Two former students of The Kingswood School, Corby decided to take on a huge adventure – to live and work in Penyem for a month. Eleanor Springham and Chelsea MacFarlane were no strangers to The Gambia having visited a ‘tourists’ on a couple of occasions previously. Living in the village was something else! Here is their story……………
On 17th November 2015 we flew out to The Gambia and headed straight to Penyem. We spent 3 weeks living in the village, becoming proper Gambian citizens! We adapted quickly to the different way of life; although at times this was not easy! We found that everything was a lot more difficult than it is in England. For example, going for a shower involves fetching water from the well and showering outside by tipping buckets of water over yourself – a bit different from pushing a button to turn the shower on! Eating rice, rice and even more rice was another thing that we found difficult adapting to. The amount of times we spoke about a McDonalds was ridiculous!
On 1st December we realised that we didn’t have an advent calendar so we improvised…a malaria tablet every morning! Whilst living in the village we learnt lots of new skills. We learnt how to harvest rice, how to milk cows and even how to brick lay! The villagers of Penyem were very keen to show us what they get up to on a day to day basis and we loved being included in everything. We even started speaking in a number of the languages that they speak in the village! A skill that we’ll need to practise for the next time we visit!
Throughout our stay in Penyem, we helped to teach in the local primary school. We found that the children love to learn and participate in the activities – something that would please the children’s sponsors! Although classrooms are a lot more basic than those in the UK, children make the most of what they’ve got. It’s amazing to see how happy they are whilst at school – something that children in the UK often take for granted.
Before we flew out to The Gambia, we held a charity night and raised £830! Amazing! Whilst living in the village we wanted to take on a project using this money. We spoke to Chief Kolley and discussed renovating an old room into a brand new classroom. In the 3 weeks that we were there, this was achieved. The transformation took a lot of hard work from local people but they never complained once. It was a pleasure to hear just how much people appreciated the transformation. Apparently the room had been untouched for a number of years! Once the rest of the group flew out to join us, the villagers held an opening ceremony for the new classroom. We were overwhelmed to find out that the classroom had been named after us!
Many happy tears were shed! We loved every minute of our stay in Penyem! Every single villager was so welcoming and made the trip a very memorable one for us both. Thank you.
Please feel free to watch our video below: