2018 St. James's place trips

Two groups from St. James's Place travelled to Gunjur in November to follow up on the work by the 2018 Summer Group.

Each group of 10 people, with two Venture Force leaders, spent a week living in Gunjur building a store and crop preparation unit at the revitalised Marlborough Garden.

The group also spent two days living with a local Gunjurian family spread out around the village.  Participants were aged 20 to 65 but all were active on the project working in 33 degrees heat.

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Lloyds Bank

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iIn 2009 MBG developed a close relationship with Duke of Edinburgh Award and the Lloyds Bank Volunteering Scheme.

A total now of 12 groups of Lloyds employees have each spent a week in Gunjur. Before going they fundraise for their trip and to support a construction project that they will be involved in while in Gunjur. Each member of the group lives with a different family and experiences the warmth, generosity and hospitality that the people of Gunjur afford to all visitors. The groups have been involved in cosntructing two small buildings which house two diesel powered milling machines for rice and millet which obviate the need for women to pound their rice and millet by hand over hours using a mortar and pestle.

The 2013 group built a concrete posted fence surrounding a 12 acre women's vegetable garden to prevent marauding cattle from destroying and eating their vegetables. This replaced a fence built from traditional materials by students from Marlborough College and St John's School in 1999 which was becoming rather patchy after 14 years!

The Lloyds trips remains a successful MBG activity which delivers valued projects focused on supporting the women of Gunjur, has a significant educational and world view changing impact on young people who will be future senior bank managers and delivers useful funds to both Gunjur and MBG.

Read Alex Davies Lloyds Bank & DofE Co-ordinator 2014 report Lloyds Gambia Trip Summary

Watch 2014 Lloyds volunteer Abi Taylor short film

 

 

2018 MBG Summer Trip

Students from St. John's Marlborough arrived in Gunjur on the 17th July for a three week stay as the 16th MBG Summer Group. 

View their video on YouTube here.

Interested in going? Find out more

The group lived in the Gunjur Multipurpose Community Centre in the middle of the village. This is the old MBG pre-school building. 

Their project was to build a new fence around the old Marlborough Garden, a 200mx150m area of land that has become overgrown with mango trees.  The group will reference the area to protect it from animals so that the village can then begin to clear the land for use.  The site will hold 200 allotments to allow women to grow food for their families and to sell.

Congratulations to the group on a fantastic trip.

View the group's presentation here.

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Policy makers to Gunjur

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Our relationship with Gunjur provides great opportunities to introduce policy makers to a very different human environment, and experience at first hand life with a Muslim African family and how the benefits of a community based partnership can lead to personal, professional and community development at both ends.

Lord Judd

In 1993 Lord Judd, a Labour Peer and one time minister of Overseas Development, Director of VSO, Director of OXFAM and a patron of MBG spent one week in Gunjur learning first hand of the benefits of community partnership such as the Marlborough Gunjur link and recognising the contribution that such a partnership can make to the personal, professional and community development of those involved.

Mayors to Gunjur

The-Alikali-with-Marlborough-Mayor-Alex-Kirk-WilsonFive Marlborough Mayors have spent time in Gunjur learning about the impact of the link with Marlborough and giving them ammunition to support in many ways the work of MBG on their return. 

 

 

 

Claire Perry MP

We were delighted when in January 2013 Claire Perry Conservative MP for the Devizes constituency in which Marlborough is situated accepted our invitation to come to Gunjur for a week with her 13 year old daughter Eliza. They stayed with Bolong Touray and his family deprived of running water and electricity but meeting the remarkable kindness and hospitality that is given to all visitors from Marlborough.

Alikali-greets-Claire--Eliza-Perry It was an opportunity for them both to witness at first hand the work that we in partnership with colleagues have been doing over the past 30 years and the impact that that has had on development in the community.

They also gained an understanding of the impact that living in an African community can have in terms of questioning our own attitudes and beliefs and also some of the development priorities facing a typical African town.

A visit to the UK High Commission and to some of the development projects that the High Commission is supporting gave Claire an opportunity to understand the wider political context in which we are operating and some of the other development programmes that are taking place in The Gambia.

We hope very much to be able to invite more politicians to accompany us to Gunjur to have a similar experience.

Linking

2016 summer group at end of projectThe 2016 Summer Group complete a pre-school building.

 

In 1982 MBG established a link with the Muslim fishing community of Gunjur in The Gambia, West Africa, and since then there has been a steady flow of over 2000 people between Marlborough and Gunjur.

MBG traditionally looks to place volunteers with host families and still does this with adult volunteers.  Students now stay in the village community centre at the heart of the community.  We believe that it is this level of cultural embedding that is fundamental to gaining a deeper understanding of our different cultures and communities.

MBG Supports Links

  • Groups of sixth form students from St John's Academy and Marlborough College for three week placements in Gunjur
  • Adult groups from local businesses

Anita Bew has been coordinating link exchanges between the UK and The Gambia for over 20 year and Alex Davies has supported trips since 2004. We have developed some very strong relationships with a wide range of people in the Gunjur community. Since 2017 we have worked with Venture Force, a small professional expedition provider who match our charitable views and ambitions, who provide all of the logistics, health and safety and professional leaders.  Over 37 Years of experience and a strong and dedicated team both here in the UK and in The Gambia ensure that your group trip in Gunjur will be a lifetime experience that will continue to benefit your personal and professional development.

MBG works closely with NGO TARUD (Trust Agency for Rural Development) which manages a number of development projects in Gunjur including pre-school education, health education, water and sanitation, women's literacy, micro-credit, malaria eradication and women's livelihoods. Voluntary work placements or community projects will either be overseen by TARUD or the Gunjur Community Link (GCL) depending on what project or you decide to do.

The Gunjur Community Link (GCL) is responsible for the overall hosting of students and volunteers during their stay in the village and The Embassy and the Ambassador in Banjul are fully aware of our project and give us their full support. 

Student summer programme

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Interested in going to The Gambia West Africa?

The 2018 summer visit has now taken place. Student feedback below.

This is an amazing opportunity for you to spend three weeks living and working alongside members of the community of Gunjur. It will be a experience you will never forget.

Every other summer we send a group of Marlborough sixth form students to spend time working on a community project with the people from the village.

All the volunteers live in the village community centre right at the heart of the village, utterly immersed in the life of the village. Our volunteers find that their experience in Gunjur is one that stays with them for the rest of their lives and most have kept up their links with the village and many have returned.

Where is Gunjur and what is it like?

Gunjur is a large sprawling village with about 22,000 inhabitants, 2km from the coast and 25km south of The Gambia's largest town, Serrekunda. At the centre is the busy Market and the Mosque (The Gambia is predominantly a Muslim country and Gunjur is an important Islamic centre). The fishing industry at the beach, local vegetable gardens and rice, groundnut, cassava and maize fields provide the principal employment for people living in Gunjur.
There are shops and two mini markets where most basic commodities are available. Electricity arrived in Gunjur for the first time in 2013 and piped water arrived in 2014.

What will you be doing?

Volunteers will engage in a community project, this is decided by the community of Gunjur and organised in conjunction with the GCL Gunjur Community Link. Previous summer groups have helped build primary school classrooms, fence large areas for gardening and re-furbish public buildings. The 2010 group helped to renovate the 5 classroom block (Marlborough Block) at the Lower Basic School, where over 200 children have their lessons and the 2012 summer group constructed a new building for the women's undercover market.

The 2014 group helped to complete the fencing around the Fayunku Garden. This was received with great delight from the women gardeners, as it stops the cattle, sheep and goats from destroying their crops. You may also get involved in activities such as making a radio programme on the local radio station, or teaching English to local school children.  The 2016 group built a new pre-school building at one edge of the village for the children who could not walk to the existing school.  The 2018 group worked on a mango and micro-finance garden for the women of the village to grow and sell crops.

What are the benefits?

  • Life changing experience that develops valuable life skills
  • Gives you an advantage with your university applications, it is seriously impressive
    on a CV, UCAS form and in an interview
  • Develop soft skills in communication, leadership & organization
  • Chance to step out of your comfort zone
  • Meet new people and make new friends
  • Builds confidence and resilience
  • Do something amazing for another community
  • Experience genuine Africa in a safe way with a group
  • Be able to answer that interview question ‘so what’s the most impressive thing you
    have ever done?

Who runs the trip?

MBG has a small professional expedition partner called Venture Force who are experts in student charity trips to Africa.  MBG provides the charity project and the 37 year connection with the people of the village.  Venture Force are responsible for the trip and provide all the health and safety, British Standard 8848 and AALA License, insurance and professionally trained trip leaders.  The British embassy knows about our work and Venture Force has 24 hour emergency contacts and medical support.  Venture Force only offer this trip to Marlborough schools, but you can find out more about the company here.

Is it all work or is there any play?

Yes. You will have an opportunity to travel ‘up country’ to another part of The Gambia for a few days.  You will also be able to visit local travel lodges which have small restaurants and swimming pools.  There are the restaurants in the village including a “nandos”, a dawn river trip, a sacred crocodile pool and the amazing deserted Gunjur Beach with miles of sand and palm trees.  There is project work most days, but lots of time to experience the village, people and local area.  Most groups will attend big public events like weddings or naming ceremony’s.   

What is it like to live there?

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You will live together in a community compound right in the middle of the village.  A compound is a walled area with a selection of buildings built from concrete blocks with corrugate iron roofs.  The leaders will be in a separate building in the compound and there is a water tap, electricity, long drop toilets, basic wash facilities and a cooking area.  Local women will provide three meals a day, but you will be helping them cook and clean every day.   You’ll also need to wash your clothes.  It is basic, but there are few luxuries! You will be in Gunjur in the mango season and the food is fresh and excellent.

There is electricity, so you will have light, be able to charge up cameras and can buy a local sim-card there so you can contact home.  Many local people now own smart phones.

What support do volunteers receive?

The group will meet to discuss the trip, to plan the project and the fund-raising needed. Groups usually go on a residential trip to Wales over a weekend near Easter where you will discuss the cultural differences, talk about hygiene and safety, kit list and most importantly get to know each other and work together as a team.  There will also be a basic Mandinka lesson, the most common local language, although English is the official language and most people speak it fluently.

Venture Force send two professional leaders with the group and there is usually a third voluntary leader.  In country the group is supported by The Gunjur Community Link of local volunteers who help to organise the on the ground logistics, cooks and project.  The group are also accompanied by local young people who are paid and experienced chaperones who accompany the group.  

How do you apply?

Applications for 2016 are now closed. Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information on future trips.

How much does it cost?

We are a charity and take no income from these projects so look to run then as cheaply as possible with our partners Venture Force. The total cost of the trip is about £3,000 per person for the three weeks which includes flights. This also covers your induction, insurance, living expenses, transport and a contribution to the project, which the group will aim to raise £2,500 for together. MBG also puts money into the project to make it a substantial undertaking. We can give advice on fundraising and obtaining sponsorship from a number of different sources.

Future Opportunities

Students often return to Gunjur for longer placements or to lead one of the summer groups. Some go on to take up careers in International Development. Some even decide to make Gunjur a permanent home!

In the last few years a number of students that originally came out to Gunjur as pupils from St John's Academy have gone on to use Gunjur as the research focus for their Masters and PhD theses. Their research results have been highly informative to Gunjur as a community and to International Development.

Student Feedback

Watch the 2018 group video.

Read St John's student Lauren Horwood's reflection on the summer 2014 trip in the MBG Blog.

IB student Phoebe Studdert-Kennedy went out to Gunjur during the 2013 Easter break with five other St John's IB students and two group leaders. Phobe wrote an article about the experience which was published in the October 2013 edition of Tower and Town "How Gunjur changed my life".

Read Phoebe's article here The impact of a trip to The Gambia.

Read Ann Cannon's newsletter on the 2016 visit.

Contact

Contact MBG for information on future trips This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Planned trips include 2019 for Marlborough College and 2020 for St John's Academy, Marlborough.