December 2013 Newsletter

As winter sets in, our thoughts are turning to the warmer climes of the Gambia, and thought we would share some of them with you.


Sponsorship


Our supporters are paying the school and associated learning costs of a dozen youngsters in Sohm.  We have recently received upto date school reports on their progress, together with letters of thanks from the pupils, which by now are winging their way to the sponsors.

Most pupils have made significant educational and social progress over the last year, as reflected in the reports and letters.  What is clear, however, is that there would have been no educational progress without the help from the sponsors, because that alone has enabled them to continue with their studies.


A selection of school reports and letters from sponsored students


So, thanks to all who are supporting Sohm's students.  For just £5 per month you, too, could sponsor a Gambian youngster's education and receive an annual school report, letter from the student and recent photo of the student. Please contact us, if you would like to join our band of supporters.
 
This could be the ideal, selfless, Christmas present for that person who has everything!


Christmas Fair


Speaking of Christmas, we'll be making one of our regular fund-raising appearances at Derwentwater Primary school in Ealing, at the school's Christmas Fair on Friday 6 December.


Recent fund-raising fair at Derwentwater Primary School


Derwentwater is twinned with the Lower Basic School in Sohm and all money we raise through our brik-a-brak stall and raffle will be used to help restore two badly damaged classrooms in the bulging Sohm Primary school.

So, big thanks, in advance (!) to the pupils, staff and parents of Derwentwater for continuing to assist their "twinned" friends in Sohm.


Plans for January


Sandra and I will be off to the Gambia in early January for a month.  As part of the preparations, we've totted up the charity's earnings for the year, and claimed our Gift Aid from the government.

So, in total, we will have raised around £6,000 over the last year.  About £1,000 of this is earmarked for the sponsorship of students, mentioned above.  Of the rest, we have spent around £500 on getting batteries and supplies (ink etc) for the 10 laptops and printers donors have given us.  These, with the addition of the 100+ memory sticks we have been given will provide a major boost for the teaching of ICT in the schools without mains electricity.


Back on the road: broken bikes mended with SSS funds
which improves school transport for youngsters


We have continued our practice of topping up the book and bike funds we established last year and have bought a supply of blackboard paint, to provide for very basic needs for the schools.  We will, once again, fund a school trip for all the final year students in the primary school and will continue to help with photocopying exam past papers etc.

As indicated above, we will be looking to make a major push in trying to restore a couple of ramshackled classrooms in the Lower Basic School, to help with much needed accommodation there.


Funds raised will restore Sohm classroom in need of repair


Political situation in The Gambia


Following press reports over recent months, a number of our supporters have asked what is happening, politically, in The Gambia.

The Gambia left the Commonwealth in October, some weeks after President Jammeh caused some controversy with an appearance at the United Nations. The Gambia is also changing some of its key international alliances.

We do not feel able, nor need, to comment on these events.

What is clear to us, however, is that the education needs of the youngsters in Sohm remain unchanged, and we will continue, via the charity and the help of our supporters, to help meet them.

Please feel assured that all donations to this charity will continue to be spent for the benefit of pupils in the Sohm schools , directly under the supervision of this charity's trustees.  We know that you would wish no different.


Congratulations!


And finally, huge congratulations to Ian and Christabel Stapleton of Football Gambia - our good friends and supporters.  Christabel has recently given birth to their first child, Sebastian.  We are delighted to report that all three are thriving!

Best wishes to you all at this festive time of the year, from us at Sohm School Support.

Sandra and John Walker

October 2013 Newsletter

 As autumn lands with a bump, we are beginning our plans for our next visit to The Gambia, in January.  But first, an update on recent Sohm-related activities.

On 15 October our second container of materials leaves the UK for Banjul - and a big thank you to our friends at Football Gambia for making this happen. By the time it leaves, we will have sent over 20 x 50 litre boxes of generous donations this year, which we will pick up, early in January, and take to Sohm, for distribution.


Some of the Sohm-bound containers and contents


We have sent:
  • A couple hundred school science textbooks and an extensive collection of school science equipment, generously given by Auchmuty High School, in Glenrothes, Fife - as it has become surplus to requirements, following their move to new buildings. The school also gave us a much-needed PC printer.

  • Four more laptops, thanks to donations by relatives: Owen, Rachel and Nick, and former colleague, Annette. In addition, we've bought - from an extremely competitive supplier - new batteries for each of the half dozen laptops we've already sent to Sohm - to extend their useful lives.

Much needed science equipment will improve teaching in Sohm


  • Over 130 PC memory sticks, which our good friend Maria has hoovered up from her office, and wiped clean.  It will mean that all of Sohm's ICT students will be able to store all of their own work, in one place - essential in a non-networked environment.

  • A large selection of appropriate children's clothes, for pupils at the schools, following a request from some of the women in the village.
Additionally, we've spent some of the hard-raised funds collected in the UK, to purchase some supplies in demand in the schools.  So, in addition to the laptop batteries and printer ink, mentioned above, we have also:

  • Purchased 10 litres of blackboard paint and brushes for its application.  This is a key step in improving the predominant 'talk and chalk' delivery of lessons in the schools.

  • Bought external hard drive capacity to help with school ICT capacity and teaching delivery.

Laptops, batteries and memory sticks will upgrade out-dated ICT equipment


So, its all stations go!  Even after the purchasing, packaging and delivery costs, we should be able to take considerably in excess of £2,000 to Sohm next January, to spend locally, in helping achieve the goals of the charity. We'll keep you updated on progress on that front, once it has happened.

Thanks!
 
We continue to be grateful to a whole range of people - too many to mention, individually - for their generosity in supporting Sohm's schools.
 
But, a special word of thanks must go to former Derwentwater pupil, Yodit, who we featured on this site in July. We then celebrated the fact that she raised £15 for Sohm,  via a sponsored silence in her last day as a primary school pupil.


Yodit - an inspiration to us all!
 
She has followed this kind gesture by undertaking even more fund-raising for her former school's twin school, in The Gambia.
 
She has, in total, given this charity £30, which with Gift Aid amounts to almost £40.  To put this into context: we will be able to use it to purchase enough English language textbooks for a whole class to benefit.  By careful use, this will mean that 100 pupils will benefit next year.
 
Well done, Yodit!  You are an example and inspiration to us all - and offer just the kind of commitment that keeps us going, in tough economic times!

a

What a heroine!

 
We are delighted to be able to share with you the photograph, below.  It is of Yodit, a Year 6 pupil at Derwentwater Primary School, in Acton.  She went on a sponsored silence, for a day, for the benefit of Sohm Schools Support, and her friends in the Gambian village.

Well done, and enormous thanks to you, Yodit.  You are an inspiration to us all; not the least your friends at both Derwentwater and Sohm Lower Basic Schools. All the very best to you in your new school, in September.

As a result of your efforts, we will be able to get an additional £5 from the British government.  That £20 will mean a new set of exercise books, for every one of the Year 6 equivalent pupils in Sohm, as the new school year starts in September.
Yodit, Year 6 pupil at Derwentwater School, Acton raises funds for Sohm via a sponsored silence!


Video hit

 
We hope you have had a chance to look at the video that our good friend Ian Wiggins shot for us in February.  It is professionally produced and only six minutes long - so give it a viewing - please.
 
It gives a good insight into what Sohm is like and how the money from our generous sponsors has been spent.  It also gives a few ideas on what and future donations could be spent on. 
 
Sit back, enjoy and reach for your wallets!!
 
 
 
 
 
Grand summer raffle winners
 
We are pleased to announce the prize winners of this summer's raffle.  We raised over £300, mainly through the generous contributions of parents, pupils and staff at Derwentwater primary school, after our attendance at their summer fair, early in July.
 
That money should be able to bring back into use a badly damaged classroom, whose broken windows and fragile roof have made it unsafe for use for the last two years.  Thanks to one and all.

1st Digital Camera: Canon Power Shot A810, Win: Valissya, orange no: 673

2nd Either: Harley Davidson ride, or Photo sess, Win: Mrs Smart, lilac no: 693

3rd Mrs Bridges Breakfast Set, Win Scarlett, orange no: 708

4th Sparkling White Wine & Leonidas Chocolates,  Win: Alex, orange no: 780

5th Jamie Oliver Cookbook & goody bag, Win: Tracy, orange no: 538

6th Slow Gin Liqueur & Turkish Delight, Win: Aine Ryan, white no: 228

7th 3 Bottles of Wine, Win: Sandra Teacher 6C Derwentwater, orange no:697

8th Houseplant in a basket display, Win: Harsimar pink no 451
 
Thanks to you all, and to the other, less lucky ticket purchasers.
 

Summer Auction
 
And, finally ... The winners of the auction for Sadlers Wells Tickets, for their autumn production of Cirque Eloize iD at the Peacock Theatre in October were .... Sandra and John Walker!  So, thanks to them for their £50 bid.  We'll be in touch soon to tell you how to pick up your tickets!

Enjoy the summer, folks

July 2013 Newsletter

 

 

It's a few big thanks from us and a couple of great opportunities for you, this week. Not to mention a couple of mouth-watering teases for the future. So, read on!

Richard, Barbara and Bruce!

First, the thanks. To our good friends Barbara and Richard who bid over £200 for the two tickets we were auctioning for the Bruce Springsteen gig in Stratford last week. That was very generous of them, and with the Gift Aid we can claim amounts to almost £300 that can go towards rebuilding a crumbling classroom in the Sohm Lower basic school, next spring.

The weather was wonderful, the Boss was fantastic and a great time was had by all 40,000 in the Olympic Park. Can there be a better, more honest, hard rocking, crowd pleasing, totally energising 60 year old around? Bruce, that is!!

 
The Boss provided a great gig for Barbara, Richard and us - but most of all, for Sohm's youngsters
 
Derwentwater pester power

Next - at the other end of the age spectrum, the kids of Derwentwater primary school in Acton. They invited us to their summer fair last Friday, when we were able to recycle last year's unwanted Christmas gifts and raise almot £400 on the day. Pester power is great, the kids nagged their parents, and lo and behold the parents' purses opened and the pounds came tumbling out! So, that little lot, when added to Richard and Barbara's generosity will probably pay for the complete restoration of a classroom. Great stuff.
 
Natalie with Biker Bill at Derwentwater summer fair
 

It wasn't just the brik-a-brak, however, Derwentwater pesterpower probably raised £60 as kids old and young alike sat on Biker Bill's Harley and could only imagine the thrill of the open road. At £5 a photo, not bad. So, thanks Bill. That little stash will go towards the Bike Fund that your and Bab's' efforts are keeping going in Sohm.

Then, there's the raffle. Probably £100 raised for that on Friday. Results not declared until next week's exciting instalment of this newsletter. So, be ready - keep watching and see who the lucky few will be!

Great chance to see modern dance, at its very best

A big thanks to our good friend Elin and her employers, Sadler's Wells, for their generosity. They have kindly donated a couple of tickets to us for the exciting Cirque Eloize's iD show at the wonderful Peacock Theatre, just off the Strand, for Tuesday 1 October, this year.


Cirque Eloixe's iD - Saddler's Wells - Peacock Theatre

Who?, you might well ask. Let us help:

"Award winning contemporary circus company Cirque √Čloise have wowed audiences from Broadway to the Sydney Opera house with stunning performances that combine breathtaking circus with dance and music to create highly original shows. Their latest creation, iD is coming to Sadler’s Wells West End venue the Peacock Theatre this October for a limited three week run. Set against an urban backdrop in the heart of the city, iD is a blend of circus arts and street dance accompanied by an original soundtrack that draws on rock and hip hop music, and a talented cast of 14 international performers.

“You’re not going to find a more energetic, mind-blowing, roofraising piece of entertainment” Toronto Star"

Not convinced, yet? Well, just have a look, here

Wow!! All you need to do to guarantee a pair of £24 plus each seats for this hot show is to make a bid to us, before 21 July, by e.mail, post, phone, carrier pigeon. All monies received can be gift aided up and will be used in Sohm next Spring. So, get bidding, folks!

Too energetic for you?

If your pleasures are more sedanatry, you can plan some fab winter evenings huddled around the fire now, playing chess on an exquiste all glass set.

Now is your big chance to bid for this super set. We can't promise it will improve your play, but your enjoyment will be enhanced and the pleasure of your game boosted as you fondle the lovely little pieces!

 
Stunning glass chess set

We guarantee that every gift-aid topped up pound raised by the best bid for this will be spent on chess and other, similar games for the Sohm youngsters when we are there next year.

Bid! boost Gambian play,!and posess an aesthestic delight!
 
Best offer by 21 July gets the set. Go on - you know it makes sense!
 
Future promises
 
So, next week it will be the raffle results, but even more exciting - if that is possible - two video clips from the absolutely wonderful Ian Wiggins.  Baftas and cannes prizes await these fantatsic productions.
 
Book 10 minutes in your busy diaries to be wowed by earwiggy and Sohm's youngsters au natural - but not till next week!

 




Digital divide widens in The Gambia

Top English national newspaper, The Guardian, has just published - on-line, its shortlist for its prestigious international development journalism prize.  We are delighted that Sohm Schools Support friend and relative, Sarah Shearman, has joined that illustrious list of 12 journalists, from an original entry of around 500 articles.

The shortlisted journalists will have their articles published in a future supplement of the paper and be invited to do some blogging and writing for the paper, on international development issues, in the future. 

The prize winners will be announced later in the summer.  But we'd like to congratulate Sarah now for her great distinction in making this highly-regarded short-list.

Sarah may end up as a prize-winner.  We believe that the people of The Gambia, and of Sohm in particular, are real winners for having their plight highlighted in such a professional way.

Sarah's article and that of the 11 other shortlisted applicants can be found from the Guardian's website,  here.

We'll keep you upto speed with further developments in this great story, as they emerge.

International media attention for Sohm schools

 

Sohm schools are becoming the focus of international media attention at present, in both print and via video.

Videos

Our great friend Ian Wiggins has put together two short videos for us on the charity's work in Sohm.
 
The first is a six minute package, Report from Sohm featuring the village, its two schools, our aims and objectives and how we are meeting them. It's a pacy, professionally produced, well shot film, that gives a great flavour of local life and the kids we are trying to support.



Report from Sohm

The second, Perfect Day is a film on one very special day in January, when our good colleagues from Football Gambia came to Sohm and regally entertained and sports-trained the village's youngsters.


Perfect Day

Credits: We are eternally grateful to Ian for working long, hard and for almost nothing to produce these two great products.  You can find out more about him and his work via:EarWig Media.  You can follow him on Twitter: @earwiggy.

And, the international link? Ian is a Brit who took up film making some years ago, and travels the world shooting low (and no) budget movies for a host of good causes.  He is currently based in Cambodia and has worked with Football Gambia, over the years. No doubt based on his great videos for them, he has recently been commissioned by the Gambia Tourist Board to produce half a dozen promotional films. Watch this space, for further details!

We'd also like to thank Dennis(Commissioner)Roberts for the use of his studio and facilities in helping to create the voiceovers. Responsibility for the atonality of the voice, however, is ours alone! You can get a much better feel for the quality of the studio's capabilities, by tuning in to his weekly internet radio show: Cruising with the Commissioner, where Dennis will entertain you imaginatively with the very best of rock, soul and real rhythm and blues music.

Journalism

New York journalist, Sarah Shearman, has been selected for the long list of the prestigious Guardian International Development Journalism competition, for an article focusing on the Digital Divide, in Gambia. And, specifically, how pupils in the Sohm schools are in desperate need for lap top computers to prevent them falling further behind, educationally and economically in the electronic age.

You can read Sarah's insightful piece here:Digital Divide in The Gambia
The competition attracted over 500 applicants and Sarah made it to the long list of 40 recently.  The final short list will be published on 24 June.  You can follow her progress on Twitter, either personally via @Shearmans, or via the Guardian's customised link @journalism_comp.

The Shearman household has been very helpful to Sohm Schools Support, with her husband sponsoring one of our students and generously paying for over 100 of Sohm's youngsters to have the school trip of their short life times, before in the near future.  They will visit Gambia's capital, Banjul, its zoo, airport and archeological ruins in the near future.

We hope that these fine efforts by our friends, family and colleagues inspire you to add your weight to help Sohm Schools Support's activities.

Sandra and John Walker

June 2013 Newsletter - Number 6


 
 Welcome to our first newsletter posted directly on to the website.  We are featuring four topics:
  • Auction for tickets to see Bruce Springsteen
  • Upcoming Derwentwater School summer fair
  • The search for unwanted laptops
  • Buy a 'Red Letter Harley Day' and solve a gift problem
Blind Auction
 
We have been given a pair of tickets for the Hard Rock Calling gig on the re-opening weekend of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford on Sunday 30 June.

The day-long event runs from 1pm - 11pm.

We are holding a blind auction for the tickets (face value £69.75 each). The best bid received for the pair be e.mail by midnight Sunday 16 June wins.
Bruce Springsteen

Gig line-up
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

The Black Crows

Alabama Shakes

Doc Brown Band

Flamin' Groovies

and many more

Full details of the gig can be found here

How to win the tickets
 
Bid, direct to us, by e.mail.  All bidders will be informed of the outcome of the auction on Monday 17 June.

Help improve the life of Gambian school kids - and have a great day out at the re-opening of the Olympic Park, in the company of The Boss.

Please feel free to forward details to anyone you feel may be interested in bidding

Thank you

Derwentwater Summer Fair
 
When we were in the Gambia earlier in the year we were able to cement the schools friendship between Derwentwater Primary school in Acton and Sohm Lower Basic school.  The London school has already raised over £700 to help the children of Sohm.  The two schools have shared letters and class diaries and we have run some assemblies in Derwentwater in life for their opposite numbers in Sohm.
Our stall at last year's Derwentwater School Summer Fair

We are delighted to say that we have been welcomed back to Derwentwater to run some assemblies in June and will be having a stall at their summer fair. We hope that more funds will be raised, to help rebuild some of the badly damaged classrooms at the Sohm Lower Basic school.

Rehoming unwanted laptops!
 
We were able to take five generously donated second hand laptops with us to Sohm last year, and they have transformed the teaching of ICT in the schools, which lack a mains electricity supply. Gone are the days of the pupils relying on clapped out desk tops operating sporadically when the (expensively fuelled) generator runs.

We know that when people upgrade or replace laptops they are reluctant to throw the old one away - but, in reality nobody in the UK wants it and there are few takers in the second hand market for them.

Sohm Lower Basic's deputy head gratefully receiving a donated laptop, earlier this year

We have been offered a limited amount of free storage space in a container going to the Gambia at the end of September.  We would love to help fill that space with a dozen unwanted laptops (with pretty decent batteries). If you could clean them up, and give us the wink, we will be able to get them picked up and dispatched to Sohm at no cost to you, us or the students.  We can assure you.  They really do transform lives, and help prevent some African youngsters from getting left even further behind the developed world in a rapidly developing technological era.

 Make it a Red Letter Harley Day, as a gift for Father's Day - or any other special occasion!
 
Live your dream, or make another's come true with a Harley ride.  It will also benefit the education of Sohm's children.

Biker, Bill Carson, will pick you up and take you on an hour's ride on his Harley (pictured below), on a route of your choice. We'll provide the leathers. There'll be rock 'n roll ablarin', and a photographic memento of the experience
And all for £60.

Longer trips, by negotiation, are possible; including a visit to the iconic Ace Cafe, or central London.  Just call us for the details (minimum age 18).

 
Red Letter Harley days - from £60

 


May 2013 Newsletter - Number 5



This is the third, and last, of our newsletter updates, letting you know of the progress we made on your behalf, and with your money (!), when we were in The Gambia, earlier in the year. We hope you are as encouraged as we are with progress and the value for money we have achieved for your hard earned donations.

You can get details of our earlier newsletters on our website - for details, see end of this letter.


School trip for the Lower Basic school

Sohm is quite a remote community, with only bicycles and a once a day bush taxi as a means of exploration beyond its boundaries. Many of the village's children haven't even managed this, by the time they leave the Lower Basic school.

We have worked on a scheme with the school to provide a day school trip for all of the year 5 and year 6 pupils (about 180 in all). The day out will provide a packed lunch and visit to three of the following: Banjul, the country's capital city, the beach and Atlantic Ocean, the country's only commercial airport, its zoo and the Wassu Stones - Gambia's mysterious Stonehenge-like monument on the north bank of the country.

The Wassu Stones - a key historic site in the Gambia - its very own mini-Stonehenge

We are delighted to say that Owen Walker has agreed to sponsor this trip this year. Owen has recently moved to New York and has said how important travel was in expanding his horizons and perspectives, as he was growing up. His wish is that some of these benefits may rub off on the Sohm youngsters. Thanks, Owen!!


Distribution of donated laptops



There is no mains electricity in Sohm's two schools, no internet access, almost no computers and little ICT competence; but the schools struggle valiantly to not get left further behind in a rapidly developing wired world.

Laptops, with good batteries for power storage, provide a much appreciated boost to those efforts. Dennis Roberts was kind enough to donate 3 laptops to us last autumn and Rose Phillips, another. As a result of free transport, donated by our friends at Football Gambia, we were able to get these out to Sohm in February this year. And what a difference they have made!

ICT lessons can now be conducted, whether the generator is on, or not, via the storage capacity of the batteries - which can be charged elsewhere in the village. Additionally, each of the two school heads now has a PC for school record keeping and keeping in touch with us, and others!

We were able to supplement these very generous donations with some ICT teaching books and some memory sticks, to the benefit of staff and students at the schools, alike.

We have been promised more free transport capacity to The Gambia, this autumn. So, if you or colleagues are disposing of laptops (with good batteries), as you upgrade or migrate to tablets - get in touch! We'll be delighted to pick them up from you and can guarantee they will make a difference to young African lives!


Communications updates

We were delighted to get six very positive pieces of news coverage for the charity in the Gambian press, while in the country, earlier this year...check out our In The News page. In addition, we have had coverage for our efforts in the Ealing Gazette and Ealing Council magazine. While in The Gambia we caught up with Ian Wiggins, a freelance video/film maker who agreed to make a short video about Sohm Schools Support, free of charge for us. We have posted this on our website, along with the press coverage, to update supporters and casual visitors on the charity's progress. So a big thanks to Wiggy! You can contact him via earwiggy@sky.com


Coverage from Gambian newspaper, The Point, 7 March 2013

You can find about all of this press coverage, and more, on our In the News page


Keep in touch

We have a presence on Facebook (SohmSchoolsSupport), Twitter (@GambiaSchools) and a website (www.sohmschoolssupport.org.uk), and can be contacted via e.mail at info@sohmschoolssupport.org.uk.

Keep in touch and find out how we are getting on, and spending our income!

That's enough from us, for now. Until the next time,

John and Sandra Walker
(Trustees, Sohm Schools Support)
Welcome to our re-launched website!

It may look the same to you, but we've migrated to Blogger, for the administration of the site.

Confused? Basically our wonderful web designer (see below) has moved all of our, revised, web  content over to a new system which will mean that we can be much more hands on about running it, in future. We will update it regularly with news and views about Sohm.

The site now has lots of interactivity possibilities.  So you can comment, offer suggestions whenever you want, almost anywhere on the site. The only proviso is that it has to be "moderated" first, which means we have the right to reject it, if we don't feel it is appropriate. We will only use this option to omit abuse, spam or frankly racist, sexist or homophobic material (which we don't expect to receive).

Coming up, soon, we'll be posting a video that out good friend Ian Wiggins shot for us, earlier this year, when he was in Sohm, with us.  So, that's something to look forward to.

Summer Fair

We are happy to announce, too, that Derwentwater School, in Acton, which is twinned with the Lower Basic schools, is letting us run a stall at their Summer Fair on 5 July, as we did last year.  There will be a table top stall, raffle and the chance to sit on the back of a Harley Davidson, with Bill Carson, kindly providing the equipment, as last year.

Sandra with Gibril, the head and Lamin, deputy head
 of Sohm Lower basic school, in front of sign at school illustrating
twinning with Derwentwater Primary, in Acton

Bill and Natalie Carson, at last year's Derwentwater School Summer Fair

So, hope you enjoy the new-look website, and looking forward to getting your comments and feedback!

A word of thanks

We don't like to blow our own trumpets (well, not too much!), but we thought we'd share with you a recent e.mail of appreciation we received from Gibril Bojan, head teacher of the Sohm Lower Basic School, following our recent trip there.  We'll blush while you read it, but see what a difference the generous help we get makes!

Hi Great friends & Derwentwater primary school, 
On behalf of teachers, pupils, the S.M.C. and the entire parents of the pupils of the school, I write to you with great hope and pleasure. 
Friends of Derwentwater and the community we over here are very pleased with you people for all that you have done for us. Friends, the pupils of my school are happy for the pencils, pens and sporting materials are a thing of the past for the reason that what you gave us will serve us for a very long time. The excursion is done and many places were visited thanks to you all for sponsoring the trip. Pictures of the children and the places visited will be sent to you through e-mail. 
By the second week of May we would schedule our mock exams which you sponsored. The night watchman is also quite pleased for giving him money for rain coat and boots. The workshop you did with us is also quite helpful to both teachers and pupils. The training exercises we had with Gambia football will be remembered by all the pupils and teachers of the school. Sandra Walker and John are great people, we will miss them and we hope to see them the soonest. For the exercise books we are also making good use of them, every child got one. 
Yours faithfully,
Mr. Gibril Bojang
Head Teacher

Sohm Lower Basic school head teacher, Gibril Bojang - a happy man!


Finally... a quick plug

A big word of thanks to Michelle who has run our website, to date, and managed the migration (and teaching process) to enable the new look and style.  Michelle runs New Moon Web Designs. She is a hands-on, one woman, web design outfit, who works incredibly quickly, is ever helpful, matches a brief to the letter (even with novices and difficult people, like us) and is fantastically reasonable priced.  We can't recommend her enough (this is an unpaid for, and unsought announcement!). So if you need a hand with your web needs, try her out.  You won't be disappointed!

Improved Teacher Training Support

We were able to facilitate greatly valued teacher training in Sohm, thanks to assistance of the school and staff of Derwentwater Primary school and organisation and volunteers from Football Gambia in early 2013.

We are investigating innovative, cost-effective ways of supporting the training of Sohm's teachers - to the benefit of the village's students, in future years.

Derwentwater's assistant head, Natalie Carson training some of Sohm Basic's teachers in lesson planning,
February 2013

Topping Up Funds


We established successful Book and Bike Funds in 2013 - which you can read about elsewhere on this site.

We are aiming to maintain these funds, by topping them up by a minimum of £1,000 and £200, respectively, over the coming year.

Your assistance would be greatly appreciated, both by us and the people of Sohm.

Sandra with Kakai Sanyang, (chair of governors), Isamaila Sambou (principal), Nicholas Mendy (deputy principal) and two senior teachers receiving some of the donated books in 2013

Laptop Donations

Earlier this year we took five donated laptops to the schools to assist with ICT teaching and school administration.

We have negotiated free transport to take more out next year.  We have set ourselves the target of sending a dozen (with batteries in good working order) out before our next visit in 2014.

Help us achieve our target, save yourself a disposal problem and make a difference in Africa.  Call us, and we'll collect.

Senior Secondary school deputy principal, Nicolas Mendy, grateful recipient of a donated laptop

Classroom Repair and Maintenance

Two of the classrooms, the sick bay and dining room in the Lower Basic school are out of commission because of their poor state of repair. £1,000 would bring them all back into operation. We hope to raise £250 over the next year, specifically to begin this restoration.

The living accommodation of the (uncomplaining) teachers at the Lower basic school is rudimentary - no electricity or running water, cramped and conditions and little furniture.  Hardly surprising when many of them are only paid £40 per month.

£500 could provide some basic furniture and some electricity power supply for such "home comforts" as lighting and television, in the living accommodation.

Staff accommodation at the Lower Basic school, in desperate need of refurbishment

Electricity in the Schools

We are working with local organisations to establish simple solar panel solutions to offer limited electricity to both schools - to power up computers, laboratory and workshop equipment, and a limited number of audio visual aids equipment (educational DVDs on TV!!).

A donation of £500 could kick start this initiative in each of the two schools.

More Sponsorship

Sohm Schools Support currently assists a dozen local youngsters' education.  We are looking to increase this number in future. We have simplified the system - by averaging out costs over a school life -  so that for £5 per month sponsors can support a child's education in the village. This will meet all educational costs, plus some limited social support (school lunches and uniforms).

This can make a huge difference to local youngsters.  For ease of administration, we'd prefer if you could pay by standing order (monthly, quarterly or annually), and would prefer a long term commitment.

In exchange for your support, you will transform a young life and get a framed photograph of your student, a letter from them and a copy of their school report, each year.

What a great Christmas or birthday present for "the person who has everything" - the transformation of the life of an African youngster!

Sandra with some of the dozen students whose education we are helping to sponsor

Secondary School - the challenges


The school is relatively new and growing.  It will start to cater for all age groups for the first time in the autumn of 2013.

Examination results, however, are poor.  Hardly surprising, in the circumstances, described below, so we are working to help improve them.

A year ago there were few books for the older students, at the school.  The Book Fund we have established has now provided enough books for all senior students to have shared access to a key textbook in all subjects, in all lessons, in future. We are looking to extend this scheme to the school's younger pupils.

By European standards, teacher skills are low in Sohm.  We have taken steps to address this by supporting teachers on external courses and by facilitating a two-day training session for all the village's teachers, on lesson planning, in February 2013. We are looking to build on this start, in future years.

There are no laboratories in the school, so science teaching is limited. There are few opportunities for practicals and experiments. We are looking for donations of reasonable quality equipment necessary for secondary school science practicals, which we should be able to ship to Sohm, free of charge.  If you have access to such equipment, or know a school that may wish to donate surplus equipment, we'd be delighted to hear from you.

The school does not have mains electricity and only has a small number of, rather dated, computers. There is no internet access in the village. We are looking to address some of these gaps, and prevent Sohm falling behind in a rapidly developing world, by seeking donations of old laptops, with working batteries.

If you are upgrading your existing model, or switching to a tablet and find your current laptop is surplus to requirements - give us a call and we will come and pick it up and ensure it is safely sent to Sohm.  This will aid with your disposal and help young life chances in Africa!

Old PCs need replacing, your upgraded laptop would be a great help