April 2011. Update! Fantastic News!

The school fees for the 77 sponsored children were due in April. We are delighted to say that nearly all the fees were received by return of post!

During Easter Andy returned to The Gambia to pay the fees into the NTF account so that Chief Kolley can pay the fees to the schools. During the visit I visited Penyem twice. On the first occasion it was a 'normal' school day at the school. I arrived unannounced as a surprise. The children went absolutely potty!! It is good to go to Penyem like this to see the village going about it's normal daily business. I can confirm that everyone appears as happy as they do on prearranged visits!

The second visit to Penyem was with a colleague from the Kingswood School, Faye and her partner James. They were on holiday in The Gambia. They were received by the villagers in the usual way and were made very welcome. The main reason for the visit on this day was to lay the foundation stone for the extension to the school.

After some frenzied fundraising in the short time since returning from the school trip in February, we can announce that NTF is funding the new school extension. This will comprise of two classrooms and an office for Chief Kolley. One of the classrooms will be used as the resource centre as The Andre Butler Dream Corner room is now full to overflowing. Avid followers of our work in Penyem will remember that when we first visited the school the resources consisted of one table of old books and knitted toys! Now we are building a whole new room! When the building is complete Chief Kolley will move from his office in the Health Centre, hence freeing up the room in the centre for development.

In the photograph on the right we are eating lunch in the Health Centre waiting area. In the background you can see a some toys. To the right is Chief Kolley's office. The plan is to build a wall across that end of the waiting area. This will form a room large enough for 3 beds in a ward. Chief Kolley's office will be retained but converted into a side ward for special cases which need privacy. Hopefully work on this can start when the school extension is completed and funding has been sourced.

Back to the school...........The extension will start immediately. It will be done in 4 phases. Phases 1 and 2 have already been paid for. They are the construction of the walls and the roof. Phases 3 and 4 - the floor and decoration will need to be funded by NTF, although we have asked the village to do what they can to cover the costs of decoration (£400). We feel it is important that the people make the effort to still do things for themselves rather than be completely reliant on NTF funding. So we are continuing our fundraising efforts. We would estimate to complete the school and the Heath Centre projects we need to raise an additional £2500.

It is dangerous to single out people and organisations who are supporting our work. The most important people are you our sponsors. Thankyou. Moulton Primary School deserve a special mention for collecting over £700 in coins - a brilliant effort! Mark Evans at Imerja for providing a laptop and printer for the doctor - thanks. Also for everyone at Thomas Cook and Thomas Cook Airlines for their support. Thanks to everyone!

We had a quick visit the Busura Primary School. This school takes children from Penyem for their middle years of education. Last February we opened the re-roofed classroom block. The photograph on the right now shows the welcoming entrance to the block. We are pleased to say that Mr Darbo, the headteacher, has sourced new furniture for most of the rooms and they are fully operational. In one year 6 class (normally for 11 year olds) we noticed that one of the students was 17 years old. This is how the system works in The Gambia. Children are placed in classes according to the amount of schooling they have had!

And so another visit came to an end. During my stay I was made so welcome. Our agent Dan Nyang is working very hard for us out there, as is our friend Andrew Gomez. If you feel you would like to get involved with NTF, please get in touch!