Thursday, 25 December 2008

Tabaski to Christmas

Hello again. I'm back in England after amixed trip - good news and bad news. Bad in that the family of the boy with the bad leg had failed to take him back to the clinic for regular check-ups and his wound has become re-infected. Everyone blaming everyone else, lots of accusations of theft, neglect & ill-will. I arranged for the doctor to see the boy again, laid on transport, a new x-ray and both doctor & I threatened to withdraw support if a single appointment is missed in the future. This took four days of family conferences, 'phone calls, people calling at my house last thing at night and first thing in the morning to say they didn't agree with the decisions that had been reached in the previous meeting and demanding another. Outcome - the doctor has seen the boy and the leg can be treated, so I suppose that's good news!
The good Good News is that by chance I met a young woman who was forced to end her education at the age of fifteen when her father died. She led a very sad life, giving birth to two children. The father of the first child also died and the father of the second ran away. She left the village to seek her fortune and, not finding it, returned to her mother's compound and became an agricultural labourer. She had attempted to join the army and the police force but failed to satisfy either with her educational attainments.
She asked GOES for support with school fees for her children (agreed) and we discussed with her her own ambitions. It seems there is an introductory IT course which includes basic language & maths. She came to the airport to say goodbye and we found ourselves sitting at a table near two people who had taken the course we were discussing and offered her help with it. Also within earshot was the head of a fairly local nursery school who offered the girl a job as a student teacher provided she achieved good grades in the IT course! She also offered her the chance to practice on the school's typewriter to help with her keyboard skills! As I left for the departure lounge the four of them were still deep in conversation.
Apart from two doses of Banjul Belly (don't ask!) my health kept up, my lungs and heart continued to work and I was too busy to worry about it anyway ...
Thanks from all the people you have helped and I'll post some pictures after the family celebrations are over.
Happy Christmas, and we wish you good health, happiness and long life for 2009.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

There's good news and there's bad news ...

Day before the journey. No news about the extra baggage allowance. Suddenly realise there's not much time left and everything is in heaps or plastic bags on/beside/under the spare bed. Flurry of emails/'phone calls. Outcome is the Thomas Cook, who have been so helpful before, aren't going to be this time. No extra allowance. Drat, blather and trudget!!! Good news 1) Adama rings to announce she has washed and ironed some of my clothes that arrived in The Gambia without me in April. Too excited to enquire what's there so out goes my bag of spare clothes. It's a fingers crossed moment. Now down to weighing everything else. Seven kg above the 25 allowed.
Out go some items of clothing for adults. The laptop weighs just under 5kg and will go in my small backpack. Joyce has brain wave - check the accuracy of the fisherman's weight scale. Brilliant! 2kg of tinned food from the pantry shows up as nearly 3kg! The scales add on 0.5kg for every weighing! Fingers crossed, nearly everything goes back into the holdall. Just hope the airport scales aren't made by the same firm as the fisherman's! Next panic - did I book the taxi for 5am in the morning? Better just check!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Packing and discarding ...

The spare bed has vanished under the mountain of essential stuff that MUST go to The Gambia. Alongside is a much smaller heap of things I'd like to take - spare clothes, toothbrush, medication to keep me functioning. I'm waiting to hear from flight 737 that it can carry a few extra Kgs of luggage. I have survived for a couple of weeks on one T-shirt, and one of most everything else (two shoes, though. Sometimes I spoil myself!)
I'll be missing the Poems and Pints at the Blue Cap, Sandiway, 9/12/08 @ 7pm. Pity - I quite enjoy performing - no shame in old age!
Hope to bring some decent pictures home, including one of the tap at Bundung school, in place thanks to a donation by my friend David, who died recently at far too young an age.
I'm looking forward to visiting friends and the children we're helping to sponsor. One advantage of being a micro-charity is that we know personally the people we help, and we know that help goes directly where to where it's needed. One disadvantage of being a micro-charity is that we never have enough money to help all the people we would like to help ...
Three days to go. Best wishes to all of you who help. Thanks.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Anytime's packing time!

Here we are again; plastic bags all over the place, piles of things that must go growing larger, pile of my clothes getting smaller, panic setting in! What if the extra allowance is only 10kg, only 5kg, doesn't materialise at all?? Does the laptop for Ami or the box of 'phones or the football boots for Mussa stay here?
We're away for the weekend, hiding at Gladstone's Library at Hawarden for a writing workshop. Log fires and great puddings, storytelling, some writing, lots of talking and putting worlds to right ...
Should be a boost to the writing. Ed's adventures in West Africa has been neglected for a couple of months. Need to move on from the cloud of sadness left by the death of two people close to me. My own health problems fade into insignificance - just get on with life! Good to be in contact with Glynn and Ian again (they run SHINE Africa, the charity from which GOES sprang. Ian and Glynn cater for nursery school children in The Gambia, having built 3 or 4 schools there, taught teachers, provided thousands of mosquito nets etc. Google for them or give me a call and I'll pass messages on.)
Beautiful sunset here, after a freezing cold day. Should be a lot warmer next week, 3,000 miles south of here!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Noses to grindstones again.

November has been a rough, unkind month so far. Death of a family member, death of a friend. Sad, grey month. But out of sad days came great kindness - donations for G.O.E.S., gifts of mobile 'phones, clothing, toys to take out to The Gambia when Tom goes in December. We certainly were not minded to solicit donations but they came along without the asking. Even as the 'credit crunch' started to bite people were thinking of those in Africa, and we heard the phrase 'however bad it is for us it's worse for them'. We have had so many expressions of sympathy from our Gambian friends, which we have passed on to our bereaved family and friends here.
So, the packing starts - the spare bed will be covered with things to take. Just hope that Thomas Cook turn up with an extra baggage allowance again. They are usually very helpful. Of course some of my stuff is already out there after the aborted trip in April when I stayed here but the luggage went on holiday without me!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

What was I saying!

Silly of me to grumble a while ago about communication problems in The Gambia. Home 'phone here was down for five days, then after that was restored our ISP (Pipex) had a hissy fit. First refused to let us in for two days, then opened with all our emails lost and then the next day opened (slowly, how slowly!) with ALL our emails - deleted, blacklisted - almost a thousand altogether from the last six months. Tried to contact Pipex without success. I've managed to delete all but the most needed but we have also lost all our address book. The drafts of important emails have also vanished. Drat, bother and trudget!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

"The boy with the leg - again!"

This letter from Alhagie's brother arrived yesterday. When we first met Ousman he spoke English fluently but had great difficulty writing it ( he is also fluent in Arabic and is something of a gifted calligrapher in that language). I'm posting this letter for two reasons; first, to show how he has improved and second, to bring you up to date with Alhagie's progress. As you see, he is recovering well. I had been concerned that his operation may have been spoiled by later re-infection but thankfully this has not happened. He still has to attended the clinic for after-care, and he still needs medication to ward off re-infection. However, thanks to the wonderful support many of you have given he is a healthy teenage lad with a future.
He has missed a lot of schooling but is anxious (at least his parents are anxious!) to return to school and complete his education. If anyone is able to contribute to this please remember it's a long term commitment, and please get in touch with me for more information.
Thanks again to all of you, and best wishes for the rest of 2008.
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Good news week!

Posted by PicasaTwo items of good news this week, both by the same post. First, the above certificate from Ousman, the brother of Alhagie. It's taken a while to arrive but it was sent to show that our sponsorship of Ous has bourne fruit - he is now a qualified Early Years teacher! We're very happy for him and hope it will lead to employment. Teachers don't receive a large salary but hopefully he'll be able to support his family. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to this work. I'm hoping to be able to start travelling again but because of my recent health condition travel insurance is a problem. If you happen to know any insurance companies that have a soft spot for decrepit oldies please let me know!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Back again!

Sorry to have been out of touch for a while - old age and dodgy health to blame. Back in working order again and as soon as I've checked a few things out I'll be publishing again!
Best wishes,

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Keeping in touch.

I wish! I wish there was a simple, reliable and inexpensive way to keep in touch with friends in The Gambia. In some places, Bakau for instance, it's rarely a problem. In others, Lamin, Mandinari, Bansang and Wassu, it's a rare day 'phone calls get through. The postal service is erratic too. Sometimes a letter takes a week, sometimes it takes three months and sometimes ...
Oddly, the Gambian girl we help with her food bills in Kampala, much further away, receives our calls, texts and emails very successfully. We like to keep in touch with friends we've made out there although the customary answer to questions about a Gambian's health is "Fine!" even though you suspect they are on their death-bed!
Funds are coming in, not flooding but flowing nicely. Ebay is helping us to clear the shed and attic, raise funds and meet some great people. The Newsletter helps friends keep in touch and writing the Gambian novel keeps me out of mischief. 2008 maybe hasn't been a brilliant year for health for either of us but recoveries are being made as are plans for the future of GOES. Tom hopes to go out towards the end of the year. Keep you posted, people.
Any questions?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Terry Waite at St. Deiniol's Library

We had the great good fortune to hear Terry Waite speak on Sunday Evening. His topic was "Hope" and he spoke, very simply, from the heart. He used some of Gladstone's words, such as
"I was myself brought up to believe that salvation depended absolutely upon the reception of a particular and very narrow creed. But long, long, have I cast those weeds behind me" and
"We look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power ... Nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right."
He spoke of his 1,763 days in captivity, torture, mock execution without rancour.
I'm not given to any religious persuasion and I feel that I have been left behind by modern politics but I felt very much at home listening to this man. Just as I feel at home in the company of my friends, such as those in the picture below.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Monday, 8 September 2008

What's Going On?

Sorry for the lack of news - we are awake and working! We have been sending aid to Bundung, Bakau and Mandinari. Our friends have received money for rice, school fees, text books and uniforms. One of our students has returned to complete her degree in Kampala, two more are starting at college to study I.T., another couple have received medical treatment and we are waiting to hear from a village school how we can help with repairs.
The income from friends, Gift Aid and the anthology has been invaluable. Tom is dithering about going out in the Autumn, having missed the April visit. Sometimes it seems that the money has a greater value than our presence, but it is nice to see friends!
We've also adopted 'easysearch" as our search engine. Each search using it instead of Google donates a tiny sum to GOES. It's quite easy to employ - search for 'easysearch', select Gambian Occasional Emergency Support from the second page of the drop-down menu and away you go! We've earned 9p already.
Our main operation is coping with emergencies but we are often asked to find sponsors for children. We can arrange this but please remember that it's an ongoing commitment for several years. Send us an email if you would like to become involved.
So, we have been busy after all! In our spare time (!) we are learning to ride a tandem, write poems and stories, and Tom is trying to complete the novel (about The Gambia, need you ask!)
Latest news letter is out now, please request a copy.
Best wishes,
Joyce & Tom.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Learn the lesson.

I was chatting to my barber at Snips in Warrington market the other day. He's a keen reader, as well as helping GOES with a collection box. We remembered the books we had read as children, and the sauce bottles and everything and anything that had words on it. That took me back to the day in The Gambia when I was sorting out a village school library. Many of the books had been badly damaged by rain and by termites. They were in a dreadful state and because the village didn't run to a rubbish collection I decided to burn them. It was a Saturday morning and not a soul in sight. I dug a shallow fire pit and lit a few twigs and leaves. I started to tear up one of the most badly damaged books and threw a few pages onto the fire. I was disturbed by shouts of "No! Stop! Stop!" and a group of eleven and twelve year old children raced towards me. One grabbed the pages from the fire and stamped out the flames. I saw there were tears in his eyes. "Please don't do this, please" he begged. "They are books!" I pointed out that the books were ruined, destroyed by damp or termites and were in any case unsuitable for children of their age.
"Tom," said their leader."We can see how the writer used words, how he constructed sentences; we can see how adverbs and adjectives are used, which tenses are employed. These books can teach us many things. There are no books in our homes."
I felt about half an inch high. Out of the mouths ...
Half a book is better than none. As somebody said "We don't know we're born."

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Life goes on!

Managed to load the pictures of Alhagie. The room in the clinic looks lovely and clean, but he was, I think, a little lonely and missed the constant comings and goings of his compound. He was delighted with the TV and you can see that he was able to stand up and turn it on! You'll notice how thin his right leg is. It's healing well but he'll have to build up the muscles before he can start running again. He'll be fit to return to school in the Autumn, and we're looking for a sponsor to help him.
It's the rainy season now (here as well!) and there will be requests for help with damaged roofs and walls.
Her Majesty's Customs and Revenue have paid a useful sum of Gift Aid into our GOES account with the Coop bank and we'll find good use for it.
In our spare time (don't retire - you don't get days off!) we are learning to ride a tandem again. Fifty years ago a tandem was our daily transport and we're turning back the clock! I forget the excuse we used to justify it but it's really good fun!
Thanks again to all our supporters - you know who you are, friends!
Best wishes,
Joyce & Tom.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Photo file (I hope!)

Back in the saddle!

Good news!
Alhagie has been passed as fit by the doctor. I'll try to post some photographs (probably not the rather grisly one of the fragments of bone removed from the infected leg!) He is travelling to the clinic three times a week to have the wound dressed - quite a good idea as he lives in a very dusty environment at home! He's looking forward to being able to join his football team and most of all wants to go for a good long run again!
He would also like to resume his studies - he's a bright lad but has fallen sadly behind in his school work over the last three years. He needs some body who will support him with school and later college fees.
It's very upsetting when a family is promised support in educating their child only to find after a term or two that the novelty has worn off for the donor. If you are considering help in young person please be prepared to stay with that commitment for a long time. If you can't, for whatever reason, go to that extent please consider a one-off donation to GOES for use in emergency help - house repairs, mosquito nets, medical help or whatever.
Other news - Horija is still working with refugees in Uganda but hopes to return to The Gambia and find employment in the Autumn. Moses is back at the football academy after visiting relations in Senegal. Ami is hard at wok at Summer school (hope her maths are responding!),
Awa is completing her teacher training, Ma has finished her house, Adama's mum is enjoying her restored vision after the cataract operation ... and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs has donated nearly a thousand pounds of Gift Aid money to GOES. Thanks to everybody who Gift Aided their donations - it does work!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Stop Press - Great news!!

After trying to call Ousman (brother of Alhagie, aka 'the boy with the bad leg) manage to get a clear line; usual exchange of greetings, the
"How is Alhagie?"
"He is without pain, he is taking himself to the clinic to have the dressing changed, he will see the surgeon on Thursday to tell him he is cured!"
The family send thanks to everybody who has supported them over the recent months.
The kindness of strangers (you don't have to be - if you're planning a visit to The Gambia we can give you introductions to the family!)
Well done writers & readers.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


I wonder, when I can spare the time, what the future will hold for the people we try to help today. We all hope that The Gambia will prosper under a benevolent government and that pure water, health care and free education will be available for all.

What will become for this young lady? She already has a loving home where she is cared for by everyone who lives there. It's an extended family, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents taking part.

Perhaps there's poverty in material things but there's wealth untold in love and care.
We'll do all we can, with your help, to make sure that she has medicine and education to meet her needs (20% of Gambian babies die from malaria before they can reach five years of age).

What exactly, would we hope to see if we should be able to walk into this young girl's family home in, say, twenty years' time? Probably electricity will be available for all who can afford it; water will gush from taps; there will be books to read and children will be busy doing their homework.

Let's hope that the family virtues and strengths will not have been lost; that respect for elders will continue; that books and learning will still be valued.

G.O.E.S. attempts to help people. It is not our job to tell them how to live.

We do not try to impose our values on them - they seem far ahead of us in most aspects of civilised society!
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Friday, 27 June 2008

Alhagie's progress

The boy with the bad leg (aka Alhagie Sarr) can now be known simply by his name! He will be discharged from Bakau Clinic on Monday, having made a good recovery from his operation. It's been a touch nerve wracking trying to co-ordinate all the arrangements at a distance of three thousand miles. A very slow postal service, an eccentric 'phone system and lost emails all added to the excitement. Ousman, Alhagie's big brother did a grand job of co-ordinating, giving blood and general hand-holding. Many thanks to Vale Royal Writers Group, who have made this possible. The group agreed to all income from the sale of the prize-winning anthology going to G.O.E.S. That income paid for X-rays, medication, operation and accommodation in the clinic. Without this 'kindness of strangers' Alhagie would have had to endure the amputation of his leg.

If you're in Cheshire and interested in writing have a look at

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Operation at last!

We heard today (Saturday) that Alhagie has at last had the operation to cure the bone infection in his leg. It was delayed from Friday because of a shortage of blood, so his big brother donated a pint. Alhagie has been moved from a single room, where he was lonely and possibly frightened, to a shared room with a television. He was amazed to be asked what he wanted to eat - then someone brought it to him! In the state hospitals relations bring in food for patients. He will be in the clinic for two weeks. We'll keep you posted. Thanks to Vale Royal Writers Group, who donated income from the sales of their anthology "The Cheshire Collection" - good work, friends.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Fingers crossed for Alhagie.

Alaghie is tonight in the clinic waiting for the operation that will hopefully change his life for the better. By this time tomorrow we should know how it has turned out for him. Lots of people here, three thousand miles away, are willing him to come out of it well - Vale Royal Writers, family, friends and numerous supporters.
As soon as we have news we'll let you know.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Back on task!

Sorry about the absence. Looking after J, hospital appointments, visits to relatives and finally a holiday! We'd forgotten just how beautiful the Lake District is. We found a delightful B&B in Keswick, five minutes from Derwentwater and lazed as hard as we could for five lovely days.
Back to dealing with the charity. We can confirm that the money for Alhagie's operation has been paid to the clinic and by the time you read this he will be installed, examined and x-rayed ready for his operation early next week. Our fingers are still firmly crossed but it does seem that things are at last happening.
We've had a nice email from Horija - GOES has been supporting her while she has studied at Kampala University for her Master's degree - she's submitted her thesis and is working with refugees while she awaits the result.
Fatou Cham, another of our supported students, has graduated from High School. She invited us to her celebrations but we sadly had to decline.
The old lady (Tom's age!) has had the first of her cataract operations and is delighted with the result - wants the other eye done now.
The price of rice continues to rise, as of course does the price of fuel. We pray that one day prosperity will visit this lovely tiny country. We still don't know we're born here in the U.K.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


We think we now have the funds to ensure that Alhagie gets his operation. All we have to do is organise which clinic, which doctor, which country, how much exactly the bill will be ...
We use Bayba Express to transfer money. Pay the funds into the Bayba account in any branch of Barclay's, 'phone the Bayba office and obtain a code number, 'phone the recipient and the money is ready for collection the same day. It's worked very well so far (fingers crossed.)
Joyce's spell in hospital has rather taken our minds off The Gambia for a while but we're getting back on track and hope to have good news for you soon.
Meanwhile, if anybody would like to sponsor a student (or two or three!) please get in touch. should find us.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Escape to Wales!

We are escaping from the real world to spend the weekend in retreat. We're going to Hawarden, to stay in the Library W.E.Gladstone gave to the nation. Aside from wondering about the gifts Thatcher or Blair will donate, St. Deiniol's Library provides a huge collection of books, added to every year following the death of the founder. There are cosy study bedrooms, three meals a day, (wonderfull puddings!), great log fireplaces, an honesty system bar, at least three pubs in the village and most valued of all, peace and quiet.
Joyce has been trying to relax following her discharge from hospital. A mass of friends, English and Gambian, have been enquiring daily, flowers arrived, cards letters and emails.
Good things have happened. Alhagie, the boy with osteomyelitis, has been examined by a panel of doctors. The report has been passed to MRC, who have contacted overseas hospitals, and a third party, an experienced surgeon has expressed a willingness to conduct a series of three operations in a modern private hospital not far from the boy's home. If the parents agree this seems to be the best option, though people do have faith in operations performed outside the country.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Good news week!

Although neither Joyce nor I could make it to the awards ceremony for "The Cheshire Collection" anthology three of our writers, Celia, Polly and Chris ( drove down to London for the day to collect a prize for the best anthology published in support of a charity.
Many thanks to them for spending what seems to be a very tiring but rewarding day.
We also had a response to the appeal for help we published on Bantabar (a site for people looking for advice about The Gambia).
It seems that there is a youngster with the same condition as Alegie (osteomyelitis) in the next village - Lamin. Peggy, the lady who has been supporting him, has been most helpful with advice, 'phone numbers and costings. She has also provided a wheelchair which her boy no longer needs! Things are about to move - but there is a fly in the ointment! Ousman, our boy's big brother, has lost his phone. I was taking a replacement out for him but in the end I didn't go (see report below). So contact has been difficult. I sent Ous an email but he only reads his email when he has the money to go to the internet cafe ...
However, that's been solved by co-operation. I told Peggy the problem, Peggy told her driver, Lamin (from Lamin) to go to the village and tell Ousman to go to read his email and contact me so I can pass on the message about treatment for the boy. Easy. Gambian easy anyway!

Monday, 28 April 2008

The best laid plans ...

Sorry for not posting for a while. The plan was that I would be in The Gambia and Joyce would be completing the claim for Gift Aid here at home. Neither came to pass. Joyce drove me to the airport last Monday. We had breakfast, I went into Departures and she drove home. She nearly got there - she crashed as she drove into the road where we live, passed out and wasn't found for an hour. Rescued by paramedics she remained unconscious in hospital for 24 hours.
Meanwhile, I boarded the 'plane which took off almost on time. Ten minutes into the flight the captain announced that we would be returning to Manchester because the computer had developed a fault. We circled around for a while to burn fuel and returned to earth about an hour after leaving it. The fault could not be repaired so we prepared to change planes. I 'phoned my daughter to inform her of this delay just before my brother-in-law called her to find how he could reach me in The Gambia!
Long and short is that he collected me and drove me to the hospital. Strange how things work out.
J is still in hospital, recovering well.
As a footnote my baggage, which should have been taken off the plane, did make the journey to Banjul, and I was able to arrange for a Gambian friend to collect the cases and distribute the contents.

Friday, 18 April 2008

The kindness of friends.

Wonderful day; friends have filled in Gift Aid declarations, enabling us to claim 28% extra on their donations through the year. I received gifts of pencils & books for the schools, letters for children and teachers, offers of medical supplies and a very welcome large donation.
The mountain of goodies in the spare bedroom is slowly finding its way into suitcases and when all the donations and gifts are packed I'll try to fit in my spare clothes for the trip!
I never know if I should thank people by name in this blog but those I've suggested it to have declined to be named. Thanks, people; you know who you are.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Up to date.

Taking a break from the Gift Aid claim to visit our daughter in Oxfordshire. (Yes, she is sponsoring a student!) Last minute visit to our favourite coffee shop produced some lovely knitted bonnets for babies (thanks, Iris!) Getting into panic mode with preparations for my trip - Bless Thomson Air for the extra 20kg of baggage. Phone call from The Gambia suggests that Alagie will get his operation. Maybe. Fingers crossed. Any questions? and we'll try to answer.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Good news Monday!

While most of our efforts concern the young lad with the infected leg - the local doctors being quite good at writing reports that agree he needs treatment but not fixing a date for his operation - other matters are going well. The school in Bundung has at last been connected to the water mains. Fresh water on tap after a delay of about eighteen months. We have also raised the money for a young family in another village to make a start on their own small house.
The two students we sponsor, one on Lodz, Poland, and the other in Kampala are doing well.
Our local GP & Travel Clinic are giving good advice as is our wonderful Pharmacist in Warrington who has been most helpful researching inexpensive solutions to some of the Gambian health problems we have presented him with. Good news Monday indeed. Later today we go to the Writers Group meeting with crossed fingers for more good news! Just failed to load some pictures from Picasa but, as you see, failed again!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Value of the pound is sinking

Bit of a problem with money. Twelve months ago we could get 50 Gambian dalasi to the pound. Now it's down to just 37. This means everything costs us more and donations have lost 26% of their value. This in turn means that the Gift Aid we can claim at 28% just about cancels out the lost value of the pound rather than acting as a bonus. Still, that's life and we cross our fingers and hope for a return to former times. It's a bit embarrassing to have to tell friends who have agreed to sponsor a student that the amount they happily agreed on is now inadequate. Happily most people have been very understanding. G.O.E.S. promises to make sure that none of the students suffers - we'll just have to try a bit harder. Grumble over!

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Not cooking the books - just trying to find them!

Sorry for the silence but we have been rather busy. We are sorting our finaces out for presentation to H.M. Revenue & Customs in order to claim Gift Aid. The forms are simple enough but sadly my 'system' of leaving myself notes on scraps of paper (going green is my excuse) odd notebooks and so on drives Joyce crackers. Thank goodness she's more methodical than I am. My habit of receiving an application is to pay out the cash and assume that money to back the pay-out will arrive somehow or other generally works. I don't know how it works but it does! We even have money (not a lot, but some) in hand. Just as well because I'm visiting The Gambia in April and there will be needy people there. I was reading on the Jubilee Debt Campaign website that The Gambia has at last completed the International Debt cancellation process which will wipe out 140 million dollars of debt. Considering that poverty is endemic in the country - about a third of the population undernourished and 60% living on LESS than a dollar a day - the country could not service its debts let alone spend money on improving health and education. Fingers crossed that conditions will improve but I guess G.O.E.S. will be needed for a long time yet.
So thanks to all the people who support us - family, friends, our favourite coffee shop, my barber and all the wonderful people in Vale Royal Writers Circle who are backing our work with the income from sales of the 'Cheshire Collection' anthology.
Meanwhile the accounts need completing and the spare bed groans under the weight of books, medical supplies and goodness knows what else and I wait for a letter from the airline allowing a few extra kgs baggage!
Back to it!

Monday, 17 March 2008

Alagie waits at home ...

waits at home ...

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Quick update!

What's going on? Alagie, the boy with the bad leg has been to the hospital again and been examined by a team of three doctors. The report is much the same as previous reports but does arrange for another meeting early in April which will hopefully set a date for an operation. There was a little confusion because of an error on his certificate but that has been sorted out. His parents have worked very hard to improve his care and we have supplied a water filter and several towels for his exclusive use. He continues to take the tablets and we hear that he is now in less pain. He went to see the local boys play football a couple of days ago which was a bit of a treat as he has rarely been out of his compound since he became ill.
Meanwhile the pile of goodies grows in our spare room - clothing, medical supplies, pencils & books grow. I haven't heard yet from Thomas Cook about an increased baggage allowance but fingers remain crossed!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Back with us ...

Sorry to have been out of touch for a while- blame ageing bones and stupidity! Determined to demonstrate that I didn't have the 'flu I went for a long bike ride, became very cold & lost voice, ability to stand up and sulked for a few days in bed. Drat!
Back to what passes as 'normal' now, so lots of calls to The Gambia, letters, counting pennies and planning the next trip (late April).
The boy's leg appears to be responding to regular antibiotics, and there has been a conference between three doctors to decide when to operate. We've paid for yet another medical report, and expressed our continued support for him so maybe something will happen in the very near future.
One of the advantages of being a "micro-charity" is that we know personally everybody we deal with, we can, with their permission, put Gambians in touch with their sponsors - we can facilitate exchange of letters & e-mails and have been able to suggest how sponsors can visit the friends they have made. Not everybody wants to, of course. Many people are willing to give GOES the money and leave us to get on with it, and it's great to be trusted, but the chance is there if wanted!
We repeat the promise that ALL money given to GOES goes to needy people in The Gambia - we don't deduct anything for our expenses, travel costs, offices in Park Lane, a fleet of 4x4s,
or anything else. We love what we're doing and will do it as long as we can.
We are a charity registered with H.M.R & C for Gift Aid (we can claim 28% extra on donations made from taxable income) but at the moment we're just below the Charity Commission's lower income level of £5,000 pa for registration with them. Hopefully we'll soon be above this level.
Many thanks to everybody who has helped us or expressed interest and support. We have no political or religious affiliation. It just seems a good idea to do what we are doing. We would welcome your comments.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

More Gambian friends.

Ras-Bai, on the left, has been a friend for years. Tom originally met him while running on the beach at Bakau. Ras never asked for money, wrote a good letter and looked hard for work. He's now a trainee cook at a good local hotel. He accepted GOES aid this time to save a tooth. We paid for a filling and saved Ras his nice smile! The other young man is a talented local artist, working to commissions. Make sure you agree the price before he starts work! Joyce models the 'GOES' T-shirts!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Talented helpers

We're just so lucky to have help from the writers. They created the poetry & prose anthology, organised its publication and publicity - and agreed to donate all profits to G.O.E.S.
The latest kindness is to design posters for display in our local branch of Borders (bookshop) where the 'Cheshire Collection' is on display. Fifty more copies have been printed and of those twenty are in the shop for sale. Come and buy!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Fingers crossed again.

Good news about the boy with the bad leg. Ousman, his brother, has at last obtained a copy of the boy's medical report. He has copied it and posted it to me so I can obtain some advice here. The doctor has brought forward his next examination of the leg with a view to setting an early date for an operation. The anti-biotics and supply of clean water, towels and bandages have eased the pain and the boy has managed to sit and watch his friends play football. He is no longer crying with pain every night. So - fingers crossed for a speedy good outcome. Thanks to so many people who have contributed to G.O.E.S. Even a few words of encouragement ment a lot when we seem to be getting nowhere! When I retrieved my car from its MOT and service yesterday I found a box of bandages on the back seat which hadn't been there the day before!
Ami. Musa, Isatou and N'dey have had their school examination fees paid. Ous has a new battery for his car and can start work driving a taxi again. Baby Sega has money for medical treatment. Awa has wages for three months as a teacher. Yusupha has received help with his college fees. The small children of Gaye Kunda in Bundung have new clothing, the wives of N'fally have wind-up torches - thanks from them to you for all your kindness to strangers.
If you are thinking of a holiday in The Gambia we can arrange for you to meet the people you have helped!

Monday, 11 February 2008

First friend.

N'fally, with his youngest son. N'fally is my first Gambian friend. He lives very simply. He and his family have been very supportive, giving food, a roof over my head and endless conversation.
My thoughts of The Gambia focus on sitting in his compound, gazing at the night sky, putting the world to rights and discovering the many similarities between us and our philosophy of life.
I also have to endure his very dry sense of humour and practical jokes!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Busy day!

Communications with the village were excellent today so made the most of it! Spoke to Ousman, big brother of the boy with the bad leg, and congratulated him on the work he's doing. He has obtained two towels for the boy's exclusive use, some antiseptic cream and a further supply of antibiotics (he lets us have receipts for the money he spends). He will travel again to Banjul hospital tomorrow, collect the medical report, show it to Gibril (the haematologist) and pass it on to us.
I also managed speak to the doctor and reassure him of our continued interest and support.
Then, this afternoon, we visited our local Borders bookshop. The lovely lady we spoke to took twenty copies of the VRWG anthology, asked for a G.O.E.S. collecting box and offered to put on a display about the work of the charity.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Help! Contact us!

A friend has pointed out that we haven't posted any contact details yet - you be longing to help or find out more?

should do the trick.

We promise that all donations go complete and direct to the people we help. We cover all admin costs, transfer expenses, 'phone calls and so on.
Thanks for your interest.
A pound G.O.E.S. a long way in The Gambia! (Slogan from the same friend!)

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Home again

Title's a bit misleading - The Gambia is like a second home. Good news waiting on the mat: after deliberating for four months HM Revenue & Customs have decided that G.O.E.S. is a worthy cause and declared that we are a charity for tax purposes and can claim Gift Aid payments.

Some progress with our boy with the bad leg. Went with him to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Banjul and managed to speak with the doctor supervising his case. It seems that there is a team of Cuban medics in Banjul at the moment, one of whom is qualified to conduct the required operation (a bone graft). The problem is to find a place on the list for our young friend. Probably an incentive of some kind is required. The boy's brother went to the hospital to buy the report on the boy's latest examination last Friday. The clerk who was charged with copying this had not reported for work that day and nobody had the password for her PC. She'd already had ten days to do the work and knew it when was to be collected ...

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Packing and discarding ...

Forty eight hours on and we'll be there! Simply have to survive Manchester T2 for a few hours and then Sahara here we come!
Busy packing; it easy to leave out our clothes and rely on Adama (our mother hen) to organise the laundry. That gives a few more kgs for essential educational and medical supplies!
Hi ho, hi ho it's off to The Gambia we go!

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Counting the pennies

A couple of local shops let us have collecting boxes and we've been opening them and counting pennies! The best little coffee shop in town ('Hatters', in Hatters Row) has been really kind to us for years and today added £12.33 to our funds. That amount could either provide four mosquito nets or educate a young child for six months or a teacher's wages for two weeks or buy the paint to redecorate a school or ...
As a friend said recently
"A pound GOES a long way in The Gambia!"
Yesterday we sent some money to buy medicine for the boy with the diseased leg. We've also had to pay for a copy of the doctor's report (he was seen by a doctor at Banjul hospital two days ago). Hopefully we'll be able to get things moving next week when we're out there.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Why we go! (Plus sunshine and good food and friends!)

Malarone and haircuts plus poetry.

This time next week I'll be in ....... a panic! Some lovely friends have given us heaps of things to take out and the lovely airline didn't give us extra baggage allowance (booked too late and all the extra had been allocated). So two heaps on the spare bed - things we want to take and things we simply must take. We try to ensure that we only take things which are unobtainable in The Gambia - mainly medical supplies and books. Clothes and mosquito nets are available there so we tend not to take such things. We don't want to put local tailors out of business - they have families to feed and the locally made nets are a tenth of the price you would pay here in England.
I had a haircut so I'll arrive looking fairly respectable - and my barber has been very supportive. He raised sixty pounds for us last year and today he promised a supply of garlic capsules which my friendly pharmacist reckons are great for blood pressure.
We've made our first withdrawal from the GOES bank a/c. Seems a shame to reduce the balance but that's what it's there for. Most is already earmarked - medical & school fees, building repairs and so on. I just wish that the people who donate so freely could meet the people they are helping. Of course, if any wanted to go out there we could provide the introductions - they would have a great time!
Almost reduced to tears when we heard how well the Anthology is doing. People in the Writers Group have worked so hard at every stage, from writing through publishing and now selling the book to raise funds for GOES. People really are wonderful.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

New Year mail.

Happy New Year, everyone. Among the late delivery of Christmas Cards today are two letters from friends in The Gambia. One is from Ras, a young man I met on my very first visit to Bakau. I was staying at a small hotel next to the beach and started each day with a s hort slow jog alonf the water's edge. After a couple of days Ras joined me, asking if he could run with me. We chatted (when I could find enough breath) and I visited his home. I met him again, a couple of years later, and he remarked that I was still running in the same shoes, and that the shoe-laces were still the same! He was right. Sadly, we lost touch for a few years, though I asked other locals if he was still around. Then, today, a letter!
Also in today's post, a letter from a young woman I met in October at a friend's house in another village. Up to the age of fifteen she had received an education; then she was raped. She dropped out of school, was abandoned by her family, and I understand that she became a street girl. She had another child and has now been accepted back into her mother's home. She has applied to join the army, and her mother has agreed to care for the two children. She seeks my advice.
What would you say to her?