The Impact of a trip to the Gambia

by Phoebe Studdert-Kennedy

The prospect of visiting Africa had always been a highly appealing idea, so when the opportunity to go and stay with a family in The Gambia came around, I jumped at it. Our group of eight made of six St Johns IB students including myself and two university students as leaders, went to Gunjur during this last Easter holidays and lived with separate families around the village for two weeks.

During this time we took part in various activities from painting a local radio station and getting involved at the Disability Africa play scheme for disabled children in the village to simply getting to know the local people and experiencing their way of life.

Four months on and we are all still talking about it! The trip had a huge impact on me, immediately making more aware of how much we take for granted – and also opening my eyes to the fact that there are an awful lot of things 'we need' which are not as important as I once thought. In the long run, the trip has made me want to visit Gunjur again, firstly to meet again with some of the amazing people, and secondly to do something more to help the development of the village. This is something which I and the rest of the group are keen to do.

The trip has also furthered my interest in taking a gap year to travel and now I would really love to see more of Africa. The vibrant and lively atmosphere of Gunjur made me realise I want to see more places like that and travel out of the comfortable bubble of Marlborough.
Telling others about the trip, as I have now done many times, makes me realise how hard it is to imagine the village without actually going there – no matter how many photos or words - you can never do it justice! Having said this, everyone I've told about it has said they want to go and see it for themselves. I'd been told a lot about Gunjur before I went and though I felt prepared, nothing can fully prepare you for the completely and utterly different way of life. It was an incredible experience which I am certain I will never forget, and I know I was very lucky to have the chance to go at the significant age of sixteen.