It is only logical that you make friends with the locals if you go on a holiday to the same country twice a year and also try to help the individual people to the best of your abilities. Most of the friendships listed below date back to the middle or the end of the nineties of the past century and have only been solidified over the years. Therefore, my wife and I have the feeling that we are visiting family rather than ‘far-away friends’. In turn, our Gambian friends have come to think about us in much the same way…
We first met ‘our children’ on the beach in 1995. Because they were selling peanuts and fruit, they regularly came to our sunbeds and the relationship between us grew overtime into lasting friendships. They were all aged nine or ten at the time, except for ‘Mickey’, who was only seven. Those children – who are all adults now – still belong to our group of friends. They do not live far from the hotel in Kotu where we always stay, that is to say in Serrekunda and Sanchaba Garage. And although they have all grown up now, we still consider them our children. They are each described extensively in chapter 5.2 of my Gambia book (the English version will probably be released in the autumn of 2011 or spring 2012).
The first four of our children are all illiterate or awfully close to it. As far as we are concerned we would have been happy to pay their school fees at the time, but they could not be spared at home, either for the money or for household duties or both…
Our next three children all had an education! In the first place they were lucky enough that they could be spared at home and in the second place that we came into their lives at exactly the right time to pay the school fees for their secondary education. Had we come to The Gambia for the first time in – let’s say – 1999, then that would have been too late to sponsor them and so they would have missed their education altogether!
The deal that my wife and I have made with all of our children that we are offering a study is that we will only pay for their education on the condition that they will do their absolute utmost to improve their perspective for the future themselves as well! Since we have a rock-solid belief in structural help, we help only those who are willing to help themselves!! In other words: bad results or results that cannot be shown on official school paper automatically entails that our tap producing sponsor money is closed immediately, irrevocably and permanently!
Since going to school is a privilege in a developing country and students over there realize to a much higher degree than their European peers that they are investing in their own future, our ‘Toobab-money-students’ have fortunately achieved good results only. According to the Gambian standard, successfully completing your entire secondary school education is quite an achievement and should you be fortunate enough to even do another training course after that, you are really part of the ‘happy few’! There are only some odd thousand students in the whole country for whom this great good is reserved…!!