What follows are some personal notes from Mr Baker about what the trip means to him and why we would love you to donate.
I genuinely love almost everything about my job in charge of the sixth form here at Beacon, but I can honestly say that the week I spend in the Gambia each year on this trip is my annual highlight. The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world and yet what we see when we visit is not the kinds of misery and suffering that you might imagine, but a group of people who have all of the ability and drive they need to succeed, but just a lot of bad luck in terms of a lack of any natural resources and a climate which stops them from growing very much of anything.
Last year one of my strongest memories is of the nursery in the village I visit, Genieri. Foday who teaches all of the children up to the age of eleven was keen for us to help with buying some furniture for his playgroup- as you can see in my picture, they have nothing. My group of students really wanted to help out with this, but unfortunately when it came to sharing out the money that we had raised, there was not enough left over to pay for what they needed. They needed just £100
Probably my best friend out in the Gambia is Sana Singhateh. When I first knew him he was the head boy of the Gambia High school (our link school in the capital, Banjul) Now, with our help, he is reaching the end of six years of training to be a pharmacist. This has cost a lot- about £600 a year. However, this investment will allow him literally to save lives- out there a lack of doctors mean that pharmacists are often the main medical practitioners and it will also allow him to continue as the main earner for his family. A few years ago, Sana invited me to visit his home- his family share a small compound of about six rooms- when I visited there were 47 of them living there! It’s amazing when you see a picture like the one above of Sana that he seems so westernised, (particularly compared to his father below) but the reality of his life is very different.
The money that we raise this year will help to pay for students like Sana, but it also funds so many other things. A few years ago during the visit, one of our Gambian guides was gradually getting sicker and sicker. We were terribly worried about him and when we found out that he had Africa’s biggest killer, malaria, the students on the visit decided to pull together to have a whip round to pay for the medicine needed to save his life. It did not take too long as it came to just £3. On the school’s non uniform day we are asking each of your children to bring in at least £2 on Friday, but as you can imagine, it will help so much if you can afford a bit more.
If you are a parent at the school you can donate through parent pay. We are hoping to have charitable status soon so that others can donate also.