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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