Friday, 26 February 2016

Two schools.

During the course of our latest trip we were able to visit several schools. Most are doing well, even though several are operating in difficult circumstances. It's great to see the combination of eager student and enthusiastic teachers. We were saddened to see that one school, which had been the pride of its village, struggling. The number of pupils had dropped, the classrooms were in disrepair and the qualified teaching staff had left. There was an air of desperation: basic educational materials - paper, pencils, chalks - were lacking. A couple of rooms were occupied with junk, another had not been repaired following damage from a falling tree. A gardener and a caretaker had been dismissed and the school garden, which had previously provided both food for the children and a small income from the sale of surplus crops in the local market, had fallen into disuse. We provided what help we could but it was beyond our means to fund the repairs and wage bill for the little school. It appeared that the people who had sponsored the school for several years had been unable to continue and the villagers had withdrawn many children and sent them to a new kindergarten a short distance away.
 We made a couple of visits to this new school - what a difference. The head teacher already was in charge of a large lower-basic (Junior) school and had decided to provide the youngest children with fully qualified staff, breakfast every day, medical support if needed and a very happy atmosphere. She funded much of the initial cost of this operation from her own pocket. We made a contribution towards the cost of rice, provided a large number of dictionaries which had been presented to GOES (and for which we had paid Thomas Cook a large sum of money as 'excess baggage'!) The school seemed a truly happy, industrious place of learning.
 I'm haunted by that other, crumbling little school. We had known it in happier days, I had sat in the shade of a tree and taught previous generations of teachers a little more about English language and told stories to youngsters who seemed to enjoy hearing - and helping to make up - tales from two continents.

You could support GOES by buying any or all of the Malinding  series of Kindle ebooks. Who knows, you may be the one who enables an autoclave to sterilise an instrument used in an operation to save a life!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Back to earth in England!

A few days after we returned to England my birthday cropped up. Seems to do that very frequently these days - as soon as the 78th passes than the 79th arrives, with the 80th hot on its heels ... while we were away annoying our Gambian friends my daughter had been plotting a surprise for me. Plotting and scheming so that when I obeyed the instruction to 'Just get in the car, Dad' I was delivered to the Fir Grove Hotel and welcomed by a crowd of friends, neighbours, writers and more family! Brilliant! Just for surviving 29,220 days! (Or thereabouts!).
 I love being 80. Waking up for the first time in my 80th year, eating cake for the first time, hugging friends, climbing the stairs at Gladstone's library, writing the first words of a new book, all the things I can do for the first time in my 80th year ... magic, pure magic.
I love you all, people!

Well, all very well, you might say: but what's all this got to do with GOES? Quite a lot. It emphasises the fact that I'm still alive and fairly healthy and if I'm fit to carry on I can continue to help all my friends, known and as yet unknown, 3,000 miles away.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Women drivers

We're delighted to see more women driving cars this visit. At least four of our friends are able to drive now - two teachers, a young ex-student and a nurse. They all cope with horrendous road conditions, heavy traffic and stray cattle wandering across the road - and why shouldn't they? The nurse, a Community Health Nurse, rides a 125cc motor bike to visit her patients. I'm happy to find out that she has full safety equipment and a properly serviced, reliable bike. I've not noticed any female taxi drivers yet but it's only a matter of time.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Gambia 2016

... I forgot to mention the emergency visit to hospital the night we returned to UK ... interesting times. Still, we're fine now! Exhausted, but fine!
During our visit we took medical supplies to Banjul hospital, delivered to the medical supply storeroom under the gaze of a doctor (thanks, Liz). We re-stocked the medical store cupboard at the village clinic - they had run out of everything except a few packs of Paracetamol - they now have enough anti-biotics to last at least a month. More about the clinic in a later post.
We visited a newly established kindergarten, part of a Lower-Basic (Primary) school.  The headmistress is an enthusiastic lady, devoting her life (and most of her salary) to improving the educational chances of the village children. We left a substantial gift of English Dictionaries and a monetary contribution to the school meals fund (all the children are given breakfast before they start work!)
GOES funded the visit of a small boy (and mother) to Dakar for a check on progress after his earlier operation to remove a cancerous growth near his eye. He's fine!
We funded treatment for a serious case of pneumonia - a talented teacher at another school we're associated with. We also supplied funding for paper, books and pencils for her school.
GOES supplied corrugated sheeting for a damaged roof, sacks of cement to repair a crumbling house, reading glasses for a couple of dozen people, mobile 'phones to replace those lost/stolen/strayed.
At least a dozen youngsters, mostly girls, were able to start or continue their education by the time we left - GOES had paid their fees for the remainder of the year.

Please support GOES - buy the Kindle ebooks about Malinding Village - Empty Bananas, The Alkalo, Mussukunda, The Mechanical Girl, Stories for Gambian Children, Story's End, Happy Nest, and Chasing Freedom Home. All income goes straight into GOES bank a/c and almost immediately from there to the Gambia to help people in need.

Best wishes, Tom & Joyce

Sunday, 14 February 2016

May we live in interesting times ...

We're back. Seemed at several stages we weren't going to get there, stay there, or get back!
We arrived at Manchester airport in good time, only a few people at the check-in in front of us. Passports? Passports! Of course we knew where they were - must have been left in the taxi. Called the taxi - not there. Must be at home then? Taxi home, passports (and half the GOES money) safe in the hall, waiting for us to pick them up. Up picked, taxi back to airport. Check-in discovered a misunderstanding (mine) about the weight of baggage - and the cost of excess ... already about £300 down before we boarded the plane. Taxis not cheap but Excess is dearer.
Arrived, safely, at hotel. Lost four days due to upset tummies and one fall in the shower-room (mine) and another down some steps (J's). My Banjul belly problem didn't erupt till we were home, or at least waiting by the baggage carousel at Manchester airport ...
Those details apart we had an interesting trip - tell you more next post!
Best wishes and thanks to everybody who supported us (literally, in some cases!)