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The Gambia

africa The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa.
It is a long thin country surrounding the River Gambia and is 500km (210 miles) long and 48km (29 miles) wide.
For hundreds of years The Gambia was fought over by European countries and it is thought that over 3 million people were taken for slaves.
In February 1965, Gambia gained independence from the United Kingdom and joined The Commonwealth. It is now a peaceful country and 1.7 million people live there.
Farming, fishing and tourism are the main industries, however about a third of Gambians live below the International Poverty line. 

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We are Twinned with The Soma Lower Basic School in Soma, a town half way along the country.
Every year some staff self-fund a trip to The Soma School to share ideas and work.
Our aim is to share our knowledge and experiences with each other and build a long lasting friendship. 
We take letters and pictures made by our children and make displays, and we bring Soma pupils work back to All Saints so we can get to know each other and learn about our similarities and differences. 
Whilst in The Gambia, our teachers take lessons so the Soma teachers can watch and pick up some tips.
Over the years we have raised money to build new classrooms, furniture, books, musical instruments and resources. The Soma school is always very welcoming and our link has enriched all our lives.

How it all began

The first link with The Gambia happened in 1989 when an expedition of Hampshire Venture Scouts spent six weeks building classrooms with some Gambian Scouts. During this time great friendships were formed and two years later three Gambian scouts were sponsored to come to the UK for an International Scout Camp in Hampshire. They stayed with the Christmas family for a few nights whose son had been on the original expedition.
Marion Christmas asked the Scouts if there was anything they'd like to take home with them thinking they'd ask for trainers or a radio. They replied 'a Scout Centre like Ferny Crofts'! So money was raised, land purchased and the Kaira Konko Scout Lodge was built by 1998. There are now over a hundred members, boys and girls of all ages.

When we visit The Gambia we stay at the Scout Lodge as it is also a guesthouse that has created jobs for many scouts. It is a wonderful place, full of children wanting to meet us and play with us. 

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The Kaira Konko Fellowship supports the lodge and promotes scouting in The Gambia. Through sponsorship and fundraising they also sponsor scouts through school and college, provide rice for our poorest families and support urgent needs. If you would like to contribute click here.
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lodge Click here to see the Kaira Konko Scout Lodge website
Marion has since developed a wide range of projects throughout Hampshire, creating links with Soma, including getting schools involved.

Click here to see this year's Gambia newsletter

IMG 0169 Paul Christmas, one of the original Hampshire Venture Scouts who went to The Gambia in 1989 (and Marion's son),  spent many months in Soma last year helping the older Scouts start up new businesses. He has bought a brick press and the builders are busy making bricks. They are building an internet cafe and a video club (where customers pay to watch football matches).IMG 0173


Read on to see what we have been doing over the years

2014

This year Mrs Wyld and her family, Mrs Porter, Miss Reece and Miss Wardle visited Soma during the half-term.

They had a very productive and rewarding week working with the teachers and pupils at the soma school.

Mrs Wyld and Mrs Porter haven't been for several years and they noticed a huge difference at the school and the town.

The school grounds now have a welcoming, friendly and happy feeling and the classrooms are in a much better all round condition.  Inside the classrooms are examples of children’s work, posters and pictures and this has been rewarding to see as in the past we have talked about the power of a good classroom environment leading to and aiding good teaching and learning.  The library is looking fabulous and we were thrilled to see that it is continuing to be visited by all the classes on a weekly basis for whole class guided reading sessions.

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 uniform

ASSA donated some of their second hand summer dresses. The nursery section at the Soma School wear a uniform of red and white and therefore the donated summer dresses went to excellent use.¬† A group of nursery boys and girls came into Mr Njie‚Äôs office where we presented them each with a summer dress and the children (even the boys) were absolutely thrilled with their ‚Äėnew‚Äô school uniform.¬†

 new toiletsAt long last the school has new toilets (the old block is in the middle)

Outside in the school grounds, they were delighted to see that the children and staff had been working on a map of The Gambia using stones and different coloured soil to represent the different regions.  Most liberating of all was the way in which the headteacher talked about their reasons for making such a map.  He explained how an outdoor map would be far more engaging for the children in place of them having to learn from a picture on a chalkboard. So our team made one of the Great Britain.

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2013

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This year we decided to focus on music. We took lots of copies of 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' with us. It's a book full of actions and sounds so children of all ages could join in. We took tambourines, triangles, kazoos etc with us and bought Gambian percussion instruments too such as gourd shakers and seed pod rattles. As we read the story the instruments joined in to make the noises of the river, grass and wind. It was lovely to see the children enjoy taking part in a story.

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This year we crammed 178 knitted teddies into our suitcases! These had been knitted by ladies from a local church and from the charity ‚ÄėTeddies for Tragedies‚Äô. We gave some of them out to the Scouts, local children and some Soma pupils and raised many smiles. Toys and games are very rare for the Gambian children so the teddies were a treat for them.

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IMG 0523  We noticed that the Scouts love playing draughts and they wait patiently for a turn with the draughts board. So we asked a local carpenter to make four more boards. He cut up some plywood, cut the grooves in to form the squares which we coloured in with crayons. Bottle tops became the counters and one afternoon later... lots of happy children.draughts



2012

This year Miss Reece, Mrs Scott and some friends, picked the Olympics to be our theme.
We held a mini Olympics using sports equipment bought with the money raised from the cake sales we held last year.
Grade 6 took part in a penalty shoot out, Grade 5 relay races, Grade 4 javelin and Grade 3 were given an assortment of equipment to create games with. We will be recreating the same games at All Saints and will compare the results!

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We also set up an Olympic Committee, similar to our one at All Saints, to promote the Olympic values of friendship, respect, excellence, determination, inspiration, courage and equality.
We helped them create shorts dramas about each value which they showed to the school in their assembly.

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Two other events made this year very special. One was the opening ceremony of two new classrooms built by the 'Hampshire Diamond Jubilee Gambia Project' of which we raised £6,700 towards. new_classrooms_2
Kinteh_MBE The other event was Lamin Kinteh, the manager at Kaira Konko Scout Lodge and one of the original scouts that came to England in 1991, receiving a MBE for his dedication and services to scouting and education.
Without Kinteh, our partnership with the Soma school could not thrive as much as it does. He has been able to advise us on how our fundraising can be put to best use and he personally ensures that the money is spent on relevant resources. He monitors the projects we have set up and has had a huge impact on our children when he has made visits to All Saints School.

We are very proud of him.

 

 2011

This February, Mrs Wyld, Harriet Wyld, Mrs Porter, Miss Reece, Mrs Turney, Mrs Scott, Mrs Emery and Miss Reece made their way to The Gambia for another action packed week! IMG_5676
The Kairo Konko Scout Band welcomed us with fabulous recorder playing that they'd been practising since we taught them recorders last year. This year, Mrs Wyld taught them 'Glory Glory Man United' and 'God Save the Queen'!P2200017





The Soma School has a new Head Teacher and Deputy (Mr Fatty) who highly welcomed us and showed us the improvements they'd made to the school in just a few months. In three days we planted an All Saints orchard, danced, watched several drama plays, painted, made displays, taught lessons to classes and phonics to teachers.
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It was good to see the cupboards we'd raised money for several years ago in use and all the old furniture has been replaced.
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We also saw the old building that schools in Hampshire are raising funds to replace which will include our 'Grow a Pound' money. This should be built later this year.
We took a selection of the baby clothes our parents had donated to a traditional bush village and gave the rest to the families in Soma.
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 2010 

2010bDuring the February half term, Mrs Wyld and her family, Mrs Porter, Miss Reece, Miss Townsend and Mrs Scott visited Soma. Once again they stayed at the wonderful Kaira Konko Scout Lodge which welcomes the children of Soma to play safely there. Many children welcomed us and wore our old style All Saints sweat shirts that had been shipped out to them last year!

They were invited to a grand opening at the Soma School of two new classrooms provided by Winchester University attented by The Lord
Lieutenant of Hampshire and the Gambian High Commissioner. Our staff then spent some time observing lessons and then sharing ideas about using resources with the staff.

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Last year we raised £1000 which was spent on these new desks. We have noticed over the years that there are very few resources as funds are scarce. This year we have raised a further £1000 which is being spent on secure cupboards for the classrooms so precious resources can be stored safely. Then in future years we can provide them with resources and show the staff how to use them.

2010fBecause eight of us went this year we were able to take out a lot of stationary, baby clothes and football kits donated by our parents and a local football club.
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It was also a very musical week! Mr Wyld and Ralph took out their ukeleles which led many a sing-song and Mrs Porter held a recorder lesson one night. She also taught some of the elder scouts so the recorder lessons could continue after our visit.

 

2009 

This year Mrs Masters, Mr Masters, Mrs Porter, Miss Reece and Miss Townsend visited The Gambia at Easter.
 

The school was closed for the Easter holidays so our staff set up creative activities at the Kairo Konko Scout Lodge.
The children loved being creative - they painted, sketched, made friendship bracelets, and sung, danced and played games.The school was closed for the Easter holidays so our staff set up creative activities at the Kairo Konko Scout lodge.2009d

2009e

In the evenings they helped with the study classes in English language that were held at the Scout Lodge - this was useful for both the students and the teacher to experience different approaches to teaching and learning

 

2008

In February this year Mrs McIlroy and Miss Reece visited The Gambia for a week.

Although there are new classrooms, the older condemned classrooms are still being used.
The walls are cracked, the roof leaks, the floor has crumbled to dirt and the furniture is falling apart

 

 

 

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They have come back with many ideas on how to help the Soma School.
Some are as simple such as providing pencil sharpeners
or tape recorders and listening tapes to hear how words are pronounced.
The money raised so far this year will be spent on notice boards for the classrooms.

 

 

2005 

Each class was challenged to think up different and fun ways to raise money to buy 6 sets of the African reading scheme for the Soma school. Each set has 126 books and each book cost £3 each.
Everyone worked really hard and this challenge was achieved. Well done everyone
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 2005a

2005b

Mr Douglas and Miss Welch went to Soma for week in March to help implement the reading scheme throughout the school, and to strengthen the existing bond with the school and community.

 2005c

2005d 

They took lots of drawings, paintings and letters from our children and returned with lots of work from the Soma children.

 
 

2004 

2004a

2004b

Mrs Roberts our Headteacher, Mrs King our Deputy Head and Mrs South all went to Soma for week in February, they were welcomed with great enthusiasm and warmth.
It was an opportunity to meet the teachers and to discover first hand the similarities between the two communities
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2004c

2004d

Here are the children playing the drums we gave them last year.
The school put on a superb concert with singing, music, poetry and dancing. They also played the recorder which they've continued to learn since Mrs South taught them last year.
The highlight of the concert was a song they'd composed which combined our two schools values.

2004e

The focus of this visit was to discuss the importance of reading and to help the Soma staff develop their understanding of reading progression.

Our next project is to raise funds to buy an African reading scheme for the Soma school.



2003 

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Mrs South went back to Soma for a very busy month. She bought 12 drums for the Soma school with money we'd raised.
She taught the children English songs and some tunes on the recorder which they performed at a huge school concert.

She also distributed the clothes donated by our children to over a hundred Soma children. They were very excited and loved their new outfits!

 

soma13In March, Mary Fagin, the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire came to a special assembly.
Mary is the patron of the project set up to improve the standards at the Soma School. She thanked us for raising money for the school and told us about the two new classrooms which have been built by the Territorial Army volunteers. Our money went towards the building materials for these classrooms.
Another guest, Lamin Jarjue from the Gambia talked to us about life at the Soma School.
 

2002 

The project was launched over the Spring half term of 2002 when Emily Thomas, our RE Co-ordinator and Beryl Porter, our LSA Manager visited and taught at The Soma School in The Gambia.

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Mrs Porter with some Year 6 Soma students

A new classroom with a display of letters from All Saints pupils

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The new library funded by The Millennium Project

There are 1500 students at The Soma School. This is one of the 14 old classroom blocks they work in.