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13 November 2014

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You are in: Leicester > People > Your Stories > A Gambian Promise

Sharon Jervis with some of the pupils

Sharon Jervis with some of the pupils

A Gambian Promise

Find out how money raised locally by a Leicestershire woman is helping over 400 children in the Gambia after a holiday that changed her life forever.

Have you ever had a life changing moment or experienced something that affected you forever?

Or have you ever felt that you could make a difference to someone else's life?
That's exactly what happen to an artist living in Leicestershire a few years ago.

This is the remarkable story of woman from Leicestershire who went on holiday to the Gambia and ended up looking after a nursery school for 400 children.

The trip to Africa changed Sharon Jervis's life forever.

After visiting a nursery school in a village about 40 kilometres from Banjul, Sharon, who lives near Market Harborough, came home determined to help with the running of it which is called Joyce's International Nursery School.

BBC Leicester's Bridget Blair went to Africa to see Sharon's work for herself.

Gambian children

Happy Faces

Listen: Gambian Promise

Now a few years later Sharon is now responsible for funding the education of over 400 children from 3 to 8 years-old and she's not just feeding their minds.

Sharon explains how she got involved:

"When I went on this holiday with the Gambia Experience, I never, ever, would have dreamt I would come back with a school, and a responsibility for the school which I know will be a life-long passion.

"The young wildlife guide that we had told me a story about his sister who worked at a nursery school and there was an old lady there who'd set -up the school ten years previously. So we decided to drop by and meet the school.

"It was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had really. It was three tatty little rooms.

"There were all these little children and they had nothing and I mean nothing.

"It was abject poverty, but gorgeous little children with happy little faces. I couldn't turn my back on it.  It seemed so wrong that we have so much and they have so little."

She raised £600 through a raffle which she organised when she got back. With this money she formed a new charity called the Gambian Children Fund.

One of the first things she did was to go back and build a toilet for the children to use, and provide food during term-term.

Sharon Jervis

Sharon Jervis helps to run the school

Following in the Footsteps

Sharon says at the start education wasn't a priority. Just providing them with somewhere safe for them to be.

"We decided we wanted to give them something to eat so there would be a basic rice meal."

"We thought at the beginning we could address the educational needs in time."

Eileen Newlands is a friend of Sharon. She was inspired to go and volunteer at the school.

She spoke to BBC Leicester's Ben Jackson about her experiences.

Listen: Interview with Eileen Newlands

She took a whole year off to help out.

Pupils from Joyce's International Nursery School

Joyce's International Nursery

Culture Shock

"It was very strange. It's a completely different culture but I felt at home almost straight away.

"One of the main reasons to going was we were lucky enough to get money to build three classrooms and it would need managing.

"I also helped paint the school which had the children in hysterics because women just don't do that there.

"I would love to have stayed on and do some more.

"They sit at desks, the teachers have blackboards it's just been miraculous."

last updated: 22/12/2008 at 16:32
created: 22/12/2008

You are in: Leicester > People > Your Stories > A Gambian Promise

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