Week ending 30th March
We spent time on
Monday going to see the employers who were kind enough to help
with work experience placements for our 3rd Year
Skills Students. We have nearly 30 students working in the area
within either local restaurants, tourism outlets or tailoring
shops. The feedback was generally very good with some employers
committing to take students on permanently after school finishes
in the summer. We also met some of the previous year’s students
who were still with some of these businesses. Great to see this!
The picture shows Omar
Bah working within a local tailor shop. His employer proudly
showed us the high quality pockets on trousers that Omar could
turn out. We already knew of his skills since he’d made many of
the school uniform trousers in the centre.
The crew from the
vaccination unit to Stamp out Polio in Africa were back for
another set of vaccinations to the nursery children.
We had a visit from Dave and Mara Doyle
from Southend, who brought loads of resources for us. Thanks to
them for their continuing generosity. The picture shows them
with Sendeng and Helen, our wonderful Sunrise Office staff.
Mr Mbye, our new Education Director,
worked with Tony Bound to interview for a new Arts and Crafts
teacher. The candidates had to do a theory and practical lesson
with the Skills Students as well as a written test and formal
interview. A very thorough process for them. We are working to
make an offer with employment contracts now. These kind of HR
processes are all essential parts of running the office for
Helen, even in The Gambia.
Week ending 23rd March
The big event this week was the Nursery children's trip to the
Bijilo Forest Monkey Park. This all began with the teachers
explaining about calm behaviour and how to treat the wild life.
The teachers came to school on Sunday evening to make the picnic
for the children. This took several hours but made sure that
they got out first thing on Monday morning.
The bus to the park was full, but not overloaded by Gambian
standards. All the teachers and helpers went with the children
on this bus.
There were many monkeys (Green Vervet and Red Colobus) in the
park and the children were very respectful, even chanting “Good
morning Mr Monkey” on one occasion! Many of the hundreds of
Gambian birds could be seen when the children kept quiet.
all had a lovely picnic on the beach, sheltering under the shade
of some tall trees near Kololi Beach Club Hotel and then played
in the surf.
The children were quite cautious and subdued before lunch but
when recharged with Nan Buru, Chicken, Cake and Wonjo juice they
went beserk. Throwing themselves into the sea in various
clothing they were clearly thrilled with the whole experience.
Some had never seen the ocean (Atlantic), let alone played in it
the building front, we are now up to the ceiling level of the
ground floor, having added concrete lintels to the tops of the
windows. One of the pictures shows the builders foreman, Aboulie
Darboe at the top of the stairs in the Lower Basic School.
Week ending 16th March
As we walk
through the gates in the morning we see three sunrises at once -
the sun, our sign and our new buildings.
one of the third year students in skills currently
on work placement at a local restaurant, 2 Rays, near
Senegambia. She says her European cooking skills are improving
go to all the owners of businesses who
have taken 27 third year students on work placement.
in knitting is growing - many Gambian students learn to knit at
Upper Basic school but it seems that the only stitch used in The
Gambia is "knit". So some first year students have learnt to
"purl" and are making samples of stocking stitch, moss stitch
step is to help them learn to read simple patterns so that they
can make small items like pencil cases and bags, to sell at Open
Days. Any volunteers?
Thursday it was Cookery practical for first year Skills students
- Spaghetti Bolognese!
Susan, Kumba and Mary prepared spiced beans and tapalapa for
food at break.
We had a
visit from Jill and Ray Perkins, and Sam, who sponsor Sirra.
Sirra and her Aunt came to the Sunrise office from her Lower
Basic school nearby, so that they could meet for the first
time. Ray and Jill toured Sunrise and had their picture taken
Week ending 9th March
On Monday we said "au revoir"
to Dawn and Paul, Ian having left last Thursday. In recent
weeks, with 4 trustees and 2 advisors on site every day, a great
deal has been learned and a great deal of hard thinking and
debate has gone on - especially over evening meals. (Somehow
long-term planning is difficult during day to day life at
Sunrise! ) One of Ian's "smaller" tasks was setting up the new
computer donated for the teachers' use. Here he is, trying to
explain that it isn't for the Nursery pupils!
As Ian, Dawn and Paul return
to their "other" lives in the UK, we thank them all and look
forward to their return to The Gambia and Sunrise before too
Our four Lincolnshire friends
returned for a final visit; Garth arranging some further
sponsorship and Jamie offering to help organise cookery
equipment donations from the UK. By now they should be safely
at home, with happy memories, we hope.
On Thursday Year 2 Skills
students cooked ladyfish in their practical lesson - deep-frying
chips and battered fish over charcoal stoves.
special as Mr Nurudeen Mbye, our new Education Director,
arrived. He immediately started learning as much as possible
about GETS and Sunrise, and had his photo taken for the blog!
At break he
tested the quality of the cooking and then spoke briefly to the
Skills students. We welcome him and wish him a long, happy and
fruitful association with GETS at Sunrise.
Week ending 2nd March
Late last week, I spotted Mrs Cham doing a Maths
practical lesson with her class who had to pick up 10 stones and
count them out into her hand. Because I was hovering with the
camera I had to receive the stones too!
Monday afternoon we had the very sad news that
Mrs Cham's younger sister had died earlier in the day after a
long, debilitating illness. Fatou is naturally distraught and
the thoughts of all the staff, students and Trustees are with
her and her family.
Our first visitors this
week were Barry and Barbara Young from Cheshire who currently
administer their own Charity in Tanzania. They are now
reviewing their involvement in the country and having viewed our
website and liked what they saw, they came to see what we are
doing at Sunrise.
There was also a visit to
the aptly named 'Timbooktoo' - the place for school text
books - to collect our pre-ordered text books for the
Lower Basic School. These Grade 1 English, Maths and Integrated
Studies books cover the first year of the Gambia Basic Education
Whilst we were there,
Paul, the GETS treasurer, purchased for the Charity a real treat
- a copy of the Gambian Taxation Act 2004! In fairness, it is
the current edition.
Mama and Dawn doing singing games
with Class 1 under the shade of a tree.
Steve planted a
couple of mango trees, with Abdoulie, one of our watchmen,
helping. The watchmen are
watering our new mango trees every day so we hope they will
Kevin and Sue Storr were staying in the same
hotel as Garth Isaac and after hearing his enthusiastic tales of all that is
happening here, decided to visit Sunrise. Whilst here they
decided to sponsor the education of one of our nursery girls who
will be going to our new Lower Basic School in September.
Here they are with Dawn, our Sponsorship
Secretary, watched by another interested nursery girl! Although
our fees are far lower than other private schools in the Gambia,
many parents have great difficulty in affording our fees of
around £60 a year - which is less than the actual cost of their
education. We are especially keen that the children who
have been through our nursery school continue at our new Lower
Basic School. So if you, or anyone you know would
like to help these children please contact
Another visitor was Vicky Champion who
was interested to see what opportunities there were for
volunteers at Sunrise.
The builders have been busy too, after a
quiet spell. The sound of the 'Compactor' is deafening and the
vibration through the ground unnerving!
Now we have a floor-
Then the first wall starts to
Week ending 24th February
Before anything else I
need to correct an important omission from earlier publicity.
The Charity wishes to thank Jeff and Mandy Evans for their
tremendous support of, and interest in, our work in the Gambia.
Like many other unsung folks they have made a significant
contribution both to our education projects and in supporting
Skills Advisors Tony and
Erica have been working tirelessly this week to try and create
some order and structure to the vocational elements of the
skills curriculums. Tony has been concentrating on cookery, not
surprising as he has international experience as a chef! I
don't think doing an inventory of pots and pans is what he had
in mind though when he agreed to be a Skills Advisor. Their
work is laborious and involves a lot of paperwork and
pencil-sucking, but it is incredibly important to the viability
of the Skills Centre and consequently to our long term vision
The really significant
event this week is the decision to appoint Mr Nurudeen Mbye as
our new Education Director. Subject to terms and conditions
being agreed he will join the Centre at the beginning of April.
He is currently Principal of a nearby Skills Centre and is
young, ambitious, approachable and enthusiastic.
many visitors this week were four guys from Lincolnshire, Garth,
Jamie, Richard and Doug, visiting on behalf of their pal Jay
Peck, who had made a generous donation to the Charity. At
Garth's suggestion we had prepared a greeting to Jay on the
nursery blackboard and took a group photo of the guys, the
children and the message to take back to show Jay.
is a heartfelt one from all the staff and students at Sunrise
and, of course, from the trustees. Although this was done
specifically for Jay it reflects our grateful thanks to all
donors - named and anonymous.
Friday was Ebbeh day!
Below is a photo of just one of the
many, many pots of Ebbeh prepared by the skills students
The centre was open to all comers, young
and not so young, with food and drink items on sale from D5
(10p). The Wonjo juice, made from Sorrel apparently, was
The event started at noon - with an
obligatory intermission for prayers and an unplanned one because
of a power cut and faulty generator - and eating, drinking and
dancing continued until the food ran out and the music (very
loud!) came to an end.
It was great to see a crowd of
enthusiastic dancers enjoying their own cultural dances rather
than pop music!
A good time was had by all!
You will have noticed that
Garijam's scarf has not featured in the last 3 blogs - she has
discovered an interest in dressmaking!
The Lower Basic School is
now up above ground and fenced in for Health &Safety reasons.
Soon we will have the whole concrete raft completed. I shall
watch the progress avidly from afar!
Finally, as this is likely
to be my last blog before returning home I would like to thank
all the folks out here, residents and itinerants, who have made
my stay so enjoyable. It has been very busy but made worthwhile
by the warmth of the sun - I must have had my 2012 annual
vitamin D intake already - but more importantly, by the warmth
of the staff, the students and Gambians in general that I have
Bei benen yon Sunrise!
Monday Mr Ali Bah and Ian went in Helen's car to visit some of
the third year Skills students who are out on 'placements' -
work experience. It was most gratifying to hear that all the
students visited were attending every day, were punctual (even
the habitual late-comers to school) and appeared keen to make an
impression on their respective employer, which they had all done
We were also visited on
Monday by Tony and Vicki Longton and their daughter Sophie. Mrs
L works in an Exclusion Centre in the UK and Sophie is a
Psychologist working with 'troubled' children - both were
fascinated to see Sunrise and our achievements. So much so that
Sophie came back on Thursday to spend some time with a few of
the Nursery children with word games.
A major event this week
was the 2-day interview process on Tuesday and Wednesday
mornings to select a new Education Director. The formal
interviews on Wednesday included a flying visit from Lamin
Ceesay, chairman of the Bakoteh Community Council Education
Committee. The outcome of the interviews was most encouraging
although a final decision could not be reached: there were two
very good candidates that the panel could not in fairness
separate. Both have been invited back independently to meet and
talk to all the Gambian staff. The panel were all 'toubabs' and
it was felt that feedback from staff would highlight any
cultural aspects not considered by the panel and, equally
important, give the staff an opportunity to be involved.
We are pleased to report
that some of the outstanding Bantaba work has been (almost)
completed. Both the cookery area and the Batik area now have
integrated blackboards to enable the teachers to present
important facts and data at the workplace rather than in the
classroom. The blackboard is white because the stucco finish,
difficult to get hold of in the Gambia and the cause of the
delay, has to dry thoroughly before the blackboard paint can be
Dawn and Paul Webster,
both Trustees, arrived on Tuesday and can be seen getting down
to work with the nursery children, after they had tidied the
store room and unpacked all the goodies that they brought over -
including the remainder of the St Margaret's mountain of wool.
There are now four of the
six trustees in the country! We shall gloat about the weather
to the two shivering ones when we speak on Skype on Sunday.
Erica Wren the second half
of the Skills Advisor team arrived on Thursday and took the
opportunity to address the Friday morning assembly - standing to
attention like a Sgt Major!
There was a blitz in Tie&Dye on Friday
to produce the uniform material for London Corner Nursery
school, which is also administered by Helen.
Next week our skills students will
be busy cutting out and sewing the uniforms, ready for the
London Corner pupils to wear at the celebration parade for
The building work is progressing well
and we shall soon have the floor: walls will then go up rapidly.
Tony Bound who is one of the
charity’s two Skills advisors, joined us on Monday for 9 weeks.
Tony, Helen and I, together with a representative of the Bakoteh
Community Committee, will be interviewing 5 candidates for the
vacant post of Education Director on Tuesday and Wednesday next
week. Tony has been hard at work shortlisting the original 14
A nursery highlight for me was the
children having a music lesson i.e. singing and dancing in the
open air – uplifting!
Skills students have in the past done
some rug making using rags, which I remember doing as a child
myself. Interest has been re-kindled and here you can see a
student preparing the rag segments, which are much more
colourful than the ones I recall.
More wool arrived this week and is being
put to good use. Maria Cham has made crocheted a lovely child’s
hat, which I have purchased for my youngest granddaughter!
Sadly there’s no update on the scarf this week but watch this
space for a double helping next week.
Steve and Chris Humphries have been busy around the Centre too.
The ‘swimming pool’ paint worked a treat – so Steve
gets busy painting GETS on the chairs.
Chris occupies her time showing some of the brighter nursery
children how to make alphabet soup.
Which segues nicely into this week’s cooking exploits.
Usually there is a number of local women that come into the
school at morning break to sell, among other things, tapalapa
(bread) filled with spiced beans to the students. As the lady
who sells the tapalapa is currently ‘travelling’ we decided to
buy the bread (we don’t have enough ovens to bake it ourselves)
and get the Skills cooks to do the honours. It is a great
success and their spicy beans are excellent – the sausage (spam)
rolls were very, very tasty too!
Another dish that appeared was
Bean Cake, which is black-eyed beans steamed in a banana leaf
parcel until solid and served with fiery-hot palm oil.
And finally, the LBS is slowly appearing out of the ground. The
foundations are now completed and the builders are backfilling
the trenches with the mountains of spoil.
this week - apart from Tony Bound (who is one half of our team
of Skills Centre Advisors and therefore part of the family),
were Mavis Newmarch and Mike Turpin. Mavis had canvassed many of
her friends and brought a broad selection of items from our
list. Mike presented the centre with a superb collection of
artists coloured pencils. One for each of the 360 colours of the
Dennis and Angela Greenslade
also came with more gifts for
the centre. Our thanks, as always to all these generous
people whose support is invaluable.
the sewing class has been trying to design and make the most
difficult part of the graduation uniform - the mortarboard!
First attempts were very floppy but Boubacarr Diallo our
tailoring expert, is showing an almost flat finished article
using wire stiffening - the model is Amie Jaffa. The simple
obvious solution would be to use stiff card, but that doesn't
wash too well!
Wednesday there was a splendid turnout of parents who came in to
the centre to see how the first year students were progressing.
Most seemed very happy with results - and rightly so; there has
been a noticeable improvement in attainment by the students.
There has also been a noticeable improvement in parent
interest. At a recent PTA meeting very few parents appeared on
the night, although after pressure from the students more came
the next day. On Wednesday at least 90% of parents/guardians
As a slight diversion from success, one Steve of our volunteer
helpers (seen scoffing Mbahal Bonga last week) has been trying
to paint 'GETS' on the back of all our plastic chairs. He has
tried three or four different types of black paint with no
success, the best result is a grey smudge. But, thanks to
Colin, a local supplier we have acquired some swimming pool
paint that should do the trick. I wonder if we will get
students putting towels over the back of them to reserve them?
sight this just looks like four children being watched by
a teacher but is actually part of a nursery numbers lesson,
counting the number of paces along a stretch of the wall.
can see, the building work is moving apace. The first
wheelbarrow of concrete was poured on Monday and by Wednesday
after a lot of 'Messi' work, the foundations were completed.
prayer time on Friday, a fair amount of block work had been
The arrival of embroidery
needles has taken the fancy of some of the more adventurous
Finally, Garijam has been
hard at the knitting as you can see.
|Week ending 27th
This was a week
for visitors, friends both old and new. On Tuesday the
Sunrise Centre welcomed Tim and Rachael Spilsbury who were
visiting us for the first time bringing with them a suitcase
full of resources. They particularly enjoyed a visit to a
nursery class. Tim seemed to enjoy being a photographer
too! Even when the centre is particularly busy it is always
a pleasure showing new friends our work and explaining our
Helen and Ian were also pleased to
welcome Mr Ousman Touray Chairman of the local ARPC (the
ruling political party) who dropped in to discuss our
building project, plans and progress. As you can see he was
given VIP treatment.
|Thanks to the
villagers of St Margaret's At Cliffe in Kent and
their friends who donated a large amount of wool,
knitting needles and crochet hooks.
||The skills students are now
into knitting and crocheting in a big way.
High summer in the
tropics and Garijam is knitting a green scarf!
||A big cooking day on Thursday with the
skills students making Tomato Jam, which consists of the flesh
of 2.5 kilos of tomatoes, a large handful of root ginger and 2.5
kilos of sugar all boiled on a hot charcoal stove until the
right consistency is attained. It sounds simple and tastes
The Gambians are a frugal nation so the
skills students decided not to waste the bits of tomato left
over from the jam so they chose to make Mbhal Bonga, a dish
similar to pilaff using the Bonga fish.
|Chris and Steve Humphries,
regular volunteers from the midlands, thoroughly
enjoyed the honour of sampling the dish, as did the
Work on the LBS continues,
more bricks have been made and the ground prepared for the
mixing of concrete for the foundations, which starts next
In excess of 20 cubic
metres of concrete will all be mixed and poured by hand!
Week commencing 16th
One of our generous donations before Christmas was cash to
buy 32 Adult Numeracy textbooks to help teach basic Maths
skills to the students. We decided to start to use them from
the beginning of the new term. So after Paul Webster spent
some time using our new Sunrise school stamp (to clearly
mark ownership!), we launched the books onto the
unsuspecting students. In the background one of our regular
volunteers, Daniel English (who is helping us for a year),
is working with our teacher, Ali Bah to try out the new
rain, The Gambia suffers from dust storms, straight off the
Sahara. Dust is quite a problem in terms of keeping
everything clean, especially any white clothes. The picture
here shows how visibility reduces and one sensible taxi
driver using his duster (an essential tool) as an aerial for
his car radio!
other big news in the Sunrise Centre is that the Lower Basic
School building work continues, as it will up until June-ish,
when we all worry about the rains coming. The idea that you can
forecast the weather by the month will never cease to surprise
me! The builders are working to refine the foundations ready for
the important concreting processes, all man handled by local
people of course.
background there are yet more bricks under production. When you
don’t come on a lorry, this task is much, much bigger.
Bill and Oliver Teasell visited
Sunrise this week, bringing more welcome resources for the
At the start of any new
term we also have many students and parents visiting the Sunrise
office to collect cheques for school fees. All this activity
makes life a little more hectic than usual.
|Week commencing 9th January
This week you see Helen and Mrs Mendy on their way to find local
businesses that would take 3rd year students for a work
experience placement. This takes place up to the Easter Holidays
each year. Students are invited to consider the type of business
where they would like to work. Some are going to the tourist area to
work in hotels and restaurants and others to tailoring workshops.
Elsewhere in Sunrise Skills Training section
some of the students have been working with a mass of black cloth to
turn out graduation cloaks. It is traditional to wear these for the
graduation ceremony, usually hired from a tailor as we did last
year, but much more satisfying and cost effective in the long run to
make your own.
|The building work is now
well under way. Foundations have been dug out ready
to take the footings of the new buildings. The soil
in this area consists of a mixture of sand and clay.
One of the other key tasks
at this stage is to make up the blocks that are used
to build the school. Unlike in the UK, it is quite
normal to make blocks on the building site in The
Gambia using a mould, turning each one out to dry in
the hot sun.
Week commencing 2nd
In parallel with the building work we
have many other things to do. One of them is first aid
GETS is also
responsible for Training at the Dumbarton sponsored London
Corner School so asked their teachers and other staff to
join with all the Sunrise staff in attending a one day
course, given by Fiona Nelson from First Aid 4 Gambia. This
organisation organise many courses, on a charitable basis,
to raise the local level of first aid skills -
were received by all attendees.
|Although First Aid is very serious, it is clear
that all enjoyed the learning, particularly our
trial patient, Mr Ali Bah (Sunrise Skills
English and Maths Teacher)
Later in the year we
have other training planned for staff, to help broaden
skills and improve education standards within Sunrise. This
is on top of the Jolly Phonics training and Teacher Training
courses recently attended by the Nursery Teachers.