Julia Plummer - March 2011
I had the chance to visit The Gambia with 'The Seedling for Christ' Charity on the March 2011 trip and I am really pleased that I made the decision to go. It truly is an experience that I will never forget and one that I will hopefully get to repeat again several times. I would reccomend that anyone who gets the opportunity to go should grab it with both hands, as it is a real privilege and a life changing experience. The Gambia is such a welcoming country and the people are some of the happiest, friendliest, kindest people you could ever wish to meet. Although they are so poor, they always have smiles on their faces and are more than happy to share the little that they have with you.
Each morning we would leave the hotel and either walk or catch a 'bush taxi'. This is a mini bus that would never pass an English MOT, crammed to the brim with people and mostly held together with string and gaffa tape. Most of our days were spent at the Seedlings School with the children, who love to sit and hold your hand, cuddle you or simply touch your skin. They also love braiding your hair and singing for you. These children are so happy and I only heard 1 child cry during my whole stay. We gave out pens, pencils hair bands, jewellery and skipping ropes that we had brough from home and they were so delighted with their gifts they would run off to show their friends what they had. These children really do have 'nothing' and such a small gesture from us really does mean so much to them.
I also visited compounds in 'Kotu' near to the school which were built on and around a rubbish dump. It's hard to believe that people actually live there, side by side with roaming dogs and pigs and spend their time walking barefoot through the rubbish (including broken glass and rotting food) to try and find anything of value that they can then sell to survive. It truly makes you think how lucky we are living in England, yet we still complain far more than any of these people!
The builders in our group spent their days working very hard at Serrekunda Clinic, which although is not the main hospital still serves over 179,000 people. There was little sanitation or supplies, needles discarded on the floor in cardboard boxes, walls that were peeling and needed painting, toilets overflowing, a gable end that needed blocking up and lines and lines of people waiting to be seen. Here I met a 2day old baby, sat with her mother waiting to be seen in the boiling heat and a set of twins that were seriously ill lying limply in their mothers arms at just 18 months old, It was truly upsetting! But with all the hard work put in by the group, it was a slightly nicer place by the end of our time. The gable end has now been blocked up to stop the rain coming in during the wet season, a kitchen that has been especially built with 3 cookers so that meals can be made for the people attending the clinic and the walls have been cleaned and painted too.
Serrekunda market was a real eye-opener, with all the noises and smells. We had a local guy showing us around, as it is such a huge place with so much to see.Taxi's are everywhere beeping their horns, woman carrying their shopping on their heads, shopkeepers trying to sell you their goods, children running next to you shouting 'toubob' and everyone talking to you asking you where you are from. The smells of food cooking, workmen hammering/digging, the noise of people going about their daily lives, people selling local produce and fish and all the flies! (I don't think that Gambians worry about sell by dates and it is enough to put you off eating fresh fish for a while!) but it really is a true Gambian experience with all the hustle and bustle.
The trip has really changed my life and I saw some truly amazing things. It makes me appreciate what I have here in the U.K. Gambians are such loving, happy people yet they own very little. Yet here we moan and complain about trivial things and feel we must own the latest material possesions. Gambia brought it home to me that these things really are not important! What is important is family and friendship, and I made some life long friendships during my trip. It has made me look at my life in a different way and change my opinions on a lot of things.
I want to thank Ruthy and Seedlings from the bottom of my heart for all the amazing hard work and dedication that she puts in and for allowing me to experience such a wonderful trip. I am hoping to continue fundraising to help both the school and the people of Gambia and I really can not wait to return again in the close future.
Snippets from a diary - Geoff and Judy Musselwhite - December 2010
That morning we took ‘taxi’s’ from the front of the hotel to ‘Seedlings’ school, situated in Manjai, about 3 miles from our hotel. Not one of them would have passed an MOT test! In fact some were so old, rusty and falling to bits that we were surprised they would even start. Flat out maximum speed was no more than 20/25 mph. but on bumpy, dirt roads we did not want to go any faster! As we drove through those unmade streets we experienced our first of many culture shocks. We have been to Africa several times before ( South Africa and Kenya ) and experienced poverty first hand but here it took another dimension. In those other countries ‘the poor’ are, in the main, kept away from the main tourist centres. Here in the Gambia it is all around you. Tumbledown, ramshackle shacks fronting the roads, with compounds behind, housing families up to 40/50 in number. Abject poverty was total wherever we drove. Dust, dirt, heat and nowhere to go for the thousands who live here. No work, no hope.
We visited Serrakunda market. It was packed with people and stretched over several acres. Masses of people selling masses of different things (mostly second hand). The meat and fish markets were a battle with the flies! The smell was almost overpowering and we didn’t think they worried too much about “sell by” dates!
Again, the hospital was a culture shock – little glass in the windows, very limited sanitation, crumbling walls and paintwork and lines of people waiting to be treated. We spoke to nurses but there did not seem enough of them and they were overworked.
Much time was spent praying for healing for the many that were sick or incapacitated. The average life span here is only 53 years and the average weekly wage for a man who can get work is £6. It was still extremely hot and humid. On returning to the hotel on day 4 Judy was approached by one of the gardeners at the hotel who had observed us at our morning worship sessions and asked her how he could become a Christian. His name was Gimme (pronounced Jimmy) and for the remainder of our stay in the Gambia we “adopted” him, giving him a bible and spending time with him. The gardeners were not paid – they lived on tips from guests, carrying their luggage etc. etc. We were hesitant about this relationship to start with but it soon became apparent that he was genuine in his intentions and wanted Christian fellowship in a country that is predominantly Moslem.
We loaded the roofs of our two mini buses with food and supplies and set off just after 7am. Within a short time we were on unmade dirt roads, passing through numerous poor villages. We were stopped by both police and soldiers on numerous occasions. They wanted to know what we were doing and what we were carrying. The drivers slipped them 20 dalasi (about 50p) and we were allowed to carry on. Tired, dusty and thirsty we reached our destination, Tendaba, around mid day. Situated by the Gambia River the lodge we were staying at provided even more basic accommodation than in Kotu but it was situated in a lovely setting. The village however, was dusty, dirty and poverty stricken. We contacted the local head man (the Imam) and that evening provided rice and money to purchase a goat so that we could join the villagers in a “feast”. They were so welcoming and we spent several hours with them, ending up singing songs and hymns outside of their Mosque!
A trip that was a tremendous experience, satisfying and again showing that in this world there are millions of people in need – far worse off than ourselves, deserving of far more than they will ever receive.
My visit to Gambia - Ali Powell - March 2009
I suggest if you ever have the opportunity and privilege to visit Gambia then do. Its such a welcoming country though very poor, its rich in love, friendship and kindness. The people have so little bit want to give so much, which they do in their smiles and attitude [nice to be nice].
I visited Serrekunda Hospital and was shocked by the lack of medical provision, privacy. 4 kidney dishes, a metal bin and fold up curtain and that was the waiting and dressing area. I discovered that this hospital helps thousands of people and its not the main hospital. It was in need of running water, a place to see patients privately and a complete paint job. The work team of Seedlings for Christ did a fantastic job in a very short time, installing water systems and a new sink, built a new room for dressings and seeing patients privately, a new office, hung metal gates to improve security, loads of cleaning, painting and decorating, all of which was done while the hospital continued see the patients. There is still lots more work at Serrekunda hospital but an amazing amount was done in such a limited time!
I think one of my loveliest points was when visited a compound in Kotu which is built on and around a rubbish dump. Children ran, threw the rubbish [ glass,cans, metal etc, ] all barefooted. People actually live there. I couldn’t believe my eyes and then knew why God had directed me here. The children have nothing but continually smile and want to hold hands with you. Pigs, goats, dogs are also roaming on this dump so the risk of infection is so high. I had the privilege of putting a pair of second hand shoes on little girls feet and I prayed I could clothe all the children ’’ Lord I’m not worthy to tie the straps of your sandals but please let me place shoes upon your children’s feet’’.
I kept thinking I have nothing to moan about in England. Me, me, me that’s what I hear, stretched out little hands for sweets, pencils, bracelets, so many hands but not enough to give everyone of them.
The children loved to be hugged, hold hands and especially play with my hair or stroke my skin. Some children cried because they had not seen a white person before, others ran after us shouting ‘’toubob’’ meaning white man. ]
I met a young girl called Madeleine after church and she asked me to sponsor her. I met her brother and mother. Madeline is 10 yrs old this year and wants to be a dr. The people of Gambia want to learn but its hard for them when they are having to think where their next meal is coming from. I felt so safe in Gambia and happy, though frustrated at times for not doing/giving more.
We visited Tendaba and remote villages that rarely sees outsiders. One village is mostly surrounded by water. The school was in poor disrepair. One part has no roof the other half had. So no school in the rainy season. Very limited resources but again sheer jubilance at our arrival, dancing, singing playing music from a plastic oil container [hitting it with sticks!] Babies on mothers backs and on children’s backs.
Gambia is amazing. I love the country and it people and cant wait to return.
A huge thank you to Ruthy, Josh, Ted, Beth and all the fellow seedlings who helped me feel so welcome. Muriel without you talking to me about your experiences in Gambia 08. I wouldn’t of had such a an experience. My way of thinking has changed and my way of praying. I know now that I am praying to God and He listens to each and everyone of us if we talk to Him. He listens and answers.
God Bless. Ali
Thoughts and Memories by Judith - March 2008
If you were going to the Gambia for a fortnight what would you expect? Bright sunshine, baking heat, beautiful sandy beaches, smiling faces, good fresh food, relaxation and the bright colours, bustle and energy of African culture all around you...the smiling coast...?
It's a skinny country, arranged along the banks of the River Gambia. It was dry and dusty in March. The paddy fields were empty, waiting for the rains. The mangoes weren't yet ripe. Only well tended plots were green.
24 people went as a Charity group to visit this amazing country and returned having had their lives challenged and changed. This was no holiday.
The group age ranged from teens to seventies, with gifts in construction, nursing, teaching, evangelism, administration, management, the sewing of bean bags and bartering, to name just a few.
Each one had an important role to play. This was because the trip had a huge agenda.
The building team got going at 7.30 on the first morning – setting off to Badou's house where foundations had been dug and 1,000 concrete blocks made by hand in advance of their arrival. In 3 days they had built an extension to the little house on a compound in Serrakunda. After returning from a trip up river they finished their work and celebrated in style with the family and their friends.
We took 80 large charity bags full of donated items from the UK (such as clothes, pens, blankets, medicines, spectacles, shoes, toys ...) and supplemented them with food, tools, cooking equipment and practical items bought in the local markets. Some went to homes in the Kotu area – block huts with tin roofs built on and around a rubbish dump. The Queen Victoria Hospital in Banjul, and clinics at Serrakunda and near Tendaba were visited. The juvenile and men's prisons in Banjul received similar gifts, plus money to help provide a facility for rehabilitation training in carpentry, tailoring and masonry.
A number of rural villages near Tendaba were visited and the gifts were given out under the shade of the meeting tree, to the sound of upturned tin bowls used as drums, and the laughter and dancing of the women and children (who threw out a scarf to members of our party so that they would join in the fun for a few moments before passing it on to another dancer!). As the men gathered, and the chief came to sit under the tree, Ruth would present the gifts, and a bible. Many heard about the love of Jesus Christ, who motivated the group, and many in the UK who provided charity items, to share their concern and love for those struggling to cope in Gambia. She would ask permission to pray for sick people and the response was always gracious and respectful in every way.
At the Pentecostal Church which the group has links with bibles were presented and ministry carried out locally. One of the party was baptised in the sea alongside four African Christians. We benefited hugely from the time shared with members of the family of God in the Gambia. They gave to us more than we ever could them.
D. Harris International School is in Kotu. The Nursery and Primary classrooms were painted (quite an experience to mix up lime with water and watch the cauldron bubble), locks fitted and shelves installed. The sponsorship programme was administered and extended, with letters and pictures collected from the children. This was just the beginning - the Minister of Education was approached and the need for a more adequate school facility in this area was recognised. There are now plans to look for land to build a Mission School. Quite some commitment.
So what now? Back to the UK and normal life resumes? Not many people can go on a trip like this and not find their lives changed just a little bit. New construction projects are being planned and many people are keen to encourage and equip the Christians in Gambia as they carry out God's work day by day. So the next trip out is being thought out ... perhaps you would like to join the team?
Senses by Jojo - December 2006
As I walked through the market on Monday I shut my eyes, breathed in the smells and aromas and let all the different noises ring in my ears.
There was a strong smell of chicken cooking and a smell of fire mingled in with the pungent smell of African Men. I forget how strong this smell is while I’m away but it hits me like a 10 tonne truck as soon as I step foot in the door at Banjul Airport. There was the sound of horns blowing BEEP BEEP BEEEEP!!!! There was the sound of people shouting “Boy, Essama” “Larakunda Larakunda” and the background noise of people chatting and going about their daily business. Workmen were hammering and drilling, hundreds of cars, a crash as one taxi rolls backwards after forgetting to put his handbrake on. They are shouting at each other in a language I don’t understand but human nature tells me they are cross!
The Gambia is never silent. Not even at night.
Serrekunda market stays alive for most of the night with little cafes and larger night clubs giving people places to meet. Other small groups of people huddle around fires chatting till late into the night. Out of the more built up areas like the villages and down to the beach when the music eventually finishes and the drums stop banging there’s just an overwhelming sound of insects. Grasshoppers and crickets bring the night to life. I love listening to it. It’s so loud. Small lights flash in the grasslands and marshes, fireflies. I stop in the darkness, the only light given off by the moon. I could easily stand still in the darkness for hours, forgetting where I was. Forgetting the troubles of home, the stresses, the problems the orange glow of street lights!
Gambia is a place of life 24 hours a day. It never sleeps.