was your welcome like?
destination was the remote village of Sohm and the directions were to
drive from the Airport up the tarmac road parallel with the river to the
end of the tarmac turn right and after about 3 kilometres into the bush
you came to the village of Sohm!
precise instructions we were quite relieved to be met at the airport by
Robin and Carol Mallett of the Jersey Gambia School Trust and some of
the Gambian members of their committee. They were leading us to the village
until about a mile short we were stopped by a roadblock of about 200 adults
of the huge welcome for the Jersey volunteers
It took a
few moments to realise that this was our welcoming committee. We all got
out of our minibus and walked the rest of the way with the villagers,
several of them had drums and a lot of the children had two pieces of
wood they banged together continuously and everybody was talking, shouting
and laughing. The noise was very loud and the welcome was warm and friendly
and set the scene for the rest of our stay.
did you find there?
our arrival at what was going to be our home for a month we found the
builders frantically finishing off! They carried out the last few jobs
while we hung our Mosquito nets. The building we were occupying was the
first of the four buildings which will eventually form the Skills Centre.
of the men's dormitory
is going to be the accommodation for voluntary instructors at the centre
so it was ideal for us. We had a dormitory each for the boys and girls
and although there were no beds we each had a mattress on the floor. Each
dorm had its own toilet, shower and washbasin, ceiling fan as well as
several windows covered in insect proof netting.
was equipped with gas cooker, sink, fridge/freezer, plenty of storage
and enough tables and chairs for all of us. The village has no electricity
supply but we had a generator that we ran for several hours each day so
were able to keep the fridge fairly cool and have lights in the evening,
we also had use of an electric cement mixer throughout the project.
about food and washing?
had decided before leaving Jersey that we needed to employ local people
for the domestic work otherwise our time on the site would be reduced.
Two local ladies did our cooking, once we had shown them how to use a
gas cooker (they had never seen one before) they were brilliant.
all the local dishes for us, mainly rice with various sauces including
beef, chicken and fish, some days it included a peanut sauce and sometimes
a palm oil sauce. We enjoyed every meal though one we all found a bit
rich, (a mixture of beef and smoked fish).
We were able
to buy quite a lot of our food in the village which provided help for
the local people and gave us a good range of fresh vegetables, fruit,
groundnuts and bread as well as the occasional chicken (the dawn chorus
of cockerels decreased noticeably in volume during the month!)
We also employed
a lady to do our washing and she managed to get the building site washing
for 12 done every morning in a couple of buckets of cold water and using
a packet of Omo.
your machine get yours this white??
were always immaculate and by teatime every single item from socks up
had been ironed (to kill the local bugs) and returned to us. Our two cleaners
moved everything in our accommodation every day to reduce the rodent/insect
occupation and managed to keep the copious amounts of African dust around
the building under control.
One of the Schools trust committee members acted as our “shopper”
and came to the site every day for a discussion about menus and ingredients
with the cooks and the leaders before going off to do the shopping for
us. As men in the Gambia do not generally do shopping he frequently had
to ask advice on which shops to go to and pressed his wife into service
We had a
day watchman who helped keep the children off site during working hours
(for safety) and two night watchmen who provided a focal point for the
team last thing in the evening with their campfire and green tea ritual.
(They also patrolled the area all night).
to each other
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