We’ve started to do more work activities and it’s interesting, frustrating, and enjoyable all at the same time. Interesting because cultural differences are huge; frustrating because work is slow, and enjoyable because it’s different and our aim is to help Gambians rather than to only help our bank account.
Ben is starting to become more involved with the lodge, which is proving tricky because the villagers are divided on what to do. He is working with two women who have a small tie and dye business, working with marketing and accounting. Ben is also working with Luis, the Spaniard, on harvesting and selling 200 liters of honey from 18 hives. With our help, Luis found someone to pay him cash for the 200 liters of honey. We traveled with Luis and Mamou, a beekeeper in our village, to the NGO Bee Cause. This meeting went better than we had even hoped and led to Luis excitedly talking about how we will make a great team. We even planned a BBQ but had to postpone it on account of Luis getting malaria. It’s been rescheduled for the end of the month, and wow are we looking forward to a Spanish BBQ in village!
Ben is also planting lots of trees now during the rains. He’s making a live fence around our garden area with moringa, Lucena, Pigeon Peas, and Cashews. He’s helped plant 500 seeds of native trees as well in the neighboring village. I’m helping out with the bee-keeping, tree plantings, and lodge but I have different things going on too. I have started our rainy season vegetable garden consisting of: peppers, cherry tomatoes, sunflowers, calendas, okra, basil, okra, and eggplant. One great thing about the rainy season is that you don’t have to water as frequently. However, apparently bugs, weeds, fungus, and mold also grow well in the rains so it seems like gardening in the rains will be just as challenging, if not more so.
I have taught women how to make neem cream. Neem cream is made with local soap, leaves of a tree, and local oil. The cream is cheap, available and acts as a bug repellant. We weren’t sure how the villagers would like it, but we’ve had requests for more cream and lessons. The last session there was about 10 -15 women who attended.
I have signed up to help out with a girl’s camp run by Peace Corps Volunteers. So far, I’ve only attended meetings, talked to girls and a female teacher in village about going to the camp. The actual camp is September 12 – 18 in the up-river city of Basse. The camp is called ‘Camp GaGa’ and Peace Corps even has a link to it if you’d like to read more about it or donate: Camp Gaga (Country: Gambia, last name: Donahue, project #: 635-072).
It’s an environmental education and life skills camp for 30 Gambian 8th and 9th grade girls, and 8 nominated female teachers as well. If you’re reading this, you probably know just how important it is to educate girls in developing countries – it makes a huge difference. It’s no coincidence that places where women are suppressed are doing poorly.
I am helping a former volunteer who is now working on his masters in public health. He is collecting data in Gambia to analyze how women’s education level and children’s health are correlated in Gambia and Haiti. I’ve trained a women in our village on how to collect data, and our aim is to interview at random, 15 women in our village and our neighboring village. The survey is about 15 questions and my counterpart is so excited to help that my part will be just reviewing, and handing out soap that the women get for completing the survey.
I have signed up to help facilitate teacher trainings in the fall for next school year, which should be interesting – as the schools here are very different from schools back home. I have an orientation at the Gambian College next week for 3 days. We are also attending meetings with the NGO KOMEFORA, working on setting up tree nurseries and planting native trees in the community forests surrounding our village.