I’ve just returned from the Gambia. Yet again.
This time I’ve just been for a week – not long enough really, but I had enough time to meet up with those of my volunteer friends who are still there, and enjoy a couple of days on the unspoilt beaches south of the capital, down towards the border with Senegal.
My visit was made at short notice following a chance conversation with someone from my home area who has been working with another educational charity at Madina Salaam in the Gambia and who was home for a few weeks over Christmas, prior to returning in January. We were comparing notes and he asked what I was doing, to which I responded that I was now looking to volunteer again, but added that “of course it won’t be Gambia as VSO are in the process of closing down operations there after nearly fifty years”. My friend replied that perhaps I might be interested in a small Norwegian charity who run an educational project not far from where I was working last year, as he knew they were looking for some assistance, so ten days later, following conversations with their CEO, I flew out on a tourist jet to visit the project, see what they were doing, and let them see me.
The project is based at Nema Kunku, on the outskirts of the Kombos and the aim is “to inspire and educate children and young adults about the processes that allow a seed to be planted, and how this seed can be turned into a money making business using alternative technologies and sustainable methods”. The site is run on solar power and equipped with solar ovens and bio gas generators and the youngsters are taught about deforestation, and the need for sustainability.
At present a small staff heading by Kelly, a very energetic lady from the Netherlands who has lived in the Gambia for sixteen years, run a small farm growing a variety of horticultural crops with some livestock (pigs, ducks, rabbits) and also bees. MyFarm is open every day for drop in visitors and runs regular training courses on site, but has also recently acquired an old fire engine which has been repainted green and is now to tour the country advertising the project with a team of mobile trainers who are presently being recruited to run training sessions in the villages. In addition there is a small library equipped with a number of tablet computers on which the younger children can learn through play, and a new classroom with laptop computers on which older children can be taught the basics of IT. One of the most frequent practical classes is a soap making course where trainees are shown how to make soap, lip balm and body lotion from raw ingredients and then taken out with their products to the market in Banjul to acquire selling skills.
I had a very interesting two days there but decided on my return that this was perhaps not the right project for me at this time although I have said I may be available to go back next Spring if I can help by undertaking a short term project of two or three months. If however any readers would like to know more about these opportunities, click here for further details and contacts at MyFarm.
Having dried my aching joints out in the 30° heat of Gambia, I flew back into Manchester on Wednesday evening to find the temperature was just above zero, with heavy rain and strong winds on the motorway as I drove back to Yorkshire.
Perhaps I should have stayed in Nema Kunku after all!