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Travel report by Gerti Bosch and Katrin Beiser

We wanted to deliver our medical material to the village of Sutukoba, over 400 km away. The people there live in a remote and minimalist way. There is no electricity there, only unpaved roads that become raging rivers in rainy seasons and areas of land are cut off. The water has to be drawn by hand from the few wells. Basic medical care is not guaranteed.

Travel report by Gerti Bosch and Katrin Beiser

Katrin Beiser from Berlin, Gerti Bosch from Holzheim

We have now been back from The Gambia for almost 2 months and our thoughts are very much focussed on this small country, its people and their activities. As always, our donation suitcases were filled to the brim with donations in kind, such as gardening tools, school materials, shoes, a large amount of bandages and medicines, not to mention donations.

The beautifully situated Rainbow Lodge, sun, warmth, sea, long beaches and unspoilt nature made us forget our everyday lives for a while. The first thing we wanted to do was visit some of the Hand in Hand projects. Grandpa, the local manager, took us to the Sanyang and Rumba schools and the Kitty 1 and 2 fields.

We were told a lot about the initial situation, some of which was illustrated with photos. We were therefore amazed at the well-tended school garden in the Sanyang school, the tidy school building, the idea of a makeshift additional classroom with the simplest natural materials and the second school building under construction. While the construction here is progressing slowly (we have learnt, however, that the building will soon be completed), the support for the village school in Rumba has been completed and the children are benefiting from the school toilets, additional classrooms and locally built school desks and tables, among other things.

After a journey through dust, dirt roads and barren landscape, we were overwhelmed when we stood in front of Kitty 1 and 2. It was great to see the greenery and blossom here, a blaze of colour that was enhanced by the women's colourful clothing. The orange trees, which had grown to an impressive size with lots of oranges thanks to the well-functioning drip irrigation system. The water basins were abundantly filled by the solar-powered well system and the women and children were busy cultivating their beds. We can well imagine that the harvest of vegetables is plentiful and that the women are able to save money for essential foodstuffs such as rice, school fees or medicines by selling them at the market, thus improving their livelihoods. We get goose bumps when we think about the difficulties that have to be overcome to make these missions a success. Making appointments (the African sense of time does not correspond to our clocked lives), understanding technology, negotiating prices, procuring durable materials, collecting donations, managing them and using them sensibly, to name just a few of the many difficulties.

We wanted to deliver our medical supplies to the village of Sutukoba, over 400 kilometres away. The people there live a remote and minimalist life. There is no electricity, only unpaved roads that turn into raging rivers during the rainy season and cut off swathes of land. Water has to be drawn from the few wells by hand. Basic medical care is not guaranteed. The villagers eagerly awaited us with extremely warm hospitality, expressed in dancing and drumming and plenty of rice, onion sauce, fish, bread, melon and even spaghetti for dinner. The accommodation for us and the village tour show that life is extremely simple.

The visit to the new small health centre made it clear to us that illnesses are almost impossible to treat. There is a lack of diagnostic facilities and treatment is only possible at the most basic level. Pregnant and severely affected patients have to be taken to the hospital 20 kilometres away (several hours or a day's journey) - previously by donkey cart, now with the donated ASB ambulance (an extreme relief). Our medicines purchased in Serrekunda, such as malaria tablets and test strips, antibiotics, anthelmintics and others, as well as our sponsored bandages, were happily received, as they are urgently needed and always used. In intensive discussions, we were very impressed by the fact that the village community has developed a ‘health insurance scheme’ for itself. One dalasi (approx. 2 cents) is collected per head per month to help finance the employees and the car.

There is a lot more to report, such as the visit to the lively Yahyah in Senegal, attending a traditional wedding, getting to know interesting people such as professional beekeepers, musicians and students on assignment abroad, but that would go beyond the scope of this report.

Unfortunately, we also had to experience that the Chinese are buying their way into the country (extreme road construction) and making the state dependent on them or that it is already in debt. The fish factory in Sanyang was put back into operation, resulting in a disgusting stench that was almost unbearable. The toxic waste is being discharged into the sea, fishing is under massive threat and people's health is being severely affected.

The Gambia is definitely worth a visit and the Hand in Hand project impressed us so much that we are asking for support and donations. Help for self-help takes place on site!

Tourism and the neediness of the local people (difficult living conditions) often result in misunderstood support, in which people are simply given money and thus deprived of the opportunity to develop ideas for an independent life. This makes them even more dependent. We would like to see tourists who support this country wisely.

With this in mind, we look forward to seeing you again in The Gambia and visiting the projects and the local people.

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