A visit to a West African school supported by a Bognor Regis charity was the experience of a lifetime for one intrepid traveller.
Observer columnist Laura Cartledge jetted off to The Gambia last week for a four-day trip, organised by The Gambia Experience.
During the trip Laura had the chance to visit a school built and supported by Bognor Regis charity Nyodema.
When she arrived at the school, in Dairuharu, one of the districts in Gambia’s second-largest town Brikama, everyone made sure Laura was made to feel at home.
She said: “Approaching Dairuharu down a dusty, bumpy track, it was hard to know what to expect, but it was exactly how a primary school should be. Vibrant, energetic and brimming with smile.
“We were given such a warm welcome that before I knew it, I found myself sitting behind one of the little school desks, surrounded by children.
“They chatted away excitedly about football and were very curious about my camera, pointing to it and then themselves before posing.”
Laura was shown pictures of how the school used to look before Nyodema, working in partnership with another charity, Karmic Angels, got to work.
“It has clearly been such a group effort and I spoke to Louis Gomez from Karmic Angels who told me the past two years have been hard work, but completely amazing,” said Laura.
“And there is still a way to go with plans to build another classroom and toilets in the pipeline. Space that will be put to good use if the number of students I saw is anything to go by,” added Laura.
Since the building was finished in April this year, Nyodema has also provided desks, benches and a blackboard for the classroom and desks and chairs for the teachers and the headmistress.
Laura said: “It stunned me the Gambian Ministry of Education only works with schools for children aged over seven, and schools for those under that age are private schools usually funded by charities.
“This really showed what can be done when people put their hearts, souls and pockets into a good cause. Especially if you consider how vital early education is.”
Laura’s guide on the trip, Mucki, had also seen the work of Nyodema first-hand when he performed at the charity’s annual world music festival. Music from across the globe in Aldwick will help raise money for children in The Gambia.
An evening with the Nyodema World Community choir and the Nyodema drummers is being held on Saturday. The event, which starts at 7pm, will be in Aldwick Baptist Church in Gossamer Lane.
Entrance is free, but you will be asked to make a donation.
Laura’s column n Page 21