RETURN TO GENIERI
In the last Link News, we highlighted the forthcoming visit of Gareth and Anne Hunt who, as teenagers just leaving Yate Sixth Forms, went to stay in Genieri for nine months in 1993. The newly founded Yate-Genieri Link had made the necessary arrangements to set up the visit but, after that, they were on their own. Here is Anne’s account of their return visit in December.
“After making the decision to return to after 25 years, where we lived for 9 months in 1993, it left me feeling excited but also very apprehensive.
Excited, I’m sure you can understand. What has changed? Will people remember me and Gareth, the other volunteer who went with me and who is now my husband? What will my twelve year old daughter, Eloise, think of it? Apprehension, as it brought back a mixture of emotions from when I was last there. How much would we be able to do in a very short time? As a reminder, when I was last there I was a naïve, inexperienced, 18 year old who lacked the life experience that I have today.
So how was it? It was great, actually it was fabulous. The preparation with the Yate- Link that we did before travelling there ensured that we had an action-packed agenda for our 3 day, 2 night stay in the village. The activities planned gave us a good opportunity to see what had changed but also to help the Yate- Link in the worthwhile activities that they support with the money raised from fundraising. So what has changed?
Malaria? No, that is still very much present in the village and with the increase in population in Genieri it is still a major issue. However, we were extremely pleased to see a comprehensive medical centre installed in the neighbouring village of , particularly as the drugs (financed by the Link) can be distributed directly in the village now. Additionally, we found that bed nets could also be sourced locally at a reasonable cost, whereas before these were bought down country on the coast, treated with chemicals, then transported to the village. , thus enabling quicker diagnosis and treatment for the villagers of
Electricity? Despite seeing more than an estimated 70% of the villages on the way up country connected to mains electricity supply, still is not there. We did see a few compounds in the village which had comprehensive solar panels installed providing electricity for up to 3 buildings, there is still a long way to go. However, it did mean that we got to share living and eating by candle light with our daughter, Eloïse, during our stay in the village.
Water? This is on the brink of being life-changing.Thanks to the financing by overseas citizens, there will soon be an improved water supply to the village. Through this project, there will be one standpipe easily accessible to each compound, meaning that the endless trips that the young children and women do to the wells to collect water each morning and evening will soon be significantly reduced. During our trip we kept to the same principal as when we lived there: it was our responsibility to collect the water we needed, which we again shared with Eloïse.
Bread? How happy was I to find out that there was now fresh bread available in the village. The number of times in the past I had eaten stale bread! This was heaven! On a serious note, it was so great this time seeing the local women selling their garden produce or fresh fish caught by the local fishermen in the village. In addition, there was even a lady selling home-made doughnuts, not at all like the doughnuts we know, but sweet enough to keep our daughter happy!
Day Care Centre? This has gone from strength to strength and grown significantly under the leadership of Foday. It has more than doubled from when we were there, which means the Link support is key. We had the opportunity to see one of the village volunteers, , teach a lesson to a group of children aged around 5. WOW, what energy children this age have! His perseverance and love to teach (using the Jolly Phonics technique) meant that he kept the children engaged and active.
The village garden? This was a big change! It had moved location and increased to a formidable size, thanks to funding from the Link, as well as a new borehole, achieved through a donation from an external . In addition, you could see the value that the garden brings, particularly with a garden manager and assistant being in place, thanks again to the financial support from the Link. However, there is more potential to unlock. The women I met were motivated to make the gardens more productive, despite their day-to-day challenge of finding access to enough water. Even today, the water supply to the garden needs to increase so that it can feed all of the beds sufficiently. What is reassuring is that this is fixable with the technology and skills that are accessible in The Gambia and the village today. This wasn’t the case 25 years ago.
Toilets? This time we didn't have an outside hole in the ground but a Turkish toilet inside. We did see a 'normal' toilet in one compound but we didn't have the opportunity to test it!!
This experience, coupled with the you with smiling faces, it was amazing. The young girls made Eloise so welcome and they were happy to include her in their activities. With the snippets she has shared it was certainly an impactful time for her. We also had many a happy moment where we shared with the villagers photos that we had taken 25 years ago where they saw either themselves or members of their family. These photos we left in the village Link helping us achieve our busy agenda, washed away any apprehension that I had. In addition, seeing how the village had progressed, having adults and children .
What was especially nice about our visit was that we saw glimpses of the impact that we ourselves had had through villagers sharing their memories of us teaching them in the schools or in the evening at Day Care Centre. Then, for them to share with us now their successful careers was priceless.
This time I appreciated being able take advantage of my life experience, I was able to do so much more. What was fantastic to see was younger Gambians leading today’s key projects: this visible before and it left me with confidence that things in The Gambia are continuing to change positively too.
I definitely won’t be waiting another 25 years before I go back, as I am too keen to see the progress that will be made in years to come.”
The Link continues to monitor the incidence of malaria in Genieri and supplies of Coartem and other drugs are made available as needed. On the advice of the local Doctor, we have also paid for the Link-funded Primary Health Care Assistant, Alagi KK Sanyang to receive training in the use of a screening technique called Rapid Diagnostic Testing. This will enable him to identify which patients are suffering specifically from malaria rather than other conditions with similar symptoms. We have also provided him with a supply of the necessary testing strips.
Jolly Phonics Project Progress
Jolly Phonics continues to be taught in the Day Care Centre. Unfortunately we are still looking for someone to join Foday Dampha at the Centre as Demba Sanyang who previously showed an interest in being trained as a teacher has now decided not to become a teacher. Foday is currently looking for a replacement.
Government workers such as teachers have recently received significant salary increases, including a 50% increase for government teachers. The Link has responded to this by increasing the salaries of all those in Genieri who receive a monthly salary in return for carrying out the work of the Link in the village. We decided to make an across the board salary increase of 50% introduced in two phases, i.e. 25% in April and 25% in September . This means that the new monthly salaries will be as follows from September:
Headteacher / Projects Co-ordinator D3,750 (£70)
Assistant Teacher D1,050 (£19)
Caretaker in DCC D600 (£11)
Garden Manager D1,500 (£28)
Assistant Garden Manager D750 (14)
Garden Caretaker D1,050 (£19)
Primary Health Care Worker D900 (£17)
The 100 Club yields a eleven monthly bonuses to winning subscribers. By contributing £10 at the beginning of the year their names are entered in the draw.
Of the funds raise over half must be alloted to the Charity the remainder being available as prizes.
Martin and Innes Hunt £20
Mike and Geraldine Bryer £10
Graham Newman £5
David Marshall £30
John Flannery £10
Barbara Flannery £5
How You Can Help
~ attend one of our fund-raising events – see Forthcoming Events above
~ become a member of the Yate-Genieri Link: membership is £6 per person per year – please
contact Margaret Newman for details - firstname.lastname@example.org
~ become a member of the 100 Club which runs from January 1st each year – please contact Jez
Truelove for details - email@example.com
Chair: Marian Gilpin 2 Wickham Close Chipping Sodbury BS37 6NH
07837 588362 firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary: Hilary Truelove 8 Partridge Close, Yate, BS37 7RN
01454 311720 email@example.com
Treasurer: Jez Truelove 8 Partridge Close, Yate, BS37 7RN
01454 311720 firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer may be contacted via:
If you have any queries, want more information or want to be involved please phone us: 07837 588362