‘We are proud of you all for your tiring efforts you all demonstrated here in Penyem on the 9th 10th and on the 14th December 2017th.We will ever remember you all. Cheers’. Abdou (aka Ten) Camara, General Administrator NTF. The Gambia.
‘I would like to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to visit such a wonderful place, the welcome I received from everyone at the village was overwhelming. I have seen for myself the amazing impact NTF has made in the village and look forward to supporting you further’. Becky Maddison, Group member.
Below is an full account of the trip written by NTF Sponsor Julie Steventon……………
‘A small group of 9 travelled out to the Gambia. 6 of us had been before but for the other 3 it was their first time. In the absence of Boss man and Lady boss (And and Anne Butler) I was made group leader as i had been the most, a role I felt privileged to do.
After an early morning flight to Banjul we were met at the airport by Andrew Gomez who saw us safely onto the transfer coaches and were met at the hotel by Pa Sainey Nyassi and Ten Camara. Once settled into our rooms we did the water and money exchange, once again accompanied by Pa and Andrew.
Pa had booked us a table at the African Queen on the Senegambia strip so we all piled into a taxi for our first meal together, a great session with much laughter, followed by a good night’s sleep ready for our exciting 1st day.
9am saw us loading onto 2 jeeps for the 1st of our trips to Penyem village. Usual stop at Brikama for water then to the Upper basic school where we were greeted by a group of students with a welcome song. Some of us joined in and returned the compliment by a rendition of ” We wish you a merry Christmas”. After our tour, Bryan Allbut did a very short but impressive Geography lesson for some of the students in their ” temporary” classroom, a lean to affair with straw roof which they had built themselves.
Onward to the village and a wonderful welcome by the children and villagers brandishing leaves from the Mango trees. Most sponsored children found their sponsors and we sat down to enjoy the welcome singing, dancing meeting and speeches after which the gifts were unpacked onto tables and then a wander around the compound, hand in hand with many children all with happy smiling faces as usual.
Sunday saw a return to the village for ”family” day, always a wonderful treat to spend time with the family of your sponsored child. This year I had the pleasure of 2 visits as I went with John to his sponsored child’s family before returning to my 2nd home , the Camara/Kunda compound. We were gifted outfits by the family and Mariama had a matching dress which was very special. Lots of fun, singing and dancing,cuddling of babies and John went for a wander with Musa,being introduced to many more villagers whilst i went shopping for green tea,asked for in Mandinka !!!!!
Monday was a rest day spent around the pool or beach before being picked up by Andrew to be escorted along the beach to Pa’s juice bar at Poco Loco beach where the group enjoyed a freshly squeezed juice of their choice before a taxi back to the hotel. We enjoyed a meal together on the terrace before witnessing some spectacular African tribal dancing and drumming .
Tuesday saw an 8am start for our safari trip over the border into Senegal into Fathala park. This entailed a taxi,jeeps and a mad ferry crossing but we all had a fantastic day where we were lucky enough to see a white rhino, monkeys, zebra,warthogs,crocodile,
Wednesday was chill out day. Becky and I did aquarobics in the pool, the only 2 mad enough to get in at that time of the morning, giving it large to Swedish house mafia,the session taken by an ex professional footballer !!! Others spent time on the beach, played table football and volleyball and John was bodyguard for Debbie and Denise as escorted by Pa they went to Serrekunda market and the Batik place to haggle for carvings.
Thursday saw our return to the village where escorted by Ten Camara we were shown around other areas we had not previously visited, churches, Mosque, Banana plantation Arabic and Islamic schools and other compounds. Also intoduced to the grandmother of Fatou Jallow, a bursary student with NTF as thanks to NTF the grandmother was pleased to have been provided with a wheelchair, making a huge difference. The doctor made a special visit on his day off to show us around and answer questions too, very much appreciated. After another lovely meal of Benechin, ably supplied by the ladies of the village with the addition of a wonderful Palm oil curry by John’s family Jarju we made our tearful goodbyes to return back to the hotel just in time for Caitlin and Leisha to join in thier last volley ball match whilst Becky and I hit the pool and the rest enjoyed a Julbrew or 2 around the Christmas tree !!!
Friday morning saw us packed and ready to depart. Sad goodbyes from the boys to the airport where Ten met us to add his goodbye and give us letters from Chief Kolley.
Speaking for myself and John we had yet another wonderful week, enjoyed spending time with our fellow travellers and bonded together as a small unit, getting to know one another and making many happy memories, ably looked after by Dam , Ten, Andrew and Pa. NTF should be proud of the lads ,they stepped up and did a grand job. I feel Penyem is like my second home and always sad to leave. It is such a very special place with very spacial people. I am proud to be associated with NTF, the best thing I have ever done by far.
Look forward to our next visit and love keeping in touch with everyone by the virtue of social media’.