Best post yet! - Partnership in action at the Lower Basic

This is our proudest post to date - and a testimony to true partnership bringing real rewards.

As regular readers will know, each year we attempt to fund a number of projects at both the Senior Secondary school and Lower Basic (primary) school, in Sohm - in addition to our sponsorship of a number of students and the supply of large quantities of stationery for students' use.

Library before(1) - termite infestation

This year we had two major projects at the Lower Basic school - the complete refurbishment of both the school library and of its sick room - from which up to 400 pupils could benefit.

We have just received photos of the library project - and were are bursting at the seams with pride.

The library was an unused wreck. It was termite ridden and no more than a depository for a bunch of books, and other stuff that staff didn't know where to place - see some of the 'before' photos.

Library before (2) - piles of clutter
 everywhere in an unused room

Working with the head and deputy, we identified its refurbishment as a priority - which we said we would fund.

Step 1. The school staff got competitive quotes to: eradicate the termites and cover the flooring and lower walls with termite-proof materials; and fix the walls and windows.  They would also arrange for quotes for shelving and tables and chairs.

Library before (3) - glass-less windows and
 a gap between roof and walls - but at least
 there was light (provided by SSS in 2015!)
Step 2. Establishing the cost. The total quote came to a little over £2,500. We don't have that kind of money - but look, below, at how we could find it.

Step 3. Getting some organisation into the library books the school already had (piles of books donated by other donors but never sorted or used). Sandra and John, with the head and deputy head, spent a couple of days on hands and knees - in searing heat - sorting the books out in January this year, and ditched or moved on many that were unsuitable for the school and arranged some sensible order for the remainder.

Step 4. Finding the money.

Step 5. Negotiating on the prices we were given and getting the figure to a comfortable £2k - that we thought we could find.

Step 6. Signing off the contracts and drip feeding the money.

Library after (1) - a working room, and
 pride of the deputy head and senior teacher

Village labour was used throughout (including building book cases etc). It was a local project which benefited local people, both financially and educationally. And the pride shines through.

Result: a thriving, well-used - just look at those photos - local resource.

We will be looking to build on this next year, by funding a regular 'home work club' in the library for those who find working in cramped ill-lit conditions at home difficult.

What has been achieved

A previously unused room is now a resource used by every class in the school for at least one period a week. We and the head wanted to use the facility to help deliver a 'reading habit' among the youngsters. We are some way down that difficult road now.

Library after (2) - good furniture, excellent
termite-proofed floors, books well
 displayed and avid readers
Just look at these photos (obviously not professional, or particularly posed for). We are delighted, beyond belief.

Finding the money

We are a small charity, entirely dependent on fund raising, overwhelmingly from family and friends.

But, we are resourceful.  A little over £800 of direct donations have paid for what these wonderful photos show.

Here's how:

We claimed gift aid on the £800, from the government - which turned the sum into £1,000 (thank you Mr Osborne - former Chancellor).

As regular readers know, we work very closely with friends from Jersey in Sohm. They were able to use an initiative of Jersey Overseas Aid to 'Match fund' the £1,000 we were able to find.

Library after (3) - a PC in action!
(courtesy of Little Heath school),
as a former dump becomes a
21st century resource centre
Local Sohm labour and enthusiasm for the project kept the price to a very modest one which fell within our budget.

Other factors - it all adds up

Then there are the other factors.  Our 'Lower Basic' project last year was to provide electricity to the whole school.  So, this unused library was already wired up.

Our friends at Little Heath school in Ilford provided us with surplus computers and related equipment last year, so the school was able to install one in the library, as a resource for teachers.  We could only get the equipment to Sohm because of free container space provided by our friends at Football Gambia.

And... so the story goes on.  Lots of people making small gestures - well-co-ordinated - can make a huge difference to young African lives.

We know lots of corruption and inappropriate expenditure follows the aid sector around the world.  But, please believe - it does not have to be like that, when small organisations, work on the ground with local people - BIG changes can happen at amazingly good prices.

Obviously, we'd like you to send us more money, so that we can carry on in similar fashion in the future.

But more importantly, we'd like to to leave this blog truly believing that well targerted aid changes lives; don't let the cynics persuade you otherwise.