Where does your money go with GOES? Fair question. Let's imagine we're going to find out as we travel to some of the villages together.
We're staying at a small hotel on the Atlantic coast near Kotu village. Turn left out of the hotel and a ten minute walk takes you to the centre of the village. There are a few shops, a market, several hotels and that's it! Back to the hotel, keep going to the crossroads and we'll pick a taxi to Bakau, the next village along the coast. It's a good 20 minute jog but it's a hot day ... Bakau is a much larger fishing village with a fish market, a craft market, several hotels, large shops and banks and a crocodile pool! We've helped one of the large families here with housing, education, and health care. We might as well drop in for a brew of attaya (green tea). The children are anxious to show us their school reports and parents smile proudly ... while we're nearby we'll pop along to the Capital city, Banjul, and visit the hospital. We need to drop off supplies you've donated - medicines, bandages, catheters and a ream of computer paper.
Where next? Another taxi ride to see one of the schools we help in a suburb of Serrekunda. We drive across Denton Bridge which carries us across Oyster Creek, a wonderful place for bird watching, and eventually turn off the blacktop road onto a series of sand tracks which lead us to Bundung, where the school is. Here we have contributed to the running costs, bought paint, supplied school gates - numerous items which you've contributed to. The children greet us and sing! We tell a story but refrain from song!
Back in the taxi - one of the yellow Mercedes which transport everything from people to goats and chickens and sheets of corrugated iron and ... everything that requires transporting, and mostly at the same time! Off again, back on the main road, past Abuko nature reserve on the right - must find time to visit one day - and Lamin Lodge Hotel on the left, on the bank of the mighty River Gambia, through Lamin village and turn left by the Taxi Centre on the road to Mandinari. We pass the Lower Basic School which has received a couple of dozen dictionaries given by you and carried free by Thomas Cook, plus a locally purchased sack of rice which the head teacher cooks so the children start the day with happy tummies - and stop outside the village clinic. We've had a long and happy relationship with this place. You'll remember helping to provide a clean water supply? See, there's the tap! This time we're bringing supplies for the medicine cupboard - stacks of paracetamol (for treatment of malaria) and rolls of bandages and a blood-pressure monitor.
We also pay a quick visit to the nursery school next to the clinic and check that funds we donated last trip have been put to good use. More attaya, then a quick round of visits to friends GOES has helped over the years - school fees paid for children and adults (mainly women who missed out on formal education, house repairs funded - if cement is added to the home-made building blocks it can resist water damage for a much longer time. So many people here want us to stay and chat and drink attaya and share a meal that we promise to return in a couple of days and stay longer.
Time to head back to the hotel in Kotu. Our driver, a long-time friend, mentions that his wife is preparing the evening meal and perhaps ... and the children would like to read to us? Of course - you don't mind, do you? You'll be welcome!
It's much later when we return to the hotel and sit by the pool watching the bats chasing mosquitoes across the night sky. Hope you enjoyed the journey? What's that? Mandinari seems very like Malinding in the story books? I couldn't possibly comment!