Make a name for yourself in Africa

The good news is, that through the fantastic efforts of our supporters, we have met our Sohm 2020 target - of raising £20k, by 2020, to build a new hall for the school and village. It will act as: a dining hall, assembly room, gymnasium, performance area, prayer room and village hall.

Building team survey the site
Work has already begun on construction, and we are promised completion by the end of this calendar year, and hope to bring back photos and videos to share with you, when we next visit in Jan/Feb 2020.

And the important stuff - the tape
measure is out.  Must be serious!
The even better news is that we are giving you an opportunity to become involved with the next stage in the project - and help furnish the hall!

We are launching: "Make a name for yourself in Africa". This is seeking sponsors to pay £25 to have a chair in the new hall dedicated to them. We have struck a deal with a furniture company to supply us with chairs, and with a stencil firm who will make stencils of people's names, which can be painted on the back of the chairs.

Your name - to be stenciled
 on the back of a chair
So - you may want your own name, that of a relative (living or deceased) as a memorial, or present. Or you might want the name of someone who you think could be a role model to these young Gambians - a sports star, a music or artistic performer etc. Sandra and I, for example, will be naming some chairs after some of our grandchildren and role model African footballers who play for Crystal Palace or Chelsea!

In addition to a name on the back of a chair, all sponsors will also have a one-line entry (of the choosing of the sponsor) about their subject on a "Scroll of Honour" that will be on the wall of the hall, so the children can see whose chair they are sitting on!

There are some minor conditions:

1. We will not permit the use of the name of any living politician, from anywhere, to be featured. We reserve the right to deny the use of any name we deem to be inappropriate.

2.The offer will allow for 14 characters in a name (inc spaces), there will be an additional cost of £5 for up to 14 more characters.

3. We would appreciate your donation at any time, but the offer closes on 15 December 2019, and photos and extracts from the scroll will be sent in February 2020.

4. Any queries about how to make the donation, or about the offer should be sent to

We would hope to get as many sponsors as possible signed up by the cut off point in December, so that we can get the stencils taken out in January and have the photos of a child sitting on the sponsors chair taken when we are next in the country.

All sponsors will get a framed photo of a Sohm youngster sitting on "their chair", and an extract from the Scroll of Honour. But most of all, they can have the satisfaction of having helped transform the education and life chances of a Gambian child.

I do hope you will be able to support us. But don't worry - we'll still talk to you, whatever your choice!

2nd July 2019 - a red letter day for Sohm

Tuesday 2 July 2019 was a great day for Sohm, although few in the village would have known it, at the time.

It was on that day that the last piece of funding fell into place and we were able to sign off the cost schedule and timeline for building the new hall and kitchen for the Lower Basic school. This was a project that we had labelled Sohm 2020, two years ago, as we set about raising £20,000 by 2020 for the project.

We are ahead of schedule and hope to be present for the opening of the new facility in January next year!

Architect's plans for the new hall -
to be complete by the end of this year!

The building will be our most significant contribution to the village of Sohm - by some distance - since we established the charity eight years ago. It will replace an old school dining hall, which had to be demolished, because it was dangerous two years ago, with a brand new facility. The previous building - over 35 years old - was inflexible. Its "furniture" consisted of immovable concrete blocks, which children perched on to eat from other concrete blocks. The school kitchen had no modern equipment.

Village elders and school governors,
after a session planning the layout and
location of the new school hall, in January 2019

The new building - 30 metres long - will be multi-functional. In addition to being a dining hall - , because we are acquiring flexible, portable furniture - it can also be used as a gym, an assembly hall, a prayer room, and the village's first community village hall. Village leaders have played a significant role in helping to design and decide the location for the hall, as shown by the photographs. They have been overwhelmed with gratitude at the generosity of our supporters.

Above: the decrepit (and now demolished)
building the new school hall will replace. Below: its
 roof, that was in danger of collapse

Our charity has been assisted by a number of individual donors, whose efforts have helped us reach our funding targets so rapidly.  We thank them all - you know who you are!

In addition, we have received huge support and assistance from two major organisational donors: Beech Hill community primary school, in Luton and Redbridge Rotary club. Sohm Lower Basic school has shown its recognition of their efforts on the freshly painted walls (funded by these donors!) in the main teaching block (see photo).

Redbridge Rotary and Beech Hill's logos,
outside Sohm LBS head's office, by way of
appreciation for their fund-raising efforts.

We have covered the activities of Beech Hill school in a number of posts (see above) notably for their splendid and highly successful Gambia Days.

Tuesday 2 July, however, was - in addition to our signing off the contract for the new build - a big day in our relationship with Redbridge Rotary Club. It was the hand-over day from one president to another.

Outgoing president, and friend of our charity, Tony Betts, presented two awards to SSS in his farewell address. One was a cheque of £1,000 to us - as one of his nominated charities for the year. The second was a prestigious Certificate of Appreciation from Rotary International for charitable work we undertake in The Gambia, putting some of the funds that they have raised to such good purposes. We were greatly humbled by both awards.

John and Sandra (centre) from SSS, receiving the
 Rotary International Certificate of Appreciation
from Tony Betts (left), immediate past president,
 and Mike Bell, incoming president of Redbridge Rotary 

The Rotary International Certificate of Appreciation

We would, very publicly, like to put on record our immense gratitude to Redbridge Rotary for its generous support to us over each of the last four years - and we look forward to its continuation.

We promised the club, in return for their support, to return next February with a short video of the opening of the new hall, for which they have contributed so much, to support.
The old kitchen's cooking stoves

"Furniture" in the old building, which
 made it unfit for multi-purpose use.

They, like Beech Hill, and all of our generous sponsors really have helped transform young African lives, in ways in which it is difficult to appreciate from the comfort of our homes in the UK.

Thanks, one and all - onward to 2020 and the opening of the new hall!