Letter of thanks from Sohm Lower Basic School


We have recently received this unsolicited letter of thanks from Lamin Saidy,  the acting head teacher of the Sohm Lower Basic school (the previous head, unfortunately, died in January of this year, just prior to our visit to The Gambia. In his own words, he summarises most of what we have been attempting to do to assist his school, over recent years.

It is a satisfying read for us. We hope you agree - and thank you for your on-going support to our small charity.

Our sincere gratitude to the Sohm Schools Support (SSS) and Jersey Gambia Schools Trust (JGST) for the wonderful contributing role they are playing in supporting our development agendas. Through the engagement of SSS and JGST in our quest to develop Sohm Lower Basic School into model rural school, a lot has been achieved on the infrastructure and teaching and learning equipment. 
Each time John and Robin are seen in the school, everyone feels happy, even the pupils. Their every visit in the school is impressive but this year’s visit is particularly very impressive. This is manifested in the way our friends were received in the school. The welcoming involves personalities from the village and the staff and pupils of the school. 

This year's welcome
There was a short session organised purposely to complement the effort of all our friends through John and Robin by the community awarding presents and certificates to John, Robin and Kakai. It is our wish for every partner to have a form of reward but we do not have the capacity to do so but we believe that God will deservedly reward all those who in one way or the other contributing to the development and welfare of our school.
Our two friends (SSS and JGST) always listen to our problems and try to make sure that the problems known are no more than a threat to jeopardise our progress. This is how we got improvements on the library, sick room, water supply, toilets, fencing, and mending of the dilapidated classroom block and, of course, the electrification of the whole school. 
Each of the projects accords us an opportunity to adding a value to our equipment and assets.
The first big project implemented in the school was the electrification project before the installation of which we had to travel to the nearby towns to process our documents. The installation of electricity accords us the opportunity to get equipment such as computer laptops, desk tops, printers and copiers. Having the equipment in the school relieve us from travelling to the town only to copy or print a document. 
The time wasted did not helping the day to day running of the school. Time was wasted and there was reduction in human resources. The one running the errand has to leave a gap on the ground unattended. Today we are not leaving our post only for printing or copying rather, we have our own equipment that we use at our level to do our work. All the facilities we are enjoying today came through the support of our friends SSS and JGST.
Following the electrification project was the library and sick room were refurbished simultaneously. 
Before the renovation took place in the library, there is nothing that we did not do to keep away the termites. All the efforts taken to repel the termites went in vain. For the sick room, there was a space for it, but nothing could be done there at that material point in time (as there were no resources). 
The restored library

We have children coming from nearby villages walking a distance of two to three kilometres, whenever they fall sick we have no place to rest them much more to administer a first aid treatment.
The first aid kit box was empty with no drugs and no other first aid equipment. This poor sick child had to be sent back home unattended. Our friends (SSS and JGST) felt this situation with us and responded to our plight, making our library termite free and fixed our sick room for us, providing first aid equipment and arranging first aid training for the whole staff.
We had only one water source for the school and this single pump was shared with the community. Our friends (SSS and JGST) intervened to improve the limited water supply in the school. We now have a stand pipe at the staff quarters, one at the garden, two for children and one behind the classroom, which children use when going to the toilet.
The most recent development in the school is the fencing project and the renovation of six classrooms. These two came at a time we needed them most. There were cracks on the walls, cracks on the floor broken doors and damage on the roof of a classroom. The cracks on the walls affected the blackboards, preventing teachers from writing on the blackboard. 
The whole of the six classroom block was renovated and painted, blackboards repaired and the broken doors fixed. The roof was fixed, so we no longer fear for books and papers getting wet or unauthorised people entering the classrooms after school hours, to tamper with our materials.
One of the six refurbished
 classrooms
Our friends (SSS and JGST) are not only supportive on the side of infrastructure,  but are also supportive on the side of stationery. They provide an annual supply of stationery based on what the school needs. The stationery received every year always address our needs, meaning we are getting the required quantity and quality of materials that will serve our teaching and learning needs through to the next year. 
Pupils showcasing some of this
year's stationery supplies

There is no child in the school without the basic school materials such as: books, pens, pencils, erasers, rulers, sharpeners. Teachers also have vanguards (poster paper), markers, rulers, glue, a laminator, a television set and cello tape, to prepare the learning materials in their classes.

Educational DVD (supplied by SSS)
captivating children, on TV (supplied by SSS),
running on electricity
(paid for and introduced by SSS)
The support of our friends does not only stop at the aforementioned assistance they render to us.
The pending project proposed for the school this year is the school hall with a kitchen and a store.

Architect's drawings for the new
hall/kitchen/store block - this year's major project
The store, as proposed, will be fully furnished with movable chairs, electrified and fitted with equipment such as projector for school based workshops and meetings as well as audio visual classes. 
The hall should also have a stage basically for sport, drama, role play and other educational activities. This same hall will serve as the school assembly hall.
Another wonderful initiative we have from our friends (SSS and JGST) is that we are linked with First Aid For the Gambia, where we now get our annual first aid supply for the sick room and they arrange biannual first aid training for the teachers. We just had the third supply of equipment and supplies and the second first aid training, on Friday 25th January 2019. 

First Aid training and
supplies, each year
A P.O. Box was also opened for the school in February 2019 to make mailing easy and secure for the school. Last year our friends in Luton sent us letters and packages, which, until today, we have not received. 
This time we are hopeful that our mail will not get lost. Anything to be sent to the school will come through:
Sohm Lower Basic SchoolP.O. Box 5380BrikamaWest Coast RegionThe GambiaWest Africa 
It is in our plans to make good use of the resources at our disposal in a positive way, in order to bring about greater opportunity to attract a culture of being supportive in the day to day running of the school including feeding the school children. 
We want improvement in our water supply in order intensify gardening and farming within the school.
The Mothers' club is an instrumental partner, as far as grooming and caring of school children is concerned. We have high hopes of this club which is already established in the school. We are relying on the able- mothers club to come to our aid, by invitation, to be part of us in the garden to grow more crops and feed our children who will sometimes come to school hungry. 

School gardens, watered by new pump
- helping to grow food for the hungry
children's school breakfasts

The success of this project is assisted by the more efficient water supply with efficient garden tools and farming implements at our disposal.
In conclusion, we have to extend our sincere gratitude to the staff and pupils of Beech Hill Primary School, Luton and the management of Rotary International, Redbridge. 
Acting head, Lamin Saidy, showing his
appreciation to two of our largest supporters

We would not forget the personalities of John, Robin, Carol, Sandra, Natalie and their Gambian counter Mr. Kakai Sanyang for their unflinching support to make things possible the way they are with us here in the Gambia. 
We alone can tell how much your support means to us. Everybody knows about your support in our school. 
Lamin Saidy - acting head teacher, Sohm Lower Basic School 
20 February, 2019 
     

2019 trip - huge progress, on so many fronts

Our most successful visit to Sohm, to date, will be the feature of a series of articles over the coming months.  The achievements of the trip, however, can be expressed in 10 headlines and photos, below.

1. Given a great welcome by the school.



2. Witnessed transformed classroom block, courtesy of the generosity of pupils from Beech Hill school, Luton and Redbridge Rotary Club.




3. Saw superb delivery of First Aid training to 10 adults and three pupils, plus the delivery of upto date stock of medical supplies, from the ever-excellent First Aid 4 Gambia.



4. Signed off plans for a new 30 metre hall and kitchen block - our biggest project yet - to be built this year.



5. Delivered £1k+ of stationery to meet all needs of 450 pupils and their staff for the next year.



6. Saw delighted pupils and teachers captivated by some Jolly Phonics DVD's, we took over - courtesy of some e.bay bargains in the UK





7. Picked up over 90 letters, drawings and photos from the pupils to take to their pen pals in Luton.


8. Sourced potential furniture - with ideas of how to pay for it - for the new hall, for next year.



9. Spoke to Banjul Rotary Club, about possible future co-operation.




10. Tracked down possible future training packages for the staff at Sohm Lower Basic School.

Future blogs will add flesh to the bones of the above achievements.

As ever, we welcome your comments and donations - to help us continue to change lives in the small Gambian village of Sohm.

New term, new start

Classroom refurbishment almost complete

As the new school year starts in Sohm, we are delighted to provide a progress report on our ambitious Sohm 2020 project.

This year we have established two great partnership projects to help raise funds for our charity: Beech Hill Primary school in Luton and Redbridge Rotary club. As a result of this, we embarked on our most ambitious project to date - which we have labelled Sohm 2020. Our object is to raise £20,000 by the year 2020.

Friendship agreement between
 Beech Hill and Sohm LBS
We have pledged to repair and refurbish six classrooms in a block suffering from serious decay, and to completely replace the school's condemned-as-unfit kitchen and dining hall area with a new kitchen and fit-for-purpose multi- functional (dining, sports, assembly, meeting, prayers, performance etc) hall.

Progress to date has exceeded our wildest expectations.  As we have previously mentioned, Beech Hill school has established a friendship agreement with the Sohm Lower Basic school. The Luton school held a fund raising day towards the end of last term for Sohm - and have now raised almost £5,000 for the school.

Our good friend Tony Betts has become the President of Redbridge Rotary club this year and nominated SSS as one of his three charities (Rotary International and a local Redbridge one, being the other two).

Big thanks to Redbridge Rotary club
Generous funding from Rotary has meant that we have been able to get a move on.  As Sohm LBS returns after the summer break, we are delighted to be able to share that progress, via photos, of the refurbishment of the six-classroom block - nearing completion, as I write.

The four photos, below are of the sorry state of the block before the refurbing over the summer break.  





The next four photos show repining, repairs and painting work under way, over the summer holiday.





The six classroom block's refurbishment is ready for re-occupation, after the summer break, thanks to the hard work of contractors - Future In Our Hands - and the generous funding of Beech Hill and Redbridge Rotary.





Estimates have been provided for replacing the unfit kitchen and dining hall block, and we are working with the school to firm up their requirements for the replacement block. Below is a reminder of the dreadful state of the block to be replaced.

Unstable and unsafe roof

Holes in walls and door frames ready to fall out


Kitchen, unfit for purpose

Roof in danger of collapse

Fixed concrete blocks for dining area,
meaning it is completely unusable for anything else
The contractors, meanwhile, have not let the grass grow under their feet on this; they have already demolished the unfit block, ready for constructing the new on.

No real pressure on us, then - just another £10k to find over the next eighteen months, in order to replace it!

Come on - dig behind the backs of your sofas!

October 2018 update

The great work that Beech Hill school, Luton has done in helping restore the classrooms at Sohm Lower Basic school was recognised on the 4 October edition of The Luton Herald and Post.Thanks to them for the coverage - and of course, to Beech Hill for providing them with a great story!


Luton Today - Sohm tomorrow


Beech Hill school in Luton made a friendship agreement with the Lower Basic school in Sohm earlier this year, and has pledged to try and raise money for their Gambian friends over the next three years.

Beech Hill head teacher, Chris Davidson,
 participating in a drumming workshop
The school dedicated the money it raised from World Book Day, in March, to helping the school - and raised £1,000, to help restore broken the classrooms we mentioned in the last newsletter.

The school held a "Gambia Day" on 6 June and invited Sandra and John from SSS to participate.

Above and below, Sandra and John Walker
joining in the spirit of the day. We have
persuaded ourselves that it is the wind that
made us look so obese in the photo below!

It was declared a "non-uniform" day, and pupils were encouraged to go to school in the colours of the Gambian flag - and make a donation of £1 for not having to wear their uniforms.

Above and below, waving the flag for
The Gambia - some of Beech Hill's
youngsters making Gambian flags

Sandra and John took two assemblies for the 900 Beech Hill pupils, and took them through the school day of a Sohm youngster.

The rest of the day was devoted to The Gambia in the school, and Sandra and John were delighted to visit all the classes and see they pupils hard at work.

Children hard at work
painting Gambian houses
There were geography, craft, singing, story-telling and art classes.  Drumming workshops were held in the school and at the end of the day, surplus library books were sold off to pupils and parents - with the proceeds going to SSS.

Above and below, surplus library books being
sold to raise funds for Sohm
A major highlight was provided by many of the mums in the school.  Parents had asked from food donations from local traders and the mums cooked a large amount of delicious food - curries, rice, samosas etc - for sale to parents picking up their children.

The fantastic efforts from the donating local traders, superb mother-cooks, and generous parents raised £1,500.

Absolutely delicious food,
made and sold for Sohm
A "bucket collection" was also held outside the school gates as parents picked up their children from the school gates.

Bucket collection at the school gates,
lead by Natalie Carson, deputy head
teacher, right
In total, a fabulous £2,500 was raised on the day for Sohm Lower Basic school.

That sum, together with the money raised on World Book Day has enabled us to sign a contract with a Gambian building-for-not-for-profit organisations for the school.

Above and below, indoor Gambian music lessons

It will mean that six classrooms in a serious state of disrepair (see previous post) will now be renovated over the school summer holidays.

This is truly fantastic.  far more than we could ever have wished for.

It means the lives of 300 African school children will be immeasurably improved as a result of the generosity of the Luton school.

The local Luton newspaper - Luton Today recognised the efforts too - as the extract, below, from last week's edition shows.


They made an even larger splash on their website, and you can follow the link here.

The website is a little temperamental, so we've pieced together the article, from screen grabs below.