Portlaoise College Visit to the Gambia

Over the Easter Holidays 5th Year students and staff from Portlaoise College travelled to the Gambia in West Africa, during this trip the school visited both Primary and Secondary Schools. Students from the College delivered lessons and taught the students of these schools a little about life in Ireland. The main purpose of the trip was to provide much needed resources to these schools.

In the months prior to the visit Portlaoise College organised a massive fundraising and donations drive to gather resources such as stationary, small toys and clothes to take out to the children of the Gambia. The response was brilliant where students, staff, local business and national schools have all donated generosity.
Regarding fundraising, the school has raised nearly €21,000 since November 2011. Some of the events at Portlaoise College that have contributed to this figure included a bake sale, car wash, bag-packing, carol-singing, a fashion show, a teacher/student dodgeball match, pancake Tuesday, a night at the races, teacher torture, a FIFA 12 tournament and a balloon burst.

The trip:

Nursery School Visit

vec 2On the second day of the trip we visited Jamisa Yiriwa Nursery. We were greeted by an encore of Gambian school children singing – all dressed in immaculate uniform, we were later to be informed that it was in fact their Easter holidays and had come into school especially for us! Getting to know the children on a more personal level proved to be very emotional.

After this the students of Jamisa Yiriwa Nursery

demonstrated some of their games for us, next it was our turn where we showed the children of this Gambian school some of our games such as Hurling, Ring a Rosie and Badminton.

Following this, we sampled first-hand, home-cooked traditional rice dishes of the Gambia. The morning’s dedication by local women showed our students the reality and commitment it takes to prepare a simple dish.

Finally the considerable amounts of donations that we were given to the College by local businesses in Portlaoise were distributed to the overwhelmed but extremely happy Gambian children.

Secondary School Visit

vec 1 vec 1The following morning was an early start as we raced to the country’s main ferry port and crossed the river Gambia to the north bank where we embarked on our journey towards Munyagen Basic Secondary School. Greeted by an outstanding parade of over 500 students, we were marched into the school to be formally introduced by the Principal.

After a few speeches, respective local tribes performed a variety of dances including a wedding ceremony; we then got a chance to experience more tribal dances and were invited to join in – a fantastic experience for the students. Next it was back off to the school where we were given a quick tour around the campus.

The Principal explained that the schools biggest problem was the lack of running water for the school. Also the school was trying to grow crops and mango trees in order to provide students with a balanced diet; however because of a lack of resources the school cannot afford to protect their crops from neighbouring livestock. Another major problem is lack of transport for students getting to/from school; this can lead to students walking barefoot for over 4 hours each way, in the past students have been bitten by snakes and scorpions.

In the future Portlaoise College hopes to send out a container of supplies that will make these problems a little bit easier for the staff and students of Munyagen Basic Secondary School.

Account of the school by Carly Connolly, 5th year student, Portlaoise College:

vec“After a fairly long journey by jeep, boat, foot, and bus we finally arrived to the secondary school and we were greeted by a sea of children, a few parents and a couple of teachers singing a welcome song. It was great seeing their excitement and delight in seeing us. We don’t know how long they were waiting there, or how long they were singing hoping it was us turning the corner but it was the best welcome I’ve ever gotten in my life.
We climbed out of our jeeps and grabbed all our bags with the resources we had brought with us, the children darted for us, shaking our hands, saying hello, and just being so happy to see us.

We went inside and there were two main buildings, a small building and an average size vegetable patch and a very large area at the back with 60 mango trees, which are for the children’s lunches. There were two main buildings, one building was for younger kids and the other building was for the older kids who are preparing to sit their final exams in two years’ time. There were only two toilets with no roofs, a girls and boys, to facilitate the entire school that has over 750 students. That was quite shocking.

The manager of all the local schools formally welcomed us and couldn’t express his gratefulness of our visit.. Then the principal addressed the problems of the school, things like the toilets needing a roof, and the students needing bicycles and the vegetable patch needed to expand in order to feed all the students.

We began playing games with the kids, games like catch, quirt, chasing, skipping, football and hurling. The smiles on their faces were as big as I’ve ever seen and you could see their delight in us just simply being there. It was such an amazing feeling knowing that we put those smiles on their faces.

vec 3The parents prepared food for us, traditional African food. There was fish, cabbage, some fruit type thing, tomatoes, chilli’s and rice. There was so much food that the fourteen of us couldn’t finish it. It didn’t go to waste though; the teachers and parents finished it off. Then we gave the resources to the principal and he was so unbelievably grateful. The kids were delighted with all the sports equipment we gave them, mostly because they never had any before.
I’ve never seen children as happy in my entire life. It was such a learning experience for me”

Hospital Visit

On the last day of the trip we visited a local hospital in Brikama. We were greeted by the hospital mid-wife who informed us that he had delivered nearly 240 babies in the last 2 weeks. He said he was very grateful for the equipment

donated by the school. We delivered items donated by local pharmacies such hand sanitizers, bandages, plasters and disposable groves.

We were given a quvec 4ick tour of the hospital where one student stated that “I will never complain about my local hospital again” after seeing the conditions.

The school would like to thank Parents, Local Businesses, Staff members; Students and School suppliers who have supported us through sponsorship, donations and giving up time to help out with fundraising. The support the school has received from the local community has been nothing short of terrific and without this help this life-changing would not have been possible.

Students from Jamisa Yiriwa Nursery School receiving presents from Portlaoise College’s Daniela Lubiscakova and Viktorija Kazlavskaite

Group photo at Munyagen Basic Secondary School

Playing ‘Ring-a-ring-a Rosie” at Jamisa Yiriwa Nursery School, Portlaoise College students pictured are Mark Geoghegan and Klaudia Malec

Oliver Hally, PE teacher from Portlaoise College showing students at Munyagen Basic Secondary School how to play hurling

Carly Connolly, 5th year student at Portlaoise College pictured holding a baby at Munyagen Basic Secondary School