The Gambia Project

Gambia Project Youth Centre The Strode College Gambia Project is now entering its eighth year with successful completion of the first phase of the Project in February 2012. Tujereng is a poor village where there would usually be little or no chance of being able to afford a project of this kind. Unemployment is very high and the average income for those lucky enough to be employed is less than 50 pence a day.

The Project started in 2005 when a member of College staff Lorraine Smart approached the Alkalow [Head] of Tujereng Village to ask what Strode College could do to support the young people of the village. The Alkalow arranged a meeting with the young people in the village who were unanimous in wanting a Youth Centre with an Internet Café and a hard court for Basketball and Volleyball. The land for the Youth Centre was subsequently donated by the Alkalow and College staff and students commenced fundraising efforts to raise the money needed. The Youth Centre building and hard courts were first completed and then running water and electricity were installed. A photocopier, printer and scanner were purchased and 10 new computers installed along with a high speed internet connector.The kitchen was equipped with cooking facilities and a refrigerator. The Internet Café was officially opened on April 1 2011 by the Alkalo of the village and the first phase of the Project completed when the building of the compound wall was completed in February 2012.

The first phase of the Project has cost approximately £40,000.One hundred per cent of the money raised has gone to the Project-there are no hidden administration costs. The Alkalow hopes the Youth Centre will eventually become a community centre not just for the young people, but used by everyone in the village for gatherings, adult literacy, numeracy classes and young women's meetings

Gambia Project Students DancingSince the Project started most of the money raised has been by the students through their fundraising activities such as car washing, sponsored bike rides, auctions, pub quizzes, music concerts, raffles with donated prizes by local businesses, bag packing in local supermarkets and the selling of Gambian material, bracelets and bags. Strode College staff have been very supportive of the students fundraising activities. There have also been some welcome donations by local business people.

A group of students accompanied by staff go out to Gambia every February for 2 weeks. These visits strengthen the link we have with the village of Tujereng and offer students a valuable learning experience as they very quickly realise how fortunate they are with their material possessions and access to services and facilities that they take for granted, such as education and the National Health Service. They also experience and gain an insight into a very different culture with many different beliefs and attitudes. 

Students spend time with the Gambian families to gain insight and experience of a typical family day taking part in daily duties including drawing water from the well, shopping at the market and preparing meals. The students are accommodated in the Tunbung African Art Village in Tujereng, owned by a well-known Gambian artist, Etu Ndow, which is modelled off a traditional African village built using traditional materials.

In February 2009 the Youth Centre was officially opened by Malang Jassy, the Gambian Government Minister for Youth and Sports. Speeches were given by the Alkalow and senior representatives from the College, Lorraine Smart [Head of Development] and Pene Prior [Deputy Principal]. In addition to the speeches the opening ceremony involved a programme of dancing, music and singing performed by local people as well as students from the College. During the ceremony the College representatives presented a village football team 'Old Hands' with a complete Liverpool football strip donated by Liverpool Football Club. The ceremony was covered by a Gambian television crew and substantial news coverage of three and a half minutes was shown on Gambian national television the following evening. The ceremony was also covered by a number of Gambian newspapers.               

The visits to Gambia have a tendency to have a high profile, for example, during the first visit to Gambia students were formally introduced to the President. Dr Yahya Jammeh,at an official opening of an energy plant in the village of Tujereng. This was shown on Gambian national television and was covered in local newspapers.

In February 2012 the sixth group of students went out to Gambia and during their stay they had a stimulating and enlightening programme which included visiting the Abuko Nature Reserve, reptile farm and Katchikali Sacred Crocodile Pool. They had an audience with the Imam of the village Mosque, observed the village court in action and met the village Alaklo and elders. They were taught the local tribal language Mandinka, Tie dye, batik and Gambian dancing. They lived with a local village family for a day, met with the Youth Centre Committee and facilitated numeracy, literacy and art lessons with the children from the Nursery School. They went on a 'Roots' boat trip based on Alex Haley's bestselling novel visiting the village where Kunta Kinte was said to have been taken from as a slave, met with Kunta Kinte descendents and visited James Island where slaves were held in the fort before being taken across the Atlantic to America, the Caribbean and the UK.

Students are now embarking on the second phase of the Project which is to provide financial support for the rebuilding of the Fandema Women's Skills Training Centre in Tujereng. The Centre works with women from Tujereng village and the surrounding areas aged 18 to 65, particularly those women who have had no education or have had to withdraw from education (often due to pregnancy) along with women who want to improve their life standards and opportunities. In December 2011 a fire destroyed all the Centres facilities including classrooms, offices, exile workshop, computers, sewing machines, text books, tie dye and cosmetic resources. The staff and women from the Centre are currently operating from a building loaned to them while the Skills Learning Centre is being rebuilt. Students from the College have already raised and sent out £360 which will be used to help purchase aluminium windows for one of the buildings being rebuilt and essentials text books and other resources for teaching, The students are intending to raise £8,000 over the next 2 years.

For further information please contact Bill Scott, Student Support Manager Bill Scott (Project Manager) on 01458 844454 or by email: bscott@strode-college.ac.uk