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.