Student Summer Visit 2014 - a reflection

On the 18th July 2014, nine others and myself left for The Gambia on undoubtedly the most challenging, yet life-changing experience we had been faced with. The first few days of our time in Gunjur was something I won't forget, the preconceptions we all filled our heads with, in the months building up to our trip, had been completely swept away. The people of Gunjur treated us all as family the minute we arrived and made our stay the most enjoyable experience they could.

During the first few days of our 3 weeks there, we were greeted by many of the locals during our tour of the village. It was overwhelming to see the excitement which our arrival had created, especially among the children who found great joy in showing off any English, which they knew, or testing out our attempts at Mandinka.

The first Monday in Gunjur, brought the first day of work. We had visited the Women's Garden the day before where we were not only shown what we would be doing, but also told of the difference it will make to the females who grew their crops there as well as the community as a whole. Over the 3 weeks of our stay, we cleared the area, dug out the trenches where we would be placing the concrete pillars of the fence and feed barbed wire through the pillars to finish it off. The most time consuming part of the process was the cement making, all the water we used was collected from the nearest well in the garden and the cement was mixed with shovels. On our last week on the project we were joined by the nearby orphanage, this was made up of young people of similar age to ourselves (16-20) so it was a great chance to compare their way of living to our own.

During the times when we were not working we got to be apart of many other amazing events, such as the end of Ramadan, we all got the opportunity to wear the local dress and be a part of their ceremony.

Our time in The Gambia wasn't all hard work; we went to a monkey park and a crocodile farm, as well as having a weekend away from Gunjur and taking a 5-hour trip up country to George Town where we had a weekend of card games and boat trips, not to mention the proper showers!

All in all, I think that any one of our group of ten would say that our trip to Gunjur, run by Marlborough Brandt Group, was something that will never be forgotten, and is something which we will always be grateful to have been given the opportunity.

Lauren Horwood