December 2013 visit.

Gambia Adventure of a seventy eight year old dog walker called Margaret!

The object of the holiday was to go to the village school in Penyem to meet Salimata Badjie, my sponsored child.  I travelled with Team Butler – Anne and Andy founders of the charity Northampton Trustee Fund, David and Joyce (semi-retired teachers).
It was the first time in Africa for me, I had all the jabs, got the malaria tablets (never saw a mossie).  All the travelling went well and at last landed at Banjul Airport.  We had so much luggage, mostly for charity, straight through customs and I was climbing on to a milk crate to get into the back of an open top Land Rover.
We arrived at the hotel which was very nice, room overlooking the pool.  We settled in then met up to go to Senegambia for dinner, which happened each night.  We had lovely fish meals most nights.  We had a rest day by the pool, walked on the beach, afternoon tea and cocktail hour, all very pleasant.
The next day after breakfast we went to Penyem along the new road – what a journey! There was red dust everywhere, the road from Brikama had cut through houses, leaving half houses with people still living in them – no compensation or hand outs here.  Team Gambia came with us, Dan, Ten, Andrew and Bob the driver.  I felt very safe.  It was a long ride to the school and we walked up a long path towards the school and we could hear children singing. 
What a welcome – a sea of smiling faces.  Chief Kolley, a nice man showed us all the improvements that have been carried out by NTF money then we sat under a large tree and Andy and Anne unpacked all the school equipment, paper, books and pens that had been given.  I met Salimatou who was a lovely little girl.  She sat on my knee while about ten other children tried to join her.  The sponsored children were given their Christmas cards and lollipops.  We had lunch with Chief Kolley, the Doctor and the teachers.  It was rice with peppers and a little chicken which was very nice. We then returned to the hotel.
The next day was a rest day around the pool getting sunburnt – particularly at Pa’s juice bar on the beach. 
The next day was another visit to Penyem to visit Salimata’s house, taking a sack of rice and some soap.  Andrew Gomez came with me as Salimata’s father spoke very little English but was very welcoming.  I was shown around the house which was made of mud and brick walls, a tin roof and mud floors.  I was shown his wedding photos and given some peanuts which he had grown.  They are very close knit families, growing maize, rice, peanuts, bananas and other fruits, keep chickens and goats and they seem very happy and content.  I was sad to leave them.
On the last day Dan took us on a Mystery Tour.  We had a nice boat trip on the River Gambia in a dug out canoe type boat.  We visited Serrekunda Market, the largest in the Gambia and the Crocodile Magic Pool where we all stroked the crocs.  I was very scared, they looked just like a piece of wood until one moved.  I had all goose bumps.  I made a wish, will it come true?

It has been a wonderful experience and I thank Team Butler, Team Gambia, David and Joyce for putting up with me.  I have such lovely memories.

By Margaret Brawn,

Dog Walker