The latest news from
GETS in Gambia


Thanks to our supporters we have funded our building plans for 2014/15. Our next target is to build a new Skills classroom. We need £7,000 to do this - can you help us to raise the money we need?
Week ending 18th July 2014

The rains have begun in The Gambia with some very heavy showers testing the gaps in between some of the windows in our building, but schooling goes on.

Sendeng has been into the Nursery classes this week taking pictures of children in Nursery 1, aged 4/5, sorting and counting sounds and colours using plastic letters and numbers. We are very lucky to have a  good range of resources that teachers can use to make learning interesting and engage the children's imagination.

The class are working with our Nursery Assistant, Miss Mbacho Jallow, as their normal teacher is now on  maternity leave. We wish Mrs Sally Ceesay well  as she awaits her new arrival and look forward to seeing her working again in Sunrise at the end of the year.

  At the same time children in Nursery2, aged 5/6, were sitting listening intently to their teacher, Mrs Fatou Sanneh, reading a familiar story book. They really enjoy listening to stories, as you can tell. Following work with the Jolly Phonics scheme, many of this class are beginning to recognise some words, ready for lessons when they move up to our Lower Basic grade 1 class in September. However, these words are in English, a language they are not used to using at home!

The next picture here summarises what the Trustees are working towards in the next year or two. We plan to build a new Nursery  classroom for 3 to 4 year olds which will give them an even better opportunity to learn, they will be able to come off the local streets and begin their education in Sunrise Centre.
We are hopeful of having the funds available to begin the foundations of this new building once planning permission is in place, hopefully next term. We also hope to complete our playground during this period, if funds allow.

This will be the last blog for this academic year since the school and charity office will close on Thursday 24th July. The office will re-open on15th September ready for externally sponsored students to collect the cheques for their school fees, ready for the new term.
Sunrise Centre will start the new school year on 29th September, when, hopefully, the rainy season will be coming to an end making travelling around much easier for everyone!

More information on the work of GETS will be in the next Newletter, due out in mid-August.

Week ending 11th July

Life is very busy for the office in Sunrise but Helen found time to spend in the Lower Basic School where the children showed their appreciation for all that Helen does, every day, for the charity to help deliver the gift of education to the community of Bakoteh. They drew pictures and even painted a balloon for Helen as gifts.

 Later in the week Sendeng, one of our photographers, caught a glimpse of Mrs Kaddy Jawara (LB1 Teacher) and Jarra Conteh (from Skills) examining the latest batch of carrots from the garden. As the rains begin things tend to shoot up in all directions, including the weeds!


This is Ramadan of course and during this time the older Muslims are required to observe the fast.

One of the staff told me. “We start fasting at 6:00am and during this time we stay away from food and drinks. We start to eat at 7:30 pm.
My family, like many families in The Gambia, break fast with tea or coffee with bread, rice with sauce and porridge. For extra energy, we have a bag of sugar that will serve us until the end of Ramadan.

 At the end of Ramadan, we have a feast called "Eid al-Fitr" in Arabic. This day marks the end of Ramadan, which is a month of fasting and prayer.
Many Muslims attend communal prayers, listen to a khutba (sermon) and give zakat al-fitr (charity in the form of food) during Eid al-Fitr.”


The Sunrise Staff are mostly Muslims and this can be very hard for those who need to work every day and it is certainly a real act of faith.


Week ending 4th July

 Ramadan (the ninth month in the Islamic calendar) began in the Gambia at the end of June and people are now fasting during day-light hours, more on this and what it means next week.


 We are now heading towards the end of term in Sunrise. All the fees have been collected by the externally sponsored students and the office is starting to plan for the beginning of next term. The Sunrise doors are open for the parents of potential new students to collect registration forms, though this can be a slow process. Many will leave it for now and rush forward after the holidays even though places are granted on a first come, first served, basis.


We’ve had a another non-uniform day (Mufti-Day). This is when the students wear many versions of local African dress, including tribal costumes. Jarra Conteh (Skills 2) and Kaddy T Bojang (Skills 1)  are dressed as Mandinkas.



Sendeng also photographed the Nursery 1 children, wearing many variations of clothing!


We have been doing more Tie and Dye practical work in skills; Ramatoulie Jarju and Amba Ndow (Skills 2) are pictured here deep in concentration folding materials as part of the tie and dye processes.


Later Yassin Jammeh and Nyara Badjie (Skills 2) show off a beautiful piece of cloth that they have just completed dyeing and drying in the warm Gambian sunshine. It is now quite hot and humid since the rains have not yet come in any quantity to refresh the atmosphere.

Week ending 27th June

The Skills students have been cooking a special cake this week, known as a Ceremony cake locally, No doubt used for special occasions. This is not typical of the kind of thing that a local Gambian would make, especially in a gas oven, since many students will cook on outside fires with their own families.

 Similarly the vegetable omelette, chips and salad might be something regularly seen in the tourist areas but an unlikely meal in a local Gambian’s compound, so learning how to make and serve this simple dish is important.


Using charcoal burners to make Stuffed Chicken is another part of the practical work for the students in skills. A bit more familiar to many but the serving and other ingredients will probably be unusual to students, as they learn more about the approaches to international dishes.


Cleaning and hygiene are obviously other skills that need to been practised until perfect. This can be much more difficult in the kitchens that are available in the Gambia. In Sunrise we have a small kitchen which is getting the clean up from Saffiatou Bah and some of the other Year 1 Skills students.


 In Lower Basic 1 the pupils are working on painting and Ya Astou Mbowe has produced a very colourful example. It was very carefully put together and she is very proud of her work. Sendeng managed to catch a picture of her just as she finished.




Week ending 20th June

Someone who often visits Helen, just to say hello, is Isatou Marong. She is able to go to school (the large state school near to Sunrise called Bakoteh Proper) because of help from her GETS sponsor. Isatou pops into the office on her way home to her Aunt’s house in Sanchaba. Isatou is always cheerful, works hard and is very bright.


When Isatou was 4 years old her mother, Jainaba, was sent to live in the village of Badibou on the River Gambia north bank to help an elderly aunt. Whilst In the village Jainaba really had no education, so she speaks almost no English and cannot read or write. She married Isatou's father and had 4 children by him. At that time he worked as a seller, but he developed a mental condition and cannot work now. He also has a second wife and children by her too, so help to pay school fees has been a Godsend to her and to Isatou.


We are always pleased to see past students from Sunrise. Bato Sanneh came to this year’s graduation to see some of her friends. She told me that she had made her dress, which looked really beautiful. Bato was working hard and obviously enjoying life. Great to see!



Gambia is a place of stark opposites where people with money live close to the impoverished. During“the season” tourists are common in the coastal area of the country, spending enormous amounts of cash, as far as the locals are concerned. The Sunrise centre is close to the Tourist area so it is easy to pop down for a treat from time to time.

The mother of one of our Sunrise Nursery students (Mrs Ida Faye) helps run a lovely Ice Cream and Coffee shop in the 5-star Kairaba Hotel complex at the heart of the tourist strip, known locally as the “Senegambia strip”. As a single mum, Ida gets help from one of GETS sponsors to allow her two children to go to school. When the temperature is around 35 deg C, the ice cream is wonderful. Not something that local children could ever afford, however.


In our newly arrived container we have many new gifts that will gradually make their way into the school over the coming months. One of the first was the extra "Face2Face" English text books, kindly given to us through Mark Nicholson and his team from the Norwich Solicitors. This is really helping our teacher, Mr Ali Bah, deliver his lessons. Thank you!





Week ending 13th June

This year we had another successful Graduation when all our 3rd Year Skills students celebrated passing their courses, 25 young people in all.  
They will now move into the local employment market where almost half have retained their work-placement positions.

 Graduation is quite a formal affair but it was really enjoyable too. The school choir entertained us with many different songs including the familiar Welcome Song and a song about Sunrise.

The choir

All the students came to the day since the school was closed. I caught a great picture of some of them enjoying waiting for the day to begin (about 15.30 ish).

The teachers and cooking staff (including one of the local women who comes to sell food each day called Christianna or Auntie) had been preparing the food since the day before. They had to feed 200 people!

We had a Master of Ceremonies, Nfamara Jarjue. A great friend of GETS who helped run our small old Nursery School at one time and now helps us in working with the community. He did a fantastic job of taking us through the day, introducing the speakers and winners of certificates and other prizes. He’s pictured here with Helen after the event.

 The speakers began with Madam Fofana (Sunrise Education Director) who introduced the audience to Sunrise, then Tony Nelson (GETS Chairman) congratulated the students and challenged them to continue to work hard in their chosen careers.



This was followed by a great speech by Halifa Salleh, a well known Gambian businessman who publishes the Foroyaa Newspaper.
Mr Salleh gave an impassioned speech about working in a business, always trying to succeed and never giving up.

The staff made their own clothes for the day using a matching material but with a variety of patterns to produce a bright and very colourful affect that looked really good.

The students all received their certificates and posed for many photos, including this one here of the Head Boy, Sulayman Jobe, with some his friends.

 Sendeng Suso (Administrator) and Amie William (who works in the Sunrise kitchen) both received Certificates of Appreciation for their excellent work and perseverance. Amie, pictured, was rather overcome with emotion at the award and found it hard to hold back the tears.

 We had a Graduation cake of course, sponsored by Tony and presented in the picture below by Sendeng.  

Week ending 6th June

This has been a really busy week for photographs of happenings in Sunrise.
It started with the arrival of the Container from Banjul. Our team of builders and other helpers were there until after 7pm on Friday evening to unload everything. The pictures show the team posing, with one of the students (Binta Darboe).

One of the stars in helping was Gibbi Ceesay (one of the caretakers) but many helped, including Mr Bah (English/Maths teacher) and all the unloading was managed by Abolie Darboe (Building Foreman).

We now have several classrooms full of furniture, given to us to re-cycle by schools in South Wales.

GETS is very grateful to Karl Ward and his team at Carry Cargo International Ltd (Leeds) for making the end to end process very simple and great value too. (see )

 During the process we had some of the Skills students trying to raise extra funds to extend their Graduation party (due next week). They brought an Agugu (a masked character that often leads groups collecting funds whist having fun) with them and danced and sang, then made a collection. They were very entertaining, going up and down streets in the neighbourhood and they were quite successful.

 On Thursday we had another of our Annual Sports Days. Nearly 120 children from Sunrise formed teams with the 90 Nursery children from London Corner School, run by the Scottish Charity based in Dumabrton, and administered for them by Helen.

It was hot, of course, but the children competed very seriously, cheered on by the teachers.

Fun during the three-legged race.

Racing in teams

The 50 yard race track by the end of the Lower Basic building



We formed all  the children into four House groups (Kundas in Gambia). They wore different coloured shirts to compete for the house/Kunda Trophy. Individual winners collected medals too and are pictured here as a group.

We had many different types of competitions, including 3 legged races, balloon bursting, 50 yard dash, picking up items in baskets, lime and spoon race and a tug-of-war.


We finished with musical chairs in the hall, and community singing!

We also had great food as well, cooked in huge pots on an open fire and prepared by the joint team from London Corner and Sunrise. Chicken benechin was enjoyed at the end of the competition.


 Mr Bah ran the day as Master of Ceremonies with lots of help from the other teachers. The Houses/Kundas were named after some of the Trustees from the 2 charities and the result was:-

 1st   Fran Walker Kunda
2nd   Tony Nelson Kunda
3rd   Dawn Webster Kunda
4th    Father Kenny Kunda

 A very busy and tiring day but great fun for all.








Week ending 30th May

This week saw the careful planning for the Skills Training exams. Students were split into 2 groups, half in the hall and half in one of the classrooms. The picture shows Mrs Jammeh’s cookery class puzzling over the questions that she had set for them.

 Later I spotted Mrs Cham’s class doing Physical Education; skipping and playing with balls. Some of the children had excellent co-ordination which they showed off during a synchronised skipping competition.

Mrs Jarawa’s class were working on their Integrated Studies course within the science area. They were performing experiences to find out what floats in water. They tried items in the classroom; chalk, sponges, pencils and pens. They had to anticipate “Which ones will float”. They were sometimes correct!

  Mrs Cham’s Lower Basic grade 2 class, the oldest pupils currently in our primary, have been starting to grow beans in yogurt pots. I’m sure that they, in common with many children trying gardening for the first time, are “killing them with kindness”. In fact we have seen so much water in the pots that the beans may well drown. Perhaps they should be trying to grow rice plants instead, since these like to be in water at all times.


The older Skills students are very fashion conscious and spend a lot of time over dressing well, including braiding their hair, when they go to parties in the evenings. Gambians love to celebrate at weddings, naming ceremonies (or christenings) and other festivals. One of our final year students, Fatou Manneh, sat quietly for some time whilst another student put braids into her hair, after school. The picture shows the pleasing results which Fatou proudly showed off.





Week ending 23rd May

Parents and Guardians (and some older children) continue to come in for fees for sponsorships in schools across the Gambian coastal area (also known as The Kombos), often as the schools send home the children who have not paid.

One such parent was  Jainaba Samba (plus little Ida-Joanne) coming to get school fees for Saiko Tamba, aged 5, who goes to a Nursery School in Tallinding, near Serekunda. Saiko is sponsored by Joanna McIntyre so that he can go to school.


 The 3rd Year Skills Training students were working hard again this week on their final practicals, this time in Tie and Dye. The class didn’t a lot of persuading to parade around in the beautiful fabrics that they had created from white bazin. They showed off a huge range of colours, patterns and skills that they have learned at the Sunrise Centre.


Later in the week I was summoned to see the Nursery 2 Teacher, Fatou Sanneh. She was very proud of the high quality paintings that her class were doing.

Starting with a pencil drawing they were very carefully painting in a cat on a colourful rug. Many of the class had done great work, all with deep concentration etched onto their faces so typical of a young child. One of these, Mariamma Singhateh is shown in the picture here.

Week ending 16th May

We have a busy time ahead of us at the Sunrise Centre, including a sports day, Graduation and fitting in an Open Day too, we hope.

In starting to prepare in good time for all of these our Education Director, Madame Kaddy Fofana, has set up a number of committees of staff members to decide on details and undertake the various tasks.

We have also asked our builders to help us clear up the compound rubble and level out the area besidesthe Lower Basic School, a job that has been needed for a long time but the process of building has added detritus to this area too. We hope to use this space for running races on the Nursery and Lower Basic Sports Day.

 A key event on Wednesday this week was the final practical work in Skills cookery class for the third year students. They all cooked a variety of dishes to make up a three course meal that might be served to the local tourists.

The first picture shows nearly half the class working in the Bantaba, out of the hot sun, mixing up the ingredients for the desserts. Drying out of food is very quick in this country if care is not taken.




 Three students; Catherine Jarjue, Nyimasata Janteh and Therese Belly made starters. Therese made stuffed peppers and the other two made spring rolls.

Nearly half the class made main meals. Things like butterfish in batter with chips, beef stew and rice, salads of various sorts and bread to accompany it all.  The staff were excited to taste the dishes and all produced favourable comments, noted by cookery teacher Alimatou Jammeh.

 Perhaps some of the star attractions for the tasters were the desserts served by the remainder of the class. Things like apple pie and custard, chocolate cake with raspberry jam and sponge cake too.  All quite adventurous and all very tasty too.

Week ending 9th May

This week we had another milestone event in the life of the Sunrise Centre; Dawn and Paul sent the rest of the furniture to equip the Lower Basic School on the 3 week trip to The Gambia. This furniture was freely given by schools in the South Wales area and collected, cleaned and packed at Dawn and Paul's house near Newport. The container now has over 50 desks and 160 chairs, cupboards, school tray units and much more in it. A huge thank you goes to them both for turning their home into a warehouse for the last few months to make this possible.


 We are pleased to have Boubacar Diallo back with us again. He left last year to go to help his family in Guinea when they were suffering from illness but has now returned to help us in Sunrise as a Classroom assistant in Sewing classes. He is a good tailor and able to support all our sewing work in the centre. He is also very helpful in keeping our stock of sewing machines going, despite the stresses that student inevitably cause!




  One of the characters at Sunrise, Alfusainey Bah, is growing up fast. He first came to Sunrise as a Nursery pupil, very shy and very quiet. He nearly dropped out of school since his family couldn’t afford the fees but a kind UK sponsor stepped forward to ensure that he could continue. 3 years on and now 7 years old, he is looking much older, more mischievous and has lost all his shyness plus his front teeth! His English skills have come on a lot too. Like most of the other children, he only spoke local languages (in his case - Fula and Wolof) when he started.

On Friday we had a surprise Fire Practice. The teachers knew it would take place at some stage this week but they didn’t know when. They all reacted very quickly; four minutes after Madam Fofana blew the Fire Klaxon all the students had left the classrooms and lined up in front of the school by the caretakers' hut. This is another important step in improving safety and makes both staff and students think about the dangers that fire brings. In a country where candles are regularly used for light and open fires for cooking, the possibility of loss of life from fire is ever present. (Thanks to Barry Young for giving us the Klaxon!)

Week ending 2nd May

The Sunrise Garden has been replanted with many seeds, mostly brought by kind supporters from UK. The Skills Students, guided by Mr Ali Bah have done a lot of the work to grow things such as many types of lettuce, sorrel (to make Wonjo Juice), bitter tomatoes and onions. Regular watering is required to stop the hot sun drying out the ground but then things grow very quickly.

Every day the water buckets are also refilled, as Nursery Classroom Assistant Mbacho Jallow is doing in the picture. Children regularly drink water throughout the day to remain hydrated. In a country where the normal average temperatures are around 35 degrees C, this is essential.

Tony caught a picture of the skills training students in year 1 making up their new uniforms for next year. Their new classroom gives plenty of room for teacher Marokey Bojang, even though we have put extra sewing machines into the classroom so that students now have one machine between two of them.


One important point about all the shuffling of the Skills classrooms is that we will need to move the English and Maths classes to a new Skills classroom in the next couple of years to free up the last primary room for grade 6. We need cash to build this new room for the skills, but not for a couple of years yet.


We were pleased to meet up with brother and sister Elizabeth (an ex-student) and Alan Loppy (a sponsored student) who continue to be in regular contact with Maxine and Richard Beech who help them. Tony and Helen met them at their apartment in Bundung, near Serekunda. They looked very happy with life at the moment. Alan has been very successful in his studies and Elizabeth is well thought of by her employer.


We were delighted to meet up with Graham and Debbie Bradley who have given us another supply of medals to present on our sports day that takes place in June every year. This is a very important part of rewarding the children for their efforts and they all try hard to win a prize. Thanks again to Debbie and Graham who come to see us from Isle of Man.