Student Summer Visit 2014

Wales Trip 2014Max Ansell, is leading this year's student summer visit to Gunjur. Currently studying at Bristol university, Max originally went out to The Gambia as a St John's student. He writes:

"Another summer has come around, which also means another summer visit for the 6th form students of Marlborough to head out to Gunjur for one more educational visit as have been happening for the past 28+ years. The selection of assistant leaders is always an important task, Alexandra Vyvan, went out with the summer group in 2012 and naturally stood out, and when approached, jumped at the opportunity.

This year has, as I am sure all previous years have, been full of challenges; first and foremost, the breakup of the Gunjur Link Committee. This meant that for the first time in a long time the summer trip was looking to be a no go. But as Gunjur has done many times, it bounced back with the formation of the GCL. All this confusion meant that the trip preparations occurred at a much later date to normal, starting around mid-January in comparison to normally October. This lead to a rushed push in the schools causing a bit of lower up take than normal. A major problem of this being the lack of participation of Marlborough College and now this year's trip is the first visit without any Marlborough College students involved. With the smaller up take, thinking outside of the box was needed, and there was interest shown from students outside Marlborough, MBG thought it best we contact them and invite them on to the trip.

Interviews were completed and persons assessed; we now have 4 girls from St Johns (Harriet Weller, Olivia Bawcutt, Muddy Horwood and Jaime Wesemael), a boy and girl from London (Vince Talbot and Ruby Keyworth) and finally two boys from Ireland (Darragh Bolger and Conor Deane). All of them had shown great keenness in becoming involved in MBG and trying to create a greater understanding of a new culture.

River CrossingAs with all the past summer trips, the training weekend in Wales happened across the weekend of 28th of March. So at 5pm we all met in Waitrose car park and got on a minibus to the Brecon Beacons. We arrived late (around 8:30, getting lost only a couple of times), so Alexandra set about getting some games on the go to get everyone a bit more comfortable. The next day involved a beautifully cooked breakfast which lined the stomachs for a long walk along the river (in which Ali showed off her strength and carried a few of us across), and then we set about informing the students about how they should prepare for the month in Gambia ahead of them. On the Sunday we arranged a Gambian lesson from Bakary Touray, which worked very well and he had all of us speaking Mandinka within ½ an hour (not very fluently I might add, but we were trying). After a successful weekend, everyone came back with a lot more confidence about going across to The Gambia and integrating with the society of Gunjur.

The project that has been discussed with the group this time round is completing the fence around the women's garden. The garden is an amazing resource for a lot of the women in and around Gunjur as it gives them a safe place to grow crops they can either sell at the markets or use for themselves. The problem comes from the roaming animals around the large garden, getting in through the existing fence and causing damage to the crops. There have already been 2 sides of the fence complete and our aim (time dependant) is to complete the remaining sides, creating a sturdy and comprehensive barrier for the women to work behind.

There is a lot more organising and arranging to do, but the trip is coming along beautifully and MBG and myself are happy to say it looks like it will be another very successful trip and hopefully cause greater understanding from both sides as has always been one of MBG's main goals of these visits."