In 2005 I started sponsoring a little girl in The Gambia. She was just 6 years old. A few months later I visited The Gambia for the first time and, of course, I arranged to visit her, her school and her family. Nearly 8 years later I am still sponsoring her and have visited many times, most recently just last week during #BlogGambia.
I can still well remember the first time I saw her. I had arrived at her school and was instantly surrounded by children, all wanting to shake my hand with some just wanting to hold my hand and never let go. They were adorable – a wonderful welcome to the school. As we walked across the playground I looked around for a girl who might be my little girl but I could see no one resembling the photograph I had.
We went into her classroom and she was called to the front. My heart sank, instead of the happy greeting I had expected, a very shy girl edge forward, clearly mortified about being singled out like this. You can see from the photo above just how unhappy she was!
Since then I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been to The Gambia, whether for work or on holiday, usually a bit of both and of course, I always visit my sponsored child and her family.
My most recent visit
She is still incredibly shy but at least now she looks pleased to see me. As always I don’t come empty-handed and this time I bring a large sack of rice for the family and a new stove (more on this in my next post). Neither of her parents speak English and I have only picked up a word or two in Mandinka so it has been hard to really get to know them. As with other visits many of the neighbours’ children have come over to see what is going on and they all love having their photos taken, jostling for position in front of my lens. Equally they love seeing themselves on the LCD screen, something that couldn’t be done when I first started visiting the family as I was still using film in my camera!
Sponsoring a child in The Gambia
While government run schools are free to attend, parents still have to buy uniforms, pencils, pens and exercise books. The community itself is responsible for building and maintaining the school, providing furniture and so forth. The Gambia is a very poor country, with very high unemployment and many living below the poverty line so most schools are financed, at least in part by, charitable NGOs (Non Government Organisations) as well as by gifts and donations from individuals.
Another expense that parents struggle to afford is the cost of their child taking an exam; while attending school may be free, apart from all the costs listed above, all the exams have to be paid for, hence the need for sponsorship.
I’d certainly recommend sponsoring a child in Africa or in other places where there is a need. I sponsor this girl through the Friends of The Gambia Association and another girl in India through PlanUK. There are always more children that need sponsoring.
Some of my favourite photographs taken while visiting my sponsored girl in The Gambia