We visited Basori nursery school with Sandy and her team in November 2010, and it was honestly one of the best days of our holiday (and we've been to The Gambia many times).
We were picked up at our hotel by Sandy, Lamin boy, Bless and Fansu and given a fantastic day out that felt more like a taste of the country than any of the "tourist" trips we've been on. The drive from the resort into the village is a real eye-opener and Sandy is full of interesting facts and information about the area.
On arriving at the school we were met by a welcoming committee, much more fun (and less formal) than going to a parent-teacher meeting in the UK, the ladies who sang and danced for us were great fun and genuinely pleased to meet us.
So into the classrooms, I'd forgotten how little the children are, children as young as three or four, learning their ABC and slightly older ones reading from the blackboard. It was a little bit of a shock at first to see how little they have and how many children are in a class, but when you see how happy they are to be at school and how hard they work you just can't help smiling; The feeling of happiness is infectious.
Sandy explained that some of the older children who have left and gone on to the bigger school want to come back to the nursery school, and a few of them did sneak back in to meet us. (I remember one boy who has adopted Sandy and would hardly leave her side all day.)
After classes finished we all sat outside (under a shady tree) where we donated some books, pens, pencils that we had brought with us from friends back in the UK. It felt like a lot as we carried it from home, but I honestly wish we could have given them ten times as much.
The welcoming ladies sang for us again, the leader singer didn't really need that megaphone but she wasn't letting it go! And the head teacher and his staff gave us Gambian names (which are on our facebook pages now).
Sandy told us the plans for 2011, they want to put a fence round the school to keep the children safe, and they desperately need to build toilet facilities as they have none at the moment.
We had planned to go back to our hotel, but instead we went back to someone's home and I'm so glad we did. We spent the afternoon sitting under a mango tree drinking ataya(?) and eating freshly picked peanuts while the ladies cooked us a terrific domoda lunch. Food is always good in The Gambia, but this home made meal was up there with the best meals I've ever had. And everyone sitting together eating together from two huge bowls is a great family experience.
Then sadly it was time to go.
We made some good friends that day, and we will definitely see them again in 2011. My only regret is that we left it until so late in our holiday and didn't get to spend more time with everyone.
Everyone should spend at least one day like this.