Ebo town community health centre.
After being collected by Ngange from our hotel and taken to meet with Samba at the fire station we all made our way to Ebo Town. This town is a friendly and welcoming suburb that is prone to domestic fires and floods. We were introduced to the town councillor, his assistant and two residents who have both experienced domestic fires in their homes as well as flooding. After the usual warm Gambian welcome, we joined them in prayer before commencing our conversations. The members of the community affected by the fires both described what had happened to their homes. In both situations, the families were out during the day when the fires started so no one was hurt. The local community called the local fire station to request assistance, they also started to extinguish the properties before the fire engine arrived. Samba’s fire crews worked hard to put the rest of the fire out and helped the occupiers with anything else they needed. The residents spoke very highly of the crews who turned up, they believe they went above and beyond in their job; not just the fire but the humanitarian side as well. Once the fire was out, the NDMA assisted with an initial package of food and basic building materials as well as a needs assessment to be dealt with in the near future. The fire crews conducted a fire investigation and determined that both jobs were electrical faults and recommended breakers be fitted and updating of wiring. As residents are responsible for sourcing materials and installing their own electrical installations after the electrical companies meter, the temptation to buy cheap cables is very high. Another problem is presented by the way the fire service receives fire calls. Every fire station has its own phone number and many communities don’t know or remember the numbers and often opt to run to the fire stations to raise the alarm, despite the sustained efforts by the fire service to teach the communities what they should do. Breaking embedded norms is difficult. Solutions to many of the communities problems were running through both our minds, most were very practical but would incur a cost which is a huge stumbling block especially when sustainability is concerned. Then we discussed the notion of education from a young age and how this would eventually filter throughout the community and with any luck become a new norm. This project was already being implemented by the fire service and we were shown many photos of their work in schools and other establishments. Only two days in and the efforts of Avon Fire Service, The Gambian Fire Chief and the crews over the years are obvious to see if this continues then any small deficiencies that may exist will soon be a thing of the past.
St David’s Nursery School.
We left the health centre behind and drove down a bumpy dirt track, we got out into the humid day and met with the squeals of kids playing. Walking into a dusty playground no bigger than a terraced house garden, the kids stopped and stared at the strangers…for about 30 seconds before “chase” began again. We were surrounded by inquisitive eyes and snotty noses, and greeted by the caretaker and teacher of the school. The building was the size of a two bedroom flat and packed full of long tables and chairs in 3 small rooms. This would have been a little depressing if it wasn’t for the happiness shown on the faces of the kids, they beamed constantly after they were used to us. We walked around the school and saw that yet again the Gambian people have amazing initiative; working with minimal resources to achieve great results. We chatted to the kids about school, the fire service and football, the football won hands down. The caretaker and teacher mentioned that they like to look for potential in the children even at the young ages that these kids were and this included future football stars.
Ngange’s Family Home in Brikama.
After our emotional visit to the school (missing my daughter & Paul his nieces and nephews) we took a 45min drive across the Gambia to one of our host’s house to have a meal and meet his lovely family. Our new friend Ngange welcomed us into his home as he had when he welcomed us to his country and his place of work. We have nothing but praise for Ngange despite the fact he is an avid Manchester United fan. After allowing us to relax in his lounge for a while why he went to the mosque for Friday prayers, he introduced us to his lovely family who simply reinforced our views of the Gambian people and their welcoming hospitality. He has a lovely family and his two-year-old daughter Ida was the apple of his eye and very, very cute. Ngange’s sisters prepared our dinner, a Senegalese fish dish called Benachin, of rice, fish and veg which we devoured. The sense of family is apparent as Ngange’s father had bought the plot of land in 1995 and passed it on to his future generations, Ngange and his brother had built other buildings thus sustaining their family residence. We finished the meal and wandered into the humidity to see the rest of the family eating together outside, we said our thanks and goodbyes, shaking hand with all the kids again on the way out.
Gambia Vs Central African Republic (CAR).
I enjoy football but I am not an avid fan like Paul and Ngange. That said, I cannot deny how the electric atmosphere created by the people and enhanced by the tribal band with their African drums, percussion and harmonies was absolutely captivating. The first half was not a great game of football, lots of effort but not many efforts on goal, but I can’t compare this to the premiership. Ngange did say that one of the Gambian players had played for Swansea, albeit not for long. The band kept up spirits during the half that really needed a spark, one never came. The second was totally different, some really good touches and passing between The Gambia team saw some good chances and even hitting the post. One great piece of play down the left wing saw a player being fouled in the box and a penalty was given, enough arguments ensued to send the players off if it was the prem, but the ball was placed. The kick wasn’t great and the keeper saved it but the rebound was smashed home and the home crowd, we included, jumped up and cheered. The rest of the half was the same by both teams until a speculative shot somehow went through the Gambian keeper and into the net…silence. The game declined to foul, injury, arguments and subs which was good fun for the neutral, the game ended as a 1-1 draw and everyone piled out of one gate into the streets. Sirens screamed passed us and this was the 1st lady being whisked away, the crowds were waving and cheering, she was followed by several armed guards and vehicles. Outside the chaos ensued as it would for any football match in the world, as people were trying to get home, although I’ve never seen arguments and purposefully ramming of other cars after a match.
Another day and another blog, Rich & Paul, Masters of Disasters! 😉