St. John's School for the Deaf
Located in the busy town of Serrekunda, St. John's School for the Deaf is a School for Children with Additional Support Needs which came to be against all odds. It is also the first School to be supported by Project Gambia.
When our volunteers first visited St. John's in 2012, they were immediately shocked to find that the only food the School had for the (at the time just less than 200) children was a bag of rice and a bag of onions. After walking around the School and meeting the children, it was decided that something had to be done. And so at that very moment, Project Gambia came into existence.
For Deaf children in The Gambia, life is very difficult - with their parents often having little knowledge of how to communicate with them and understand them. Therefore, getting Deaf children in The Gambia to St. John's is vitally important, not just for the education of the children but also socially and for their mental health.
For the past 5 years, we have been able to make sure that every child in St. John’s has received a hot and nutritious meal every day that they attend School, which has both attracted the children towards attending school and improved their focus and concentration. We have also been able to supply the children at the School with School Bags, Clothing, Educational Materials, Hearing Aids and School Uniforms. We have also been able to deliver a School Bus to St. John's, allowing many of the children to travel safely to and from the School. There are now more than 350 children attending St. John's School for the Deaf each day.
St. Patrick's Lower Basic School
Located in the Darsilami region of The Gambia, St. Patrick's Lower Basic (or Primary) School is in a far different environment to that of St. John's. The School can be found in a small, isolated Village, near to the Gambia-Senegal Border.
Project Gambia first became aware of St. Patrick's School through the recommendation of the Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, Bishop Gabriel Mendy. When we informed him of our intention to begin supporting more children in The Gambia, he asked us to take a trip to the isolated School dedicated to St. Patrick to see the situation there for ourselves.
When our volunteers arrived at the School for the first time, the first thing they noticed was the sheer number of pupils - more than 600! Despite this, however, there are only 12 classrooms in the School. We began supporting St. Patrick's through a Feeding Programme similar to that of St. John's, albeit on a larger scale.
In time long past, St. Patrick's School once had a functioning Feeding Programme. When we arrived, this was but a distant memory for the Staff - and unknown to the Pupils as it was long before their time. April 11th, 2019 was a day that won't soon be forgotten by the St. Patrick's School Community - the day that Project Gambia began supporting the School Feeding Programme. Since then, we have supported the School in a variety of different ways.
There are now more than 700 children attending St. Patrick's, led by Headteacher Ms. Marie Gomez and her dedicated team of Staff.
St. Joseph's Nursery School
Also located in the Darsilami region of The Gambia, St. Joseph's Nursery School is attached to St. Patrick's Lower Basic School, albeit a distinct School.
Despite the fact that the young children attending the School are living in conditions that wouldn't bear thinking about, the children are among the happiest and most playful children that you will ever find, running to greet our volunteers whenever they visit.
Initially a small Nursery, the School is built with only 2 classrooms. Despite this, however, due to our establishing of the School Feeding Programme both here and in the neighbouring St. Patrick's School, the enrolment and attendance have dramatically risen. There are now approximately 200 children attending the School, spread between 2 classrooms. As you can probably imagine, the Teachers have a very difficult job!
While supporting the School Feeding Programme at the School, we have also supplied the children with School Bags - containing essential items like clothing, footwear, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, towels, notebooks, stationery and more! We have also worked with the Teachers to organise the shipment of educational materials from the UK to The Gambia for use in the Classrooms.
As the number of pupils attending St. Joseph's (and indeed St. Patrick's) continues to rise, Project Gambia is determined to find a solution to avoid the Schools becoming too overcrowded.