S4K offer volunteering breaks in Gambia for sponsors to experience life here in its true unadulterated form.
This REAL Gambian experience is not the sanitised hotel-bound version that tour operators offer you, you won’t get 4* luxury, 24/7 utilities and English food but you WILL get to meet amazing local people, experience a little of their life and meet the child you are sponsoring through school!
What is it like to live the RGE…
Gambia is a sub tropical country and each rainy season; July to October we are in the UK collecting donations to distribute here over the coming months. This means we accept guests between late November and April each season. Some points you may need to consider when deciding if the RGE is for you.
You will either be staying in a local compound, traditionally called a line house with a local family or with Sol and Ginger in their compound. A line house is a block of rooms connected like a terrace. Each “house” has a bedroom and if a local is able to afford it, a “parlour” a version of a lounge. Cooking is always done outside with charcoal or firewood over an open fire with large metal pots. Water is drawn from the well for washing and for cooking. A compound with a line house may contain as many as 9 different families, all renting one room or a room and/or a parlour. Many families combine cooking, washing and sharing of chores so this is genuine community living. Poverty draws people to cooperate and live communally. Where one family may have no money for food one week, all share with a neighbour until the misfortune is reversed.
Many of these line houses do not have access to electricity
or if they do, can ill afford the high cost of electricity from the monopoly owned NAWEC. In recent months even those with the luxury of having either their own tap or a local community tap have found the tap dry for 16 hours every day. Necessitating people to collect and store water in the early hours to ensure they have sufficient to wash, cook, drink and clean until the next time the tap is turned on.
Meals consist of breakfast usually eaten around 11am of bread similar to a French stick, often with butter or mayonnaise. Traditionally Gambians squat on the floor and eat with their fingers from a communal pot, but don’t worry you will be offered a stool and your own bowl…and if you want , your own fork! Lunch is served around 2.30pm after 2pm daily prayers and can be Domoda, a peanut sauce based dish served with rice. Yassa, an onion based dish served with rice. Plassas, Cassava leaves boiled with Okra served with rice. Bhahal, dried Bongo fish, groundnut, lemon and leaves served with rice. Or if you’re lucky enough to stay at Badjie Kunda with Sol and Ginger; Benechin, a Jollof rice dish with either beef, chicken or fish in a one pot sauce which everybody loves. The evening meal is the leftovers of whatever was served for lunch. With, you’ve guessed RICE!
Rice is the stable diet of Gambians. Rich in carbohydrate but low in protein it accounts for Gambians daily meals and accounts for the low weight and malnourishment of children. Fruit is seasonal, with Banana, Mango, Watermelon and local fruits being available throughout seasonal changes. Imported fruits like apples and satsumas are 5 x the price of the identical item in Tesco.
Meat and fresh fish is out of the budget for many Gambians, who rely on smoked fish to add to their rice dishes. The RGE cannot cater for guests with food allergies or vegetarians within local compounds. People with these requirements are better suited to staying in a hotel.
When you visit on the RGE
S4K make good use of the extra pair of hands. They will keep you busy every day unless you ask for a beach day to rest! Daily activities include visiting remote villages in the provinces to donate medical supplies or general donations of clothing, educational equipment, furniture etc. These clothing donations, in particular are not for the feint hearted. When villagers hear of us visiting and giving out your second-hand clothes, they come from miles around in the hope they may be lucky to have a new to them item of clothing. You will witness first-hand the rags the kids here wear and how much shoes are needed with bare footed kids darting in and out of the crowds to try and get something to brighten their lives.
Wherever we visit schools to donate we are always treated to traditional songs by the kids and rapturous joy spread on their little faces. Sol and Ginger are unpaid volunteers. The rewards for helping these genuine kind hearted people are more than money can buy. For the RGE guest you see first-hand how your help makes a difference.
All our guests have been overcome with emotion when meeting their sponsored kid for the first time. We never know who is more overwhelmed, the sponsor or the kids and their families. To have a sponsor is a massive thing for these kids. To actually meet them, get to know them and have days out is beyond their wildest dreams. Guests have taken their sponsored kids to Makasutu sacred forest, Abukuo when the lions and cheetah were there, bird of prey displays, the crocodile pool, Banjul museum and Jufrea the home of Kunta Kinte and the heart of the abomination that was the slave trade.
The money collected for this experience covers the cost of your stay in a local compound. Hotels, B&B’s etc. costs must be met by the guest at their own expense. The RGE covers 3 daily meals and bottled water on demand. All your excursions to donate or visits schools are included with the exception of entry fees to tourist attractions which must be met by the guest. After bed, board and utilities are paid for S4K have a small amount remaining which goes towards their daily transport running the charity. Care hire is essential if you wish to maximise the experience and not rely on giley giley to transport goods to donate. This is not included in the RGE cost and must be borne by the paying guests.
We look forward to welcoming you to the smiling coast of Africa.
Words of support from our RGE guests
Having the most amazing RGE experience with Ginger Badjie and Sol. Being here for the election results a true highlight.
No internet, telephone etc for two days because the government cut it off.
Discovering the real meaning of having nothing but being welcomed into their homes. Sitting in the UK you truly cannot appreciate the terrain, the distance, the heat, the poverty. Many of our sponsor kids live over an hour drive off road, and with no vehicle totally impossible. We paid to hire a car this week to get out to remote villages.
I know we all would love to know their clothes and shoes sizes etc. but its an impossible task, we tend to just go up a size each year in both.
Your hearts will be warmed if you are lucky enough to participate in RGE and it wont be our last ❤️❤️
You can read one guest’s blog here
Liz is now a regular visitor to Gambia to stay with us and was so impressed with our work here she has joined our UK team. For more information contact us here