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
and from last week…
Join my 'Behind the Scenes' newsletter
Delivered monthly to your inbox with all my behind the scenes news, latest posts and giveaways exclusive to my subscribers.
Hi Kathryn, It’s wonderful that you have met her several times and see her grow. I have sponsored several children but haven’t gotten a chance to meet them. I’m surprised that they have to pay for an exam in Gambia. I’m open to sponsoring more kids and will look into Friends of Gambia.
Your black and white photos are so stunning. I also love your second photo with Lisa’s family.
Hi Marisol, I do feel very lucky as I’m sure most people who sponsor children around the world never get a chance to meet them.
I agree the black & white ones work well. Although I usually work in colour, I think it can be distracting from the subject. With black and white images it is almost as if you see the real person with out this distraction.
I hope you are able to meet the Indian girl that you sponsor some day. Thanks to you I now sponsor a Vietnamese girl through Plan UK. Keep up the good work Kathryn!
That is really great to hear. And I hope you get to meet your Vietnamese girl one day too. With The Gambia, I’m lucky to be in a position where I’ve been able to visit the same country many times and to get involved. I think it is unlikely though that I’ll ever meet the girl Indian. Sadly, I just couldn’t afford it.
Must have been wonderful to meet Lisa!
The children in the last two pictures, the girl especially is stunningly beautiful! Super model looks 🙂 Hope they all make it to a better future Kat.
They are all a delight to photograph and I am lucky to be able to visit Lisa as often as I do.
We sponsor a boy in Africa and a girl in India, but we have never met them. The girl was just 6 when we first sponsored her, and she is now a teenager. I hope we have helped a little.
I’m certain that you have. What may be a small difference in the big scheme of the things is a huge difference to the individuals concerned.
When we visited the Gambia some time ago, we took pens, pencils and school supplies, and told there was a great need for these. However, a couple of times since. we’ve been told this is ‘patronising’ However, we did take care to give them to a teacher, or village chief or something and not directly to children.
I’d be interested to know who told you it was patronising. I hate turning up at a school empty handed. There is still a great need for pens, pencils etc in many schools. Agree you shouldn’t encourage begging by giving directly to the children on the whole, although I often take things for the children of families I know well.
How great that you’ve managed to meet her, Kat… we sponsor a young boy in Tanzania and have done so for the last 9 years or so. We’ve exchanged correspondence and pictures in the past, but we have yet to meet him. It would be good to do that some time…
I do hope your travels take you that way sometime. I’m very lucky to be able to visit Lisa so easily.