The latest news from
GETS in Gambia


Week ending 21st December 2012

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 about monkeys.

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 grown up.

School opens again on 7th January.

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 season.

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 support.



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.



Sunrise also 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 lessons required.


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 behind him.

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 reason??
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 now.








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 school week.

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 windows.
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 Pupil Profile.

Paul and Dawn are sadly coming to the end of their five weeks at Sunrise and looking forward to their next visit.

Week ending 5th October

This week saw the first cookery practicals of the school year

Other 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 September

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 heavy rain.


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 filled.


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 September

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.

Nursery 1



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 uniforms.

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” here.

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.