Week ending 18th July
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
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
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,
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.
photographed the Nursery 1 children, wearing many variations of
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
(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
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
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:-
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Catherine Jarjue, Nyimasata Janteh and Therese Belly made
starters. Therese made stuffed peppers and the other two made
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
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.