Team Gambia’s Lucky Seven

Adventurous students from Solihull Sixth Form College have just returned from a life-enhancing trip to The Gambia, having raised over £11,000 this year, with money still coming in. It was the seventh year that the College have taken this trip and more than £60,000 has been raised in that time.

Team Gambia

A group of 30 students joined the College’s Team Gambia project back in February and since then have been fundraising for the Abuko Nursery and Lower Basic School, near Banjul. They had a target to raise £400 each and through cake sales, car boot sales, charity quizzes, sky dives and sponsored climbs, all exceeded that goal. Their efforts culminated in a week-long trip to The Gambia in mid-November, where they got to see how the money they have been raising is being put to use.

While in The Gambia, the students spent every morning at the school and taught the children (aged 4 to 6) in small groups. Many of the activities that the students undertook with the children were active and visual, such as singing, colouring, word and picture matching and there were lots of outdoor fun and games too. The Gambian children are used to rote learning in very large classes, so this more personalised attention was a rare treat for them.

Student Simrit Bahia went on the trip and commented:

“I so enjoyed visiting the school and working with the children. It gave me a real insight into how different our lives are.”

Fellow Team Gambia member Erin Hitchcock added:

“Seeing all of the hard work we’d done in the build up to the trip paying off was amazing. The children were so happy and the refurbishments had already begun before we left. It was an experience I will never forget.”

Student Evan Bradbury reflected:

“Learning about the Gambian culture and seeing the incredibly different infrastructure of the country was eye-opening. I feel like our efforts have really made a difference to the children’s lives and it makes me very happy to have been a part of it.”

Solihull Sixth Form College joined this venture, started by Hamstead Hall School in Handsworth Wood, in 2013 and the two organisations have worked together since then to fundraise and build the nursery school in The Gambia from the ground up, so that children in this very deprived region can get an education.

Vice Principal Janice Hamilton commented:

“I’m proud of the work we have done over the last seven years. Every trip to The Gambia is a rewarding experience. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students to experience another culture and help children who have not had the same life chances they have been fortunate to have. They develop valuable team-work and leadership skills from being part of this project and I see how they grow in confidence, whilst also really helping the children at the school.

“The students also worked really hard in the build-up to the trip, raising money for the nursery and I’m really proud of their efforts. All the money we have raised in the last seven years, more than £60,000 in total, benefits the Abuko Nursery School and community. Since we joined the project, we have funded the building of six classrooms. As the school has a waiting list, this means we have helped to ensure more children can get a life-changing education and it is humbling to think that we have played a small part in improving their lives. This year we have focused specifically on improving the water and sanitation facilities.”

As well as working at the school, there was time for the students to experience more of the local environment and culture. They visited the mangrove swamps, the Bijalo monkey sanctuary, bartered at Serrakunda fish and textiles market and visited the National Assembly building in Banjul.

25 November 2019