Week ending 21st December
As the last week of
term begins we manage to catch a picture of our 2 new Caretakers
in their newly made uniforms (courtesy of our Sunrise Tailor and
Teaching assistant; Boubacar Diallo). Dowda Bah (pictured left)
and Saikou Singhateh (right) are helping out to improve the
state of our site and watch over security during the time when
the teachers and children have gone home. We welcome them both
to the Sunrise Centre.
As part of the wind
down towards the Christmas holidays we had a lot more sporting
activity. The Skills students from years 1 and 2 who were not out
on job experience attachments are pictured playing a vigorous
game of football. The heat and long skirts don’t seem to hold
anyone back and good skills show that both boys and girls play a
lot of football in The Gambia. The result - Year 1 win after a
penalty shootout. A tough time for the referee, Mr Ali Bah.
Later in the week I caught up with our 2
Sunrise Teaching assistants, Mbacho and
Mama, who have been running both Nursery classes this week without
the teachers, since the teacher training course starts
up at Gambia College just before the end of the school term. Both Fatou Cham (Nursery 1) and Fatou
Sanneh (Nursery 2) will have to work right through the Christmas
break in the college before returning to school in January. The
children are seen here watching an educational DVD with songs
As school nears
closure the students all enjoy a “Mufti” Day. A chance to dress
in their best outfits and compete over the brightest colours, or
so it seemed. Their uniforms abandoned, they all posed proudly
for a photograph. Some looked almost unrecognisable and very
School opens again on
Week ending 14th December
Jawo Bah (Grade
6) is a sponsored student and attends Brufut Lower Basic School.
His hard work in the last academic year resulted in his sponsor,
Paula Johnson, rewarding him with a bicycle so now it is much
easier for him to travel the long distance to school.
Our Builders have now
started work on the next phase of Sunrise Lower Basic School,
having completed most of the outstanding work on the first
phase. We have been very fortunate to gain a grant from a Trust
Fund (Allen and Nesta) to cover most of the costs of our next
phase of the work, the external parts of 4 further classrooms.
We have agreed a contract with our builder to begin this and he
hopes to complete in about 4 months, well ahead of the rainy
Our Phase 3 works,
completing the insides of the classrooms, is all that is left to
finish this area of the school. We need to raise about £8,000 to
do this. We will then need to furnish the classrooms, probably
with tables and chairs from the UK with another container.
Tessa and Ray Harding
visited Sunrise this week. They sponsor several children in the
Gambia, one is Sherif Tamba who attends Nursery 1 at Sunrise, .
He is shown pictured here with Tessa and Ray in his classroom.
In the background is our Classroom Assistant, Mbacho Jallow.
Later we also had a visit from Joanna
Mathers. She is pictured here with Mrs Sanneh's Nursery 2 class
doing a singing and action game - ducks were involved in the
actions! Helen is enjoying the entertainment too.
Joanna has started to sponsor one of our
nursery children who left school when his family couldn’t afford
the fees. The young boy, Mbye Sarr, has now come back to school.
Week ending 7th December
Last Friday between 1600-1800 we had a very
productive PTA meeting. Parents come to the meeting when they
can get away from work or from looking after the family, so the
crowd swelled during the meeting. The photo shows that by the
end of the PTA the hall was very full. Subjects covered were
many including the usual thorny things like discipline (but we
were saying how much better it was!) and also telling parents
about the charity’s plans to complete the Lower Basic School.
Parents were quite vocal and also expressed their thanks for all
that GETS were doing to help the community.
During the PTA we had
a lovely bit where Helen brought Alfusainey Bah out of the
audience, from where he was sitting with his brother. She
explained how he came to Sunrise as a very shy and timid little
boy, and had now become a star pupil, amusing and surprising us
all at times with his extrovert behaviour! Alfusainey can be
seen here standing on the front table flanked by Mrs Chow (a
very important supporter of Sunrise), Mr Jarjue (Cluster
Monitor), Mr Mbye (Education Director) and Helen. Mrs Chow has
helped us in many ways since Helen met her some years ago when
she was a head teacher at a very big local school. Mrs Chow is
very influential in the community and has great knowledge of the
education systems in The Gambia. We are very grateful for her
The hall is also used every day for
assembly, sometimes by skills students and sometimes by Nursery
and Lower Basic meeting jointly, as shown in the picture. They
were in the process of a singing and action game.
entertained some GETS supporters. Tom and Mary Iken, Erica Wren
and Soloman (friend and Taxi Driver) here with Helen. They
brought magazines that Helen was delighted to see and other
gifts. We are very grateful for all their ongoing support.
Week ending 30th November
Last week we had a new
teacher start, Mr SaidyKhan, pictured here. He is a part time
teacher who is responsible for teaching the Quaran to the Lower
Basic School children who are Muslims. He comes to the centre 3
times a week from nearby Sukuta. The lessons total about 1¾
hours each week. We also have a small number of Christian
children in the Lower Basic School who require appropriate
religious teaching when arrangements can be made. As the school
grows then Mr Saidykhan’s hours will also grow to meet the extra
We had more visitors,
this time from our “old” friends Tony Bound and Erica Wren. Tony
and Erica have helped us in many ways over a long period of
time. They came to see everyone at Sunrise again and were warmly
welcomed by everyone, particularly in Skills Training where they
now have many student friends who they have helped.
Exercise for energetic children is a very
important part of the school day. Playing with tennis balls and
footballs seems to be something that everyone enjoys, even the
teachers. Our Nursery 2 children are pictured here with their
Teacher, Mrs Sanneh, and classroom assistant, Mbacho
demonstrating their own skills to the children. It may have been
hot that day but no one seemed to notice.
Working in the office
at Sunrise can be quite a challenge for many reasons. One day I
spotted Helen trying out the security on our windows in the
office, or was she trying to escape?
Maybe it was
because the electricity supply has been only on during school
hours for about 25% of the time again this week. However when
mains power if off, the office runs on an emergency power unit
that keeps power going for most of the time from storage
batteries that are charged whenever the power is available. We
bought a new battery to upgrade this system this week.
We also had to upgrade
our internet system to 4G this week, before most people have it
in the UK! However we would have had no electricity when the
technicians visited if we hadn’t have our emergency power
systems that day.
Week ending 23rd November
Last week we were lucky enough to have help again from two of
our regular volunteers; Chris and Steve Humphries. Chris often
works with students to improve their English reading and writing
skills, supplementing the work done by our regular teacher, Mr
Bah. In the photo Chris is shown with a new student, Sally
Touray working on “Parts of the Body” using a magazine as a text
book! Both Sally and Chris had been getting on really well, as
is clear in the picture.
Steve generally helps by
painting everything that he can get his hands on. He works long
hours in the hot sun with great humour and little clothing but
plenty of sunscreen! Here he is shown painting black the new
gate in the perimeter wall that we put up earlier in the year.
Later in the week, 2 of the students were
spotted cleaning the floor in the Hall. This is one of the
punishments that teachers have to use to re-enforce the need for
punctuality in the school. Good timekeeping is quite difficult
in The Gambia for all sorts of reasons with the need to use many
sorts of transport when coming to Sunrise from some distance.
However it is equally important that students leave enough time
for things to go wrong, as they often do.
Mid morning break taking shade from the sun
is a typical sight in any school, on warm days but in The Gambia
shade away from classrooms is always at a premium. The students
often enjoy a sandwich of Tapalapa bread with filled with things
like sardines or cooked beans.
Week ending 16th November
On Monday Angela Sarr and Johnnie Walker
came into school to see us again. They sponsor one of our
helpers in Skills, Amie Williams, who helps feed the children
each day in the centre. Angela took away lots of material (rag
rugs, tie ‘n dye and batiks) that she bought to sell in the UK
for funds. Thanks for all their help and support.
We are always glad
when our supporters come and see us at the Sunrise Centre. The
photo here shows David and Valerie Allen within the beautiful
grounds of the Kairaba Hotel, where they are staying during
their time in The Gambia. Valerie and David support us with
donations towards running the Sunrise Centre and we are very
grateful for their continuing support and encouragement.
Our Maths and English
Teacher, Mr Ali Bah was having fun with the skills students,
modelling a hat, very cleverly made from plastic bin bags using
Rag Rug approach. One of the students, Elizabeth Loppy, also
shown here was showing off the beautiful shawl that she had
crocheted in class.
Later in the week I caught up with Mr
Darboe doing Tie ‘n Dye practical work, getting students to
start on the Lower Basic uniforms for next year. Step 1 is to
take white bazin cloth and use red dye to colour it.
Mr Darboe is also seen here stewing
material as part of the batik process before the skills students
hang the cloth to dry.
The red tie 'n dyed material can be seen drying on the grass
Our boundary wall serves another useful
purpose! It doesn’t take long at all to dry the cloth in the
very hot sun.
Week ending 9th November
Early this week we were lucky to have Mr
Paul Zmitrowicz, who is known locally as Paul Z for some
Paul, an experienced business man, came to volunteer to
help our 3rd year students think about how to bridge
the gap between school and full time employment. Initially he
plans to teach CV writing and interview techniques to help
smooth this difficult transition for the students. We are very
grateful to Paul for his help.
We managed to send
across with our container in the spring some Electric Sewing
machines to supplement the treadle machines used in skills. With
the admin office moving to our new school extension we were left
with extra space that has been used to extend our sewing area.
Mrs Mendy is shown here instructing students Musa Colley (our
Head boy) and Fatou Sanneh on one of the machines which were
given to us by Tools With a Mission in the UK.
We missed the help of
2 of our teachers on some days during this week due to sickness,
one with possible Malaria. At this time of the year, after the
rains have finished, this disease is at its height and often
causes problems within Gambia, including to our staff. Luckily
medication is readily available. Also luckily for the students
and pupils we have classroom assistants at Sunrise who can step
in and take classes to help when teachers are absent. The
picture shows Mbacho Jallow in charge of the Nursery children
playing a singing and action game with the girls whilst the boys
play football behind them.
Later in the week
Mbacho is also seen with Nursery (in gold uniform and the Lower
Basic behind them (in red ) during our early morning assembly.
We are glad to say that both of our teachers are back in school
Week ending 2nd November
Tony arrived at
Sunrise this week, bringing a donation of dressmaking scissors
from the Rotary Club in Kent that continues to support us in
many ways. Helen is seen here presenting them to Boubacarr
Diallo, our skills classroom assistant, before a practical
lesson in sewing with 2nd year Skills Training.
Year 3 of Skills
Training were just starting to boil water on an open fire before
a Batik Practical in our Bantaba area. These students are quite
expert in many elements of Tie and Dye and Batik now, having
made their own uniforms, starting with white bazin and then
colouring them before sewing. They all look well made.
Helen guides Alfusainey Bah into the
office. He looks a little unsure of himself but this is really
unusual for this super confident young boy who spoke little
English last year, when he joined Nursery, but has come on in
leaps and bounds (quite literally) since then.
Week ending 26th October
Sunrise staff looking very smart in the new
uniforms which they designed - now the staff, Skills students,
Lower Basic and Nursery all have slightly different tie-dyed
uniforms based on the colours in our Sunrise logo - all dyed at
the centre by the Skills students.
Ousman Jawo and Kebba Sowe
help Mrs Mendy and Bubacarr Diallo
to unpack two second-hand sewing
machines and an over-locking machine. These were donated to GETS by a UK charity that refurbishes a
variety of tools in order that they can to be put to good use
elsewhere. Our grateful thanks go to Tools with a Mission!
These two sewing machines and the
over-locking machine they gave us will be stored and used in the
old Sunrise office, as Helen, Sending and Mr Mbye have now moved
to the new larger office in the new part of the building.
There will be much more room for them in the new office, but the
moving was a huge task, including much cleaning and sorting out
of cupboards and stock!
School closed on
Wednesday 24th for the Tobaski holiday and will re-open on
Tuesday 30th October.
Week ending 19th October
Showing where Phase 2 will join on to the main building -
can you help us raise the money to complete the building?
Everyone was busy working this week!
Cookery with Mrs Mendy.
Batik with Mr Darboe.
English and maths with Mr Bah.
Mrs Jawara and Mama with Grade 1 Lower Basic
Nursery 1 with Mrs Cham and Mbacho
Mrs Sanneh with a group of Nursery 2
I see the pinboard is still waiting to be
painted before it can be used. Paul was busy the last few weeks
painting GETS on all the new chairs.
Now we are back home and missing everyone!
Week ending 12th October
A new volunteer came to Sunrise this week,
Emma Stockle. She is pictured below with Dawn and some of the
Lower Basic children in the corridor outside the classroom.
As you can see, building work continues in the background -
although the classroom is ready there are many little jobs left
for the builders to finish.
On Friday morning we arrived at school
at 8.15 to find more flooding - this was the entrance to
Sunrise, even though the level of the water had dropped since
the storm during the night.
It was possible to walk alongside the
wall and enter Sunrise through the back, but many of the younger
children did not come to school that day, or came later on when
the water level had dropped on the roads.
When the breeze dropped the water turned
into a mirror!
The Lower Basic classroom was flooded once
again so all the Lower Basic children who had managed to get to
school went into the nursery classrooms whilst the water was
swept out and the floor mopped and dried.
Our builder, Eric says when we complete
phase 2, the other four classrooms in the Lower Basic, the
classroom we use now will be more protected from the weather and
less likely to flood.
As you will see at the top of this page,
we still need another £8,000 to complete Phase 2. If anyone can
help us to raise money towards this, we will be very grateful!
Friday was the day we had planned to
take class photos for the blog - things don't always run to plan
in The Gambia!
The other obstacle to our plans was the lack of electricity, we
have only had about two hours of electric during this whole
Nursery and Lower Basic staff training
took place on Saturday as planned - despite it suddenly being
announced that Saturday was "Clean-up Day". This meant that we
had to start at 8 a.m. since no traffic is allowed on the roads
from 9a.m. until 1p.m
It is very hot and sticky
here now so we went in the Nursery 1 classroom to get the
benefit of the cool breeze ocasionally coming through the
Eric has started to put pinboards up in the classrooms, you can
see one on the wall at the back here, waiting to be painted.
Staff ready to go home after studying
Mathematical Development followed by assessing and recording a
Paul and Dawn are sadly coming to the
end of their five weeks at Sunrise and looking forward to their
Week ending 5th October
This week saw the first
cookery practicals of the school year
skills students were having practical lessons in batik
Fortunately no more
flooding in the school, but more heavy rain means more digging
out the soakaway!
Suddenly there is heavy
rain and children passing Sunrise on their way home from school
start to run!
Back in the UK, Angela Longoni-Sarr sells African Crafts and
accessories at local fairs etc. to sponsor Amie Williams (one of
the volunteer assistants at Sunrise) and she is now raising
money to support GETS and its playground plans.
Together with the Driffield Lions, Ang organised a Family Fun
Day which included a craft market, car boot sale, and a fun dog
show. There was also a DJ, bar, food, dance displays, local
talent, raffle, tombolas, and much more, to provide an
affordable family day out at Driffield, in Yorkshire.
Thank you to one and all involved.
The Driffield Air Cadets are hoping to undertake an expedition
to The Gambia in the New Year as part of their Duke of Edinburgh
Gold Awards in community service. Whilst in Gambia they are going
to work with our builder on making a playground at Sunrise.
We need £23,000 to complete our Lower Basic building so the
Trustees have been applying for grants from various sources.
This week we were delighted to hear that the Allen and Nesta
Charitable Trust have awarded GETS £15.000 towards this project!
If you know of any other charitable trusts or organisations who
might be willing to help us raise the rest of the money, please
let us know!
Week ending 27th
The extension to Sunrise Centre rises
above the perimeter wall, announcing to all that our new Lower
Basic School has opened. The white section is where phase 2 of
the Lower Basic will be - when we have raised the rest of the
money that we need!
Approaching from the other
direction. After going through the gate you have a closer view
of the new building and the steps at the entrance to Sunrise.
Painting has to stop when
it rains and this week we have had many thunderstorms and very
A view from the top floor of the new
building - looking down on the watchmen's hut. The women's
project buildings can be seen on the other side of our new wall.
Helen is still very busy dealing with
the children we have sponsored at schools other than Sunrise,
she will be sending photos, school reports and thank you letters
to the sponsors next week.
Parents and students were still coming
in to register for the new school year despite being asked to
register the week before school started. Hopefully this will not
happen next year.......
All 56 places in our nursery have been
There are now only 5 more
places available in Lower Basic Grade 1. Kaddy and Mama are
wearing the new uniform for teaching staff.
When not raining it is very hot so some
skills students have taken their chairs under a tree.
There was a strong wind and very heavy rain
Thursday night and we arrived at Sunrise Friday morning to find
the Lower Basic classroom and corridor flooded. Thanks to the
Lower Basic staff and some skills students who set to work,
before long lessons were able to start.
Week ending 20th
Gambia or UK?
Senegambia Highway during a rainstorm
A car missed the edge of the road and
is half in the water below as the brown strip on the far side of
the raised highway is a torrent of water rushing along below the road.
Floods during the rains destroyed one wall
of the newly built soakaway at Sunrise.
It then filled with sand so these
builders have been crawling inside to dig out the sand.
The furniture that arrived in the container
was sorted and put in the classrooms.
This week the hall was full of students and
parents registering for the new term at Sunrise, together
with sponsored students from other schools coming in with their
parents to collect school fees.
Nursery teachers checking
registration forms and birth certificates.
Skills students coming in to register.
Mrs Mendy supervising the collection of
Sendeng collecting the fees
The GETS 2012 Annual General Meeting was
held on Saturday, 1st September. We enjoyed a useful meeting in
Letchworth, kindly hosted by Kay and John Skingsley, where a
good number of members quizzed the trustees on past and future
plans for the charity, only some of whom were “caught on camera”
As with all AGMs there was
some routine business but this was kept to a small part of the
meeting, allowing us to focus on the great work that GETS has
done to help educate the children of poor families in The
Gambia, with the cash from our generous donors.
Thanks to everyone who was able to come or who has supported us
in any way.