29th March 2013
Late last week we also
had one of our regular but important PTA meetings.
All the teachers were joined in the Hall by Helen, Dawn and Paul
plus our local school inspector (or Cluster Monitor), Mr Jarju,
who often attends these meetings.
Also present was our good friend, ex-Head Teacher and local
educational advisor, Mrs Chow.
Many parents came, as usual, to hear a lively discussion about how the
school was operating.
We had a visit this
week from Adey Hanrahan and his wife Jill. Adey is the
Commanding Officer of a Sea Cadets group based in the NE of
England. He hopes to bring up to 30 cadets to Sunrise next year,
subject to all sorts of formalities to help us improve things a
little more as part of their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards
scheme. The exact details of how this will work are under
Adey and Jill can be seen here with the
skills students making Macaroons in the Bantaba. Johnny Walker
is also pictured, with Angela Longi-Sarr somewhere in the
background. As usual everyone seemed to have a good time and the
food disappeared quite quickly.
Later we caught a
picture of Jill Hanrahan sitting in class with the Mrs Cham’s
Nursery children, the youngest in Sunrise. The children were
mostly able to concentrate on the lesson.
As in any UK school,
the Sunrise Centre has broken up for the Easter Holidays. Term 3
starts again on the 11th April. The blog will also
start again at that time.
On Monday we were
pleased to welcome Helen back from her holiday. She had been to
the wedding of two of our supporters, one of whom is her nephew.
Our congratulations go to the happy couple, Richard and Emily
Scorer, seen here on the beautiful island of St Lucia.
Lower Basic classes have to have two
assessment tests each year, so this was a busy week for our new
Grade 1 Lower Basic class. We used the spare classroom and they
did tests in English, maths and integrated studies. We were
pleased with the results when we marked the tests.
On Thursday there was loud cheering as the
girls from the skills classes played football during a break.
On Friday it was the Lower Basic's turn
to go to Katchikally and the beach. There are some very serious
faces here as they watch the crocodiles basking in the sun by
their pool! Perhaps they are thinking of the song, "Never smile
at a crocodile!"
The Lower Basic building continues to
grow - almost ready for the roof now.
Mr Mbye, together with the nursery and
lower basic staff, came to Sunrise for a training session with
Dawn at the weekend.
Paul and Dawn went up to
Timbooktoo, in Bakau, to order the text books which will will be
needed for the new Lower Basic class starting in September -
English 2, Mathematics 2 and Integrated Studies 2. Paul
also bought two useful books - a book about The Gambia Law of
Taxation and also, since VAT is now payable in The Gambia,
Income Tax and Value Added Tax, Act 2012.
The main event of the week was the
Both the evening before and early in the morning the staff,
helped by some of the skills students ,were busy preparing food
for everyone. Here is Mrs Cham cooking the benachin.
Then 54 nursery children plus 9 adults
all squashed into the bus and set off to Kachikally crocodile
The children looked at the crocodiles
laying around the pool, making sure they did not go anywhere
near them, but the teachers went to where they were allowed to
stroke the tame crocodiles.
Mrs Cham being brave!
After this they all went to the museum
where Mrs Sanneh told them about some of the exhibits from
Some of the children would not go anywhere
near this "monster", but they were not frightened by the straw
Then on to the beach where a kind fisherman
let us use his shelter for some shade from the hot sun.
This shelter was also a good place to
eat the lunch cooked by the teachers.
The parachute proved useful both for
sitting on during lunch and for playing games.
But the highlight of the day was of
course, sitting and splashing in the sea!
On Wednesday this week we were visited
by Joyce Turner from Kent. The Rotary Club in her area, South
Foreland, recently held a shuffleboard evening which raised £525
for Sunrise and she brought more gifts for Sunrise with her,
including two wall clocks for the classrooms.
When we had our original nursery school
in Bakoteh, Joyce spent three weeks helping the teachers there
so she was welcomed with great delight by Fatou Cham. In return
Joyce was delighted with exhibitions of cultural dance from
children in Fatou Cham's class, Nursery 1.
Joyce, her Women's Institute and other
friends have also given money towards our feeding programme so she was anxious to take photos of the children
having their mid-morning snack to show everyone back home.
Enjoying their snack at break time
Steve has been with us a few weeks
now, doing lots of odd jobs around the centre so we caught him
up a ladder this week, painting the walls.
Steve's wife flew out to join him this
week and visited us on Thursday. Often when she comes she helps
the skills students but we found her working with a group of
children from Nursery 2 on this occasion. You can see Steve on
the ladder in the background!
Phase 2 of the Lower Basic is
progressing steadily. On the upper floor of Phase 1 an opening has been knocked
through to allow the builders easy access.
The walls of the upper floor grow taller every day.
Our school gets bigger and bigger!
Tracy Hill from Newcastle came to visit Sunrise this week. with her son, Christopher.
They brought us some colouring books, pens, crayons and black
bin liners and spent some time in the classrooms helping out
where they could. Christopher wants to do some fund raising at
school and they have taken lots of photos and some items to be
used for display purposes.
Muhammed Saidy Khan's photo was on our
webpage of children asking for sponsors. He has found a sponsor
through that page and you can see the delight on the faces of
Muhammed, his father and his aunt (his mother is dead).
The overlocking machine donated by Tools
with a Mission has proved extremely useful. Fatou Nyassi is busy
using it in the picture below.
The builders were making the second floor
of our Lower Basic Phase 2 this week. It was amazing to watch
the men on the ground shovelling up the dry sand and cement mix
and throwing it up to the builders above who were waiting to
spread it evenly before watering it to turn it into the concrete
The bricks were handed up one by one - not
On Thursday Helen flew off for a well
deserved break .She has gone to see her nephew get married - in
Dawn and Paul are at Sunrise during her
Things were a little hectic last week. We lost 2 days to Bank
Holidays, had 13 special visitors and an Ebbeh Day (like a
school fete) on Friday. The special visitors were 10 students
and 2 staff from Bishop Heber High School in Cheshire, plus
Maxine’s husband. They came to The Gambia for a week, especially
to see us at Sunrise (well mostly!).
They brought with them a wonderful cheque for £3,500 that they
had spent the year fundraising.
Around £1,500 was raised at a
Christmas Fayre, and the rest was raised by bag-packing, school
discos and cake sales. This will all go towards completing our
building work on the Lower Basic School. Maxine Beech is seen
above holding the cheque with our Education Director, Nurudeen Mbye.
They also brought all sorts of resources for us to use.
The students presented the cheque at the whole school assembly.
Our visitors, all sitting in the front row were (from left to
right) Richard Beech, Will Hopkin, Ed Huxley, Lucy Hobson, Alice
Charlton, Evie Maddocks, Pippa Bindin, Charlotte Curry, Alex
Williams-Day, Jemma Beckett, Rachel Jones, Maxine Beech and
As part of their visit, students spent time observing and taking
part in classes. Here Lucy Hobson, Alice Charlton and Gillian
Leeke (a maths teacher from the Heber school) are listening to
Mr Bah teaching English.
The Sunrise students gave a cultural show to the visitors, with
some audience participation. Elizabeth Loppy is below showing
Richard Beech how to dance “the Mandinka way”. Elizabeth is
sponsored by Maxine and Richard Beech.
The Heber students got an opportunity to create their own tie &
dye with Mr Darboe and the skills students. They are pictured
the Bantaba proudly displaying their finished materials.
Facebook followers will find many more pictures of the
adventures of the Bishop Heber students in The Gambia this week.
On Wednesday some of the skills students very kindly invited the
Heber students and staff back their compounds to see what family
life is like in the Gambia.
Pictured here are Richard and Maxine
Beech with their sponsored students Batou Sanneh (left) and
Elizabeth Loppy (right). Haddy Sanyang (centre) is sponsored by
Lucy Hobson with the student she sponsors,
Haddy Sanyang, a
skills student at Sunrise
Rachel Jones was thrilled to meet her 2nd year
sponsored student, Fatou Ndong.
The Heber students also had a go at cooking, Gambian style.
Will Hopkin, Pippa Bindin and Ed Huxley are making chicken
bennachin with Mrs Mendy to feed the visitors at lunchtime.
Mrs Sanneh’s nursery class were treated to a production of
‘Peter Pan’ with the puppets donated by the Heber students. The
cast from left to right were Alice
Charlton, Alex Williams-Day, Jemma Beckett, Rachel Jones and
Lucy Hobson. I’m not too sure who had more fun with this, there
is also a video for review!
The centre was full for the Ebbeh Day on Friday, allowing all
the children from the local Bakoteh community to join with our
Sunrise Centre students in an afternoon of eating, dancing and
having fun. Evie Maddocks,
Alex Williams-Day and a couple of
local children pose for the camera.
Week ending 15th February
Sub-Saharan Africa sometimes (actually
mostly) suffers from the impacts of being next to the Sahara. It
is hot and generally everything that hasn’t just been cleaned
recently is covered in a fine film of sand. This makes our
cleaner (Marie Correa, pictured) one of the most important
people at Sunrise. She comes Monday to Thursday and leaves the
classrooms and hall looking pristine.
The students are also
responsible for keeping their work areas clean. They are
pictured here cleaning the cookery area of the Bantaba.
We regularly have
assemblies and in the combined Lower Basic and Nursery school
assembly, a youngster leads the children in a chosen song, often
with actions. In this picture you can see the children getting
ready to sing, led by Alfusainey Bah.
Later we watched the children as they enjoyed their PE lesson,
instructed by Mrs Sanneh and Mbacho, taking advantage of some
shade from a tree in the playground.
On the other side of
the school, the new building has reached the first floor, where
the concrete for the ring beam has been poured and is settling
before the builders begin to work on the floor that also forms
the downstairs ceilings. Leaving all this to set is essential,
before any load bearing is possible above this level. The
builders still have some things to finish off so we are hoping
that they won’t be away from the school for too long.
Steve Humphries is back in
school doing a great job with his paint brush. Although he
hasn’t brought his wife out to help too, yet, we know that she
will find it hard to stay away from working with the students,
helping them with their reading and writing.
Week ending 8th February
This week we had more visitors coming to
see how we were doing at Sunrise, as we are still in the
Gambia’s fine weather period when many tourists visit.
Alan Pickles, who has
been coming to The Gambia for many years, supporting GETS and
many other projects, came to see us and Sendeng (pictured), in
particular. Alan has helped Sendeng throughout her education,
organising her sponsorship, so that she can be a great help in
running the charity's office at Sunrise. Sendeng’s latest
training course is in Microsoft IT products and she has just
completed her exams, last week. Sendeng is currently sponsored
by Vee Delaney & Eileen Renwick. Alan also dropped off some
resources for Sunrise which included jumbo chalks.
We also welcomed
Barbara and Barry Young from Macclesfield. They visited Sunrise
last year and came again on Tuesday. They were delighted to see
the progress on our new Lower Basic School, bringing us
“minties” for the children. We were delighted to find that
when they arrived home they also sent us a big donation. Thank
you both for your support.
We are planning (see planning committee
picture) our next “Ebbeh Day” (a bit like a school Fete), on the
22nd Feb. This is a very successful even that we run at least
once a year, allowing the older students to come and enjoy food,
music and dancing. We prepare all the food at Sunrise but we
usually buy in a DJ and very loud music. It always produces a
few good pictures . . . to come.
Although we do lots of
other things as well, it is important to remember that children
are learning in school every day. Pictured is Mrs Cham with
Elmer, a story about a patchwork elephant. The elephant used to
be The Gambia’s National Emblem. Elephants were once plentiful
in The Gambia but they have moved away to other areas, as the
human population grew and the climate changed. The children love
it when the teachers introduce new resources such as this. Also
pictured are some of the Nursery children patiently(?) waiting
for their parents to collect them after school.
Week ending 1st February
Each week we have a staff meeting in the
Sunrise office, usually on a Wednesday after school. It is great
that our newly built office can accommodate all the staff for
this meeting nowadays. Amongst the hot topics this week was the
Gambian government's requirement for all civil servants to move
to a 4 day week, avoiding the Muslim holy day of Friday. All
schools were also included initially. We consulted both parents
(via a PTA meeting) and the teachers before re-jigging all of
the timetables and agreeing to implement a 4 day week at
Sunrise. The children don’t miss out on any hours of school due
to longer days. A later press release exempted schools and some
other groups but having already announced and implemented the
change, on a trial basis, we are continuing the 4 day week until
the end of this school year, at least.
We have had new
visitors to Sunrise this week, Tom & Ruth Maxwell. Having
spotted our charity through the “Stuff your Rucksack” web site
advertising. they came and gave us a donation and brought us
some goodies to help resource the centre. Thank you.
week we didn’t have the support of our administrator, Sendeng
Suso, due to clashes with her exam timetable in order to
complete her IT course in Microsoft Office products. Instead we
were very lucky that Denise Green, who now lives locally,
stepped in to help Helen. Denise brings considerable experience
to the office and we welcome her support.
One of the important changes that we
made in implementing the Lower Basic School curriculum was to
introduce formal teaching of the Quaran. Our teacher, Mr Saidy-Khan
is seen here in full flow working with the children during one
of the 3 lessons each week, writing in Arabic on the Blackboard.
Week ending 25th January
An important event
took place on Saturday of this week; the annual First Aid
Training for all the staff at Sunrise and London Corner Nursery
School (that Helen also administers for the Scottish Charity
based in Dumbarton). Many “injured” patients were bandaged up
and made to feel a little better, I think. Mrs Cham (pictured)
practiced her CPR skills on a hi-tech dummy device. along with
all the other trainees.
The First aid training
came from another Scottish Charity “First Aid 4 Gambia”. Bill,
Fiona and their two Gambia trainers freely give training
throughout more than 50 schools in The Gambia, deep into the
upper river areas. See their web site for more details -
They left us after replenishing first aid stocks that we
have consumed since their visit last year.
The Training was of
high standard and all who attended took away the important key
messages and a course certificate.
Later in the week we
had a visit from Denise and Paul Green, who have recently moved
to The Gambia to retire. After a look around they both enjoyed
joining in with the Physical Development lesson that nursery
were having, in the play area under a shady tree.
I also caught up with Abolie Darboe, our
building foreman, applying the finishing touches to the
re-enforcing bars that will be part of the concrete ring beam
structure that holds the upper and lower floors of the new
classroom area together. On a hot day working in the full heat
of the sun can be hard but it all seems to be progressing
On Fridays we are treated
to a fashion show, particularly by the female members of staff,
since they all wear their African dresses on the Muslim holy
day. However this is about to become a tradition that will be
phased out. See next week's blog . . . . .
Week ending 18th January
one of our supporters, Garth Isaac, came to Sunrise with some
new visitors who were keen to look at what was happening in
Sunrise. For Ian Ward, his wife, Gill and son, Michael, this was
their first time in the Gambia. They were planning to do some of
the tours to more remote areas. Garth sponsors brother and
sister Milton and Diane Gomez, both at Deeper Life School near
One of our sponsored students,
Elizabeth Mendy, came to the office to collect her school fees
from Helen. She attends St Therese's Upper Basic School and is
working hard to improve herself. She is sponsored by Liz and Jim
This week it has been quite
hectic going out to visit all the skills students in their work
placements. This is quite a challenge as the locations are
spread far and wide. Mr Ali Bah (English and Maths) came with me
to visit the students working in tourist spots, local bars and
The following day I took Mrs Joanna Mendy (our Cookery and
Sewing Teacher) out to visit all the students working in
tailoring businesses. Pictured here is our student Elizabeth
Loppy with her employer Mrs Scott (from Scott Creations in
Serekunda), proudly displaying some of the children's dresses
the she has made. These are obviously only worn on very special
I also took
a picture of the four students working at Salif Fashions with
their work on ladies high-end fashions. Edda Bass, Fatou Dibba,
Ndey Jaiteh and Haddy Sanyang were all very proud of what they
for the skills students is a job that runs on from after they
graduate, following their hard work in successful work
placements. It is great when an employer gives us good feedback
on progress and in nearly all cases this has happened again this
year. Most employers said they would “recommend our students”
and several will be staying, probably. However for Fatou
Jatta (nicknamed “Baby J”) there is even better news as she has
already been offered a permanent job at a local restaurant,
Serreh Mawdeh, in Brusubi.
Week ending 11th January
The 7th January was the first
day back at school and the holidays were over. This was endorsed
by the Cluster Monitors visit to make sure that we were all back
(teachers and pupils) and the second term was under way. During
the Christmas period life was busy, as ever. A wedding had taken
place in our Hall and used the kitchen, Mrs Mendy (our cookery
and sewing teacher) made sure that her friends looked after
This was also the
first Day for Pa Mustapha Njie, a sponsored also student in
Sunrise Nursery 1. Tony Bound and Erica Wren, who previously
sponsored another family member, have offered to help this
little boy so that he might afford to attend school. He has a
brand new uniform (made at Sunrise) but looks very nervous here.
Helen and I met up
with Liz and Jim Coyle who wanted to start a new sponsorship for
Joanna Sowe. We caught up with the whole family (Joanna is busy
looking at Jims pictures) at a local cafe at the Westfield
Junction, chatted, took pictures and enjoyed watching the world
Later in the week we also met up with Dave
and Mary Robinson, from Manchester, who came to visit us in
Sunrise. They sponsor Cecelia Mendy and Isatou Bah. They took a
tour with Helen and I grabbed their picture as they passed by
our spare upstairs room. Potentially a library or staff room or
first aid room or probably all three!
Although the evenings and morning in
Gambia are a “little” cooler at this time of year, the days
remain hot. But this doesn’t stop the nursery classes enjoying
We also had another visit from a
local mother hen with her brood of chicks. She seems to have
joined the school and has the same command over her group of
chicks as any of our Teachers.