November visit a success!

On 27 November I visited The Gambia to check on projects and to plan for future initiatives. On this visit I was accompanied by Michael York, who had asked to come along for the experience of visiting a Third World Country. This made the trip much more interesting for me, and it was good to have the views of another person. In this picture we see Michael visiting a normal Gambian family in their compound. This visit was not pre-arranged or 'set up'. We were simply travelling around the local area to the hotel region, and our Agent, Dan, called in on this family just to say 'Hello' - Dan is at the back of the photo.

During our stay in The Gambia we visited Penyem village on two days. The first day was used to inspect the various projects. We had a surprise greeting when we arrived. The track on the edge of the village was lined with children from Penyem Upper Basic School. They cheered and sang as we approached. The reason for this welcome was to acknowledge the fund raising done by The Kingswood School Students from last February. (You may remember from a earlier post in this blog that they raised the funds to repair the school's water pump). 
It was good to see some improvements were being made to the water supply. The storage tank was being repaired and painted. New standpipes were also being installed to help with irrigation of the surrounding banana plantation and to help with the cleaning of the solar panels.
I was able to look at the progress in the new classroom block. The shelving in 'The Andrew Butler Dream Corner' is now complete and the materials and equipment in the room are starting to be organised. The outer shell of the toilet block is now complete. Part of the reason for our visit to The Gambia was to deposit phase 4 and 5 payments in the bank to allow the building to be finished. I was satisfied with what I saw so 100000 Delasis was deposited in the bank in Brikama. The photo shows the toilet block from the school side. Through the doorway will be 4 toilet cubicles with proper flush toilets and wash basins outside the cubicles. The floors will be tiled. At the rear of the building is a similar doorway and the same facilities inside. One side will be for boys and the other is for girls. In the photo you can just see another doorway at the other end. This is a staff toilet and shower. We aim to open the block next time we visit in February 2013.

At this point I would like to thanks all our sponsors again.. Without your support it would have not been possible.

I was able to meet the new doctor. He seems to be 'on the ball' and keen to do well. He had regular patients when I was there, including a boy of about 10 years old who was making the most fearful noise as the doctor was trying to give him an injection!

Michael is a keen tennis player. He took some donated rackets and balls with him on the trip to donate to the village with the view of introducing a new sport to Penyem. This turned out to be a great success! The photo shows Michael teaching some basic skills in the village hall using a table for the net. Michael is considering funding an outside concrete mutti use area that can be used for a variety of sports including Tennis. Watch out for more news about this project in later blogs. The photo on the right shows the meeting I had with parents of the sponsored children of the Kingswood School Students and staff who will visit in February 2013. Here I am trying to arrange for the students to visit the homes of the families for a whole day. They were very amused when I asked the to provide traditional Gambian clothing for the students to wear for the day!

Overall a great deal was achieved on this visit. We learnt a little more about the Gambians and they learnt more about us. Much of Gambian life is built around trust. These visits build the trust we have in each other.

Thanks again everyone!


Northampton Trustee Fund

Anne and Andy Butler
01604 461746

Next visit is coming up!

The next visit to Penyem will take place from 27 November 2012. Andy is going to check on progress with a number of projects, particularly the main one taking place at the moment - the construction of the new school toilet and shower block. The photos show the early stages of the building work.

Other things will need to be done. We need to talk seriously to our Bank Manager in The Gambia. Transferring money is always a concern - best exchange rates/bank charges etc. Andy will also be making a special effort to visit the homes of as many sponsored children as possible - something that has not been achieved so far. A trip to Senegal is a possibility.

An open invitation is always open to interested parties to join Andy on the trips to The Gambia. On this trip Andy will be accompanied by the well known Northamptonshire Historian and Raconteur - Mr Michael York.

To read more about our work in Penyem, click on the blog list below.

Rose Cottage Garden Fete boosts funds! UPDATE!

On Saturday 30 June 2012, a traditional English Garden Fete was held in the Garden of Rose Cottage in Moulton Village in Northamptonshire. The hosts were the Webb family who kindly gave up a massive amount of time to organise the afternoon. The target figure for this fundraiser was £300. After everything was counted, a massive £1615.13 had been raised! Wow!

Obviously we thank everyone who helped acheive this fantastic figure. Today - 2nd July I have sent the 100000 Delasis for the first 2 phases of the toilet development to our bank account in The Gambia.


Please have a look at the 'dancepod' offer here. Thanks to Julie for the generous offer. Why not give it a try!

Plans for new school toilets!

We have now received the plans and costings for the new school toilets at the school. The total cost comes to £4200. This is quite expensive on the back of the large outlay on last year's school extension project. However, we have decided to go ahead! It is probably one of our most ambitious financial commitments yet - but if you could see the present toilet arrangements you would agree how important this new project is. We need £4200 - fast!!!!

For details of all our projects please read the blogs below. To get in touch -

Andrew and Anne Butler
11 Greenhills Close, Northampton, NN2 8EN.

May visit.

This is just a quick update after my visit to Penyem last week. Firstly, please accept my thanks on behalf of the sponsored children. We are pleased to say that all the current sponsored children have had their sponsorship renewed for the next 12 months. This is a hugely successful project, and now we have over 80 children sponsored. Thank you so much!
The visit went really well despite temperatures of 35C!!! All the school fees were paid into the bank account. Taking the money myself saves so much in exchange rates and transfer fees. However, I had to negotiate a tricky situation at UK customs!

I was able to see progress in the final phases of the new school building. Recently we had decided to tile the floor throughout the building, and this work was being done when I was there. The wood for the shelving in the classrooms was purchased, and this work will start after the tiling is completed. At my hotel I met the resident electrician. It turned out that he was originally from Penyem and had passed through the sponsorship scheme. He agreed to install electric into the new building fed from the medical centre supply. The work was completed 2 days later at a total cost of £80!

It was great to be able to tell the teachers in the school that they had all been sponsored by a new group within NTF. This represented a 20% pay rise to them! They were very happy!
The whole school compound was looking good. There is a scruffy classroom building that could be made better with a lick of paint. However, the toilet block is a different story!
It was agreed that the next project would be to build a new toilet block. This would include 2 toilets for the girls and 2 for the boys, with wash basins, and a shower. I was able to leave a deposit so that this work can start as soon as possible, with the target completion date being January 2013. All we need now is the money to complete the work! Kingswood School are planning another visit in February 2013, and I will be asking them to help. The estimated cost is £4000.

Just before I left on my trip I had some great news. Corby Phoenix Rotary had promised £1000 for medical equipment for the Health Centre.

These photos show the delivery of the equipment, which included 100 mosquito nets, bed, table, buckets, mops etc. These things will help the development of a spare room in the Health Centre to become an Isolation/Rest Room.

I cannot thank you enough for what you are doing. You may think that you do very little – but a little goes a long, long way in Penyem. We continue to fundraise. Our next main event is a garden fete in Moulton at the end of June. This is being organised by The Webb family who sponsor children in the programme and we are very grateful for their efforts on behalf of NTF. If you would like to support this, we need raffle and tombola prizes. Please contact us if you are able to help.

You may have noticed that in the last paragraph I have gone from ‘I’ to ‘we’. Yes – ‘I’ did go to Penyem last week, but ‘we’ (Anne also) really appreciate all you do!

Finally, (I/we!) plan a sponsor’s trip sometime; maybe April 2013? If you are interested in coming along, please let us know.

Andrew and Anne Butler

                                        The sponsored teachers.

A bicycle was purchased for Musa Bah our new Education Correspondent courtesy of his sponsor Barbara Butler.

An activity table and games were purchased with funds donated by Anne Smith of The Kingswood School.

School fees!

Fees for the sponsored children are now being collected! Andy will be going back to The Gambia to take the fees and pay them directly into our bank account in Brikama, He will also be launching the teacher sponsorship scheme. So far we have secured enough sponsorship to pay the teachers in the school a 25% pay increase. I bet we would all like that! However, we have to remember that the village school teachers are very poorly paid - and 25% is enough to keep them at the school. We are aiming to build this sponsorship initiative to possibly employ an additional teacher and so, reduce class sizes - so more sponsors please!

The trip in May will not be a holiday - I have meetings planned with the Minister of Education and the Gambia Child Fund Officer Mrs Horija Dibba. I also plan to meet builders etc. at the school to discuss further developments.

Watch this space!

March Update

We are now in the process of collecting school fees for the school year 2012-12. Please look out for the letter in the post! New sponsors are always welcome!

Sponsor a Teacher Scheme

Over the years we have built up a Child Sponsor group of over 80 individuals from all over the UK, Europe and now the world!
We have always been conscious that the increased number of children puts a strain on accommodation within the school and teaching staff. For example the reception class in the school can have 75 children present at one time.
During my last visit, I met Mrs Horija Dibba who is Infant and Child Coordinator for Child Fund, The Gambia. She congratulated us on the progress we had made in the school, particularly with the construction of the new classroom block and provision of equipment.
However, she outlined a problem. The school was losing staff to other schools that were able to pay a higher salary. A teacher earns about £30-£35 a month. This, compared with the price of rice is a good comparison. A sack of rice to feed an average family for 3 weeks costs £20! Therefore even the smallest supplement to a teacher’s salary can make a huge difference.
In a further meeting with Chief Kolley, Head teacher at the school, we discussed what we could do to help. To cut a long meeting short(!) what it means is that if he could pay each of his seven teachers £10 a month each more, it would solve the staffing problems.
The annual cost for additional teacher’s salaries would therefore be £800-£1000 a year. NTF would like to try to help with this; however we do not have that amount of spare money each year.
In an ideal world we would be seeking an individual sponsor to cover the annual cost – muck like Imerja Ltd. does with the doctor. However, an alternative would be to build a ‘Syndicate’ of people who contribute to a ‘Teacher Fund’ to sponsor the teachers – it would be possible for sponsors to sponsor a teacher, just like with the child sponsorship scheme. Sponsors could pay as much as they like by Direct Debit or annually – the more sponsors we have – the costs could become less each. NTF is committed to this scheme, and for the first year would meet any possible shortfall until enough sponsors could be co –opted into the ‘Syndicate’.
Does this interest you? Perhaps you would like to contribute? Perhaps you could persuade people at work to get involved? Just think – a group of five people each contributing £2 a month each would fund one teacher. Then all we need to do is find another six groups of five – PROBLEM SOLVED!


Have a think and get back to us!
Andy and Anne

The Penyem School extension opens!

On 14 February a group of supporters of Northampton Trustee Fund flew out to The Gambia to continue the work in Penyem Village. The group was made up of six year 13 students and one year 12 student from The Kingswood School, Corby, two former students, two members of staff, two sponsors and Andrew Butler, Founder of NTF. The trip involved three daily visits to Penyem, a day of taking in the various sights and a day or so enjoying the sunshine!
On the first day visit we were overwhelmed by the fantastic welcome given to us by the village, particularly from the children. The group approached the village on the traditional way – on foot – and walked along the track to the village which was lined by the school children wearing homemade hats, waving flags and chanting a welcome!
The villagers were presented with gifts of mainly stationary for the village school , but also medical and sports equipment was given to the people. The party was then treated to a village tour including a visit to the now established Health Centre, Bee Hives and water pump area. We also had our first glimpse of the now completed extension to the school which was started last April when we laid the foundation stone. It was completed a week before this visit. The group was then treated to lunch and a display of cultural drumming and dancing, after which, emotionally drained, the group departed in their open top Landrovers.
On the second visit all the group visited the homes of the children they sponsor. This is truly a magical time, and despite having nothing themselves most of the facilities gave gifts of thanks to their visitor. One of the party was even presented with some land!
However, the main reason for the visit was to officially open the new school extension, which consists of 2 classrooms and an office for the Headteacher.
After a number of speeches (Gambians love speeches!) the building was named ‘The Harry Brown Building’. (Harry is our Grandson born exactly one year previously). Furthermore, one of the classrooms was called ‘The Val Sabin Room’ – Val sponsors 25 children, and the other room was called ‘The Andrew Butler Dream Corner’. What a day – particularly as we won the football match that followed 2-0!

Chief Kalilu Kolley outlined a problem with retaining his teachers. Recently, one of his best teachers had left the school for another job paying more money. A teacher earns around £35 per month which is paid by the government. Chief Kolley asked NTF to consider a teacher sponsorship scheme where we can supplement the teacher’s salaries. He is asking for £10 per month per teacher. There are 7 teachers: hence £70 per month/£840 per year. Maybe you have some ideas how we can help with this?
The Child Sponsorship Scheme is a great success. During this visit we learnt more about where the sponsor money goes. Part of it is for school fees, but the remainder is split between health care, social care, uniform, shoes, breakfast and lunch at school and stationary. Some of the older students have been asked to start putting something back in the programme. Musa Bah and Jainaba Bah have become our ‘Penyem Correspondents’. They will start to report on day to day life in the village.
Two years ago we started The Penyem Football Academy. We would like to move this project forward by funding a Sports Coach from the UK to work in the village for a two to three week period to develop sport in general. This will involve working with the children, but possibly more importantly developing the skills of the Sports Committee in Penyem. If anyone is interested in this opportunity – please get in touch.

Child Sponsorship Fees for 2012/13 are now being collected and hopefully this will be completed by the end of March. We now have two students who have graduated from the programme. One has become a plumber, the other has become a soldier. It does beg the question – would this have been possible without your support? Again we thank all of our supporters who contribute in so many ways. Allow me to list some of the things we have achieved together since 2004. Ambulance, doctor, new medical centre, apiary, fully stocked pharmacy, 77 children sponsored, school extension, school resources, TV room, roof at Busura Primary School, self sufficiency in rice, fresh water system and much more!!!!

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