on in our family here in England lately. Happy events, sad events, illness and recoveries. Normal life, of course.
    Sorry you've been neglected. Listening to BBC Radio4 today, hearing Lemn Sissay's life story, brought my Gambian friends back into full view. Perhaps you know Lemn's poem 'Let There be Peace' ? If not you have a treat in store. It's one of those poems that say what I feel and wish for. (Wish I'd written it!)
    GOES hasn't been idle during the time. Children's (and some adults) education fees have been paid. Mandinari Clinic's drug cupboard has been restocked and there's money on its way to help the hospital in Banjul in the same way. A small boy's eye has received attention, an old lady was able to make a much needed visit to a dentist, and a storm damaged house repaired.
    We hope to visit out Gambian friends early in the New Year - if we can find travel insurance we can afford (we have made enquiries and received quotations in the region of £1500 ! Our pockets are not so deep, and even if they were we would rather send the money to people in need rather than greedy insurance companies. Still we keep looking! Just because I'll be 80 in a few months it doesn't mean I'll become a millionaire ...
    So, we toddle along, doing what we can to help. There are so many people of talent in the Gambia - good, honest, hard-working people who go out of their way to help us, people who would (and have) give us their last cup of rice, who will offer a bed for a night, a meal, a story, wisdom and all with a smile: we repay what little we can.
    Oh - and read that poem.
    Best wishes,
    Tom

    Thursday, 10 September 2015

    Finance

    There's a lot of talk at the moment about well known charities behaving in a disgraceful manner, demanding donations from very old, sick, people. It seems that very many such people receive hundreds and hundreds of demands for money. This isn't a very charitable way of behaviour.
    We can promise you that GOES does not work like this! We are a very small charity, mainly funded by family and friends. We have some loyal commercial support - Snips, the hairdresser in Warrington Market, Juicy Bikes, in Buxton (they sell excellent eBikes), Adam Vickerstaff (see him on Facebook) designed a cover for 'Empty Bananas', and Barclays Bank keeps us stocked up with pens for the schools.
    We also receive great support from two writers' groups - Dead Good Poets Society in Liverpool and Vale Royal Writers' Group in Cheshire.
    Various other friends support us as and when they can.
    We never have, and never will, ask people we do not know for assistance. We do not post appeals to strangers and we do not cold-call anybody.
    We don't take money from donations for 'expenses' of any sort. We pay our own and donate money to the charity ourselves. If you donate £1 to GOES that £1 goes to help a school or a clinic, a student or a sick person, in The Gambia.
    Oh, and another thing! We do not see ourselves as 'do-gooders': we do not charge into someone's home or school or hospital and say 'You're doing this all wrong - do it this way!' We visit, we watch and we listen and take advice from the people who live there or work there. We ask the hospital and clinic staff what they need and how we can help.
    Rant over!

    Monday, 31 August 2015

    Open the doors.

    I am weary of the attitude of our government. We have people who have made long and dangerous journeys to escape from persecution and death, men women and children who are kept in horribly insanitary conditions in Calais, waiting for a chance to risk death yet again to enter England. And our government sends razor wire to keep them out.  These refugees must be among the bravest and most enterprising people on our planet and, given the chance, would contribute their lives and labour to the prosperity of our country. There must be many educated people among them - teachers, lecturers, nurses, journalists, doctors - all willing to work and support themselves and pay their taxes. But our government calls them a swarm. They are not locusts or wasps - they are people just like us and we should be ready, eager and willing to admit them to our country. We have much to learn from them. I cannot imagine what it must be like to leave my home carrying whatever I can, and, holding my wife's hand, step out on a journey of thousands of miles, longing to reach a place of peace and freedom, only to be halted by razor wire when almost in sight of salvation.

    Saturday, 15 August 2015

    Going fishing?

    Going fishing? No! They wouldn't let me! All I wanted to do was mess about in boats but because I was two years older than an old, old man I was too old! If I wanted a fish one of the women would catch it for me - and cook it and serve it on rice with a delicious sauce! And that's what happened! Thank you, Adama, it was delicious - almost as nice as if I'd caught it myself ... maybe I can get used to the idea of being two years older than an old, old man ...
    But not just yet!
     Best wishes,
    Tom
    :-)
    Tendaba Camp on the North bank of the Gambia River. Basic but friendly. Wish I was there now! The little hut at the end of the jetty is a great place to watch the sun go down ...

    Thursday, 6 August 2015

     
    Will be available on free offer from Sunday 09-08-2015 for five days
     
    Stories about children living in a Gambian (West Africa) village. Please feel free to change names to suit you location!
     
    It seems that inspirational stories for children are in short supply - hope this collection helps.
     
    Please give positive feed back if you enjoy these stories.
     
    Published by GOES, Gambian Occasional Emergency Support, a charity which operates in education and health support in that country.
     
    Best wishes,
    Enjoy!
    Tom

    Back to the grindstone!

    After a couple of weeks feeling sorry for ourselves - we expect to be in good health and get quite annoyed when we're not - we're back to work. I'll be 80 at my next birthday and retirement still seems a long way off. We were back to
    Gladstone's Library yesterday, not just for the cakes and coffee (though they are worth the journey) but to start work again on the latest Malinding book. As a working title I'm using 'The Malinding Village Archive' and it is a collection of memories, poems and stories written by people of the village and collected together for posterity by Sirra, the Alkalo. It's up to about 12k words now and should serve as a good introduction to the Malinding series - six books to date, all available as Amazon Kindle eBooks. As I may have mentioned before, all proceeds from the sales are sent direct to the GOES bank account for distribution to good causes in West Africa.
    Gladstone's Library is about a 30 minute journey from home and was set up by William Gladstone, 4 times Prime Minister during the reign of Queen Victoria. Towards the end of his life he donated his collection of 32,000 books, together with buildings to accommodate them, to the nation. He decided to set the library in his home village of Hawarden, about 5 miles from Chester, instead of locating it in London. He wanted to unite books which had no readers with readers who had no books - it worked! The collection has thrived and is still growing, the buildings include a couple of dozen very comfortable study-bedrooms, a kitchen which uses locally sourced ingredients to make delicious meals, several meeting rooms, a chapel and a glorious lounge with two fireplaces! Gladstone was a Liberal politician and the Library is a home to liberalism. A recent development is the provision of a collection of books about Islam, together with a room dedicated to their study. I have used this collection to improve my own insight into a religion which is followed by the majority of my Gambian friends,
    Gladstone appears across the years as a very caring, dedicated professional man and a family man devoted to his wife and family. I like in particular a story about him which tells that on one occasion when he was due to return from Parliament very late at night he gave instructions that nobody should wait up for him - he would climb into the house through the dining room window!
    Perhaps you can see why I arranged for two of my characters, Ed and Sirra, to spend their honeymoon at

    Thursday, 16 July 2015

    Sorry sorry!

    Sorry we've been out of touch for a few days - health problems, annoying rather than serious, and we seem to be getting better! Still managed to do a little GOES work. A good money transfer system is a blessing and we've managed to respond to appeals for help repairing a rain damaged property, fencing to prevent goats eating crops in a small-holding, teachers' wages, medical supplies for a clinic and promising support for a small baby with severe health problems. On-line banking with the GOES account enabled us to continue work from a hospital waiting room and the spare room at home.
    A few more sales of the eBook series of Malinding Village storybooks would really cheer me up!
    Best wishes, long life and happiness to all,
    Tom

    Wednesday, 1 July 2015

    Every little makes a lot!

    You've received a payment from PayPal Giving Fund(formerly MissionFish).
    Dear Tom,
    We're pleased to tell you that GOES (Gambian Occasional Emergency Support) will receive a payment this month from PayPal Giving Fund. We are passing on donations made by eBay users through the eBay for Charity program, along with any Gift Aid we have reclaimed on donations paid out in previous months.
    Your Payment Details
    Date Paid:30-06-2015

    (Funds will be delivered by BACS to the bank account that you have on file with us within 2-3 working days of this date)
    Amount Paid:
    eBay Give at Checkout£1.00
    GiftAid£0.25
    Total£1.25
    Payment From:PayPal Giving Fund UK

    *****************************************************

    Well, that was welcome - every little helps! This was also very true last night. The writers' group we attend was joined by another group and enjoyed an evening of music, poetry and prose from some exceptionally talented people. During the event I was invited to talk a little about GOES' work in The Gambia, and afterwards a raffle was held to help raise funds. The raffle brought in £83 and donations (thank you - you know who you are!) made the total collected up to £103. As I've said before, people are wonderful!
    Thanks again,
    Best wishes
    from Joyce & Tom.

    Saturday, 27 June 2015

    Once upon a time ...

    It all seems a long time ago, but it's only twelve years since we began visiting the Gambia. At first it was with our friends, Ian and Glynn Jones, of Northwich. They were the ones who had started building the school in Mandinari (I think they have at least four more schools to their credit by now!).
    Together we founded SHINEAfrica, a charity dedicated to improving education at Nursery school level. I continued to work as a Trustee of SHINE but realised I was becoming more concerned about healthcare and education for older girls and women. Joyce and I founded GOES (Gambian Occasional Emergency Support) and this blog follows the work done since then.
    We are helping with the education of teachers and nurses, with stocking the supply cupboards of the main hospital in Banjul and other village clinics. We have managed to increase the supply of piped water where available and funded the digging of wells where the piped supply has not yet reached.
    The eagle-eyed among you may spot a few errors in the text printed below but we remain grateful to the support given us over the years by our local newspaper, particularly when the latest book in the Malinding Village series rolls off the Kindle!
    Best wishes to all who work with SHINEAfrica, our supporters and our readers in general.
    Thanks again,
    Joyce & Tom

    Tuesday, 23 June 2015

    Every little helps!


    Total number of searches by all easysearch organisations: 112662 Searches by Gambian Occasional Emergency Support (GOES): 112 Amount raised for Gambian Occasional Emergency Support (GOES): £0.56 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------      

    We use easysearch to search the internet - GOES receives 0.5p for each search which mounts up! This is the total for last week, so 52 x 0.5p = £26 for a year and that is a really useful amount - several mosquito nets or a couple of sacks of rice or help with a girl's school fees or cement for repairing a rain damaged house or ... you see what we mean when we say 'every penny counts!'
    Or you could buy all the Malinding village eBooks ...
    Best wishes,
    Tom

    Monday, 15 June 2015

    People are so kind and helpful!

    Caroline Hawkridge's photo.
    Another beautiful poster by Liz Leech of Vale Royal Writers, great line-up and the raffle supports GOES, Tom and Joyce's amazing charity work in Gambia.

    Tuesday, 2 June 2015

    Romantic Adventure Stories

    Talking to friends at our writers' group last night some of my books were described as 'Romantic Adventures'. I certainly hadn't thought of them in this way but I see the point - they generally have happy endings and they do involve people falling in love ... OK: Romantic Adventure it is. Well, certainly 'Empty Bananas' and 'Mussukunda' and 'The Mechanical Girl' are, mostly. Not so sure that 'Mussukunda' , 'Chasing Freedom Home' and 'Story's End' are quite the same genre. You could read them and let me know? All available on Amazon Kindle eBooks as 'The Malinding Village Series'.
    Hmmm. Romantic Travel Fiction, perhaps?
    Just a reminder that all proceeds from the sale of the books goes to GOES to help schools and clinics and lots more.





    Monday, 1 June 2015

    Happy memories!

    Must be twelve years since I was first welcomed by the people in this compound. They've remained very good friends ever since. It was washing day - there's a lot of ironing to be done with that hot charcoal filled iron! Still, I was offered a very good meal - fish benechin if I remember rightly - and a bed was found for me in a neighbouring compound. I posted a picture of me a few days ago - taken last year, of me asleep under this same tree. Happy days. Can't wait to return.
    Ten minutes walk in one direction takes you to the market place, the nursery school and the village clinic. Ten minutes in the opposite direction takes you along a sandy path through the 'gardens' (allotments or smallholdings) down to the river.

    Saturday, 30 May 2015

    We understand

    E-mail and Twitter and Facebook help to keep us in touch with our friends in The Gambia. Sometimes we have contact with them and find that they are in unexpected places - as refugees in Italy, Lampedusa or Tripoli.  We can chat with them but there is, sadly, little else we can do. Our British government seems determined to keep them out. I think Britain has the lowest response rate to accepting people who are trying to escape persecution or famine.
     This is why, on every journey we have made over the years to West Africa, half the people we chat to on the plane are taking some form of help - maybe a few pencils for a school, maybe money to help ex-servicemen and their families, maybe medical supplies to re-stock a village clinic or any other way of helping people on a one-to-one basis. It seems that ordinary people are more humanitarian that the governments that claim to represent them.
    We understand also that governments which 'donate' money to needy communities do not always ensure that their donations go to people who are in need of education or health care. Many of these 'donations' are made conditional on the purchase of weapons of war. We guarantee that donations made to GOES end up in the hands of people in need, or as equipment for schools or clinics.
    Income from the sale of the Malinding Ebooks generally helps with school fees for children who would not otherwise have an education.

    Friday, 22 May 2015

    Every little helps!

    Your donations statement is ready!View online version
    Thank you for raising with easyfundraising!
    Hi Tom,
    Your wonderful supporters have raised £15.31 for Gambian Occasional Emergency Support (GOES) this quarter! Look out for your cheque in the post, it should be with you in the next two weeks.

    Easyfundraising uses a search engine which donates 1d for every 2 searches you make using it! The pennies mount up and make pounds and we pay the pounds into the GOES account with the Co-op Bank then we exchange the pounds for dalsis and we send the dalasis to people in The Gambia who are in need!
    Your Statement Summary
    Date: January - March 2015
    Payment method: Cheque
    Amount raised: £15.31
    Thank your supportersSay thanks to your cause supporters and encourage them to raise more on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tuesday, 12 May 2015

    Exchange rate problem

    There are a lot of pleasures in running a small charity like GOES. We meet a lot of people who are interested in what we do and why we do it. We have the pleasure of seeing improvements in education and health care.
    There are problems, too. Problems, not 'issues')
    One problem appeared today - the value of the GBP (Great British Pound) has fallen dramatically in a very short time. Last week we sent some money for medical aid to a family who live near Banjul. The exchange rate was D77 to the £. Today we sent some money to help a young student - the rate now is D55 to the £. This means, sadly, that the student receives less than we hoped. Our money has shrunk - we won't be able to help so many people or to give deserving people less than they need.
    The Gift Aid money we received last month has gone to clinics, hospitals, schools and needy people - it has gone! Sadly, it hasn't been replaced yet with donations or sales of the Malinding Kindle Ebooks. We only sold 1 book last month - thank you, kind buyer in Italy - you have some idea where your money might have gone! All money from the sales of books goes straight into the GOES bank account. We take no money at all from the Charity - we pay all the expenses of GOES, we pay all our own expenses and we donate a tithe of our income to the charity. We do it for love, not money!
    We need a little help from our friends - hint, hint!
    Best wishes to all of you,
    Tom.

    Tuesday, 28 April 2015

    Election Fever?

    I'm being inundated with mail from some Tory chap called Cameron who wants me to vote for his party. He really should get his algorithms adjusted. I'm a socialist, nearly 80 years old, taught for 34 years, was a milkman (complete with horse), laboured in a power station, a soldier (reluctant) for 2 years, engaged in voluntary work since the age of 25, co-founded and run an anti-poverty charity for 12 years and am now a member of the Green Party. How in the name of Almighty Trudget does that equate with a vote for the Tory gang? Oh, and I've read The Guardian every day since the Suez crisis. Cross? Me? You wouldn't like me when I'm cross ... and he addresses me as 'Thomas' ...

    Sorry for the rant - I've copied this from my Facebook page so, sorry to the people who've had to read it twice. I do feel very strongly about the self-centered, self-seeking candidates we now have to tolerate at the highest levels of government. They have a low opinion of those of us who take the trouble to vote, imagining we are all of their mind-set: they suppose we are rabidly anti-foreigner, that the only immigrants allowed into our country should be multi-millionaires and that our own poorest people - and there are many poor people in Great Britain - are only worthy of contempt and scorn. They are reluctant to send help to Africans who risk their lives to find a way into Europe by the back door because the front door is closed to them. As I said, sorry for the rant. Some of us do care.
    Best wishes,
    Tom

    Friday, 17 April 2015

    Disaster.

    Just learned that a number of young men from my adopted village have died trying to reach Europe. Our thoughts are with their families and friends. It must take an immense amount of bravery and hope to undertake such a journey and the intention is to help and support the family left behind.
     So very sorry that the adventure ended like this.

    Thursday, 16 April 2015

    Just a Reminder ...

    ... that mosquitoes still bite and that bite can kill you. In the worry (justified) about Ebola in West Africa perhaps we lost sight of another killer - Malaria. It's back in the news here in the UK because there is concern that one anti-malarial drug, Lariam, can cause problems itself. It appears that some members of the British forces have had bad reactions to this drug, which can cause serious mental problems to some people.
     Other drugs are available - we use Malarone and have had no adverse reactions - and we haven't had Malaria either. Always consult your doctor. Take the anti-malarial drug prescribed, don't miss doses and you'll be properly protected. The Gambia is a wonderful destination for a holiday or voluntary work (surprising how often one becomes the other!). Take care and you'll be fine: enjoy the hospitality, meet the people and remember to haggle when booking a taxi.
     That was the free advice, now for the commercial! The Malinding series of e-books, available from Amazon, contribute to the funds of GOES (Gambian Occasional Emergency Support). Goes helps Gambians with grants for education and health care. We also support Banjul Hospital and Mandinari Village Clinic. Please buy as funds are a little low at the moment - we're waiting for HMRC to check our claim for Gift Aid - but the need for support persists. The books cost a couple of pounds each and if you're considering a trip to The Gambia can provide an introduction to village life and customs.
    Best wishes,
    Tom

    Tuesday, 7 April 2015

    Back to School !

    :-) But what a school - Gladstone's Library in Hawarden, Flint, North Wales. When William Gladstone retired from politics at the end of the nineteenth century he decided to give his collection of books to the nation so the 'Readers without books may meet books without readers' (or words to that effect. It was suggested that he build his library in London but he built it in the village where he lived (Yes, he lived in a castle but it was in the village!) He and his family gave the money to build the library and it's said that he wheeled his books across the road from the castle in a wheelbarrow.
    The library has grown and grown and now has a chapel, a lecture room, several smaller meeting rooms, twenty bedrooms and a cake shop. Well, it's a complete restaurant with home-made food and the cakes are excellent too.
    :-) So that's where I went back to school today. The class, four hours long, with a break for cake, was about publishing books. I perhaps have mentioned the Malinding series of e-books which helps to support GOES? Yes? I thought so. This course explained how to adapt them for other e-readers and even how to publish them as paper back books with real pages. Yes, my brain aches and yes, I should be completing the Gift Aid claim, but J and I had a super day, met some very interesting people, came home with lots of ideas, and we will be back at work for GOES tomorrow. Honestly.
    Best wishes,
    Tom  :-)

    Monday, 6 April 2015

    Gift Aid - the struggle!

    First let me say that I am not a natural with the computer world: I struggle. This struggle is with on-line banking, on-line form filling and on-line submissions. It ain't natural! I am of the age when fountain pens ruled the world, pencils had an eraser at one end and goose quills had just gone out of fashion. Anybody remember blotting paper and carbon paper?
     So no I have to find the GOES bank statements for the year - and download them because I can't group all the entries from the sale of the Malinding books on line. It may be possible but not for me! I have to group the donations from all our benefactors and check that they are still at the same addressed and are still paying tax. I have to work out how much tax J & I have paid this year and take care not to over claim. Then I have to remember out HMRC passwords and fill in the forms and submit them.
     HMRC are not the monsters they're often said to be - they are a bunch of very helpful people who have loads of patience to answer questions from idiots like me. So, fingers crossed (and that makes using a keyboard very difficult) here we go! I'll let you know when I've completed the task - it may even be this tear!
    Best wishes,
    Tom.

    Thursday, 2 April 2015

    Wednesday, 25 March 2015

    Sorry! It's been a long time!

    ... a long time since I wrote a new post! We have been busy though - I'll try to remember what we've been doing.
    Well, because we've had a few problems we decided it might be wise to postpone our visit to The Gambia till after the rainy season. This gave us the advantage that we had a little spare cash to donate to GOES. We had been spending quite a lot on posting medical goods - one parcel cost us nearly £70, which was a bit of a shock. So we changed course a little and set about finding what was available there or in Senegal. As a result, and with the help of a very senior medical lady we now go shopping by proxy for much needed supplies with the money we might have spent on postage. So far a major hospital doesn't have to worry about running out of wound dressings or zinc plasters for a few months! And that's only with the savings we made on the postage stamps!
     We were a little late in sending fees for medical school to one of our bright young students but she can start her course in September knowing that the money is safely in the bank.
     For no cost at all we've introduced several people to Future Learn  courses - FREE distance learning courses organised by UK universities. They normally last for 6 sessions, include Audio and video teaching and discussions between fellow students from all over the world. You can learn at your own pace, re-run lectures, and print off most of the information for future reference. I've made use of 3 of the courses myself so far and can testify to their quality.
     After a slow start the Malinding Village series of eBooks  is bringing in a small but useful income - all profits goes directly into GOES bank account.

    Friday, 27 February 2015

    Reliability

    Why do we sometimes refuse a request? It's a fair question. 'Will you buy me a taxi?' Sorry - we just don't have that sort of money. Perhaps we don't know you? Perhaps we have given you help and you let us down? Did the money we gave you for your brother's school fees find its way into your pocket and not into your brother's school?
     Perhaps the undertaking is just too much - we are a 'micro charity'. We help in small ways: we help children attend school - we have helped about a hundred, mainly girls. Education is one of the areas we have to prove that we are reliable. Let's say we're helping Awa. Awa is five years old when we meet her. She's very bright, very lively and longing for education. her big brothers go to school but the family just can't find the money for Awa.
     But Awa doesn't want to go to school just for one day, or one week or one month or one year. Awa wants an education, and an education make take years and years. If she's going to be a nurse or a teacher or whatever, her education may last until she's 21 years old. So our funding must be reliable.
    Little Awa too must be reliable - she must attend school and work hard. We need to see receipts for her school fees and we must see her reports every year. We will try to visit her school - and that can lead to expense too!
     Why am I thinking about reliability at the moment?
    Joyce and I are not the youngest people on the planet so, although we have been cyclists for 60+ years we found that we would like a little help from our bikes in the form of small electric motors.
    We saved up and bought one each. The shop we bought them from has proved very reliable - they gave us good advice, they let us ride round the town (Buxton - a very hilly place!) and they have serviced and repaired them ever since. They have been reliable - and that's what we try to be too.
    http://www.JuicyB
    ike.co.uk/  collected two of our bikes today to service them and prepare them for another beautiful British summer.
     And because the people who run the shop are really great they have given us things which we sold to raise money. And that money has gone towards helping children go to school.
    Thanks for your patience!
    Did I mention you can buy travel adventure stories - the Malinding village series, from Amazon ebooks? That money too goes to help people in need in The Gambia too! Ah, yes - I did mention it!
    Best wishes,
    Tom
    P.S. Joyce has ridden her Juicy Bike in two sponsored bike rides to raise money for GOES - I may have mentioned that as well!

    Tuesday, 24 February 2015

    Cover for Empty Bananas!

    Ed's new cover - thanks to Adam Vickerstaff, designer. Hopefully this will shortly appear on the Amazon listing of the Malinding village series of E-books. All income from the sales of the books goes (!) directly into GOES' bank account (and alsmost immediately afterwards straight out again to help needy people in The Gambia).

    Monday, 23 February 2015

    A mixed bag!

    It's been a funny sort of day. Started off by getting a clean bill of health from the clinic - they manage my asthma and angina.  Sun has shone all day!
     Thought I would admire the nice new cover for Empty Bananas (designed by Adam Vickerstaff) - it wasn't on the book. Drat! bother! Trudget!  I was certain I'd installed it last week. Checked with KDP - I had managed to download it but I hadn't pressed the 'save & publish' button. I have now - Empty Bananas has a gleaming new cover illustrating Ed's* progress from a small boat to a Gambian village (Malinding). You can even see his motor bike basking in the shade ...
     Nearly forgot - the nurse, Joanne, at the clinic this morning was interested in the work GOES does and offered to donate some equipment when we next travel out to the Gambia.
     To offset all this good news we still have no word that the parcel containing more ECG paper for Banjul Hospital has arrived. Fingers crossed - I can't see that the contents would be on any use to anyone else.





    *Ed is the anti-hero chap who ... well, you could just read the books and sponsor GOES which helps real people!

    Thursday, 19 February 2015

    Best wishes to the world!

    Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Gambian independence. I wish this tiny African country, inhabited by some of the most wonderful, kind, caring and generous people on the planet, a long and happy future.
    Today is the Chinese New Year. One of the tiniest and one of the largest civilisations - how much can one learn from the other?
    And here's me, 79 years old, still muddling along, creaking a little (on a good day), surviving due to parental genes and the NHS, ready to face my 80th year with another book to finish, more poetry to write, more friendships to celebrate.
    May I wish everyone good health, long life, love and happiness - best wishes to you all. It's raining here today but the sun still shines.

    Wednesday, 18 February 2015

    Gambian 50th Independence Day

    We wish all Gambians a very happy day. We are proud and happy to be associated with this small country with such a big heart. We have met so many kind, caring and generous people over the years that we feel very much at home on the smiling coast of Africa!
    Wish you all good health, long life and happiness!

    Monday, 16 February 2015

    Good news Monday!

    Good news and back to beginnings! 'Empty Bananas', the first of the Malinding Village e-books has a new cover! This time it's a proper one designed by a proper cover design artist and it's better than anything I could even imagine.
     Adam Vickerstaff, an artist who specialises in 3D design, has worked hard to provide a new cover behind which Ed and Sira and Binta wait to amuse or shock you. As soon as I remember how I'll load the new cover into Kindle Publishing - I know I've managed to download it onto the PC ...
     You can visit Adam's website at adamvickerstaff.com
    He's also a writer - 'All For Socks' is on Amazon.
    Thanks again, Adam.
    Tom

    Thursday, 5 February 2015

    More bits of paper!

    The trial pack of paper for the ECG machine in Banjul Hospital arrived safely in just under a week. It is the correct size and the ECG machine car whurr or wizz into action again. So we sent more paper - ten packs this time, 3oo z-fold sheets to a pack. One little snag: because 10 packs of ECG paper, carefully packed, weighs just over 2kg, and because the Post Office charges a huge amount to send anything heavier than 2kg to The Gambia the cost of the exercise seemed enormous. But there's good news too. At a meeting of the Vale Royal Writers' Group on Monday night a good fairy writer slipped us a generous donation - so we could pay the postage! Things often work out nicely.
     We'll be away from home for a few days; we need a little R & R. Sadly, it won't be a trip to Africa - funds are a little low at the moment but as one of my favourite Dickens character said 'Something will turn up' and it did - just like it did last Monday!
     Still, please don't stop buying the Malinding books - the latest, the final (probably) one is selling well. I said something will turn up ...

    Thursday, 29 January 2015

    New e-book to help GOES!

    Just published on Amazon Kindle e-books!
    Story's End, the last in the Malinding village series about life in a fictional Gambian village.
    Priced at £2 or $3, all income from the sale of this book (and all others in the series) is paid directly into the GambiaGOES bank account.

    Friday, 23 January 2015

    Just bits of paper?

    While we were in Banjul just before Christmas we visited the teaching hospital*  there to hand over medical equipment donated by the Forge Medical Centre in our village at home. Fatou, the PPS, mentioned that they desperately needed paper for their ECG machine and we agreed to try to help.
    After a bit of Googling we found a firm able to supply just what we needed and they (thanks, Gillian at Medisave) posted a sample pack which is now on its way to Banjul. As soon as Fatou confirms that it is exactly what their machine uses we'll send a further supply.


    *The hospital used to be known as the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital but is now know as the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital.

    Monday, 19 January 2015

    Thanks!

    We would like to acknowledge and thank the people and organisations which have assisted GOES to offer help to Gambians in need. They are, in no particular order;
    • friends, neighbours and family
    • members of Vale Royal Writers' Group and Liverpool Dead Good Poets
    • The Forge Medical Centre, Stockton Heath
    • Brown's Chemist, Stockton Heath
    • Boots Opticians and Blackpool Salvation Army for the donation of hundreds of pairs of reading glasses
    • Juicy Bikes of Buxton, for the donation of cycling accessories which we sold to raise funds for a clinic
    • Superdrug, Warrington
    • Gladstone's Library, Hawarden
    • Thomas Cook, Warrington
    • everybody who has bought a copy of any of the Malinding series of Kindle books
    • Badala Park Hotel, Kotu
    • Keluntang, our local agent, Amadou, our driver, and all our other Gambian friends.
    Thank you all: we're getting a little long in the tooth but, with your help, we'll keep going as long as we can!
    Best wishes to all of you - may 2015 bring you good health, long life and happiness.
    Tom & Joyce

    Friday, 16 January 2015

    Mr Micawber was right!

    If I remember my Dickens' novels Mr Micawber* was the chap who believed that something, probably good, would turn up. People who run charities, especially the small variety, tend to have great faith that something good will eventually happen. It generally does.
    I was banging on last week about the vast majority of people being good, honest, trustworthy and caring. It seems that one of our Gambian friends was very ill last week and had to be admitted to hospital. It was a schoolgirl, daughter of a neighbour, who decided to inform us and ask for help. She sent us a text message in her very best English, gave details very clearly, collected the money from the Exchange office (first time she'd done it), took the money to the lady, paid the bills for X-rays, went to the dispensary with the prescription, paid for that and finally found a taxi to take the patient home. Not bad for a twelve year old.  I had suggested that the girl keep any change but she spent it on food for the family.
     We simply provided the means for this young lady to do good. We might have been ripped off, cheated, been conned. But we weren't. She trusted us to help, we trusted her to behave honestly. It works. She's from a different culture, a different religion: differences don't matter. The similarities are what count. I wish we could help everyone who asks - we can't. We can only hope, like Wilkins Micawber, that something will turn up - and it often does. Happy New Year. Remember, differences don't count - similarities do!

    *A character in 'David Copperfield', 1850.

    P.S. You might like to help by buying one (or more!) of the Malinding series of e-books. They are about life in an imaginary Gambian village. All proceeds from sales goes directly to GOES bank account and from there out to The Gambia to help people in need. Thank you.

    Tuesday, 13 January 2015

    Je suis Charlie ?

    All religions/faiths/beliefs have their share of extremists/fanatics/thugs looking for an excuse to behave violently.
    All religions/faiths/beliefs have their share of wonderful, loving, caring people who seek only to help their fellow human beings in any way they can.
    Fortunately, the good people outnumber the evil ones ten million to one, or more.
    Sadly, the good people rarely appear in the headlines.
    I was born into a Christian family and attended a Christian school and college. I was amazed and dismayed when I encountered people who called themselves Christians but were intolerant of people who did not share their extremist views.
    Rarely, if ever, is violence prescribed in Sacred Writings. Feed the poor, care for the sick and elderly, help the stranger - respect one another. We can only continue to set an example in our own lives: it can be very difficult. Sadly, it seems impossible to reason with the blinkered folk who believe that they are right, and are willing to murder men, women and children who disagree with them.
    Our gentle friends in West Africa have fed us, shared their last cup of rice with us, trusted us with their children, cared for us when we have been sick, chatted to us about their beliefs and questioned us about ours. Never once have we felt threatened. They have earned our love and respect: I hope we have earned theirs.
    Je suis Charlie?

    Thursday, 1 January 2015

    Free Ebook

    Empty Bananas, the first book in the Malinding series of tales about life in a Gambian village, is on free offer from Amazon Kindle books until 5/1/2015 as a thank you to all readers of this blog. You don't need a Kindle device, just the free Kindle app which enables you to read thousands of Ebooks on you laptop or PC.
    If you enjoy the read please leave feedback on Amazon to say so!
    Happy New Year!
    Best wishes,
    Tom.