Schools' out for summer!

As schools break up for the summer holidays in The Gambia and Britain, its time to reflect back on another successful year of fund-raising in the UK and beyond, and of progress in the schools in Sohm.

Beech Hill community primary school, in Luton, has been twinned with the Sohm Lower Basic school for around five years now, and in the past their pupils have exchanged letters and artwork, as they share common interests and swapped stories of each others' lives.

Sohm Lower Basic pupils, demonstrating their twinning with Beech Hill school

In the last week of the summer term, Beech Hill held one of their now annual "Gambia Days", where pupils went to school dressed in the colours of the Gambian flag. After assemblies lead by Sandra and John from SSS on life in the village of Sohm and what has happened to previous years' donations from Beech Hill to Sohm, the Luton youngsters embarked on a day of classroom activities - focussing on life in The Gambia.


There was story telling, art classes, dancing, geography lessons, sessions painting Gambian flags and African masks and a drumming workshop, lead by a local Ghanaian drummer.

Drumming workshop at Beech Hill school's Gambia Day, July 2023

The day ended with a sale, in the school playground, of food cooked by some of the parents and sold to others, as they came to pick up their childrern from school.

In total, over £1,500 was raised on the day, including Gift Aid.  That sum will be more than enough to buy the entire stationery supply for pupils and teachers alike, in Sohm over the next 12 months.  Fund-raising like this greatly enhances the educational opportunities the Sohm youngsters have, and has had the effect of propelling the school up the local league tables, to become an exemplar for rural schools in the region.

Earlier during the year, Sohm Lower Basic school celebrated a long-time supporter of the school (via SSS) and its library, by naming the library after him- The Brain Bamford Library - after his death.  Brian's family chose not to have flowers or donations at his funeral, but instead donated the collection to Sohm Lower Basic school, to be spent on books for the school - his life long passion. Later, a close friend of Brian arranged a fund raisng "Mad Hatter's Tea Party", in his memory with funds going to Sohm, in Australia! Thanks, to one and all from the pupils of Sohm!

The Brian Bamford library - Sohm Lower Basic school

The photos show Sohm's pupils gratefully receiving the results of these donations, in bulk, and in the classroom.

Above and below - stationery supplies for a whole year - made possible by the donations

The largest project currently up and running in the village is the construction of staff quarters for around three dozen teachers from both the primary and secondary school in the village. In the past we have tried to renovate the frankly deplorable staff living quarters.  But their still poor state had become a staff recruitment issue, as potentail teachers have been unwilling to take up jobs in a fairly remote village with pretty dreadful accommodation..

About a year ago we worked up plans with the Gambian Ministry of Education, the head teachers of the two schools in Sohm and a contractor we had successfully worked with on major projects before, to build new accommodation for 36 teachers in premises that was owned by the Ministry of Education, in the village, and set about trying to find a sponsor.

We were absolutely delighted when our friends from Jersey - the Jersey Gambia Schools Trust - were able to find a very generous benefactor, whose funding was matched by that from the Jersey government and work began on the construction of the new housing units.

Building is currently at a very advanced stage of development, and hopefully teachers from both the primary and secondary schools will be able to move in before Christmas.

New teachers' accommodation in the village of Sohm, under construction

The result will make teaching in Sohm a more welcoming prospect for would-be recruits, who will find - as a result of the efforts of supporters of this charity - a relatively well resourced couple of schools in which to work.

We've been involved with Sohm for twelve years now, and the turnaround in conditions in the schools and standards of teaching, and now accommodation have been quite remarkable and been shown in improvements in educational achievements in the village.

This would not have been possible without the generosity of supporters of our charity.

We thank you all - and join the pupils in the schools in wishing you a great summer!

We'll be back, looking for further advances in Sohm's schools in the autumn term!

Signing off the Sukuta project (2)

This is the second of two articles signifying the successful conclusion of our Sukuta Project. The first immediately precedes it, on this blog

We have feautured the project frequently over the last three years in words and pictures. This episode is aimed at showing, mainly in picture form, the difference your - and Rotary's - money has made to the 2,000 children attending the school.

On International Women's Day 2022, the then head of Sukuta LBS (Mariam Mendy, dressed in white, second from left), the CEO of contractors Future In Our Hands (Jainaba Sarr, dressed in orange, second from right), together with then President of Brusubi Rotary club (Omar Jallow, far left) and John Walker, representing Sohm Schools Support and Redbridge Rotary (far right) sign contract for FIOH to deliver the Sukuta project. 


There were seven aspects to the project. Below, adopting a before and after approach, we present a photographic essay of the differene our Sukuta project has made to a large number of young African lives, now and for many years into the future.

Water Supply

Before: one water tank for 2,000 pupils


After (1): second water tank ready for installation


After (2): second water tank in place

Doubling the water capacity of the water supply enables much more hygenic practice and cleanliness around the school.


Before: There was only one water standpipe for 2,000 children to wash their hands (including after toilet and before food) in the entire school.

After (1): one of the ten new standpipes installed in the school

After (2): another of the ten new standpipes installed in the school

After (3): yet another of the ten new standpipes


Before (1 and 2): Old toilets, before the project

Under construction: The new toilets

After (1 and 2): running water in new hygenic toilets, for the first time


Before (above and below): Old library suffering from termite damage and unusable


After (above and below): newly reconstructed library, termite free and fit for use. The building is waiting for Brusubi Rotary Club to provide the promised furniture, and then it will be up and running and a fabulous facility for 2,000 pupils

Sick room

Before: No sick room in the school; a space identified to construct one

After: The sick room built.The building is waiting for Brusubi Rotary Club to provide the promised furniture, so that it can become a first aid and medical centre for the 2,000 pupils.

Computer room

Before: too small, unfit for purpose and unable to offer space for all the pupils

After (above and below): greatly expanded facility, with air-con, in which all pupils can receive ICT lessons

Vendors stalls
Before: The hot, unhygenic place where local women sold school lunches to the 2,000 pupils at the school

After (1 and2)- above and below: the new clean, hygenic building created for local traders to sell lunches to the school's children

After (3 and4)- above and below: traders setting up, and children using the new school meals facility

 Signed, sealed, but not fully delivered - yet
A year ago Redbridge Rotary (with significant SSS backing) and Rotary International provided the money for the completion of the Sukuta project. Under the terms of the agreement, Brusubi Rotary club were entrusted to supervise its delivery. Contractor, Future In Our Hands, went beyond expectations in executing the contract to price, despite building supply price inflation.
The completion of the project was hailed on Gambian TV and Brusubi Rotary club, via current president, Alpha Jallow, was happy to take credit for the delivery of this carefully constructed and delicately financed project.

It has been a great success, and SSS supporters and Rotarians, world-wide are to be thanked and praised for their generosity in ensuring that.

All that is needed now is for Brusubi Rotary club to put its money where its mouth is (to the tune of less than $1,000 US) and deliver on the promises it made to Gambian TV and furnish the library and sick room. That simple, low cost, pain-free gesture will ensure that 2,000 young Gambians will benefit from everyone else's efforts. 
It will also illustrate that Rotary values are extended to and be displayed by Gambian Rotarians too. Service before self-service. Charity before vanity.
The four photos, above and below, are of Brusubi Rotary President, Alpha Jallow taking credit for the delivery of the project. Now let the club deliver on its promises.


Signing off the Sukuta project (1)

This is the first of two articles celebrating the successful conclusion of our Sukuta Project.

Three years ago we started what proved to be a mamoth undertaking, to refurb the Gambia's largest primary (Lower Basic) school - the Sukuta LBS.

We raised a little over £40,000 for the project, a third from Sohm Schools Support's funds and two thirds from Rotary, via a combination of grants from local clubs in London (mainly Redbridge), a generous London-wide Distrct Grant and a top up payment from Rotary International in Chicago.

COVID proved to be a major distraction and obstacle, but in March this year we signed a contract with a Gambian Rotary club (Brusubi) and contractors Future in Our Hands (FIOH) to deliver the multi-faceted undertaking.  We have covered details of the proposals in a few previous posts.

FIOH delivered the project on time and to spec in October and they and the Brusubi club were the subject of a Gambian TV feature celebrating the handing over event. Below are stills from that TV report, which focused heavily on Rotary and the good and the great, who were at the sign off of the project.

Ribbon cutting at the ceremony - left to right: Alpha Jallow (Brusubi Rotary club), the head and chair of governors of the school and right, Jainaba Sarr - Director of Future In Our Hands (the contractor).

View of the event, from the top table

Children welcoming the new facilities

Alpha Jallow of Brusubi Roatry club, addressing the meeting, calling on the school to make maximum use of the facilities, and to look after them

                                           Attentive audience                                                                                              

Left, Haruna Bah, head Sukuta LBS, right Jainaba Sarr, CEO of contractor Future In Our Hands

Exterior of renovated library

Two water tanks - doubling the capacity available to the school

"Modest" shot of interior of new toilets at school - hugely more hygenic than those they replaced

Alpha Jallow walking the party through the new "vendors' stalls", for the hygenic distribution of school meals.

The Sukuta project was signed off, on time, to budget and spec at the end of September. In addition to the facilities outlined in the TV report, the project established a new sick room for the school, greatly extended the size of the school's only computer room and increased the number of standpipes from which pupils can access water, from one to ten.

All in all, a very considerable success that will benefit the 2,000 children attending the school, now and well into the future.

The second post, detailing the signing of of the Sukuta project is to follow, and will feature "before" and "after" photos of the various strands of the undertaking.