Experience the REAL Gambia
WGEC runs an annual teachers' study visits to Gunjur, The Gambia and literally hundreds of teachers from Wiltshire and beyond have benefitted personally and professionally from the experience of living in an African village and finding out firsthand what development means.
How long will we go for?
The visit is led by Caroline Harmer and traditionally takes place during February half term. Proposed dates over February half-term - 2 options: choose between a week long stay or extend for 11 nights.
- Friday 10 February to Friday 17 February 2017
- Friday 10 February to Tuesday 21 February 2017
What is the programme?
The programme will vary from year to year and is very much based on the experience and needs of the participating teachers. We find that teachers return again and again and the more they return, the more they are able to contribute in some way to the life and needs of the village.
We know that teachers always want to come away feeling that they have achieved something concrete and the idea that they have left more behind than they have taken away in personal experience.
This could be training of pre-school teachers in their new curriculum, it might be that we contribute to a linking conference for Gambian teachers with a link school in the UK, or simply some informal teaching in one of the local schools or a more focused visit to your own link school. (If you don't have a link school in the Gambia and would like one, WGEC can always arrange this).
Some features of the programme remain constant however:
- The visit will be education themed in the broadest sense – the programme will change according to who is with us
- We will always be the smallest group that is economic and everything is flexible and negotiable
- You will stay with a host family in the village – for many of us, this is the most memorable part of the visit and deep and lasting attachments are made between our teachers and their host families
- We start the week with courtesy visits to the key people in the village – the mayor, the leader of the women and the Imam. To call them courtesy visits is something of a misnomer – it is a unique opportunity to have direct contact with the movers and shakers in Gunjur and find out what the Gunjur/Marlborough link has meant to them
- Visit the projects sponsored and supported by the Marlborough Brandt Group – the women's garden, the new covered market, the health education project, the mill and mix, the new latrines, the tie/dye enterprise to mention just a few – to give you some understanding into the sort of groundwork projects which can make a difference to people's lives
- We always try to spend some time out of the village to give you that wider perspective and to propel you into the complexities of development – for example, those tourists who visit the luxury hotels further up the coast are bringing in very necessary amounts of foreign cash at the same time as using vast amounts of the country's essential resources such as water. How do we square that circle?
- There will always be some time for relaxation – Gunjur is next to one of the most beautiful pieces of deserted coastline in the Gambia and study visits do take place in your school holiday, after all
- You will take part in a farewell party, dressed up in all your Gambian finery (including a hat...) and beg your friends not to put the pictures on Facebook
A unique experience
Oh and something amazing and quirky will always happen!
- you may unexpectedly find yourself being entertained by dancing oyster collecting women who bring tears to your eyes as they tell you how understanding their role in looking after the environment has brought new purpose to their lives
- you'll make an impromptu speech to a cast of thousands
- an internationally acclaimed kora player will ask you how your parents are – he remembers meeting them on a visit to a school years go
- you will realise that you can eat cold fish and chips for breakfast or a variation of spam for every meal
- your heart will be gladdened by the smile of the little girl in your compound who goes everywhere on her little stumps of legs and is the best colourer there is, even though she has no fingers
- you may even bump into Jermaine Jackson on a remote island (yes, the brother of one Michael) who will pose for a photo with you and assure you very seriously that he 'loves charity'
- you will laugh lots and you may weep a bit, but above all, you will have learnt
How much will it cost?
For WGEC this is a non-profit making enterprise. We keep costs to an absolute minimum to ensure that as many people as possible can take part. Usually the total cost will be approximately £950, depending on airfares.
The cost of your visit will include full induction, usually over a couple of sessions which will deal with the practical details of your visit but will also prepare you to be looking at the wider picture and a feedback session; all transport including flights and airport transfers plus if appropriate an overnight stay at Gatwick; hosting and meals with your family in The Gambia; full programme of activities and support from MBG.
- "The experience of being in Gunjur is one which restores focus to the world I normally inhabit and I enjoy the opportunity to connect with people from a completely different culture to mine."
- "This was a huge learning experience for me, as I am not used to travelling on my own or staying with people I don't know or share a language with. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to come an on the visit and even more grateful to my hosts for making me so welcome and doing their best to make me at home."
- "Because it was Gambia in a microcosm – hot, relaxing. Lovely people, interesting shocking and surreal (meeting Jermaine Jackson!)."
- "I cannot think of a single time when I was there I did not feel as if the experience was worthwhile or that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. I have learnt so much. I only wish it could have lasted longer – or maybe the intensity was part of the magic..."
- "It was a really good trip, well organised and with a good balance between Gambian cultural experiences, our schools and having a bit of a holiday!"
- "The children and staff will learn of a deeper understanding of a different culture. The children love to hear of the stories we bring back with us."
Read MBG Chair Anna Quarendon's account of the 2014 study visit in our blog.
Read MBG Administrator's account of the 2016 study visit in our blog.
Read Lydney Community School blog from the 2016 visit The Gambia! Miss Harvey and Mr Ramli's African Adventure.
How do I apply?
Priority booking for WGEC members