Hello there, it's me - the Creature from the Blob! I mean blog. (Mental note: cut down on deep fried cheese.) This is a very special blog, however, for this is the blog I've been eluding too for weeks now! This is the blog that you have been waiting for! The blog that you have been obsessing about, checking the site night and day, day and night, without sleep, without food, without even BLINKING!!! But now, ye weary reader, with your blood-shot eyes and weakened limbs, behold! I bring forth BLOG!!!!!
You know, that still doesn't convey the feeling of drama I was going for. Maybe if I had a symphony playing in the background. With a choir of opera singers. And some timpani. Yeah, lot's of timpani! (Bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bom bommmmmm.)
(Choir: "Ooooooooo Ooooooooo Ooooooooo..." Bom bom bom bom bommmm)
Our group had seen a lot that week. On Saturday, they'd seen how people lived when we visited Adam's home. They were shocked to find families living in houses made of corrugated metal, not much bigger than than the sheds in their own back yards. Open sewage ran on either side of the roads paved only with sand.
Then at the schools there was further heartbreak to see the condition students were faced with: no school supplies, broken desks and chairs, dull and dirty classrooms. Already their minds were filled with pictures they would not soon forget - but there was one more thing they had to see.
I'm not sure where to begin in describing Kitosilo village. Danny and I haven't seen anything like it since we visited the garbage dumps in the Philippines years ago. That's basically what Kitosilo is, a village around a garbage dump. The shelters that people live in are made from what scraps and materials they can find in the waste. There is no electricity, no running water, however there is a well in the village. Actually, to be honest, I don't think it is quite as bad as what we saw at the dump in the Philippines, not that it makes it any better really. I might as well say that one patch of sky is a bit bluer than another patch of sky. In the end, they are still both sky blue.
When we arrived our group was instantly greeted by scattered, sandy huts and the smell of burning garbage. A group of small children quickly ran up to us to shake everyone's hand. They were all under the age of six, and all dressed in pieces of ragged clothing. As we were led through the maze of houses, garbage, pigs and trees, more and more children began to chant, "Tobob nundid!" which means, "The white people are back!" Danny and I had visited them in November when we first came with British friends who built five schools in the Bakau area. They are basically the only white people who ever visit Kitosilo. The group had brought bags of linens, clothes, first aid kits, and other treats to hand out to people and it didn't take long to spread it out around the area. As soon as our arms were emptied of our donations, they were full of tiny hands of children wanting to be our friends. Every person on the team, whether they liked children or not, now had 4 or 5 kids latched on to them. Nobody cared. The children were so gentle, not grabbing, but kind. They all had huge smiles on their faces and proudly paraded us around their village, wanting to give us a grand tour. Our group were so amazed and even amused that these children would come up to strangers and act as if they'd known them their whole lives. Then we told them, they did know them. Many of these children were students at the schools they had just visited that week, only without their school uniforms on. This is where they lived.
There was no time to let emotions overwhelm, however, for we now had over a hundred children following us. Workers from the New Life Children's Centre were about to start their activities* and we were to take part in all the games. Everyone was split up and soon everyone was involved in races, songs, dances, skipping, and lots of laughing.
Then it was time for everyone to settle down and gather a story. Everyone quickly rushed to sit in the shade, they had a special guest speaker today - Mr. Danny DeLong. They listened attentively as Danny acted out the story of him skydiving, an illustration he uses to portray the concept of faith. They laughed histarically as he flailed his arms around and screamed pretending to have just jumped out of an airplane. At the end, one of the school workers came forward, they all bowed their heads and he prayed for the children that they would remain safe and healthy, and know that God loved them.
Many of the members in our group, students and staff, were in tears by now, and the children couldn't understand why. They asked the school worker why was our group so sad. Danny graciously replied, "They're not sad, they just are very touched because you are all so beautiful and you have been so kind to all of us. Thank you very, very much!"
It had taken three vehicles to transport all of our group to Kitosilo village that afternoon. On the way back to the hotel, all of them were silent.
The following day we had off and had signed up to take a tour of a historical site where the beginnings of slavery had rooted. In fact, the book "Roots" takes place there. We had a tour of St. James Island and went through all the museums.
Friday morning we boarded the plane and flew home. It had been an absolutely phenominal week that no one would forget.
And that, my dear reader, was Project Gambia.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, and write your many encouraging words to us. Don't worry though, this is not the end! We have at least five schools who want to take part in the program next year - so there is many more adventures to come!
Until then, take care and take a moment to be thankful for all the riches you have that others don't.
*New Life Children's Centre run activities for children in Kitosilo village every Wednesday afternoon. Through this program they also try to find children who can't afford to go to school and enroll them in the New Life Christian Sponsorship program. There are over 500 children now being sponsored. They receive support for their school fees, supplies, uniforms and lunch everyday.
Project Gambia - Kitosilo Village