Five kilometers north of our previous well (in Niggie) is Sotokoi, just above the Finto Manares Forest Park.
Here comes our third water installation of this year. We are on a roll...

20230302 Sotoko01

Between Sohm and Omorthoh, Niggie Village is less than 2 km from the Senegalese border.
We install a complete water installation: water pump, tower with container of 4000 l., 1000 m. pipes with 10 taps.

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Elle, Fleur and Flore, three students from the Thomas More Institute have arrived in The Gambia. They will teach for three months in local schools. During that period they stay in the Gammol house.

You can follow them here: Blog Elle, Fleur en Flore

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One of the pumps in Sanyang Garden, a large vegetable garden in Sanyang, is broken and will be replaced along with the control panel.

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Dirk Depoorter

Friday 13 Januari

Get up (too) early… 3.40 am, because Dirk picks me up at 4.00 am. Flight to Gambia at 5.50am to arrive in Banjul at 11.50am local time. That's an hour earlier than here. Little movement at the airport, smooth check-in and customs control. Still time to discuss our program, because we are not sitting next to each other. Smooth flight, still able to sleep well, unlike Dirk.

Banjul, International Airport The Gambia, 11.50am. After the usual administration and checkpoints to the exit. Our employees Omar and Lamin are waiting for us. Heartfelt review. Since we are only really on site for four days, we asked Omar to start the visits and appointments immediately.

Abuko nursery school

Appointment in our Gammol school in Abuko with the head teacher Omar and one of his highly motivated teachers, Pierre. We discuss our objectives with regard to education with them. First we ask about their curricula and learning methods. In the nursery school (kindergarten education) they work with a 4-year plan, structured but outdated. The idea of a Gammol School Committee is enthusiastically received and Pierre wants to pull this off. The same goes for the idea of evening classes for adults. We suggest that its content should be determined by the community itself according to their needs. Start with a survey/brainstorming. In between, I ask Pierre what his salary is: 4,000 dalasi per month, about 60 euros, and only in the months that education is given. That makes about 600 euros a year…


20230113 01Willingara is our next stop. One of the new water projects. We are received with all due respect by a large delegation from the village. It is rather a small town, since there are about 16,000 inhabitants in the entire community, and 60,000 in the wider area. They estimate, because there are no precise figures. It is easier to calculate in compounds. These are the residences of the families, where usually between 10 and 15 people live together. Our installations are not designed for such a large number, depending on the density of the population, our installation (pump with 1 km of pipe and ten taps) serves between 1,500 and 4,000 heads. The demand for additional pumps, up to 10 extra, was to be expected! We explain how we determine our priorities. In addition, they also ask for the repair of their mosque. We say a clear “no” to that. Not from any religious conviction, but because we focus on water, education and healthcare.

Sinchu Sorrie

Sinchu Sorrie is the last stop for today. Also a new installation where we had bad luck. For some reason the shaft of the well we drilled has collapsed. The counselor in charge talks about sabotage, a political reckoning related to the elections. Not great news, but we decided to drill a new well anyway. Here too we get the demand for additional pumps. A common thread in all our visits. So I'm not going to repeat myself.

In the meantime it is already evening, time to go to our lodge, where we are warmly welcomed by the owner Oliver Monk. Small lodge with 2 rooms, so we are the only guests. We decide to eat here every morning and evening, together with Omar and Lamin, so as not to waste any time and to be able to chat afterwards. Appointment tomorrow Saturday at 8:00 am.

Saturday 14 Januari

Today we stay in the region of Sanyang. We have set up many projects here. It is also the home of Gammol.

Sanchaba school

After our breakfast we leave for the Abubacarr Sidiki Arabic School in Sanchaba. This is the school we built last year, in 2021, and where we built an additional extension in 2022: two extra classrooms, a kitchen with storage space, decent sanitary facilities and a playable playground. In addition, we have provided the classrooms with decent tables and chairs for the students.

20230114_01.jpgFirst surprise: despite it being Saturday, all students, teachers and many parents showed up to give us a warm welcome, to thank us and our sponsors for what we have achieved. It will be a festive morning, which we had not counted on and which was not foreseen given the limited time we are here. But there's no escaping it. We are put in party clothes and are treated to singing (about 200 students singing together), a play, a teaching moment, various speeches, and the obligatory group photo. We are also asked to say something, with our message being that the teachers can best thank us by providing quality education, and the children by learning well. Then it's up to Dirk to cut the ribbon of the new classroom building with two new classrooms.

Second surprise is that we see that part of the playground is occupied by 2 extra classrooms in corrugated iron. Reason: too many children, resulting in a shortage of space. When we address the headmaster and the VDC (Village Development Committee) about this, we get an apologetic answer: “we can't refuse those children to attend an education”. Little to object. We do point out to them the need to provide quality education, and that classes that are too large may be counterproductive. A point of interest.

Once the festivities are over, we sit together to discuss their needs and our hopes and expectations for the children. Here too we refer to the same themes as in the Abuko school, and here too we feel the openness to at least think along. We make it clear to them that our hope is that the Abubacarr school can become an example for the other schools in Sanyang. Here too we ask about their curricula, but it is clear that they are less advanced in terms of education than in Abuko. One of the problems is finding qualified teachers.





20230114 02Later than expected we leave for the Nimisat Community Water Project. We were here in May last year, but in the meantime additional extensions have been installed at the pump. We are welcomed with a dance by the women, those who benefit most from the installation of our water installations, because “taking care of water and everything related to it is the task of the women”. They emphasize once again what the pump has brought them: in the past there were two ways to get water: using buckets, ropes and women's power to get impure water from wells that are 10 to 15 meters deep, or getting up at 4 o'clock, because then water comes out of the taps, supplied by NAWEC (the national water company). It goes without saying that this is at the expense of the health of both women and children.

The water installation now has a pipe network of approx. 1,400 meters with 12 taps. Nimisat Village has a “marketplace” which is very important for the community and asks whether it is possible to provide water there as well. This is the village that has been asking for a contribution to the various compounds (families) since the start of the project, so that they can install extensions themselves, after advice from Gammol. This way they have been able to save 33 000 Dalasi so far. Just under 500 euros, which is a very large amount there. Before we leave we are thanked again for the contribution we have made with our project. We get a box full of fruit, and cans of lemonade. We would like to share this with the attendees, knowing that they have no surplus, but Omar makes it clear to us that we are not allowed to do this.

Fula Kunku

On to Fula Kunku. This is the first water project that our 2 employees in Gambia, Omar and Lamin, have completely installed themselves. Another installation of the old stamp (low tower, small water barrel). What to expect: ask for a more efficient installation. I notice that a tap is being tapped that runs to a construction site, whereupon I ask whether the client will pay for the water he uses to straighten his house? Evasive answer. We then propose that a “tap committee” be set up, just like in Nimisat, so that the community also invests in expanding the existing installation.


We continue to Faalaa, where we have an old generation water installation. We mainly want to discuss a new school project. And we are expected! A guard of honor with all school children on both sides, I estimate about 150, who started singing for us and made a number of nice boards with a message for Gammol. We are met by Senebu, a very vital lady, who is in control here. As far as the water supply is concerned: here too there is a demand for larger installations that should allow a community garden to be supplied with water more easily. Now barrels of 50 liters are filled and prepared in the garden, so that everything can be sprayed by evening. Part of the proceeds from the vegetables that are grown and sold are used to provide lunch to the children of the school.

So there was already a school there. However, on July 7, 2021, in the middle of the rainy season, the roof was blown off, after which the rain had free rein and the walls of the classrooms collapsed. Fortunately, there were no children present at the time. About 200 children came to the nursery school. Since there are no more classrooms, they have built two classrooms in corrugated iron. The students now come in two shifts: morning and afternoon. The Faala nursery school was already on our agenda after our visit last year. After all, we had already established that the classrooms were not really solidly built. One of the classrooms had already collapsed.

20230114 03What needs to be done here in Faala is building new classrooms, sanitary facilities and a cooking area. And if possible a new, higher tower with a water tank of 5,000 liters. Senebu has set up a committee to make all this happen, looking at Gammol. This is a project that we wish to realize. We make clear how we see it and what our expectations are. What is obvious to us will have to grow there step by step. But the motivation is there. And the initiative too, see the classrooms built in corrugated iron! We agree that their roadmap will help determine the realization of this beautiful and large project. We close this visit with a few nice speeches, including one of the (shy) children.

Senebu then invites us to eat in her compound. Cozy together from a large bowl, a feast according to their standards, but also in our experience. On the way to her compound we meet a tailor who proudly shows us his workshop, where he sews the women's beautiful clothes. One of the ideas to teach in evening classes? We also see that in some gardens water is still drawn from the "old" sources, and in the "old" way. Physical work… for the women! This water is no longer used for drinking or cooking, but to water local gardens.

Sanyang garden 

Last stop for today is the Sanyang Garden in Salaba. A mandatory passage on each of our visits to The Gambia. A community garden of 500 m x 150 m that is supplied with water thanks to our installations. Water is pumped into large reservoirs spread over the garden, so that the many gardens can be watered. Problem with one of the inverters, causing the pump to stop between 11am and 3pm, just when the sun shines brightest. I have telephone contact with the company that does the installation and maintenance, after which Omar makes an appointment for repair.20230114 04

In the evening we go over our earlier idea to start a lodge, and the administrative problems we encountered in order to arrange the necessary documents. Some self-interest on the part of the civil servant involved is not strange to the fact that we have put this in the fridge at the moment. We also discuss with Omar how we can continue with Leetulor, Mien and Marijke's health project, which is currently running on a slower pace. To be further discussed in Belgium with those involved.


 Dirk Depoorter

Sunday 15 Januari

We start early today because we have to drive a lot further. The regional counselor, Ousman Bah, rides with us. He is responsible for the development of a particular region and is therefore in close contact with our Omar. He provides information about the needs in his region, which Omar can use.

Gidda Sukuta

First stop is Gidda Sukuta, where we already have an installation. A community of an estimated 4,000 inhabitants, “fast growing”. Estimation can also be taken literally here. We must find a better method for this than just relying on an unverifiable number. In any case: ask for an additional installation. They also explain that the pure water they can now pump thanks to Gammol is a magnet for new compounds / families to come and live there. And there is also land available here, which is no longer the case in many places. The cities and urbanized areas are overcrowded and there is a flight to more remote regions. As a result, there is a need for clean water, especially since NAWEC does not come here to provide the inhabitants with water. In any case, the water has made a lot possible. Extra water, therefore, but also demand for a clinic, and for a fence for a large piece of community land that can then serve as a community garden. We ask them why they don't provide this themselves?

Here too, motivated young people are taking matters into their own hands: they dug the trenches in three days so that we could lay the pipes to connect about 10 taps. They are also the first to highlight how much the water has helped improve their health. “It really changed our lives”. Everything is very well taken care of here. There is a school in Gidda: nursery, primary and memorizing center (to learn the Koran). During our meeting we explain to them how we see the future, depending on their demand for extra water supplies, whereupon they state very clearly that they are going to show us that they will take matters into their own hands by building the fence around their community garden themselves. It should be there on our next visit… We are curious.

Mandinaba Darussalam

20230115 01Mandinaba Darussalam  means Mandinaba Peaceful Place. We get an update on the Alkalo's water project, highlighting how their lives have changed thanks to the water. Population is also growing here thanks to the water installation. He speaks of about 100 compounds, each with 10 to 15 family members. Rather than asking for an additional installation, he expresses concern about whether they will have enough water in the future. And also after the sun has set. Different approach. Hence the concern we have whether there is a way to know how much water is left in the 5 000 liter barrel at sunset, and at sunrise, i.e. what is the consumption once the panels no longer provide energy and therefore no water inflate more. This would indicate the actual need for additional installations and/or vessels. Based on this concern, he also explains how carefully and carefully they handle the installation. Why the compounds also fill 50 liter kegs to have clean water even in the evening.

The main reason to come here, however, was their request last year to build a nursery school. Today the children have to walk 3 to 4 km and, above all, cross a very busy road. This would be a project we would have to start from scratch. Because there's nothing here. We explain to them that preparatory work has to be done by them. The roadmap: how many pre-schoolers, what classes, where are they going to find the teachers, how are they going to pay wages, a midday meal for the pre-schoolers, … There is a real belief that the community can make the school work. Here too, we explain how we see our approach, and we show the willingness to invest (not before 2024), if there is a clear plan, and the necessary commitment. We visit the location where the school (on community ground) could be built.

Kuloro Ba Duma en Faraba Sutu

We make a short visit to the new installation in Kuloro Ba Duma, after which the regional counselor takes us to their community garden, which is really well equipped (even more efficient than the Sanyang Garden). Here too, traditionally, we are faced with the demand for additional water reservoirs. We will not comment on this, the needs are much greater elsewhere. We are kindly invited to sign their guestbook…

We continue to Faraba Sutu. New project, realized in 2022. We are received by a delegation, but which mainly consists of younger people (I estimate in their thirties). After the traditional ceremonies, with the presentation of a number of Certificates of Appreciation, we are confronted with a new problem, i.e. this is the first time we have been approached about this: we are of course asked for extra water installations, out of necessity, but also because we are confronted with the comment that part of the village now has clean water, while two other districts are those who don't. The distance between the neighborhoods is too great to reach everyone with our installation. Consequence: idea and feeling of inequality. This is something we should not underestimate. And therefore must also be taken into account in the criteria that we use to decide where to place water pumps. Frustrations about this can really be avoided.

Then we tell our story about taking responsibility, taking the initiative and asking them how they see this in practice. After which the young people (a man and a woman) take the floor and explain their plans to us. They have already made plans to build a covered market that will allow them to sell their vegetables to have some income. There is also a school, the Alieu Jawo Memorial Nursery School, which is heavily invested in. Really well developed, with a mission, a vision, clear rules. And a tractor, Alieu Sanyang, as there should be more.

The mission: To create a conducive environment for effective and efficient teaching and learning.
Their vision: To produce hardworking disciplined and productive pupils.
With also a dress code policy, attendance policy, health and environment policy, classroom rules, …

They are co-sponsored by Child Fund and the Saama Kairo Federation. Really an example of what might be possible in other communities. “Maybe”, because the bar is high here, by Gambian standards. Beautiful. How the school is set up, the kitchen, the dining room, but especially how they have organized all this. Actually, we should come back here on a school day. It's really admirable, and how we envisioned it in our dream for the other communities we want to continue to invest in. Still a long way to go to get our projects to this level.


Next is Sohm Village. We have planned a new installation there in 2022 as well. Classical ceremony, the thanks of the Alkalo, the Imam, those responsible, then the committees, the counselor…

A few things that were different here compared to our other visits:

  • We hear the regional counselor "advertising" with a lot of fire to place an extra pump in this village. Everyone asks about this, but there was clearly more to this. Turns out his family is from this village. If he can get us to put an extra pump here, it would certainly raise his prestige. Some self-interest is never far away. We speak to him about this, and obviously we will not comment on this.
  • Moreover, the local Alkalo, after his speech, shows little interest in what is happening. He's more on his cell phone than anything else. Either way, it doesn't make us feel good.
  • Fortunately, a number of young people are also given the floor here. Motivated by our input and vision, they promise that initiatives will be taken to meet our expectations.
  • And it continues to pay attention to the basics: it is already later in the day, the sun has already moved to the west, and I notice that a number of solar panels are no longer getting any sun. Cause. The shadow of a tree. When the installation was installed, the tree did not reach that high. But now it is. So must be pruned. If you address them on that, you can almost hear the Dalasi fall.

Back solid day. After dinner with Omar and Lamin, Dirk and I start to sort out a few things. Today's visits have taught us a lot. With the important observation that the young people seem to be really willing to roll up their sleeves, in contrast to the older people who let it happen to them. We have seen a few examples today (such as in Farabu Sutu) that show that it is not just words, but also deeds. The “we need more” that we always hear, to which we reply with “we need action” is also filled in in Farabu Sutu. A nice evolution, which is also really motivating for us.

Monday 16 Januari

Gunjur Freetown

First stop is Gunjur Freetown. A relief. A funeral is in progress, leaving the men absent. We are welcomed by 25 women, who keep it short and sweet. They explain to us how much the water pump helps them in their daily lives, how important this is to them. Some 110 compounds make use of the water. Each compound pays 100 Dalasi per month (€ 1.5) for the maintenance and possible repairs to the cranes. A water committee ensures that the solar panels are cleaned every day! They get their income from their vegetable garden. The garden is not a community garden, but in private hands. The owner allows the community to use it. The problem is that the day the owner decides to build, for example, there is no garden left. So a real problem. There is a piece of land where the pump is located that can be used as a community garden. But there is preparatory work on it (putting a fence to begin with). They are committed to making this work. We promise to support them: “if we promise, we deliver”.
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We continue to the Lanuwarr Community Pre-School, “Excellence Through Education”, also located in Gunjur. A school straightened out with the help of an English NGO. We are given a tour by the principal of the school. A real example for many other schools: how the classes are decorated in function of education, language, math and general knowledge. Of course also have lesson plans, which they are willing to share. There is also a small garden, where preschoolers can already learn how to grow vegetables. Really pretty everyone. A minus, not unimportant: they also have a water installation, but with serious problems. And the cause is not far to seek: the solar panels, which are not on the ground but in height, are not cleaned, resulting in limited efficiency. But above all: the pump that is used is much too light (power 1/3 of what we install). We discuss this with the person responsible, but also decide that this is not a priority for us.

Also interesting: there is an English section here with 100 students, and an Arabic section with 150 students. Both next to each other, to indicate that the Gambia is liberal when it comes to religion. Additional information: The training as a teacher in Gambia lasts 3 years and costs 36 000 Dalasi (€ 540 or € 180 per year). If we want to have at least a number of qualified teachers in the Gammol schools, we have to take this into consideration.


Next stop is Pacholing, The Christian Village. A village that we definitely wanted to visit, because last time we were really disappointed with the state of this installation. This is a very poor region. Moreover, quite an extensive village, with about 100 compounds, so that a lot of use is still made of the self-dug wells. A water hose departs from our installation and runs to a private garden, where about 40 gardens have been laid out. Similar to Gunjur: owner allows the garden to be used, as long as he does not need it. The brother of the owner of the plot of land shows us around with his grandson. Very nice guy, on crocks and with a T-shirt “I am awesome all the Time”.

There is also a funeral going on here, so no ceremony whatsoever. A relief. Somehow we should be able to make it clear that this is not necessary for us, but this is very sensitive. This prevents us from being able to do more. At the same time, we realize very well that this is part of it. That it is important, not only for the different villages, but also for how Gammol is viewed.

As far as maintenance of the (old) installation is concerned, day and night difference compared to last time. Well cared for, clean panels, cleaned up all around. However, there is a serious problem: the installation dates from 2012, regularly breaks down (the pumps used then are not of the same quality as the ones we use now), with the result that if they are without water for 2 or 3 days, the crop is broken. In addition, the water tank only has a capacity of 1,000 liters, which means that there is no reserve. Is something we should think about, with all old installations. With all due respect to our predecessor, it is becoming increasingly clear what limitations the old installations have, as a result of which the efficiency really leaves much to be desired.  

Sanyang Fish Market

We have invested a lot of time in Gunjur, also with the visit of the Lanuwarr school. Result: we skip the visit to Jalambang. This is also not really necessary. Much more important is our next visit to the Sanyang Fish Market. This is one of the oldest water installations located on the coast. Dates from January 2008 and is still powered by a generator. In addition, Gammol built a covered market place here for the local fishing community. Before we take a look at the pump, we have a meeting with the fishing committee, their chairman and a representative from Sanyang's VDC.

Their needs, in a nutshell:

  • A new, more efficient water installation. New because apparently there is an infiltration of salt water. More efficient, because since the installation several restaurants have been added that also use the water installation.
  • The restoration of their covered marketplace. After all, the truss of the roof is made with materials that have been shipped from Belgium to The Gambia by container, and these are not available in The Gambia. We are mainly talking about metal profiles and wooden beams.

A long discussion ensues, initially about the water. The essence: “Bad communication” and tinkering with the installation yourself, instead of calling Omar and Lamin and asking for advice. Could be the cause of salt water infiltration. Bad organisation: no agreements have been made with the restaurants about the use of the water. Let alone that they have already thought of asking for a contribution for this. “Bad maintenance” of both the pump and the marketplace. And then we are looked at, with the implicit demand and expectation that we fix this all. After a long discussion, we make it clear to them that we want to support them with regard to water, but not before they have made a business plan, to prevent them from having to deal with the same problems in a few years' time. They hear it thunder in Gambia. Dirk and I simply explain to them what we mean by this: overview of investment, costs and returns. And how they can generate these revenues recurrently. It is not self-evident that restaurants play a decisive role in this. We helped them on their way. Curious about the sequel.

Then we will visit the pumping station and the market. As for the pump, we discover a piece of industrial archaeology. The generator that used to drive the pump is rusting in a container. Huge thing, accompanied by the first placards that were then hung at Gammol's achievements: “In our fellow-men we believe, in our creator we trust”. Really nostalgia. Then we go to the market, where they show us the repairs that need to be done “because they don't have the same materials that come from Belgium”. After discussion, we make it clear to them that we will no longer ship containers from Belgium and that they will have to take care of the necessary repairs themselves. Not really appreciated, I get the impression. But so be it, we wish to concentrate on water and education.

Gammol huis

Before we go to our last stop on our journey, we pass a piece of land that the VDC of Sanyang wants to give us to build a lodge. Totally unsuitable, so we quickly drive on to our last stop, our Gammol house. First observation: there are costs involved. The termites eat up the wooden trusses and parts of the walls. Reason: not the right, local, materials.

A little later we meet two representatives of the VDC. Yusupha Jassey and Lamin Bojang. We discuss our findings of the past few days with them. The learnings (see below). Yusupha and Lamin promise to discuss this with the VDC. It is clear to them that our approach will be slightly modified from now on. I must say that this has been received positively. So definitely to be continued. Then we discuss the condition of the Gammol house, and our willingness to invest in it, under the condition that we can continue to use the house, as long as we invest in The Gambia. Indefinite duration, in contrast to the MOU (Memory of Understanding) that exists today, with a fixed term of 10 years, cancellable. Both agree to this, but must also discuss this with the rest of the VDC. We will make a proposal to adjust the MOU and confirm everything by email.


With that, our journey comes to an end. Short trip, but oh so useful. Monday evening Dirk and I discuss the past days and the todos.

Tuesday morning

  • 9 h. Omar and Lamin take us to Banjul airport.
  • 10 h. Saying goodbye is emotional. Those two, Omar and Lamin, we carry them in our hearts!
  • 12 hrs. Plane departs, with a stopover in Cape Verde. We land back in Zaventem at 10 p

On to the next journey…

Key learnings from our trip:


  • There are curricula in the schools, but often dated (2003).
  • There is no mutual consultation between the schools: setting up a Gammol school community can mean added value.
  • Learning center for evening classes for the elderly (from young adults to ...) has potential. Motivation among the target group will be essential.
  • Need someone with learning experience who can coordinate and pull this.

Water installations:

  • Every visit started or ended with “we need more”. Gammol is being looked at for that “more”.
  • A clear message was conveyed that this “more” will only be achieved if initiatives are taken to take steps forward. Our answer to “we need more” is “we need action”.


  • Young people are much more willing to roll up their sleeves to get ahead.
  • Cultural differences are very big: women work, men talk, and when they talk they think it is necessary for everyone to speak and they keep repeating the same thing. Tiresome, but it's part of their culture, especially among the elderly.
  • Calculating is difficult, making concrete (business) plans is new and too much to ask, often due to a lack of knowledge.
  • Some villages are much further along than others, especially where the young people (M/F) are taking matters into their own hands.
  • It is becoming more and more clear to us that we have to place more responsibility with the responsible people of the different communities and villages for the realization of our projects. The word “roadmap” has been used many times. This serves as a basis for checking who wants and will take the initiative. 

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Sinchu Sorrie is only a few kilometers from Wellingara, yet it is another neighborhood with more than 30,000 inhabitants. Sinchu Sorrie's new water well will have 10 taps and 1000 m of pipeline.

20230110 SinchuSorrie01


The finishing touches are being made to the new classrooms in Sanchaba. Plaster, paint and then the classes can be used.

20230109 Sanchaba

Wellingara is located in the north of The Gambia in the very densely populated area just below Serrekunda. 35 000 people live around the well. Here too we install a water tower with 10 taps and 1000 m of pipe. We don't know exactly how many people will use this well. Given the population density, there will be several thousand.

20221214 Wellingara01


We bought 120 chairs for the children of our Gammol school in Abuko. When the dust is removed they can enter the classroom.

20221011 AbukoStoelen


The Sanchaba school that we built in 2021 will have two extra classrooms, a kitchen, storage space and toilets.
The works are going smoothly.

20221005 sanchaba01


Dirk Depoorter

Friday, May 6, 2022. Hedwig, Dirk and myself are finally going back to The Gambia after more than two years! Covid-19 has also delayed our trips to The Gambia. Our last trip was in January 2020 and now we are going back to follow up our projects.

For the past two years we have had to limit ourselves to coordinating our projects from our headquarters in Kessel-Lo. Fortunately, we have two motivated colleagues on site, Omar Saidy and Lamin Darbou, who have continued to realize our new projects during those years.

Objective of our trip

  • Together with Omar and Lamin, evaluate and optimize the operation in The Gambia where possible;
  • Visit the projects that we have realized over the past 2 years, thanks to our numerous sponsors;
  • Visit locations for possible new projects;
  • We have agreements with the local and regional government to explore the possibilities of building a small lodge, which should allow local employment and generate income for our future project

And all this in 4 days. We arrive on May 6 (6:25 pm) and depart on May 10 (9:30 pm).

Friday May 6

Flight at 12:15 PM, with a 50 min stopover in Dakar. Hedwig, Dirk and myself arrive around 6.20 pm in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia. We are very enthusiastically welcomed by Omar and Lamin. Happy faces with all of us 5. Immediately back that click, the joy of seeing each other again.

20220506 reis01First observation: the used Mitsubishi Pajero that we bought two years ago has been perfectly maintained. Omar handles and drives it super carefully as if it were loaded with fragile goods... It does him credit, knowing that this is a rock solid car (which I tested myself later). In the coming days it will become clear once again why we really need that car. The car has number plate A115 NGO 1: A115 is the official number of our NGO in Gambia, NGO1 is the first car of the NGO. Number plate is reserved for NGOs, in other words, which guarantees a smoother flow at police checkpoints.

What is striking, compared to our last trip in 2020, is how much busier the traffic has become. Traffic jams on unpaved roads, plenty of work to and from the airport. Our place to stay for the next four nights: Evergreen Eco Retrait in Tujereng, about 30 km from the airport. Ride of 1:20 h. By 8 pm at the lodge.

You can really call this an ecolodge: beautiful huts, limited internet, odorless compost toilet ;-), ... and very sympathetic English/Jamaican rasta owner Greg with Greek wife Maria. We get something to eat and drink. Maria cooks very well. We eat together with Omar and Lamin, just as we will the next days.

We discuss and adjust the program for the following days. There is little time for what we all want to do. On the agenda: "mandatory" visits to the villages where we have completed a project over the past two years. This is an explicit question from the various VDCs (village development committees, the village councils), who wish to thank us and our sponsors for this. We also want to visit and evaluate candidate projects.

The visit to a completed project always has the same official programme:

  • Reception by the Master of Ceromony;
  • Introduction of the Gammol board (us) by Omar;
  • Welcome by a member of the VDC;
  • Extensive thanks from the Alkalo, the village elder;
  • Explanation about what a water installation means to them, by another VDC member, or one of the elders of the village.
  • Thanks from the women. Usually an older mother, who explains what this means for the women in the village. For it is they who bear the burden, if there is no water pump.
  • A short party moment, with music and dance.
  • The official inauguration.
  • A closing word from one of the three of us, emphasizing the work of Omar and Lamin, and emphasizing the importance of maintaining the installations if we want to continue to enjoy the support of our sponsors.

We have experienced this program about 10 times. At the end, the final word came out smoothly 😉.

Saturday 7 May 2022

Our first day we stay in Sanyang and its surroundings.

Sanchaba School

20220506 reis02Our first stop is the Abubacarr Siqik Arabis Sanchaba School. This is the third school we have built. A decision we made after our visit in 2020. The school was unlivable at the time: corrugated iron barracks, very limited number of tables or chairs, plates not everywhere, almost unusable in the rain because of not being watertight ... By our standards, this would should not be taught for centuries. Today the new classes are simply stunning. Beautiful rooms with good materials. The photos speak for themselves. Since then, the number of students has doubled.

We are nicelly received here, by exuberant students, who came especially for us on Saturday, with song and dance. We get a traditional costume to put on and each a scarf made of the Gambian and Belgian flag, which Dirk is very happy to get around his neck 😂😂. The gratitude is great. We are shown around by the proud headmaster. And we notice that there is still a lot to do here: decent toilets to start with - this is now an uncovered pit in the ground -, a paved playground - now a place full of (sharp) stones where you can can hurt -, and need for an additional classroom - given the growing interest. On the list to invest in further.

To conclude, we receive a very nice token of appreciation in the form of a Certificate of Commendation, "In recognition and appreciation of your support to the community, as proprietors of GAMMOL BELGIUM NGO, your personnel commitment and dedication to the empowerment and development of our community. We are most grateful."

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After all the ceremonies, speeches, thanks, dancing and singing, on to the next location.

Nimisack well

20220506 reis05We visit one of the first water projects that Omar and Lamin only use under their good names: Nimisack Community Water Project. I am not going to explain again and again how we are received, and the thanks to Gammol and his sponsors that are evident from the entire ceremony. What was striking here was how they take responsibility for our investment: everyone in the community pays a small contribution, which is kept by the female eldest, and which must serve for the maintenance of the installation. A very good initiative, which we will take with us on our next visits, and which we will bring up on our other visits. Omar has also understood the message and adds it to the criteria to decide which projects we can realize where.

Fula Kunku water well

Next stop is Fula Kunku Community Water Project, one of our older installations, partly built in concrete blocks. Classic program. With the request from the Alkalo for an additional pump. A question that we will often receive in the coming days. The problem is that the water containers of the old installations, placed by our predecessor, are only at a height of 3 meters. That limits the flow. The installations that we are now installing are at a height of 6 metres, which means that we can lay extra pipes that extend much further. And that way we can of course reach many more families with clean water. But even then, we are still called upon to install additional installations. Even in places where the national water company NAWEC is present because they do not guarantee a constant water supply. We are faced with the difficult decision that we sometimes have to make by saying “no” because there are other priorities.

Sanyang nursery school

Next to Sanyang Day Care Nursery School. A school that Dirk and I visited on our last trip, and where we had some comments that also prevented us from investing in it. In the meantime, we have invested in a new roof for some of the classrooms, thanks to the last student interns. The roof had blown off because the wind had free play under it. There were no students in the school at the time. What we notice: on the outside beautiful buildings, the classrooms inside a lot less: lack of material, floors full of pits, a dead cat, ...  and still not well cared for. They have a nice water installation, but 1 of the solar panels is defective (and was already when we came 2 years ago). Difficult… In the meantime they have received a complete toilet block (9 toilets) from another NGO. Beautiful construction. In our conversation with the superior, we make it clear to him that there are other priorities.

Sanyang Garden

Next stop is the Sanyang Women Garden – Salaba. Beautiful realization of a community garden for an entire village, where the women (yes, not the men) do the hard work. Large water installations, which fill large water basins, where the women can then fetch water with their bucket to water their garden. The domain is divided into gardens of approximately 10m x 10m, which must be watered daily by the women involved. About a hundred buckets of 10 kg, daily, per garden, per woman who takes care of it!

Gammol maintains the installation. This year we closed the water basins with bitumen and repaired pipes and taps.

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Darboe Kunda school

Penultimate stop for today is an application for a new school in Darboe-Kunda. A school where one of our older water installations is already installed, and which is well maintained. A responsible person has therefore been appointed for this, which is a minimum requirement. The solar panels should be cleaned, which would benefit the efficiency. The demand for new classrooms is understandable. The existing ones are worn through and through: holes in the walls, primitive classrooms, one of the classrooms is no longer usable because of no roof. What is missing is a decent curriculum, actually a plan tout court: where do they want to go with the school? We lack clarity, something that is not abnormal in The Gambia, but is important for us to have maximum chance of success if we want to make an important investment, such as building a new school.

Gammol house

Last stop is our headquarters, Headquarters Gammol NGO in Sanyang vilaage. A happy reunion with our 2 nurses, Marijke and Mien, who are here for a few weeks for their project – wound care.

In the evening we are invited by the host of our lodge to have dinner a few kilometers further, with a German lady who has a restaurant, with live music and dancing. We of course invite Omar and Lamin to come with us! Everyone puts their best foot forward, some better than others... 😊

Dirk Depoorter

Sunday 8 May

Sunday is all about the water projects realized over the past 2 years.

Gidda Sukuta

20220508 reis02First stop is our new water project in Giboro Gidda Sukuta.

Kuloro Ba Duma

The second project is in Kuloro Village, Kuloro Ba Duma, where we also get a tour of the village, and see the different extensions that have been built to get the water as far as possible into the vast village. And yet we still come across the classic wells (shallow, with impure water, with a pulley and buckets). What we hear is that the classic (old) wells are still used to water the gardens, and that our installations are used for everything where hygiene is required, such as preparing food. Although hygiene in The Gambia is given a different interpretation than what we give it.

Mandinaba Darussalam

Next project is in Mandinaba Daru Salam. Here we are asked to build a new school from scratch. Apparently an area where the population is growing strongly, but it seems premature to us to invest in a school here, without anything concrete: where do they get the teachers, how many students would come to school here, let state that there would be curricula… In terms of location, this seems suitable, but we lack too much information.

Gunjur Freetown

From Mandinaba Village we continue to our project in Gunjur Freetown, nice installation. Striking, but something we already notice too often: solar panels full of dust. And this while the panels are on the ground (so easily accessible), but that little or no attention is paid to it, as a result of which the efficiency of the pump decreases. And the first question we get is for an additional pump. We make it clear to Omar that he needs to be more careful about this. This is an essential condition before we even think about installing an extension or additional installation. As long as the discipline is not there to make optimal use of the existing installation, we do not think it makes sense to make that additional investment.

Gunjur Madena Salam

When we arrive in Gunjur Village, for our Gunjur Madena Salam project, we see that things can be done differently. In addition to many thanks, a sturdy - and highly motivated - lady takes the floor to explain to us how our installation contributes to the quality of life of the women in the village. This testimony really speaks to us, gives us a warm feeling, that together we realize something that really makes a difference, very often for the women who take on the heavy work in The Gambia. Cheers!

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Nursery school Kartong

Normally we would end the day at the Astry Nursery School in Kartong, the second school we have built. Another Belgian NGO takes care of the follow-up and supervision of the teachers. We pass the school, which is deserted on Sunday, and notice that it still looks very neat. Which once again emphasizes the importance of follow-up.